One of the best ways to create a more peaceful world isn’t necessarily to stop active violence; it’s to prevent the conflict from developing in the first place.
Identifying areas at risk of falling into violence around the world and taking measures to prevent that conflict has been the career focus for Dr. Andrew Loomis, senior officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.
He will present the annual Flory Public Policy Lecture at 7 p.m. March 10 at the McPherson Church of the Brethren on “Conflict Prevention: Policy and Practice in the U.S. Government.”
Dr. Loomis helps provide advice and support in local peace processes, develops strategy for the department to prevent violent conflicts, and works on policies that relate to conflict and unstable political environments. Previously, he worked as senior adviser to the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, where his primary work was to develop and lead a strategy to help the State Department recognize and act upon areas where the risk of mass atrocities are high.
“There can be a lot done with U.S. government resources and authority,” Loomis said.
His interest in making peace his life’s work goes back to his youth growing up in the Church of the Brethren, and parents who were involved in peace activism through the church at the local and national levels. At Juanita College he majored in peace studies. After, he started on a career of pursuing peace-related themes in non-governmental organizations – such as Search for Common Ground and The Brookings Institution – and in education as a professor and instructor at Georgetown University, College of William & Mary, and The George Washington University.
In his lecture, Dr. Loomis will talk about the steps his part of the State Department takes in deciding where to focus violence prevention efforts, diagnosing the roots of brewing conflict, and developing a strategy to reduces the risks of violence. That strategy has to adjust to the particular situation, he said.
“There’s no stock, cookie-cutter answers to problems,” he said. “That said, there are things we know that work.”
For example, he said that violence often results from the actions of a limited group of individuals.
“We’re moving away from a belief that violence is spontaneous and coming to a view that violence requires agency,” he said. “We can be more systematic in focusing on key actors rather than wringing our hands about the inevitability of violence.”
While lately Dr. Loomis has been working on policy solutions from Washington, soon he’ll be traveling to Burma for six months, helping the embassy address some of these core issues.
“You can spend a lot of time in Washington working on policy,” he said, “but there’s nothing quite like being in the field and understanding on the grassroots level what the problems are and what the solutions might be.”
The Raymond and Rowena Flory Lectureship in Public Policy was established at McPherson College by former Flory students Dean Coughenour and Howard Mehlinger in recognition of long-time McPherson residents Dr. Raymond Flory and Mrs. Rowena Frantz Flory. Raymond, who passed away in November 2002, was affiliated with McPherson College for 50 years as an administrator and professor of history and politics. Rowena passed away on Jan. 12 earlier this year.
The lectureship is designed to stimulate dialogue on a public policy issue relevant to the McPherson College community, the city of McPherson, and the surrounding area. The event is free and the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The lecture can also be watch online at livestream.com/McPherson-College