Peacebuilder Podcast: ‘That of God, Not of Ego’ with Catherine Barnes

The “Peacebuilder” podcast, hosted by Patience Kamau MA ‘17, releases the second episode of its second season today. Kamau’s guest is Professor Catherine Barnes, who teaches strategic peacebuilding and public policy at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

The “Peacebuilder” podcast, in its second season, is a production of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. 

More than 6,500 listeners in 102 countries and 1,239 cities across the globe enjoyed Season I.The podcast is among just a handful covering the general peacebuilding field. It is available on EMU’s Peacebuilder website, Apple Podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, TuneIn and other podcast directories.

In the podcast, Barnes and Kamau chat about Barnes’ expertise in designing and facilitating deliberative dialogue processes, as well as current events including the military coup in Myanmar.

“Dr. Catherine Barnes has worked for conflict transformation and social change for more than 30 years,” Kamau says by way of introduction. “In many countries, she has worked with civil society, activists, diplomats and politicians, and armed groups to build their capacities for preventing violence and using conflict as an opportunity for addressing the systems giving rise to oppression and grievance.”

Their conversation begins with a deep dive into deliberative dialogue: what it is, when it’s useful, and what it has the power to do for a community struggling with conflict.

“The dialogue is very much about setting the conversation in this connection point – at a human level – between those who are involved and the perspectives that they have to bring. So that particularly if there’s been tension, conflict, or even indeed oppression, that you have this humanization of relationships,” Barnes explained. 

One of the early experiences that led Barnes towards this field of work was growing up in the Quaker Universalist tradition, in which congregants gather in silence “and seek the light of God moving within,” she said. They “have … this understanding that often in those spaces, there may be someone who feels moved to share something.”

Barnes went on to earn her doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University alongside Jayne Docherty, Barry Hart, and Lisa Schirch. She’s done conflict transformation work all over the world – including training deliberative dialogue process designers and facilitators in Myanmar. 

About the current violence in the country, Barnes said she feels “so heartbroken. I feel scared, scared for people who I have come to know and respect and, indeed, to love … I think it really does reveal in many ways how the zero sum nature of a power paradigm based on unilateral control and coercion is so hard to shift.”

“Are there resilience tools that you think are within the community that might help carry them through this?” Kamau asked.

“I always, always have hope,” Barnes replied. “I often will say that it’s actually, it’s within movements that you almost need these skills even more to try to think about, ‘how do we generate something that will be different in nature, different in kind than the old system that had been oppressive?'”