“Union College is a center for peacemaking just as Christianity is a center,” said Chris Blake. “We want to be children of God just as Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’”
The Amnesty and Tiny Hands International club will be hosting Union College’s fourth annual Peace Week April 14-21. The week will feature daily events to promote personal and corporate peace, as well as to raise awareness about Tiny Hands International (THI), a Lincoln-based non-profit organization working to alleviate sex trafficking in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.
Beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 14, the festivities start with a pancake breakfast and open mike at the gazebo on Union’s front lawn. Activities throughout the week will concentrate on the four pillars of peace: dialogue, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Marked as justice day, Tuesday, April 16, will feature a special screening of Nefarious, Merchant of Souls at 8:08 p.m. in the Rees Hall Chapel. The first of a trilogy, Nefarious exposes the underworld of modern sex slavery through expert analysis and interviews with victims and traffickers. The Christian-made film documents victims’ stories from recruitment to liberation and highlights the international prevalence of the trade, including in developed, affluent parts of the world.
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will feature special campus events over the noon hour to help students remember the importance of dialog, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The following Sunday, April 21, activist Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the College View Church’s Heartland Hall.
Founder of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia connecting radical faith communities around the world, Claiborne has spoken about Jesus and peace at venues around the world. From working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to serving at a mega church in California, his mission centers on peacefully rejecting materialism and turning to Christ. “I think there’s a deep longing among all of us to live for something bigger than ourselves,” said Claiborne in an interview with Pieta Woolley for The United Church Observer, a Canadian Christian magazine. “As much as we try to hide that with the illusion of independence and materialism, that nagging desire for love and community keeps resurfacing.”
Claiborne will be the keynote speaker for the Peacemaking Workshop XXVII at the First United Methodist Church on April 21. “He’s coming to Lincoln because I made sure that I got him here,” said Chris Blake, professor of English and communication at Union College and Amnesty and Tiny Hands International Club faculty sponsor. “I contacted him principally through an organization I belong to called ‘The Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition,’ which is hosting the workshop. He was my number one choice and this is the first year that I could get him.” Workshops on peacemaking will be held all day at the church with Claiborne presenting the keynote address at 1:00 p.m.
“I’m very excited that he’s coming,” said Emily Severs, junior nursing major and student organizer of last year’s workshop. “What I hope is that people understand that peace and peacemaking are not just vague issues: they’re things you can actually do. You don’t have to be in a huge organization, but can help create peace in your life and the lives of those around you through your actions every day. You see all throughout the New Testament how important peace and peacemaking were to Jesus.”
In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne challenges readers’ perspectives on poverty and wealth distribution. “He doesn’t try and sugarcoat anything,” said Kristen Vogler, senior graphic design major. “He’s a no-nonsense guy and doesn’t just make suggestions; it’s all from experiences and what he’s done.”
Though still a new tradition at Union, Peace Week is important to the culture of both the college and the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church. “I think that it’s particularly important because the SDA church has requested that all schools observe a peace week,” said Blake. “We are one of the very few who does.”
In a statement voted in during the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee in April of 2002, church leaders announced a commitment to fostering a culture of peace through education. “Each of [the SDA church’s] more than 6,000 schools, colleges, and universities is being asked to set aside one week each school year to emphasize and highlight…respect, cultural awareness, nonviolence, peacemaking, conflict resolution, and reconciliation,” read the published statement. “The education of the church member in the pew, for nonviolence, peace, and reconciliation, needs to be an ongoing process.”
“I hope that through this week we can learn to understand and care for each other and show Jesus,” said Melissa Ratter, freshman communications major. “Peace isn’t something we tend to think about a lot, but even if its just focusing on peace between friends, I think there’d be a lot less drama in the world if we adopted more of an attitude of peace towards each other.”
The Peacemaking Workshop and Claiborne’s presentation at Union College are both free and open to the public. The College View Seventh-day Adventist Church is on the campus of Union College, located at the corner of 48th and Prescott.