Eastern Mennonite University has become the destination of choice for my continuing education in Peace Building. I first came to Harrisonburg, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in January 2006 for the first Coming to the Table (CTTT) gathering. I returned this past June for the CTTT course during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute offered each summer at EMU.One of the foundational tenets of Coming to the Table is the recognition that historic slavery in the United States is a significant collective trauma our nation has yet to fully confront and from which we have not healed.
Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) began in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001; a joint program of Church World Service and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU. STAR brings together people from around the world-from various religious/spiritual traditions as well those with no connection to a faith community-who embrace the challenge of responding to the inevitable traumas of life (both individual and collective). STAR equips leaders and caregivers to address trauma, to help victims of trauma understand and break free from destructive cycles of violence and/or victimhood that may well be passed on to others (including future generations), and to do so in ways that lead to personal and societal transformation.
My classmates this week-more than two dozen of us-work in the fields of medicine, psychology, mediation, restorative justice, social work, pastoral care, human rights, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS education, refugee services, and trauma healing. We’re from all over the United States and Canada as well as Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Netherlands, and Ghana. We’ve shared stories with each other about working with traumatized people torn from their homes and families due to wars in Iraq, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. Six of my classmates came here from the Middle East. The stories these six women share about the people they work with shines the light of truth on the brutality of war and the terror that has been visited upon Iraqi people and others in the Middle East.
We’ve shared stories about people who have survived the most horrifying brutality who have found resilience, hope, the ability to forgive, and who have made the choice to break free from trauma and live.
My typed notes from this week run 25 pages long. This brief description of my week will have to suffice for this blog. I encourage anyone who works in any field in which trauma-individual or collective, historic or current-is a factor to explore the classes, seminars, and institutes that are offered by EMU and consider coming here. The experience will enrich your life and your work.