Though I’ve been to Eastern Mennonite University before–for the first Coming to the Table retreat in January 2006–this is the first time I’ve been here for the Summer Peacebuilding Institute. In addition to our class focused on healing from the legacy of U.S. slavery, the other classes include Using Media to Promote Peace, Peace Processes: Multi-Track Approaches (for people familiar with armed conflict, peace building, and international relations), Building Communities: Social, Economic, & Spiritual Development, and Real World Restorative Justice.

I’ve heard that EMU has international appeal, but I figured that meant some small percentage of students come from outside the United States. This morning at the Gathering Celebration where all 105 of us students joined together for breakfast and announcements before beginning our various classes, each of us stood and shared our name and where we are from. I wrote down as many countries as I could. If you can resist just skipping through this list and read the names of each country you’ll get a sense of just what an international gathering this truly is.

In addition to people from 14 different states in the U.S., my fellow students are here in Virginia from their homes in Jordan, Iraq, Bosnia Herzegovina, Egypt, Italy, Ukraine, Iran, Scotland, Belgium, Palestine, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, India, Uganda, Somaliland, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Burma/Myanmar, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Rwanda, Fiji, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Chile, England, Ghana, Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya, Zambia, South Korea, Uganda, Congo, Netherlands, Tanzania, Liberia, and Ireland.

I didn’t catch them all but was told that we 105 students hail from 46 different countries. This group of students is gathered together to learn and to share wisdom and energy. All are dedicated to serving others with an emphasis on peace and non-violence.

I’m in awe; and humbled to be here.