Iraqi Group Extends ‘Thanks’ to EMU

several SPI students plant a Southern magnolia
A group from the Summer Peacebuilding Institute that includes several Iraqi citizens plants a Southern magnolia in front of the Hillside Suites residence at EMU.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Reformation church leader Martin Luther reportedly said, “Even if I knew my life would end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree.”

A Southern magnolia was planted in front of EMU’s Hillside Suites residence May 27 as a living symbol of hope for peace in Iraq, a country devastated by war and destruction in the wake of the U.S. invasion.

Six Iraqi citizens who spent several weeks attending programs at EMU aimed at training persons to do peacebuilding, mediation work and trauma healing in areas of protracted conflict gave the tree to the university as an expression of thanks for their experiences.

The group, three men and three women, attended a weeklong STAR (Seminars on Trauma Awareness and Recovery), a program co-sponsored by EMU’s Conflict Transformation Program and Church World Service. STAR provides intensive training programs for religious leaders and caregivers to assist persons in areas affected by traumatic events.

They then participated in the first two sessions of the annual Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI), an annual CTP-sponsored event that offers intensive seven-day courses on conflict transformation, strategic nonviolence, trauma awareness and reconciliation, restorative justice and related themes.

“The workshops we attended were extremely valuable to our work in Iraq,” said one participant, speaking on behalf of his colleagues. “The mediation training will help us in resolving local and community conflicts, hopefully reaching out to a broader base and with more formal applications to human rights situations.

“Coming here (to EMU) gave us a new sense of hope,” he said. “The public media isn’t showing the progress being made in trying to bring stability and improved economic life. Violence will only lead to more violence. We want to take back and apply the values to help build up peace in our country.”

The delegation was sponsored by Church World Service and Mennonite Central Committee.

The SPI program continues through June 15.