Reaffirmation of EMU as a Peace and Justice University

Greetings EMU campus community,

In this Advent Season we celebrate the miraculous birth of Jesus. And yet what a stark disconnect this year. We cannot help but lament the darkness and fear and the large scale indiscriminate violence in our world todayin Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, to name a few.

In her remarks to the Faculty Assembly recently, Gloria Rhodes, associate professor of peacebuilding and conflict studies in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), identified 45 armed conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa alone. She reminded us that the first thing we should do as we respond to the atrocities of war, including the war in Gaza, is to “hold space to support human dignity for all.”


Since October 7, the wartime atrocities in the “Holy Land” have especially shaken our sensibilities and the very foundations of civil society. Even as a significant pause in the fighting provided a ray of hope over Thanksgiving, the violence has begun anew.

Our campus community, led largely by our students, has leaned in to how we should respond as an Anabaptist peace and justice university.  In the early weeks, we leveraged one of our own, Tim Seidel, associate professor of peacebuilding, development and global studies and director of the Center for Interfaith Engagement (CIE), who in collaboration with SGA hosted a “Teach-In” that drew significant interest from the wider Harrisonburg community.

We also created space for people to gather on Thomas Plaza for peace vigils, and we corporately offered an MCC prayer:

Still many expressed that EMU should be doing more. In mid-November when the Board of Trustees met on campus, 111 students (and later 30 faculty and staff) added their signatures to a request that EMU issue a statement about the Gaza conflict. 

The Board was appreciative of the ways in which signers of the letter wanted to show up in brave, authentic ways as bridge-builders true to our mission, vision and values. 

To foster dialogue, Provost Tynisha Willingham and I met with five of the student leaders to learn about what next steps could better position EMU to live into our peace and justice tradition with integrity and conviction. Our time together also secured student representation in a newly-formed Israel-Palestine Working Group. 

I am thankful for the good work of this group, including convener Jackie Font Guzmán, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and professor in CJP;  Tim Seidel, director of the Center for Interfaith Engagement and associate professor of peacebuilding; Dan Ott, dean of the seminary and school of theology, humanities, and the performing arts; Micah Shristi, director of international student services; Braydon Hoover, associate vice president for advancement; and student Aidan Yoder, a senior history major. 

On Monday, December 4, the Working Group provided us with several Anabaptist-inspired action steps. EMU endorses the following recommendations:  

  • Provide education/teaching professional development for faculty through the Provost’s Office and the Center for Teaching and Learning 

As a teaching-focused university, EMU is committed to equip its instructors with teaching practices that integrate peace and justice in the classroom.

  • Amplify voices of EMU faculty, staff and alums working on this issue 

With leadership from CJP, we will provide a web-based clearing house of resources to share tools for conflict transformation and stories from peacebuilders in the field. 

  • Continue to support our educational partnerships in the Middle East 

For decades, EMU has established partnerships with churches, schools, and agencies in the Middle East and around the world. We will continue to nurture those relationships so EMU students can continue to spend a transformative intercultural term in the Middle East as students did last summer.  

  • Support students’ needs

Campus leaders are committed to listening to the diverse perspectives of students and supporting the shared needs of students, including offering direction around non-violent practices and creating safe spaces for sharing.   

  • Review our Investments in war-torn countries, including Israel-Palestine 

EMU adopts a screen of socially-responsible investing. We will reach out to the MEA Investment Committee for an update on investment positions.

In addition to endorsing these recommendations from the Working Group, we heard from our students that political advocacy was important too. EMU endorses these action items as well:

  • Support congressional advocacy on Capitol Hill by working with organizations calling for a ceasefire and a release of hostages, such as Mennonite Central Committee, the National Council of Churches, and the World Evangelical Alliance 
  • Consider a day of prayer, fasting, march for peace and nonviolent action 
  • Provide resources for a letter-writing campaign to congressional representatives


As a faith-inspired peace and justice institution, we aim to respond faithfully to the question posed by the prophet Micah: “And what does the Lord require of you? The Lord requires you to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” 

Standing with the oppressed, calling out injustice, and serving the needs of those displaced by violence is not easy work. It is courageous work. Together, we follow the Prince of Peace. We follow the Civil Rights activist John Lewis who said: “When you pray, move your feet!” And we follow the historic peace church tradition as conscientious objectors to all war and violence. 

To that end, we recommit ourselves to these principles. Nonviolence is at the heart of the gospel; Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. And “as a university founded in the Anabaptist tradition, we embrace active nonviolence, which seeks to defeat injustice, not other human beings, and strives to act out of love.” (David Brubaker, dean of the school of social sciences and professions and professor of organizational studies). 

Hear our prayers, O merciful God. Grant us the wisdom to meet the moral crucible of the moment as a peaceable community of learners.


Susan Schultz Huxman, Ph.D.

President, EMU

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