I had the pleasure of spending my first weekend of spring break at the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship conference at Eastern Mennonite University. This is an annual student-led conference for Anabaptist colleges in the U.S. and Canada. The theme this year was “Backyard Peacebuilding: Cultivating Peace in Our Neighborhoods.” Five GC students traveled to Virginia and met up with students from Mennonite and Brethren schools such as Bluffton, Hesston, Messiah, Conrad Grabel and of course EMU. The schedule was set up with a series of sessions and workshops focusing on topics ranging from community gardening and biking to the criminal justice system and morally responsible investments in our educational institutions.
It was incredibly beneficial to get together and hear about the things that students from other schools are doing on their campuses to build peace. We were able to trade ideas and talk about how we mobilize people from our own colleges and communities. As schools associated with churches that hold strong peace stances, we are sometimes impressed and other times let down by the ways in which we promote peace worldwide and, as the theme of the conference described, in our own backyards. I have to say that when I was talking to students from other colleges, I was proud to represent Goshen College and the outstanding ways that our student body turns the Mennonite peace theology into action. Our “healing the world peace by peace” branding has felt somewhat excessive as we continue to run into it all over campus, but at least we are noticeably trying to live out the message that it sends. That being said, I think there are many things that we could be doing to further the peacebuilding idea. We have a lot of groups and programs on campus like Pax Club, GSWA, ECO-Pax, Mosaic, Diversity Circles, Advocates, CITL and many more that work toward building peace and justice in a variety of forms. I was surprised to find out that many schools do not have comparable clubs or programs. So, thank you to all the people who work so hard at spreading peace in our community, and if you haven’t checked out one of these groups, I encourage you to do so in an effort to learn, share and build peace together.
Melody Musser is a senior peace, justice and social conflict studies major from Virginia.