Tag: leadership

Facilitating peace education in Virginia

Laura Carr-Pries at Brethren Woods camp in Keezeltown, Virginia.

As a student, I always try and find ways to connect what I’m learning in class to “the real world.” So, when I received a job description for the position of Peace and Justice Director at Brethren Woods camp in Keezletown, Virginia, I realized that this was not a job I could turn down.

While I knew that I wanted to explore peace education, I was afraid that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, going to an area of a country that I know carries a wide range of perspectives on peace and justice.

Despite my hesitation, I decided to go for it. I had the opportunity to create a peace education curriculum, where I taught conflict resolution skills, and explored what the Bible says about peace.

We read stories, played co-operative games, and asked questions about why we act with violence. We made peace quilts and brainstormed how we can become peacebuilders in our own communities.

I quickly realized that I would not be able to do what I did without all of my CMU experience.

The hands-on learning that I experienced in my classes taught me how to engage different learning styles and the content of classes gave me ideas for different topics I could teach.

Over the course of the summer, I worked with campers to create a Peace Path. Each camper had a stone which they painted with one step they could take to make the world more peaceful, their stepping stone for peace.

Laura Carr-Pries at Brethren Woods camp in Keezeltown, Virginia.

Their answers ranged from smiles and friendship, to tolerance and generosity. After the stones were painted, each camper laid their stone on the path with a recognition that peace is not the responsibility of one person, but is dependant on many people working together. 

These stones now line a path, where there is a prayer for peace in the world and in our communities.

In light of recent events in Charlottesville, which is an hour away from the camp I worked at, I am hopeful that our world is not stuck in pain and violence.

Throughout the summer, campers asked me about the situation in Charlottesville, and questioned why people respond to hate with more hate. These young voices shared their hope that people with differences would have conversations and recognize their common humanity.

I feel honoured to have walked with these children as they have learned a language of peace and I am hopeful that they will become agents of positive change in their communities.

This fall, Laura Carr-Pries enters her fourth year of a PACTS and Theology major at CMU.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

In December 2016, I was tired. I felt dissatisfied—like I had failed to actively engage in my education. So when the opportunity arose for me to participate in the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights (PfIR), I seized it.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

Mennonite Church Canada and Christian Peacemaker Teams together organized the PfIR. The Pilgrimage involved a 600 kilometre walk from Kitchener, Ontario, to Ottawa, in response to Call to Action #48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It calls for churches to engage in public dialogue and action surrounding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). So that’s what we did.

As we walked, we talked with churches about the UNDRIP, and what it means for our lives, our communities of faith, and this country. It was also an opportunity to push the government to adopt the UNDRIP through Bill C-262.

The Pilgrimage meant something different for each walker. Some were walking for specific people, some carried stories. For each of us, it was an opportunity to do our own inner and outer decolonization work.

For me, the Pilgrimage was an opportunity to learn in a new way, a way to reimagine the “classroom.”

I was given the opportunity to participate as an independent study course for the Winter 2017 semester. 

Instead of a traditional university course, this independent study took me on a whirlwind of learning. From countless hours spent on the phone with churches arranging accommodations and food for walkers, to participating in many planning meetings with dedicated and experienced activists. From leading a group of people on a very long walk, to taking my own intentional steps as we journeyed to Ottawa.

Erin Froese (centre) with a group of fellow smiling walkers in from the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, having successfully reached their destination.

There is a different sort of knowing that comes from active learning. I learned many practical community-organizing skills, but the learning went beyond that—it seemed to seep into my whole being.

When I sat in a circle with a Cree woman who wept because she couldn’t believe that there was a group of settlers who cared about Indigenous rights, I knew the brokenness of this land in a new way.

When we arrived exhausted at the doors of a church, to receive an enthusiastic welcome, copious amounts of food, and even a foot massage, I knew hospitality in a new way.

When I walked through the landscape, hearing the songs of the birds and the cars, seeing the beautiful Canadian Shield, and piles of garbage along the roadside, I knew the land in a new way.

When I arrived home to find that my home community had done a solidarity walk to show their support of the Pilgrimage and Indigenous rights, I knew the spreading of grassroots actions in a new way.

A semester on Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

My teachers included my 87 year old friend Henry Neufeld, and my 10 month old friend, Junia, who both joined us for the whole walk. My faculty advisor, my co-planners, numerous authors, the many indigenous elders and activists that we met along the way—every person that I had the honour of walking with and meeting on this journey, and the land herself—they were all my teachers.

The learning was diverse and plentiful, and it continues. I am grateful to CMU for its courage to step outside conventional ideas of what university looks like. I will carry these learnings with me as I journey into my final year of studies and beyond.

Erin Froese is entering her fourth year in Environmental Studies at CMU this fall.

Student leadership offers new opportunities

For this blog entry I was to write about being in a leadership role at CMU, and the first thing I thought was, “How am I going to fit it all in?! There is so much to say!” Because really, being involved in leadership is such an encompassing (and important!) aspect of student life. As a high school student I loved being on Student Council and planning events, so I immediately felt the need to find similar committees once I got to university, and I found them—plus so much more!

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