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Articles

Students to explore gender and violence in peacebuilding course

When Dr. Carol Penner was asked to teach a course at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) examining gender, violence, and peacebuilding, she was happy to oblige.

“I think it’s a course that’s really needed by the church,” says Penner, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, ON. “People need to think more about gender and the difference it makes in the church, especially in terms of peacebuilding.”

CMU’s 2017 Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) is offering the course, titled Gender and Violence: Theology and Peacebuilding, June 19-23.

Carol Penner, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, ON will teach a course titled Gender and Violence: Theology and Peacebuilding during the week of June 19 at CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding

The course will examine the task of peacebuilding from the perspective of feminist theology. It will seek to hear from a variety of voices and explore a range of experiences and thought.

Among the topics the course will explore is that of the role Christianity has played in perpetuating gendered violence.

“In a society that’s ordered in a patriarchal way, where men are at the top of the ladder, women are at the bottom… how does power get distributed?” Penner asks. “Violence is something that happens when there’s unequal power, so for women who have traditionally been at the bottom… violence comes their way.

The church, Penner notes, is part of this ordering of society that puts men in charge and tasks women with doing whatever men say—even the Mennonite church.

“As Mennonites, we’re often brought up to think that we’re all brothers and sisters, (and) you’re not supposed to look at power dynamics—who’s on top and who’s on the bottom,” Penner says.

“Why do men have the power? Why is it this way?” she asks, pointing out that in all Mennonite denominations, men still far outnumber women when it comes to leadership roles.

Penner’s course asks how to construct theologies of peace that are good news for both women and men.

To do that, Penner says, people must listen to the voices of people in both church and society who are in pain.

She points to missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as people who have been victims of physical, sexual and other forms of abuse within many church communities, as two examples.

For Penner, a key question is: How can people in the church use scripture to build mutually supportive relationships, where people can be everything God wants them to be, rather than reducing them to gender stereotypes?

Penner, an alumna of Canadian Mennonite Bible College, one of CMU’s predecessor institutions, has worked for more than two decades as a pastor, a chaplain, a university lecturer, and a freelance writer.

Her experience in the field of peacebuilding, as well as her academic background, made her an obvious choice to teach at the CSOP, says Val Smith, co-director of the school.

“This idea of how gender intersects with violence and peacebuilding felt like an extremely important topic to keep working at,” Smith says. “The subject matter is extremely relevant to our world today, and Dr. Penner comes highly recommended as an excellent teacher.”

Penner will have a full classroom of 30 students when she teaches the course. Her hope for the week is that the students will form a community where they can learn not only from her, but from one another.

“I hope people leave the course perhaps thinking in a new or refreshed way about gender, and feeling positive,” Penner say.

“God calls all of us—women and men—to a deeper life. I’m hoping students leave feeling they have encountered something deeper in their faith in God.”

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Faculty Profiles

Faculty: In Their Own Words – Wendy Kroeker

WK01Wendy Kroeker, Instructor in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and Co-Director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, has taught at CMU since 2011.

What do you love about your work here?

Working at CMU gives us the opportunity to get to know students over a period of time, interacting with them during significant moments of life decision-making. Watching them take opportunities to engage in community events and issues gives me hope for the world.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

This past semester, I taught an upper level PACTS course called Cultures of Violence, Cultures of Peace. I wanted to find ways for students to begin to love and appreciate theory. I’m thrilled if I’ve been part of inspiring an activist or the heart of an activist in someone, but as someone who’s doing my own academic work and working in an academic institution, I do want to excite students about theory. If we aren’t grounding ourselves in really thinking through things substantially, how do we move into meaningful action?

What are you researching and writing?

I am currently working on my PhD dissertation. I’m using the Philippines as a case study. I interviewed 36 Filipinos who are deeply engaged in peacebuilding, who come from highly colonial, conflict-impacted trauma environments, and I’m trying to honour their stories by creating some theory out of the patterns of what I’m hearing from them. Although I’m using the Philippines as my case study right now, I will eventually turn the findings from this dissertation project into looking at our Canadian context, and how the learnings from courageous local peacebuilders in the Philippines might lead to creative ways in which we can follow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.

Where or how do students give you hope?

In November, a group of students went to a Standing Rock protest at Portage and Main. At a certain moment, they all went over the barricades and shut down Portage and Main at rush hour. One student spoke about her experience in chapel. Hearing her talk about moving over the barricades and realizing her own agency—that gave me some hope. It shows me that the things we talk about in class are moving deeper than the surface.

What do you most long for in your work?

I want students to look for opportunities and possibilities where they won’t just be bystanders, but upstanders – people who see a wrong and act upon it. They may not be at Portage and Main, but I want everyone to see possible ways of honouring the dignity and integrity of each person around them and see that there’s some way they can stand with people.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

Clairissa Kelly and I have begun a series of exchanges between my students and students in the Peguis Post-Secondary Transition Program. Clairissa and I have committed ourselves to thinking through how we can find ways to, with students, take steps of reconciliation. I invited the Peguis group to join the intro PACTS class in doing the blanket exercise, an interactive learning experience that teaches little-known indigenous rights history. Afterward, one of the participants shared about community experiences of residential schools. Her openness was a gift to all of us around the circle. That was a profound moment.

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Video

John Ralston Saul – Living with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace (video)

A public lecture with John Ralston Saul, presented by CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding

John Ralston Saul PosterLiving with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace

Canada is more and more isolated from its allies because, without exception, the United States and European countries are shaping themselves towards internal divisions and external fear. They remain caught up the in old 19th Century idea of how nations function. You can see this in Europe on their handling of the refugee crisis. One of the curiosities of the continent is that every year over the last 70 years it has received large numbers of immigrants, and yet it has never been able to admit that this would require massive changes in how they imagine themselves. In many ways, this crisis is all about an immigration continent which cannot admit that reality, and so, has no immigration policy. Only by embracing concepts of uncertainty can they find ways to live together, both within their countries and with their neighbours.

John Ralston Saul is an award winning essayist and novelist whose contributions have had a growing impact on political and economic thought in many countries. Declared a “prophet” by TIME magazine, he is included in the prestigious Utne Reader’s list of the world’s 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His 14 works have been translated into 28 languages in 37 countries. Some of his most important works include the philosophical trilogy, Voltaire´s Bastards, The Unconscious Civilization, and The Doubter’s Companion with its conclusion, On Equilibrium. His most recent work, The Comeback (Le Grand Retour)—an examination of the remarkable return to power of Aboriginal peoples in Canada—has greatly influenced the national conversation on Indigenous issues in the country. Saul is the former President of PEN International, co-Founder and co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. — johnralstonsaul.com

Recorded June 14, 2016

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Events General News Lectures News Releases

John Ralston Saul to speak at CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuilding

‘Living with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace’ title of lecture

Respected public intellectual and award-winning writer John Ralston Saul will give a lecture exploring refugees and immigration at the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) next month.

Ralston Saul will present the lecture, titled, “Living with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace,” at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, June 14. He will speak in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.) at Canadian Mennonite University. Admission is free, and all are welcome. A book signing will follow the lecture.

John Ralston Saul Poster“We are excited to have John Ralston Saul at the 2016 Canadian School of Peacebuilding,” says Wendy Kroeker, co-director of CSOP. “His writing and thinking is incisive and provocative. He pushes us as Canadians to consider our national values as well as the actions that should emerge from those values, and calls us to remember our Aboriginal heritage.”

The lecture arises from Ralston Saul’s observation that Canada is more and more isolated from its allies because, without exception, the United States and European countries are shaping themselves towards internal divisions and external fear.

One of the curiosities of the continent is that every year over the last 70 years, it has received large numbers of immigrants, and yet it has never been able to admit that this would require massive changes in how they imagine themselves.

In many ways, this crisis is all about an immigration continent, which cannot admit that reality, and so, has no immigration policy. In the lecture, Ralston Saul will posit that only by embracing concepts of uncertainty can they find ways to live together, both within their countries and with their neighbours.

Declared a “prophet” by TIME magazine, Ralston Saul is included in the prestigious Utne Reader’s list of the world’s 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His most recent book, The Comeback—an examination of the remarkable return to power of Aboriginal peoples in Canada—has greatly influenced the national conversation on Indigenous issues in the country.

CMU caught Ralston Saul’s attention last year when he heard about a few significant events at the university, including a forum about the possibility of an urban reserve at Kapyong Barracks and the university hosting Iranian students from the International Institute of Islamic Studies in Qom, Iran.

“The work faculty and students have been cultivating is remarkable,” Ralston Saul tweeted. “Creating bridges and fostering dialogue.”

In addition to delivering the public lecture, Ralston Saul will co-teach the CSOP course “Reconciling Our Future: Stories of Kanata and Canada” with Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair.

“That John is co-teaching with Niigaan speaks of the importance of friendships in working through challenging issues,” Kroeker says. “John’s participation indicates a strong interest in furthering people’s grappling with the violent legacy of negotiations with Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

An institute of Canadian Mennonite University, CSOP is a learning community of diverse peacebuilders who come together to learn, network, and engage in peacebuilding. CSOP offers a selection of five-day courses each June that can be taken for professional or personal development, or for academic credit. CSOP is for peacebuilders from all faiths, countries, and identity groups. Learn more at csop.cmu.ca.

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Articles

CSOP Participant Profile – Darnell Barkman

CSOP massively energizing for Canadian peacebuilder working in the Philippines

When it comes to peace work in the Philippines, Darnell Barkman is on the front lines.

Barkman and his wife, Christina, are Mennonite Church Canada Witness Workers, giving pastoral leadership to PeaceChurch Philippines, an Anabaptist church they helped plant in Metro Manila.

Originally from Abbotsford, BC, the Barkmans have also been instrumental in the development of Peace Assemblies Network, also known as the Philippines Anabaptist Network, a group of peace-oriented individuals and churches who seek to transform their society by embodying a culture of peace in their faith communities in the Philippines.

“Jesus calls us to nonviolence,” Darnell says. “That’s very distinct in the whole world. That’s very distinct in the Philippines.”

The Barkmans and their colleagues work for peace and reconciliation between Christians, Muslims, and the indigenous people of the Philippines in a variety of ways.

They respond to disasters by supporting marginalized people who get less help than others, they train military leaders in peacebuilding and human rights through partner organizations, and they challenge the larger church in the Philippines to love their neighbour and seek justice, just as Jesus taught.

“The evangelical church of the Philippines is missing the peace and reconciliation teachings of scripture,” Darnell says on his website, DarnellBarkman.com.

“Most leaders and members don’t see scripture’s ethics and peace teachings. They don’t know how to see them – no one has ever highlighted them and they are seldom taught. My goal is that the church centers herself on Jesus’ example and teaching as the soul of the faith. His teaching and examples in the Gospel are the primary story we are living to emulate.”

Darnell is passionate about Mennonite theology and Anabaptist history, and sharing that knowledge with people in the Philippines. He also describes himself as an “experimenter in personal transformation,” discontent to enjoy the status quo and always looking to learn something new.

That’s why, when he found out he would be on furlough in Canada when the 2015 Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) was taking place, he had to enrol.

Darnell travelled to Winnipeg to take the course The Justice of God: Questions of Justice in the Bible and the World, taught by Dr. Christopher Marshall, Professor of Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Darnell appreciated the way Marshall synthesized restorative justice principles with examples from his personal experience.

“What’s really cool is how he’s involved as a practitioner of restorative justice,” Darnell says.

Just as valuable as what he learned in the classroom was the opportunity Darnell had to meet new people at the CSOP.

“Peacebuilding can be very lonely work,” he says. Attending the CSOP was massively energizing because it allowed him to connect with other peacebuilders. “It’s amazing. It’s what we need.”

Now back in Manila, Darnell is excited to incorporate what he learned at CMU into his day-to-day work.

“Peace is not just a ‘60s hippy idea, or an individualistic, new-age feeling,” Darnell says on his website. “Peacebuilding has a tangible output: Healed relationships and experienced justice in all sectors of society.”

To learn more about CMU’s Canadian School of Peacebuildinging, please visit csop.cmu.ca.

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General News News Releases

Peacebuilding school directors excited about 2016 offerings after successful 2015 session

When Darnell Barkman found out he would be home in Canada during the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), he had to enrol.

Barkman was one of 84 students from around the world who gathered at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) June 15-26 for the school, which offers two weeks of five-day courses for peacebuilders from all faiths, countries, and identity groups.

DarnellBarkman
Darnell Barkman was one of 84 students from around the world who took part in two weeks of CSOP programming for peacebuilders from all faiths, countries, and identity groups.

Originally from Abbotsford, BC, Barkman was in Canada on furlough after spending the past three years living in Manila, Philippines, working as a pastor and peacebuilder. It’s work he feels passionate about, but because the Anabaptist-peace position is a relatively new concept in the Philippines, it’s difficult at times.

“Peacebuilding can be very lonely work,” Barkman says, adding that in addition to learning from world-class instructors, the CSOP was massively energizing because it allowed him to connect with other peacebuilders. “It’s amazing. It’s what we need.”

Creating that sort of environment at the CSOP is key, says Valerie Smith, the school’s co-director.

“There are all kinds of ways to measure success, but to me the most important are how valuable people find their classes, and how engaged they are with their instructors and each other,” Smith says.

“The 2015 courses went very well. The instructors were a good fit, and we once again had a radically diverse student body, which adds to the richness in the classroom and in the CSOP community more generally.”

In addition to Canada and the U.S., the school included students from Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran, and elsewhere who travelled to Winnipeg to learn, network, and engage in peacebuilding.

Topics covered included women and peacebuilding; youth voices and peace activism; human rights and peace; conflict transformation; indigenous approaches to peace, justice, and friendship; biblical teachings of peace and justice; and peace psychology.

Instructors included Leroy Little Bear, one of the continent’s leaders in the advancement of North American Indian philosophy, and Christopher Marshall, a trained and accredited restorative justice facilitator who teaches at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

The 2015 CSOP also included a launch event for Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds, a book exploring the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world.

Each contributor has taught at the CSOP. Smith edited the book with Richard McCutcheon and Jarem Sawatsky.

“All of the essays are written by deeply committed, experienced peacebuilders who are living what they teach,” Smith says, adding that the book was a few years in the making. “It’s really exciting to have it finished and available to the public.”

CSOP-poster-brochure-2016_edits_Page_1With the 2015 session over, Smith has turned her attention to the 2016 school. Registration is now open at www.csop.cmu.ca.

As they do every year, Smith and her colleagues have planned courses that feature exceptional instructors who are also strong peacebuilding practitioners.

CSOP always aims to provide a mix of courses that have to do with biblical and theological studies, basic peacebuilding skills, and indigenous issues.

“To be a peace school in this context with integrity, we have to do that,” Smith says.

This past April, CMU announced a new Masters of Arts in Peacebuilding and Collaborative Development, which bridges the fields of peacebuilding-conflict resolution studies and development-transformational justice studies.

Four of the courses the CSOP will offer in 2016 can be taken toward earning that MA.

“We hope that degree will enrich our programming, and that our programming will enrich that degree,” Smith says.

She adds that she is looking forward to next June.

“We’re really excited about the lineup. We’ve got fantastic people coming.”

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over about 900 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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General News News Releases

Diverse new book explores peacebuilding around the world

CMU to host launch of ‘Voices of Harmony & Dissent’ on Tuesday, June 16

A new book arising from Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) explores the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world.

Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds explores the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world.
Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds explores the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world.

Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds was edited by Richard McCutcheon, Jarem Sawatsky, and Valerie Smith. The editors will celebrate the release of the book with a launch event happening Tuesday, June 16 at 7:00 PM in the Great Hall at CMU (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.). The event is free, and all are welcome to attend.

Offering an intriguing mix of styles and perspectives, the peacebuilders included in the book describe how they have used their creativity, compassion, and frustrations to learn how to peacefully engage and transform the world around them.

Each contributor has taught at the CSOP, which offers a selection of five-day courses each June.

Smith, co-director of the CSOP, says the book arose out of a desire to expose people to the amazing instructors who teach at the school.

“We have so many people who are interested in the CSOP, and so many who apply but don’t get a chance to come here for all sorts of reasons, like finances and visas,” Smith says. “We wanted to find a way to serve those people who can’t be here in person.”

Published by CMU Press, Voices of Harmony & Dissent includes contributions from Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American psychologist; Ouyporn Khuankaew, a Buddhist feminist activist from Thailand; Martin Entz, a professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba; Karen Ridd, Instructor in Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies at CMU; and more.

Through inspiring stories, the book takes readers on a journey of interrelated themes including women and peacebuilding, nonviolent action for social change, restorative justice, indigenous approaches to change, spirituality and creative arts, circle process, food security, mediation, intercultural peacebuilding, and truth and reconciliation.

While the style and topics of the essays are radically diverse, Smith says there are common themes that tie the collection together.

“All of the essays are written by deeply committed, experienced peacebuilders who are living what they teach,” she says.

Valerie Smith, co-director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, edited Voices of Harmony & Dissent with former CMU faculty Richard McCutcheon and Jarem Sawatsky.
Valerie Smith, co-director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, edited Voices of Harmony & Dissent with former CMU faculty Richard McCutcheon and Jarem Sawatsky.

Smith adds that she is looking forward to the book launch.

“In reading through these essays over and over again, I feel like I’ve learned a little bit about each contributor and what they have offered in their classes at the Canadian School of Peacebuilding,” she says. “That feels like a real gift. I’m excited to share that with the community and hear people’s feedback as they begin to read the book.”

Established in 2009, the CSOP is a learning community of diverse peacebuilders from all faiths, countries, and identity groups who come together to learn, network, and engage in peacebuilding.

Now in its seventh year, the 2015 CSOP courses will take place June 15-19 and June 22-26.

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over about 900 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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Alumni Profiles Articles

CSOP Participant Profile – John Fox

Criminal, prosecutor reunite at Canadian School of Peacebuilding

John Fox and Rupert Ross are used to seeing each other in the courtroom, not the classroom.

When Ross worked as the Assistant Crown Attorney for the District of Kenora, Fox encountered him during numerous bail hearings after being arrested for a variety of crimes, including assault and weapons charges.

“He was the enemy,” says Fox, 43. “It was always us against them.”

The two reunited at the 2014 Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), this time on friendlier terms: Fox enrolled in Exploring Indigenous Justice and Healing, a course taught by Ross.

10421523_10152650119632727_7406202910913010072_nBetween 1992 and 1995, Ross was seconded to the federal Aboriginal Justice Directorate. He travelled across Canada, examining Aboriginal approaches to justice with special emphasis on healing programs for victims, offenders, families, and communities.

He wrote two books as a result: Dancing with a Ghost: Exploring Indian Reality and Return to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice.

Fox discovered the books as a student at Menno Simons College (MSC).

“I loved his books,” Fox said, adding that reading them gave him a better understanding of his Aboriginal heritage, the gap in communication between Aboriginal peoples and the dominant white Canadian society, and the history of violence in his family.

“I was hurt a lot as a child,” Fox said. “Because of that hurt, if you don’t deal with it properly, you tend to hurt other people.”

Fox grew up in Big Trout Lake First Nation, a fly-in community in northwestern Ontario. From the age of 11 to 15, he was sexually abused. He lost two close friends to suicide as a teenager, and turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain.

Until a few years ago, he had spent most of his life working as a drug dealer. Fox was a violent person whose run-ins with the law led to nine or 10 stints in jail.

In 2008, his then-girlfriend’s sister committed suicide in front of him. Blaming Fox, the woman’s brother and boyfriend burned down his house.

After the suicide, things began to change for Fox. He stopped dealing drugs and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He began volunteering at a church drop-in centre and embarked on a healing journey that has relied heavily on traditional Aboriginal practices.

Today, Fox has been sober for four years and he is happily married.

Reuniting with Ross at the CSOP was a pleasure for Fox, and an indication of how far he has come.

“He’s such a storyteller,” Fox said of Ross. “He reminds me of an elder. Ask him a question and he doesn’t answer, he tells you a story.”

Fox may be enrolled in Conflict Resolution classes at MSC, but he says that what he’s really studying is the man he sees when he looks in the mirror.

“I’m studying myself, because I was a person with so much conflict.”

written by Aaron Epp

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Alumni Profiles Articles

CSOP Participant Profile – Debra Wilson

Student finds place of belonging at Canadian School of Peacebuilding

The Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP) has been a welcoming place for student Debra Wilson, who has returned to CSOP for a second time.

Debra Wilson
Debra Wilson, 2014 CSOP participant

Describing herself as a person of many labels, including feminist, Muslim, Catholic and black-American, Wilson says she initially “didn’t think it [CSOP] was a place where she belonged.” After contacting CSOP, she says she “kept waiting for someone to say ‘don’t come,’ but that wasn’t what happened at all.”

CSOP, an institute of Canadian Mennonite University, is a learning community of diverse peacebuilders who come together to learn, network and engage in peacebuilding.

Wilson participated in the course Exploring Indigenous Justice and Healing, which was taught by Rupert Ross. She says her ongoing interest in “what justice looks like for others” was one of the reasons she signed up for this course.

Her interest in attending CSOP stems from years of peacebuilding work in conflict areas, which includes time spent in Dundalk, Ireland, near the end of The Troubles. She describes that experience as one of the hardest times of her life but also as what “kicked up” her peace activism.

“I got to see people who loathed each other but got together for the greater good,” she says. “People who had lost people on both sides said they couldn’t see the point of [violence].”

Raised by her Catholic father and Muslim mother, Wilson remains connected to both faiths. She’s a member of Unity Mosque in Toronto, identifies as a Muslim and also attends a Catholic church in her hometown of Chicago. Wilson says the faith community at her mosque energizes her in her peace work.

“I feel my mosque community is taking back Islam and what they feel are the roots of service and inclusion,” she says. “There are some very new immigrants in my mosque, and every single one of them is involved in volunteer service.”

Wilson’s also energized in her peace work by the “moments and seconds you have when people find some commonality, no matter how simple.”

She witnessed such moments of connection during her time in Dundalk. “If these people, who have done horrible things to each other, managed to find a way to facilitate peace, it’s always possible.”

The welcoming nature of CSOP was complemented by the welcoming experience Wilson receives when visiting Canada. She speaks fondly of the time a border guard stamped her passport and said ‘welcome to Canada’ without asking her to explain what she calls her “complicated background.”

One of the aspects of being a peacebuilder is that “you never stop learning,” says Wilson. Through her time and experiences in Canada and at CSOP, she says she’s learned about some of her own biases. “If you’re going to be an effective peacebuilder, you have to continue to learn and to accept that you probably have your own biases.”

Wilson’s advice for aspiring peacebuilders is short, but powerful: “Have a strong network. And stronger faith – an even stronger faith.”

Ellen Paulley is the Writer & Social Media Coordinator for Canadian Mennonite University

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Alumni Profiles Articles

CSOP Participant Profile – Lorne Brandt

Course helps B.C. man promote reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada announced it would hold one of its national events in Vancouver, Lorne Brandt wanted to make sure he was prepared.

Part of that preparation involved taking a course titled “Covenants of Peace and Justice” at the 2011 Canadian School of Peacebuilding.

Lorne Brandt, 2011 CSOP Participant, has since been building relationships with First Nations groups

“I realized that in my background, both growing up and [through] many years training and professionally, I have been blessed by First Nations neighbours, teachers, friends, co-workers and patients,” says Brandt, a retired psychiatrist living in Richmond, B.C.

“I reasoned that this was surely preparation for something that I could do to promote reconciliation between these two groups of Canadians … As a follower of Jesus, I would have to also say that I believe His spirit has also been guiding me on this good way.”

Taught by Rev. Stan McKay, an Aboriginal educator who was Canada’s first Aboriginal Moderator of the United Church of Canada, “Covenants of Peace and Justice” introduced a Cree Christian perspective on living in covenant relationships.

With an eye on exploring the role of peacemakers in a global context, McKay and his students examined biblical covenants, historic First Nations treaties, and contemporary struggles for justice during the weeklong course.

Learning more about the background of how treaties shaped the interaction between First Nations peoples and European settlers left a lasting impression on Brandt, who over the past few years has had a desire to connect with First Nations peoples in his area as well as make others – particularly Mennonites – more aware of indigenous issues.

Our ancestors came to this land not appreciating the worldview of its indigenous inhabitants, Brandt says – an inclusive worldview that allowed Europeans to settle here and share in the bounty of the land.

“And what have we done?” Brandt asks. “We’ve taken [the land] and left it worse off. There’s a big injustice there we need to look at, repent of, and try to correct.”

Since attending the CSOP, Brandt has arranged for First Nations guests to come speak to his congregation, Peace Mennonite Church, as well as teach in the church’s adult education hour.

He has also made connections with Hummingbird Ministries, a local organization that has grown out of the Presbyterian Church. Brandt and his wife have attended a number of their sessions and promoted their work in bringing together a variety of First Nations Christians and non-First Nations.

In his role as deacon at Peace Mennonite, Brandt arranged for Hummingbird Ministries to hold its third annual Peace Through the Arts Festival at Peace Mennonite in November 2012.

“I even got to perform some of the songs that I had written back in the 1970s when I was living in the community of South Indian Lake in northern Manitoba,” Brandt says.

Brandt also volunteered at the TRC gathering in Vancouver, and led two discussions in his church’s adult education hour: the first on why Christians should care about the injustices done to First Nations, and the second on what Christians can do about it.

“I do have to say that my attendance at the Canadian School of Peacebuilding played a large role in my going down this path,” Brandt says. “That period of time sent my mind in several directions with respect to the whole issue of our relationship as non-indigenous Canadians with our First Nations Canadian fellow-citizens.”

“I would like to attend further Canadian School of Peacebuilding sessions as well,” he adds. “If one is prepared, they are an excellent means of stirring one to action.”