EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) has long enjoyed close ties to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). In fact, it exists in large part because of MCC.
In the late ’80s MCC staff in its Akron offices began discussing the need to train more peacebuilders by combining practical experience in conflict resolution with the field’s growing academic side, preferably in a faith-based setting.
Before long, John Paul Lederach (fresh from MCC work) and other members of the faculty and administration at EMU were exploring the possibility. In 1994, the vision became reality with the establishment of CJP – then known as the Conflict Transformation Program. Most of the program’s early faculty and staff were former MCC volunteers themselves. Now, about half of CJP’s full-time employees have extensive MCC experience, including executive director Lynn Roth, who spent 30 years with MCC, most recently as director of its U.S. East Coast program.
As soon as CJP was up and running at the university, MCC began sending staff from its partner NGOs and church organizations in the Middle East to receive training at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI). To date, MCC has sponsored 60 representatives from its partner organizations in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel to attend SPI.
“Sending trainees to SPI has been an integral part of MCC’s overall peacebuilding program in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” says Alain Epp Weaver, a long-time MCC volunteer in the Middle East now serving as its director of strategic planning and learning.
A rehabilitation program at the East Jerusalem YMCA, as just one example, now uses conflict sensitivity principles in its work with Palestinians disabled by Israeli military attacks, after MCC sponsored its director to attend SPI, according to Epp Weaver. Several staffers from the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem have also received training at SPI, during which they were able to gain broader background in peacebuilding theory and skills, as well as share insight with others on their experience using traditional Palestinian reconciliation processes.
And in Jordan, MCC has begun working with SPI-trained staff from a partner organization to sponsor peacebuilding workshops and training to Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as to Jordanians living in communities that host a growing number of Syrians fleeing the war in their country. — AKJ
Grateful acknowledgement: In researching and reporting this issue of Peacebuilder, Sarah Adams, Daryl Byler (’79 EMU grad), Rachelle Friesen and Ed Nyce (’86 EMU grad) – MCC staff in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and the U.S., respectively – were extremely helpful.