Our Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) was launched in 1994-95 to fill a need for people trained to address intractable conflicts in creative, skillful, knowledgeable, non-violent ways. CJP’s founders – who had worked in war and conflict zones of Northern Ireland, Latin America, Africa and Asia – had no illusions that sowing the seeds of peace in deeply divided societies would be easy or even that results might be seen in one’s own lifetime. This long-term view has proven necessary for peacebuilders working in the Middle East.
This issue of Peacebuilder highlights a remarkable group of people who have come through training of some kind at CJP, usually through the master’s degree in conflict transformation program or our annual Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI). They are persisting against what often seems like impossible odds to plant seeds for peace in the Middle East. They hope to see significant improvement in their lifetimes but, if that hope is not realized, they all talk of persisting on behalf of future generations. In the words of Dr. David Brubaker, one of our professors, “Optimism is often not warranted in our work with intractable conflict, but hope is something that has to be sustained.”
To date, 29 men and women from the Middle East – largely from Jordan, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine and Syria – have completed our master’s degree in conflict transformation. Nearly 200 people from the Middle East have taken SPI courses. Twenty-five of these alumni were interviewed and photographed by writer Andrew Jenner and photographer Jon Styer, sent to the region by EMU in February 2012. The reports Andrew and Jon brought back are both heartbreaking and heartening.
As this issue was going to press, we learned that the new president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, attended EMU’s 2001 SPI. Mohamud ran for an election on a peace-centered platform of representing all the clans and classes in Somalia. We wish him success in this long-term endeavor.
Our thoughts and prayers are with our alumni and partners in the Middle East, Northeast Africa and other regions where the important work of sowing seeds of peace continues on a daily basis, but must be carried by a vision that may take years to become reality.