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By Rachel Lapp
Photos by Zac Albrecht '06

Seated on a reed mat against the wall of a concrete hut, Anna Groff's notes were sparse as she and fellow Goshen College junior Kimberlee Rohrer interviewed Phumile, a young Swazi mother.
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New book released on practical peacemaking for the global church

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Goshen College Board Policies
Current as of October 18, 2004

Category I: Ends Policies

1.0 Global Ends Statement:

Goshen College students integrate Christian faith, learning and service through an excellent Mennonite college education, at an institution practicing wise stewardship of resources.
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'Ends' are the beginning: Goshen College board embraces new governance model

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The process of transformation

Interim President John D. Yordy
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cover
 Peace & Justice Journalism
 HIV/AIDS in Swaziland

 June 2005



New book released on practical peacemaking for the global church

By Anna Groff

One person can indeed make a difference in the world – starting in their own communities. For example, a young man named Michael MacDonald, who grew up in a public housing project of South Boston, organized his city’s significant gun buy-back program that, in four years, collected and destroyed 3,000 guns.

book This short story of one person working for peace in his community is among many vignettes included in “Building Peace: Overcoming Violence in Communities,” a book released by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in December 2004, co-authored by three faculty members from colleges involved in the Peace and Justice Collaborative, a former working group composed of Goshen College, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart and Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.

The book, using paradigms that have proved successful in the disciplines of public health and community development, fosters understanding that everyday people make significant contributions to peace-building work in their communities, churches and other settings. Authors Mary Yoder Holsopple, adjunct faculty member at AMBS and a social worker in Elkhart public elementary schools; Ruth Krall, former Goshen College professor of peace, justice and conflict studies; and Sharon Weaver Pittman, former chair of the social work program at Andrews University and now a missionary in Guinea, wrote the book as a practical, step-by-step guide for overcoming violence and building a culture of peace.

“The vignettes are included to show that real people are doing great things to create change in their communities,” Yoder Holsopple said. “They are there both as an example and as motivation. I hope the vignettes will keep the reader interested, so that it doesn’t just become another academic book that sits on a shelf somewhere. This book is designed to be proactive – how to build a culture of peace as opposed to being reactive and about overcoming a culture of violence.”

Yoder Holsopple believes that peace building is not the domain of one sector of society, but involves all levels – from the micro to macro level. “This means we must be as comfortable chatting with our neighbor across the fence as we are sitting in legislative offices; that we write letters to our lawmakers and better yet, that we become those lawmakers,” Yoder Holsopple said.

The book was driven by Yoder Holsopple’s vision – a dream that began when she served as the program director of the former Peace and Justice Collaborative. Released by the Switzerland-based World Council of Churches, the material for the accessible text was created through the Collaborative, which was funded by a Teagle Foundation Grant.

Krall said her hope is that individuals and churches will form study groups to use the book to think about and act on ways to prevent violence in their own homes, in their own communities, in their own nations. She also hopes that readers will understand that they are part of the cycle of violence and that individual choices play a role in creating a broader culture in which violence is tolerated. “Hopelessness and apathy contribute to the culture of violence,” she said.

For example, in response to violent television programs, “Building Peace” may inspire individuals and families to turn off or even dispose of their televisions, or it may involve political lobbying to establish ground rules for times when small children are watching television. For others it may involve boycotting certain consumer products that provide the funding for the violent programs that further desensitize viewers to acts of violence.

While focused on steps that Christians in any culture can take to actively build peace, the book’s authors cite examples based on their international experience. In addition to writing and teaching, Krall has also worked as a clinician and theologian with primary interest in healing the wounds of violence, particularly for victims of domestic and sexual violence, and has lived and worked in Central America. Yoder Holsopple has extensive global work experience in Uganda, Swaziland and Mozambique through Mennonite Central Committee and World Council of Churches. Weaver Pittman has international experience in Pakistan, Belize, Iraq and other cultures.

Fernando Enns, a professor of systematic theology at Heidelberg University in Germany, writes in the book’s introduction, “[This book] marks a major shift from individual action to community action, from healing to prevention, from being reactive to becoming proactive. For it is not enough to be in solidarity with victims of violence, it is not enough to create homeless shelters, soup kitchens and centers for the healing of trauma. In order to change a culture, it is necessary to analyze and wrestle with the root causes of violence.”

“Building Peace” is one of the resources published by the WCC in connection with their initiative Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (DOV). To order the book, go to the WCC Web site at: www.overcomingviolence.org.
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