The Frontlines of Peace by Séverine Autesserre

By: May-May Meijer

I had the opportunity to hear professor Séverine Autesserre lecture about her new book The Frontlines of Peace. She stresses the need to put “local actors in the driver’s seat.” Séverine paraphrases Paul Lederach, who believes that the best solutions to any conflict come from the people experiencing it. Nevertheless, she believes that top-down building remains crucial, because it can help to reinforce the achievements of local inhabitants.

In one of her chapters and in her lectures, Séverine talks about what the rest of the world can learn from the island Idjwi, an island located between Congo and Rwanda. The island is peaceful because of its “culture of peace”. Human life is sacred, and we should love each other. This culture is also fostered by the poorest and least powerful ones. Many grassroots organizations helped to maintain peace.

Séverine mentions that Idjwi is no exception and there are similar success stories in Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Kosovo, the Philippines and Israel. She describes some of them, such as the story of Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom (the Arabic and Hebrew translations of ‘Oasis of Peace’’). This is the only village in the world that was founded to show that two enemy groups can live together.

At Peace SOS, we really feel inspired by the lifelong research of professor Séverine Autesserre. The Frontlines of Peace is a must read for all peace lovers. It reinforces the need for a worldwide culture of peace and respect for life. To stimulate the ‘soft forces within a country with violent conflict’ as Women for Peace would formulate it and how Séverine experienced it on the ground.

The Frontlines of Peace: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World by Séverine Autesserre, Oxford University Press (2021)

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