I believe we can each do more every day to bring peace to the world. I am learning this as I work on a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding, which I plan to complete in two years, about the time I turn 65.
I am learning this from my fellow students and professors at a small, liberal arts college in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley – Eastern Mennonite University – where I am enrolled in the graduate program at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
I am not Mennonite. I am not anything, though my 40-year-old Master’s degree was from a theological seminary. Nevertheless, EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding has welcomed me with open arms just as they have welcomed students of all faiths and no faith.
Most of my classmates are from other countries, many where the level of day-to-day conflict is unimaginable. My classmates over the past two years have come from Nepal, Liberia, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, and many other countries. Many of these people are the first I have known from their countries, so even as I read this list, their unique faces and stories come into my mind.
Through these friendships and my courses at EMU I have come to believe that each of us can do more for peace. No matter what we are doing now, there is something more we can do – perhaps something that takes us outside our comfort zone but just as often something that simply involves a different approach to normal activities.
Most of my classmates were working in the field of peacebuilding before coming to EMU. Some were working with orphans in Sierra Leone or trying to stop the trafficking in humans in Cambodia. Others were trying to improve the lot of women in Afghanistan or do development work in Kenya or aid internally displaced persons in Iraq.
But don’t be intimidated by their grand work. That’s not the only way to build peace. Peacebuilding can be done in an infinite number of ways. I believe that every person has a unique contribution to make to world peace. We each need to find our own special way.
If children learn to solve conflicts with words, they are building peace. If people of different backgrounds really listen to each other, they are building peace. If communities form support groups to help newly released prisoners build a new life, they are building peace. If you smile at someone who has treated you rudely because you realize they may be having a difficult day, you are building peace.
I am learning that every day brings dozens of opportunities to make the choice to contribute to a more peaceful world. This is not the work of governments and diplomats. This is your work and mine. We can each do more. This I believe.
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