Covid-19 Peace educational reflections on the transformational potential of a virus

Covid-19: Peace educational reflections on the transformational potential of a virus

A guest article by the Friedensakademie Rheinland- Pfalz



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The Friedensakademie Rheinland-Pfalz sees itself as a forum for multidimensional peace science and peace policy dialogues. It involves academics, activists and politicians. The aim is to improve common learning and mutual understanding and to develop approaches to peace policy and practice. Source: Friedensakademie Rheinland-Pfalz
The outbreak and spread of the novel Covid-19 virus clearly demonstrate us that in our current global social system we are as interconnected as we are interdependent on a physical and social level, and thus vulnerable. Peace and conflict research, and peace education in particular, are now challenged to highlight the associated conflicts as well as peace potentials and to support people in their current adaptation processes. To this end, the process-oriented conflict management method ‘Worldwork’ takes equal account of individual and societal dynamics and offers a conceptual foundation for analysing and working on current conflict constellations.

Many Voices - many processes

What began at the beginning of the year [2020] as a health crisis has caused massive social, political, economic, ecological and cultural repercussions in recent weeks [in the time since] due to the restrictions on exit and contact that have been imposed in many places. Due to the externally caused (forced) situation, many people have involuntarily and suddenly entered into a process of reflection and feeling: They are faced with the question of what the situation means for them in concrete terms. What is the crisis doing to me, to us? What transformation processes are being triggered by the pandemic? In addition to these consequences brought about by Covid-19, equally personal and specific challenges and insights during the pandemic are what has a lasting impact on us. Because a variety of positive and negative sensations and emotions are triggered due to different realities of life, many people perceive a need for change. Some have a longing for individual retreat and time for the essentials, not just for what feels important in everyday life. Even the Queen has spoken of the opportunity to ’slow down, pause, and reflect in prayer or meditation’.1 Others feel a new sense of connection and solidarity with fellow human beings. For many people, this privilege of deceleration is out of question; they are feeling the full force of the negative consequences of the pandemic. This includes, for example, real fears for their economic existence due to massively increased unemployment rates and the danger of a prolonged global recession, as well as loneliness and the danger of an increase in psychosocial illnesses as a result of isolation. In many regions of the world, on the other hand, people simply cannot afford to stay at home, as they literally live from ‚hand to mouth‘.2 At the macro level, too, an equally great diversity can currently be observed. This ranges from behaviour of states lacking solidarity in terms of health care and financial reconstruction aid, a deliberate exploitation of the emergency situation for repressive purposes in autocratically led countries and to push through unpopular (infrastructure) projects that go hand in hand with the destruction of nature,3 to the call for a more prudent approach to our planet and a greater awareness of the well-being of all in the form of a sustainable, solidarity-based way of life and economy. The global dimension of the Covid-19 crisis now offers the unprecedented opportunity to give space to all the voices arising from and located around a single ‘event’. Peace and conflict research in particular should take advantage of this opportunity.

New old conflict dynamics: Tasks for peace research

The Covid-19 crisis has far-reaching implications for core topics of peace research: overcoming multiple forms of violence, analysing current conflict lines and dynamics at different system levels, and identifying and outlining peace potentials.
In the current situation, this means drawing attention to less visible and marginalized conflicts – such as the massive impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups in humanitarian crises,4 people in war and disaster zones, and refugees – but also identifying peace potentials and accompanying people in their current adaptation processes.
In the following, I would like to highlight two points that seem essential to me in this regard in the current situation due to the unpredictability of the pandemic and the interconnectedness of global processes: Accelerated in deceleration (I) and localization (II):

Based on these observations, peace education is now called upon to contribute. With the help of its field concept, the process-oriented conflict transformation method ‘Worldwork’ can reduce complexity in the current (conflict) situations and outline ways of dealing with the aforementioned lines of conflict.

Process-oriented conflict work

‘Worldwork’, founded by Arnold Mindell, presents the interconnectedness of individual and societal dynamics as a conceptual foundation for working through areas of societal tension, and thus also for contemporary conflict situations.

Group facilitation involves both the internal dimension of individuals and the external events to which they belong and which surround them. The theoretical concept of ‘Worldwork’ is based on the assumption that individual, dyadic and collective processes are interconnected and intertwined to the extent that the structures thereby manifest or repeat themselves on different levels. This idea becomes more understandable through the notion of an imaginary field. In this, individuals are connected to other individuals and groups, interact with each other, and are also moved and structured by them. The field „includes the subjective experience of the ‚habitat‘ and thus of all factors that condition behavior, thought, action, and feeling.“7 People are characterized by primary and secondary processes in their (experience of) life. According to Mindell, a primary process is the habitual identity and way of thinking. A secondary process is understood to be unconscious parts that ’send‘ signals and messages to the individual that often have little room to unfold in everyday routines or are sometimes perceived as conflicting and disruptive.8 These parts are processed in process work, that is, attempts are made to unfold, relate, and ultimately process the signals and information that originate and are perceived from interconnected channels. These processes at the individual level are shaped by so-called channels, which comprise our perceptual capacities. Through them, information is received and expressed: in addition to the basic channels of seeing (visual), hearing (auditory), feeling (proprioceptive), and moving (kinesthetic), these are the mixed channels of relationship (the encounter and reference to another person based on the basic channels) and world (reference to the social environment, events in the world, and others based on the basic channels and the relationship channel).9 The two channels of relationship and world are the connecting line of individual and society in the field, through which the mutual entanglements enter into our collective experiences. Similar to other concepts of conflict transformation, ‘Worldwork’ assumes that conflict as a natural interpersonal occurrence indicates a need for change in relationships and takes it as an opportunity and starting point for reshaping relationships, structures as well as frameworks of social reality. Thus, any behavior, different attitudes and structures can be seen as phenomena that arise through (inter-) action processes of (groups of) persons, but – and this is the crucial point also in the current crisis situation – can also be shaped together through appropriate processing and accompaniment.


The Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath can open up a new and expanded perspective on many aspects of our own lives as well as in relation to immediate social and world events. If we want to use the experience of the crisis to reshape society for the benefit of all, it is important to start now. An inclusive and participatory learning process helps to find goals and directions for positive ways of shaping human coexistence when old perspectives and conflictive structures no longer hold. In times of strong uncertainty and overload, however, people need the opportunity for forums of accompaniment and support.
In the phase of return from isolation, this means offering spaces for communication and relationships: in schools, at work, and in circles of friends. These resonant spaces, which open up for reorientation during the crisis, hold opportunities for collaborative growth and working through lived experiences in dialogue.
The process-oriented field perspective thereby clarifies further potential for insight and peace for the current crisis and especially for the aforementioned conflict dynamics:
First, the perspective sharpens conceptual awareness of all that is at work in the field and thereby helps shape the current processes of change. This includes not only the intertwining of individuals, collectives, and external events. It also takes into account that immediate external events that occur encounter pre-existing experiences and sensations that can sometimes break through habitual ways of living and thinking (primary processes) and trigger very deep processes.
Secondly, this interconnectedness shows that individual as well as collective processes hold transformation potentials for social systems of order. A strengthening global consciousness can be a common basic attitude in times of pandemic. This is characterized by the fact that not only one’s own processes are perceived, but also one’s own shares of individuals in world events are processed and reflected through an attention to the channels of relationship and world. It thus has potential for a global rethinking that can also have repercussions on the levels of structural and epistemic constellations of violence.
Even if the crisis causes different effects, individually as well as socially, and even if at the moment only tendencies can be identified where ‚the world‘ is heading after the crisis has been overcome, one thing is certain: the world is in progressive change. The only open question is whether we as individuals and as a society will let the process happen or take it into our own hands with courage.


  1. BBC (6.4.2020): Coronavirus: The Queen’s message seen by 24 million. URL:
  2. For further information also see Friedensakademie Rheinland-Pfalz (2020): Fear for hunger not for COVID-19 in Kenya. URL:
  3. Bethge, Philip (2020): „Und plötzlichen waren die Bagger da“. Heimliche Naturzerstörung in Corona-Zeiten. In: Der Spiegel, 05.06.2020. URL:
  4. For further information also see Friedensakademie Rheinland-Pfalz (2020): COVID-19: Herausforderungen für humanitäre Hilfe, abgerufen unter:
  5. Die Rheinpfalz (3.5.2020): Landauer Konfliktforscher fordert: Umdenken, bitte! URL:,-landauer-konfliktforscher-fordert-umdenken-bitte-_arid,5060437.html.
  6. Arndt, Susan (2020): Das Ende der Überlegenheitsarie. Priviligien in Corona-Krise. In: taz, 21.4.2020. URL:!5677150/.
  7. Reini Hauser: Worldwork, Konfliktarbeit und Spiritualität. In: Bewusstseins-Wissenschaften: Transpersonale Psychologie und Psychotherapie, 2/2015, 42-56, p. 46.
  8. Arnold Mindell (1991): Das Jahr eins. Ansätze zur Heilung unseres Planeten: Globale Prozessarbeit. Walter-Verlag: Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 202.
  9. Arnold Mindell (1991): Das Jahr eins. Ansätze zur Heilung unseres Planeten: Globale Prozessarbeit. Walter-Verlag: Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 201.

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