80 People from 21 Countries Seeking Peace

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Back in school again - this time I am in Harrisonburg, Virginia at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University.  As a Catholic, I wondered what the experience would be like? Who are the Mennonites? How would I fit in? 

I settled into my seat during the ‘Opening Celebration’, where 80 of us gathered from 21 countries to begin a week together. My anticipation turned to wonder as the program unfolded. We were all invited to form lines by rows and step onto the stage to say our name and where we call home. As each person shared, I was aware that my eyes were filling with tears and I wondered, once again, how I was going to manage this physical reaction to the joy I felt in my heart.  In the end, I used self control and let a few tears roll down my face while the remaining tears settled into the deepest part of my soul. I knew then that I would be at home here – surrounded by a community of people from all walks of life with different languages, religions, spiritualties, cultures, and ethnicities – all seeking peacebuilding. 

There are 5 courses in all during this session and mine is Circle Processes, a restorative justice practice taught by Kay Pranis. There are 24 of us who meet daily in the Discipleship Center, a lovely facility at the top of a hill overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. 

I have completed day 2 so far - learning from each member of the group – always in circle. Listening to each extraordinary person, who came from near and far with their own unique and individual stories, needs, goals, and hopes for gaining knowledge and skills in order to promote change in the world. 

Yes, I feel very much at home here.