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Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (formerly CTP) Celebrates Ten Years

Posted on June 10th, 2005

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Cross-cultural photos

Ferdinand Vaweka Djayerombe (Congo), Laura A. Schildt (United States) and Hind Ghorayeb (Lebanon) perform an original song for the tenth anniversary celebration. Photo by Jim Bishop

As the drape covering the large painting was removed, the striking colors and rugged tree motif of the framed acrylic-on-canvas art piece registered audience approval.

Some 400 people gathered at Eastern Mennonite University June 3-5 were celebrating 10 years of a program that, like the tree in the painting, has grown way beyond expectations.

“The remarkable growth of the EMU program is much like a tree rooted in the Earth, weathered and strengthened through experience that will keep it alive for years to come,” the artist, Jude Oudshoorn, said. He is a first-year student in the CJP program from Toronto, Canada.

EMU launched the Conflict Transformation Program in 1994 with two American students, two professors, a box of file folders and an administrative staff member. Ten years later, it has seen more than 2,500 people from 83 countries take one or more of its courses, with 160 of these earning a masters degree or graduate certificate in Conflict Transformation.

The June 3-5 celebration was a spirited mix of reflection on the past decade, recognition to founders and supporters of the internationally- recognized peacebuilding program and worship and music on a peace and reconciliation theme.

During the weekend, participants attended an interactive workshop and an intense one-woman play by Israeli-American actress Noa Baum, a “concert of peace and justice songs” by noted musician John McCutcheon and selected from some 15 special interest workshops on topics ranging from restorative justice and trauma healing to responses to the 9/ll tragedy.

During a celebration dinner Saturday evening, the program officially changed names from Conflict Transformation Program (CTP) to the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

Ruth H. Zimmerman, CJP co-director, said the change was made “because we’ve developed rapidly into a multi-pronged program and this name better reflects who we are.

“The term, conflict transformation, often raised more questions than it answered,” Zimmerman said. “But most people readily understand peace and justice, and peacebuilding is an active process at the heart of our program that we work at together.”

John Paul Lederach, one of the founders of CJP, uses a Tibetan song bowl as an illustration
John Paul Lederach, one of the founders of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU, uses a Tibetan song bowl as an illustration in a dinner meeting address to open the tenth anniversary celebration.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Zimmerman said that the “incredible growth” of what is now CJP presents a problem – “It’s difficult to keep growing, given our limited current office and classroom space, coupled to the pressing need to increase scholarships for worthy students with limited financial resources.”

At a Saturday brunch, a number of long-time donors to the program who attended the celebration heard expressions of appreciation from current CJP students from eight countries who have received financial assistance.

Summer Peacebuilding Institute student Sara Kauffman Brown, born and raised in South Africa and currently working in a mental health program with traumatized people in Sierra Leone, said the Summer Peacebuilding Program “brings people from around the world together in an intense experience in community. We look after each other and leave with a feeling of support for our work.”

“I’m committed to this program that helps persons from other countries receive training to return to their homelands or other places and work in peace initiatives,” said Dwight Hartman of Harrisonburg. “I feel it deserves to expand as much as possible to develop better attitudes between countries.”

CJP benefactors Herb and Sarah Bucher Myers of Mt. Joy, Pa., both EMU alumni, support the program because they believe it is “making a difference” in applying Anabaptist principles to build a better world. “As we hear how students in the program are connecting with hurting people, we feel it is privilege to support this effort,” Myers said. The couple’s daughter, Janelle Myers Benner, is a CJP administrative assistant.

EMU President Loren E. Swartzendruber reflected on the center’s mission in the closing session Sunday morning held at Park View Mennonite Church.

“The Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 5 calls us to become ambassadors for the cause of Christ,” Dr. Swartzendruber said. “We are given the ministry of reconciliation, to God and to each other through our common bonds as members of the human community.

“I am passionate about peacemaking because it is, for me, the logical extension of what I believe it means to be a follower of Jesus,” the president said. “I can’t picture the Jesus I follow as the pilot of an F-16 dropping bombs on his enemies. It’s a real stretch to imagine Jesus on the safe end of an assault rifle. I can’t read the Sermon on the Mount and believe that Jesus meant that for another time and place or only for those set apart as ‘religious.’

“It may seem crystal clear to us that to be in authentic relationship with Christ requires us to be reconcilers. But it is painfully clear that such a passion is a minority world view, not a perspective that is regularly celebrated in many of our communities.

“We can be passionate, but we change the world one conversation at a time,” Swartzendruber declared. “And, that requires us to be in authentic relationship with the other.

“This tenth anniversary celebration has been a wonderful event,” he said in closing. “God has done a marvelous thing among us and for that we are grateful. As we go from this place, filled with passion and enthusiasm, renewed for the task of peacebuilding, let us do so in joy and with hope.”

The service included the premiere of a song written and sung by three students in the M.A. in peacebuilding program.

Ferdinand Waweka Djayerombe from the Congo, Laura A. Schildt from the United States and Hind Ghorayeb from Lebanon gave an enthusiastic rendition of “Journey” in appreciation for their experiences at EMU and as a celebration gift.

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