Tenth Summer Peacebuilding Institute Opens

Valerie Helbert, Laura Schildt, Kerry Saner, and Vaweka Djayerombe lead SPI participants in a
L. to r.: Valerie Helbert, Laura Schildt and Kerry Saner of the United States and Vaweka Djayerombe from the Democratic Republic of Congo lead SPI participants in a “peace song” to conclude the ceremony opening the 2005 Summer Peacebuilding Institute. All four were students in EMU’s Conflict Transformation Program in 2004-05.
Photo by Jim Bishop

How often does one modest-sized auditorium in a small Virginia city hold people from Rwanda, Brazil, Italy, Syria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bombay, Burundi, Egypt, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Australia, Indonesia, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the United States?

In all, 35 nations were represented among the 98 participants arriving on May 9 at Eastern Mennonite University, for the tenth annual Summer Peacebuilding Institute gathering that brings such diversity to the Harrisonburg, Va., campus.

SPI learners, from all continents and faith traditions, have experience in peacebuilding work, including human rights and relief. Most are sponsored by home organizations. Living on campus during four sessions spread over six weeks, they will complete workshops such as “Analysis: Understanding Conflict” and “Peacebuilding for Traumatized Societies,” while sharing food, music and games as friendships form.

The opening session addressed cross-cultural communication issues with a humorous skit:

“We don