Why this.

Social media, once rightfully heralded as a means to connect the world, is instead being used by people inside and outside the United States to incite hatred and agitate Americans to violent civil conflict.

Politicians who follow this lead, suggesting that there will be violence in the streets or that the next election “will be decided by bullets not ballots,” do not know civil war. The words may make them or their listeners and readers feel powerful, even noble, evoking lofty purposes of earlier revolutions or as some have termed it, a Holy War.

In reality, the people forwarding, listening to, and absorbing this talk have never come close to the horror of seeing a child or other family member die from a violent attack. They have no concept of the suffering of being internally displaced, or not knowing, when an explosion has gone off in a nearby street or bridge, if your spouse was in the wrong place, if they’re injured or still alive. If they had, they would realize that there is nothing noble about hatred, violence, or the death of innocent civilians.

Yet opposing hatred with name calling, ridicule, or antagonism, from either the left or the right, provokes more of the same from the oppositition, deepens the divide, and feeds “the fight.” Saying “hate is bad” is as futile as saying “war is bad” when it is already upon you.

So what will work?

We turned to people who have answered that question in their own countries — five Nobel Peace Prize laureates who have seen the toll of civil conflict up close, including with their own families and community members. Three of them have passed from us in recent years but helped to shape the world we live in. Two are still with us and working for peace every day — one as an international activist, one as the President of a country. All five have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

These men and women saw things you and I can only hope to never have to see. And each walked their nation, and in some cases their region of the world, out of violent civil conflict and into a new day of democracy.

These leaders have traits in common. They are humble. They consider themselves “ordinary” and even flawed human beings. They see the best in us.

They are each people of faith — different faiths, but each of them see a brotherhood of men and women as God’s children. They live that brotherhood.

Those who have known them personally will tell you they were, or are, funny; for all the horror they have seen, they are able to share a laugh and experience joy.

They will spend time talking to, and being interested in, the least “important” among  us. Because no one is unimportant.

They are able to rise above a conflict to see both sides. They create a higher ideal and inspire people to reach for it.

Most of all, they were, and are, courageous. They have walked into conflict with a purpose to create a new and better day for the people of their countries. Like others in history who have changed the world for the better, their purpose was stronger than their fear.

They are the models for the kinds of leaders we need — or the kind of leaders we need to be — right now.