A Gateway for the Futureby Luke Gascho
Planning is a gateway for the future. A gateway creates a transition between one space and another, links from one time to another and makes possible interactions among diverse people.
A Pilgrimage of Peace:
A gateway for the future
A Pilgrimage of Peace:
Literature and Conflict Studies in the Republic and Northern Ireland
Associate Professor of Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Joe Liechty, who spent two decades involved in reconciliation work in Northern Ireland, and Associate Professor of English Ann Hostetler, a published poet, led a group of students to Ireland and Northern Ireland for several weeks
“A professor reflects on going home”
by Joseph Liechty
I returned to Northern Ireland with a head full of anxieties, the most salient for the course being: What would it be like to return as a tourist to the place that had been home for so long – worse yet, to return as a tour guide? And, more particularly, how would students respond to the speakers I was arranging, some sure to be presenting hard-to-stomach perspectives?
I would teach them that the skills necessary to be a peacemaker closely resemble those necessary to be a good visiting student in another country. You are not here to argue, or to make your opinions known or to express your feelings (although these might be appropriate). This doesn’t mean staying silent or avoiding hard issues; it just means that questions cannot be traps, demands or implicit arguments and certainly not weapons. Questions must be invitations, offered from a stance of respect. Whether for the sake of learning or for the sake of peace, you bracket your own feelings and judgments in order to ask those questions that will draw out the perspectives, even when distasteful to you, of people whom you need to hear and who need to be heard.
I would teach them, but would they hear? My concern was partly for the good name of Goshen College (and perhaps for my good name as well), but much more for the turmoil that inappropriate behavior from visitors can leave behind. My anxieties were only heightened when the man helping me organize our time in Portadown told me about a young American who became belligerent and sarcastic with a Protestant community worker, an ex-paramilitary with a substantial question mark over the “ex” and feared by some who had reason to know. The American teenager had her moment of righteous self-expression, but then she left, and local people remained to do the repairs. We would be talking with that same ex-paramilitary.
All my anxieties, I am happy to say, proved not merely unfounded, but completely wrong. Sharing tour guide responsibilities for these students was a consistent pleasure, above all because of how quickly and comprehensively they grasped the art of peace-directed dialogue. I sometimes marveled at how well they identified the main issues, at their success in cultivating the stance of respect that would give integrity to their explorations and then at the skillful way they framed the necessary questions. Just as impressive were those occasions when students had the self-awareness to recognize that they were approaching some internal limit, so rather than blasting off in ways that would have damaged what we were trying to do together, they stayed silent until we could discuss the issue as a group. Goshen is blessed to have such students, and they will be a blessing to the world.
Quotes from student journals…
“In this pilgrimage, I have learned that in dealing with conflict, I am dealing with the spirits of people – tread carefully, my dreams are under your feet – so to speak. … I have a lot to learn about restraint and the application of conflict resolution when the conflict directly affects me – it is much easier to resolve others’ conflicts than it is one’s own. And before judging, I need to remember that every judgment is a potential nettle piercing someone else’s soul.”
– Elizabeth Smucker (Goshen), senior
“[Guest speaker Angus Cantwell] obviously had a deep understanding, love and respect for every … single … word that Yeats shared. It is a hard thing to find someone who is so attached to the poetry that simply by their sharing of this poetry they help others to understand and feel this love and respect.”
– Karis Munley (Mundelein, Ill.), sophomore, on hearing Cantwell speak about the poetry of William Butler Yeats
“ Since my return to the States, people keep asking, ‘How was Ireland?’ I’m still not sure what to say. Ireland is so many things: beautiful, despairing, thriving, ugly, persevering, dying, hoping, growing.”
– Erin Brandeberry (Goshen), sophomore
“I have learned to ask better questions and listen to deeper answers. I have learned to be more sensitive when discussing touchy subjects and to try and understand the ‘side’ I do not agree with. I have seen the power that literature, specifically poetry, can have on a person and on a nation. And finally, I’ve been motivated to try and make a change myself.”
– Drew Horst (New Holland, Pa.), sophomore
Here behind the city, the land lifts majestically above all else.
Along the stretch of Antrim Road reaching towards Belfast
the settled, sighing stone walls draped in yellow and green
tie the landscape to years long past….
While peace walls stand dividing
Catholic from Protestant, allowing a sense of security,
spray paint adorns the sidewalks, sorry sorry sorry
in orange white and green, sorry sorry sorry in red white and blue.
In ten years I will return to sit
here in front of St. Clements
in the midst of the lush hills, looking over the city
memories of times long past
whispering in my ear.
The years will have taken me
far from this quiet splendour
and silent tension.
–Bethany Loberg (Salem, Ore.), sophomore, class poetry assignment