Updated: Aug 18
Over the past few years, like many others, I have become convinced that the United States is moving toward increasing polarization and violence. There is a wealth of political science research that confirms this observation. For those of us who cherish democracy, seek the well-being (human security) of all, and seek peace and reconciliation—what can be done?
I believe that an important movement that must be born and distributed across the country is as follows. We need to engage in some of the same peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes that are used around the world in conflict zones and “post-conflict” zones by professional peacebuilders. How is peace built in Northern Ireland, The Congo, the Balkans, and elsewhere? One of the techniques is the use of small encounter groups where people in conflict come together, typically guided by a trained facilitator, to discuss what they hold in common and what differences set them into conflict. The conversations build understanding, empathy, compassion, trust, and reconciliation.
As Christians, we recognize this is one way to meet the call we are all given to be God’s agents of peace and reconciliation (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5.14-24; Matthew 5.9;38-48). I am calling the workshop training sessions that I am here suggesting, “Healing Conversations.” I organized the first set of them that were conducted at the end of March at Utah Valley University. Then, I was joined by a group of professional facilitators from the across the US and Northern Ireland, as we each facilitated a model session and offered a training workshop. I am now beginning the work of building a national network of facilitators, so that we will soon offer these encounter groups, or Healing Conversations by the hundreds or thousands, coast to coast. I am working with Peace and Conflict Studies programs in colleges and universities, and other institutions, for example, the US Institute of Peace.
This is an invitation. If you might be interested in participating in a workshop training session that I will conduct later this summer, or early fall, please send me an email and let me know. Also, please let me know which Saturdays you are available for one workshop of five to six hours on a Saturday, starting July 30—September 10.
The RFC Board has endorsed this project. I will be offering the training sessions as a ministry of Riverfront, and we will promote it as such. After participating in the workshop I will lead, we can move forward and organize a set of Healing Conversations where people in suspicion, fear, and anger with one another—across the cultural and political divides in our country—can meet in these small groups, not only as I facilitate them, but you too, might become a facilitator.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Grace and peace,