Course covers transforming violent conflict through reworking religious narratives and ad hoc church-state collaboration
By Annette Brill Bergstresser
Students in the on-campus Religion and Peace Processes course are drawing on the stories and experiences of Christians in Colombia, South America, as they explore theology, religion and ethics in conflict and peacebuilding. Guest speakers are an integral part of this Intensive Term course taught by Janna Hunter-Bowman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Peace Studies and Christian Social Ethics.
Guest speaker Jenny Neme, Director of Justapaz: The Christian Center for Justice, Peace and Nonviolent Direct Action (a Colombian peacebuilding organization associated with the Mennonite Church of Colombia), has provided input for the course’s case study on Colombia as a part of her sabbatical at AMBS.
“Being a part of this class has been a wonderful opportunity,” said Neme, who also is a founding member of Interchurch Dialogue for Peace (Dipaz). “It has provided a mirror; I am able to reflect on our complex situations and our work for a just peace in view of peacebuilding literatures and theology. And the insights of the students are very helpful; we are thinking together about peacebuilding in a post-peace accord world.”
Other guests have included Becca Mendez, Elise Ditta and Luis Felipe Botero, members of the Barometer project of the Peace Accords Matrix at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The Barometer project is charged with monitoring the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group. Mendez, Ditta and Botero shared with students about the opportunities and challenges of monitoring implementation, as well as approaches to grassroots community and state cooperation in post-accord peacebuilding.
“One of the goals of the course is to design peacebuilding strategies in view of concrete situations of conflict and opportunities for transformation in various contexts,” said Hunter-Bowman. “These visits help us to think together in real time about peacebuilding processes in Colombia. For example, many Colombian Christians rejected the peace deal between the government and FARC because they believe it contains gender content that runs contrary to their convictions and interests. Jenny and I are fine-tuning a process with churches, women’s movements and the LGBTQI community designed to address that conflict.”
Other guest speakers covered topics including gender theory and economies of war and peace.
(clockwise from upper left): Religion and Peace Processes guest speakers Jenny Neme, Becca Mendez and Elise Ditta; AMBS Assistant Professor Janna Hunter-Bowman; and guest speaker Luis Felipe Botero. (Credit: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis)