Peace Education Goal: Emotional Healing for Individuals, Families, Communities

During his 30 years of studying the moral virtue of forgiveness, Dr. Robert Enright has become convinced that forgiveness is the missing piece to the peace puzzle. While recording major milestones in pursuit of that peace premise throughout his career, Dr. Enright is now complementing those extensive efforts by pursuing “peace education” initiatives designed to inform, inspire, and engage educators who are working to enhance peace efforts around the world. 

Peace education hopes to create in the human consciousness a commitment to the ways of peace. Just as a doctor learns in medical school how to minister to the sick, students in peace education classes learn how to solve problems caused by violence. Peace educators use teaching skills to stop violence by developing a peace consciousness that can provide the basis for a just and sustainable future.

As “the forgiveness trailblazer” (TIME magazine), Dr. Enright’s most recent peace education efforts include these three just-published studies:

An addition to peace education: Toward the process of a just and merciful community in schools

Published in the Aug. 6, 2020 issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology®, this qualitative research study with teachers in the US and China demonstrated that justice and mercy need to be partners in school disciplinary policy:

 “Peace education may be more complete if both justice and mercy are part of the disciplinary process of schools. Justice by itself, as a traditional method of discipline in schools, will not necessarily address the resentments that can build up in both those offended and those offending. Mercy offers a second chance and the recognition and acknowledgment that many carry emotional pain which must be addressed for thriving in the school setting.”

Authors: Lai Y. Wong, Linghua Jiang, Jichan J. Kim, Baoyu Zhang, Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.


A philosophical and psychological examination of “justice first”: Toward the need for both justice and forgiveness when conflict arises

Published in the April 16, 2020 issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology®, this study examined justice and forgiveness between communities in conflict:

“The idea of ‘justice first’ between communities in conflict may be insufficient and therefore is depriving people within communities of emotional healing through the exercise of forgiving. The concern here is with the build-up of resentment or unhealthy anger as justice is not realized, especially over a long period of time. Yet, this resentment, and the psychologically-negative effects of this resentment, can be substantially reduced through the practice of forgiving, which has empirically-verified evidence for reducing such anger and significantly improving mental health. Learning to forgive and to put forgiveness into practice can start, not across communities, but instead within one’s own family and community for emotional healing.”

Authors: Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.


Effectiveness of forgiveness education with adolescents in reducing anger and ethnic prejudice in Iran

Published in the August 24, 2020 issue of Journal of Educational Psychology, this study (along with other similar studies) demonstrates that forgiveness education can be an important means of reducing anger and ethnic prejudice in Eastern and Western cultures.

“This research investigated the effectiveness of a forgiveness education program on reducing anger and ethnic prejudice and improving forgiveness in Iranian adolescents. Participants included 224 male and female students (Persian, Azeri, and Kurdish) in 8th grade who were selected from 3 provinces: Tehran, Eastern Azerbaijan, and Kurdistan. The results indicated that the experimental group was higher in forgiveness and lower in ethnic prejudice, state anger, trait anger, and anger expression compared with the control group. This difference was statistically significant in the follow-up phase.”

Authors: Bagher Ghobari Bonab, Mohamad Khodayarifard, Ramin Hashemi Geshnigani, Behnaz Khoei, Fatimah Nosrati, Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.

NOTE: Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology® is a publication of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 48–Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division.

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