Some 140 students and faculty from Mennonite, Brethren, Quaker and other schools across the United States and Canada gathered in Harrisonburg, Va., Feb. 20-21 for the annual Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship hosted by Eastern Mennonite University. The conference is held on a different campus each year.
“The program theme, ‘Stories of Healing,’ sought to offer both theoretical and practical knowledge in developing healing skills for personal use after a traumatic event and for accompanying others on the journey to recovery,” according to meeting organizer Bill Goldberg of Harrisonburg.
The event drew participants from Bethel College, Bluffton, Catholic University, Earlham College, Conrad Grebel, EMU, Eastern Mennonite High School, James Madison University, Menno Simons and Canadian Mennonite University.
A theater piece, “A Body in Motion,” written by EMU graduate and professional dramatist Ingrid DeSanctis and based on the book, “Transcending: Reflections of Crime Victims” by Howard Zehr, co-director of the Conflict Transformation Program at EMU, was presented during the conference. Because the play is emotionally intense, a lengthy discussion followed the performance.
Local groups “Red Fish Blue Fish” and “Oscar’s Mad” provided special music in the Common Grounds Coffeehouse on campus. A talent show also proved popular.
Asked near the end of the conference to indicate a highlight, many persons pointed to the opening talk by Peter Loge, a former director of the Campaign for Criminal Justice in Washington, D.C., citing appreciation for his comments on the unique role and opportunities that Christians can have in peacebuilding efforts in the world.
Other speakers and workshop leaders included Lynn Shiner, director of Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Program; John Glick, a local acupuncturist and board member of the Gesundheit Institute; Cheryl Talley, assistant professor of psychology at James Madison University; Jayne Docherty and Barry Hart of the Conflict Transformation Program faculty and students in both undergraduate and graduate programs at EMU.
Shiner shared her personal story of her two children being stabbed to death on Christmas Eve, 1994, by her ex-husband, who then took his own life.
“For all practical purposes, my own life was over,” she told her spellbound audience. “The hardest part was learning things about my late husband’s past that should have been revealed to me. Many times I felt that I was the one most responsible for my children’s deaths.”
Shiner went on to work for the passage of legislation in Pennsylvania – Jen and Dave’s Law, passed in 1996 – that gives new rights to ex-spouses with shared custody to find out if their ex-spouse had been arrested for any crimes.
Tracey King, a student in EMU’s Conflict Transformation Program, took part in a workshop, “Ritual and Movement: Creating Community and Peace among Women.” The workshop, for women only, was designed to explore the power of dance and ritual and how they can be used to provide a safe place where women can support and encourage each other. After a time of talking together in small groups about women