Defining "Coexistence"

Helen Chauncey

The Coexistence Initiative

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: If I were to come up with something brief about the Coexistence Initiative it sounds like I might say that it is a conflict resolution-oriented organization that seeks ways to reduce threats of identities to parties in conflict?

A: Not exactly, because what you just articulated is one of the problems that we are trying to address. This problem is the tendency to articulate coexistence in a negative. The way that has been done in most cases gets us to the "park your identity at the door" approach. How to reduce a threat and keep the threat out? The reality is that we will always have our identities with us, which is part of why conflicts arise that sometimes seem to get resolved and then mysteriously become conflict again. They do so in part because as people left the arena in which they could come together to resolve the conflict, they picked up their identities again because you always take your identity with you. In some ways the answer to your question turns around the vocabulary. The 60-second sound byte is that our goal is to create an awareness and a capacity for organizations and people in the peacebuilding community to view coexistence as a positive source of dynamics and values within any given society, across social and national lines, so that diversity becomes something to be valued and embraced. What are the tools and processes to do that? That is what the Coexistence Initiative sees itself as doing.