The CMU PAX Award, initiated in 2015, was created to acknowledge and honour people who lead exemplary lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.
CMU President Dr. Cheryl Pauls will present the award to Sarah Thompson, executive director of CPT, on Wednesday, April 5 at Gather. Give. Celebrate. Spring at CMU, an annual fundraiser in support of the university.
The CMU PAX Award was created to honour people and organizations who are dedicated to service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.“The work and witness of Christian Peacemaker Teams bring public attention to the beauty of courage and vulnerability that is vital to peacebuilding,” Pauls says. “The CMU learning community is inspired by the stories of CPT and its executive director, Sarah Thompson.”
“Christian Peacemaker Teams is deeply humbled to receive the CMU PAX Award,” Thompson says. “The journey towards peace is a long and challenging path. Yet, we know we are not walking alone on this journey.”
For nearly 30 years, CPT has sought to build partnerships to transform violence and oppression around the world.
Envisioning a world of communities that together embrace the diversity of the human family and live justly and peaceably with all creation, CPT has committed itself to work and relationships that honour and reflect the presence of faith and spirituality; strengthen grassroots initiatives; transform structures of domination and oppression; and embody creative non-violence and liberating love.
CPT was formed in 1986 out of a desire of the historic peace churches to seek new ways of expressing their faith. After the formation of a steering committee, the first staff person began work in 1988.
By 1992, CPT had put together a series of delegations to Haiti, Iraq and the West Bank. The steering committee then set a goal to develop a Christian Peacemaker Corps of 12 full-time persons, with a much larger number of reservists.
By the end of 1998, when the organization reached the goal of a 12-person peacemaker corps, it had set up and staffed violence-reduction projects in Haiti; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, VA; Hebron, West Bank; Bosnia; and Chiapas, Mexico.
Today, CPT has regional groups in Europe; the United Kingdom; Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia); Philippines; Colorado; northern Indiana; and Ontario. CPT has around 30 full- and part-time, stipended peacemakers and nearly 200 part-time volunteers who serve in violence-reduction projects around the world.
The CPT experience has demonstrated that small teams of four to six people trained in the skills of documentation, observation, nonviolent intervention, and various ministries of presence can make a striking difference in explosive situations.
Along the way, more than 30 alumni, faculty, and staff of CMU and its predecessor colleges have worked for CPT. That includes Dr. Harry Huebner, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Theology, who helped found the organization.
“CMU has been a place of nourishment for many CPTers,” Thompson says. “While (the CMU PAX Award) recognizes the peace work of CPT, we hope it also recognizes the deep relationship between CPT and CMU. As we continue to work for holistic peace and justice, with our neighbours across the street and our neighbours around the world, may we continue to challenge, nourish, and hold each other up.”
In the 1970s, DeFehr worked with Mennonite Central Committee to lead a massive agricultural redevelopment project in Bangladesh after its civil war. From 1981–82, he worked in Somalia as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
DeFehr also started a university in Lithuania in the dying days of the former Soviet Union, and he helped organize, host, and fund a conflict resolution conference in Myanmar in 2013.
Closer to home, DeFehr has headed refugee programs in Canada and helped spearhead Manitoba’s immigration program, which has brought thousands of immigrants to the province since the late 1990s.
DeFehr has been active with Habitat for Humanity since its inception, and he was the founding chairperson of the board of Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
After graduating from Harvard in 1967, DeFehr joined his family’s furniture business and remains involved to this day.
“Art DeFehr has brought a formidable depth of imagination and commitment to many of the world’s most complex humanitarian concerns.”
– CMU President Cheryl Pauls
After leaving academia in the 1960s, Vanier established the first L’Arche community in France after befriending two men with intellectual disabilities and inviting them to live with him in a small house he purchased.
Vanier had become distressed by the institutionalization, isolation, and loneliness of people with intellectual disabilities, and envisioned a place where they could live alongside those who come to assist them, and share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings.
Vanier called the house “L’Arche,” a French word for “the ark” in the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Within a couple of years, other homes were born.
Today, L’Arche is made up of 147 communities spread over five continents. There are more than 5,000 members. There are always new projects being started in response to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities, people so often vulnerable, and too often rejected, in spite of the important lessons about friendship and becoming human that they have to offer us.
“Jean Vanier turned a minimalist sense of caregiving and turned it into a movement that recognizes and appreciates the gifts of people with developmental disabilities.”
– CMU President Cheryl Pauls