Positive Peace is defined as peace with justice for all. Often times, “peace” is mistaken simply as the absence of some negative force, such as tension or violence. But Dr. King reminded us that peace is not only the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.
We live in a society filled with violence, and in an effort the curb the levels of violence we see, we are often misled into believing that we can use violence and injustice ourselves to attain a “peaceful” society. We often times use unjust methods to create a false sense of “peace.” Throwing every single young person in this country into a prison cell may prevent a lot of violence, but it would not mean that we would be creating peace since that “peace” (absence of tension) was created by an act of injustice.
Positive Peace is a true, lasting, and sustainable peace built on justice for all peoples.
“Negative ” Peace:
Negative peace is defined as a peace without justice. It is a false sense of “peace” that often comes at the expense of justice. In a negative peace situation, you may not see conflict out in the open, but the tension is boiling just beneath the surface because the conflict was never reconciled.
Dr. King spoke of the difference between positive and negative peace in this great sermon titled, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious.”
“Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force–war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force–justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The dictionary defines the term “warrior” as:
- Someone who takes part in or is experienced in warfare
- Someone in conflict; somebody who takes part in a struggle or a conflict
Note that there is nothing in the definition about the use of violence. A warrior is simply someone who is engaged in a struggle and is experienced in responding to conflict. We believe that conflict itself is a neutral thing: it is how we respond to conflict that gives it a positive or negative outcome. A nonviolent practitioner is one who is trained in responding to conflicts in a nonviolent way. Therefore, a Positive Peace Warrior is one who is trained in nonviolent conflict reconciliation, and is engaged in a struggle to create positive peace.
Senior Level Kingian Nonviolence trainer Charles Alphin, close confidant to Dr. Bernard Lafayette and the King family, discusses the difference between Positive Peace vs. Negative Peace.