Tom Etzel – #WhatsYourPeace?

September 21, 2015

September 11th, 2001, was a tragic day for the world and for Global Peace Building Foundation’s founder, Tom Etzel. Tom’s 25-year-old niece was working on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. His high school friend was aboard that same jetliner. Both his loved ones perished that morning. In the following days, Tom began to consider how peace might be achieved if people could begin to see each other as human beings, as opposed to “the scary other” that was being broadcast on every major U.S. news station. Through his dedicated research, Tom discovered Contact Theory, a central tenet of peacebuilding.

Contact Theory was first developed in the 1950s by renowned researcher Gordon Allport. It is based on the belief that separation and unfamiliarity between conflicting groups can, and often does, breed negative attitudes such as stereotypes and prejudices—which can potentially escalate into hostility and violence. Contact Theory posits that these negative attitudes can be reduced by promoting contact and familiarity between the conflicting groups. It emphasizes the development of personal relationships on a more intimate level. Contact Theory works best when it is applied to youth and children’s peacebuilding programs.

Learn more about Contact Theory in Tom’s recently-published OpEd featured in Peace Voice.

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