CJP at 25: Celebrate, Reflect, Dream with Amy Potter Czajkowski MA ’02

During the 2019-20 academic year, as the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding commemorates its 25th anniversary, a series of guest authors will share reflections about CJP’s personal impact. We want to hear your thoughts, too!

Thousands of people have intersected with CJP over the years, and each of you has contributed to the work of making the world more just and more peaceful world. The 2020 event has been postponed to 2021. Visit the anniversary website for more details.

Read reflections by Phoebe KilbyMuhammad Abu-NimerMaryam SheikhHoward Zehr and Ruth Zimmerman, Sanjay Pulipaka, and Shyamika Jayasundara- Smits.

Amy Potter Czajkowski MA ‘02 was a staff member at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding for more than 10 years. She offered leadership to several initiatives, including as the founding director of Coming To the Table, an organization that works to address the legacy of enslavement in the United States.

‘Celebrating both/and: A challenging and worthy endeavor’

As I reflect on my experience at CJP, one of the unique aspects of CJP that I most appreciate and celebrate is the message and practice of embracing both/and. A both/and orientation matters because it makes the whole visible and opens the possibility of all the pieces showing up and working together. Much like a human body that works best when all its systems are acknowledged and cared for, it’s from the healthy whole that we can much better address conflict and create the conditions that foster peace. This is true at all levels, from the individual to international systems.

In our world right now, we see polarization everywhere. We are living on the foundation of many centuries of systems and beliefs that work to disconnect. Western civilization has honed the practice of pulling apart, creating oppositional polarities, pitted against each other and ranked in a hierarchical order. These polarities and hierarchical rankings create much of the turmoil and violence in our world.  

We need to see the whole and put the pieces back together or recognize the wholeness and connections that are there but remain unseen. Peacebuilders can be creators of that space where both/and is welcomed and where differences and seeming paradoxes can exist together and birth new creative ideas. They can invite us to acknowledge historical harms while seeing our innate magnificence, can help us see the ever-repeating patterns of colonialism while also uncovering the deep connectedness that we have with each other.  They can challenge the pull towards polarities.

I am currently engaged in a body of work that involves creating structures at the community level with representatives of the whole community in one body. They are explicitly non-partisian, intentionally inclusive and actively invitational of whole people. Organizers at each level of the process work very hard to convey the message that people’s full experience is welcome, answers will emerge to even the most challenging obstacles, and frank AND respectful conversation about what doesn’t work is welcome. These bodies have been successful at resolving conflict and creating collective priorities for economic, educational and community development, and have worked to prevent violence.

We have worked to connect these local bodies with municipal and national government. Likewise, these connections between normally hierarchically divided levels have resulted in a coordinated whole that draws on what each part is best positioned to do. Like an electrical circuit completed by holding hands and seeing a device light up or make noise when everyone is connected, when the parts of the whole are connected with each other and offering what they are best positioned to offer, there is power and possibility that’s absent when those connections are not there or are weak.

Human beings have potential strengths and perspectives that could greatly contribute to a more healthy and peaceful world. To tap into this potential, it’s important to invite capacities that haven’t been culturally valued such as emotion, intuition and knowing through experience and give voice and value to underrepresented perspectives so they can come into balance (both/and) with culturally dominant capacities and points of view. As I have contributed to creating and holding space for people to more fully show up with these different aspects of themselves as well as very different life experiences, I have seen what seem like oppositional strengths and perspectives come together. This convergence has led to real solutions that have moved institutions and communities forward, addressed long-standing conflicts, and invited motivation and energy.

A few of the practical ways I’ve seen CJP embrace both/and:

  • Embracing practice AND academics. CJP recognizes that lived experience AND knowledge creation through systematic observation across contexts are valuable.
  • Offering a wholistic curriculum.  At CJP, trauma healing AND conflict analysis share the curriculum. Visual arts projects AND thesis papers are expressions of learning. In classes, faculty include self-reflection AND research. This signals that the curriculum honors whole brains and whole people, holding these topics, often perceived as divergent, as core aspects of one curriculum.
  • Valuing colleague AND student/professor relationships. At CJP, faculty are approachable and honor the experience students bring with them. Classes are designed in ways that give students structure to reflect on their own experiences, learn from each other AND receive the experience and structure from the faculty member.
  •  Intentionally creating a global community, where experience from all over the world is welcome. 

I would invite and encourage CJP to continue making every effort to embrace both/and in the ways that it has and expand opportunities to offer spaces that cultivate one’s ability to resist polarity, to hold differences, draw on one’s whole self and experience, resist judgement and identify common visions that unite and create space for creative ways to move forward together.

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Amy Potter Czajkowski is the director of global learning at Catalyst for Peace, a US-based operating foundation that uses an inside-out approach to forward social and structural change to address conflict and contribute to peaceful coexistence. She creates opportunities for people to learn and share about how inside-out approaches can apply in diverse contexts around the world. 

At Catalyst for Peace, she was part of the team that founded fambul tok, a national peace, reconciliation and development process in Sierra Leone, offering expertise on process and program design and designing teaching and learning spaces to move the work forward. Fambul Tok International (the organization created to support the fambul tok process) and CFP have remained close partners for more than 12 years.

Amy designs and learns from approaches that invite people’s whole selves, what matters most to them and deepens connection with others.  

Amy received her BA from Principia College in 1997 and an MA in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University in 2002. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with her husband, two sons and stepson and stepdaughter.

Join the Discussion on “CJP at 25: Celebrate, Reflect, Dream with Amy Potter Czajkowski MA ’02

  1. Thanks, Amy. Yes to “both/and.” I learned this from John Paul Lederach and had it reinforced by you in our Coming to the Table SPI class. Both truth and mercy. Both justice and peace. Actually, all four at once to reach reconciliation across divisions.

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