Archive for the ‘Nonviolence’ Category

There comes a time in the life of every family, church, or organization, when we disagree with one another.  When we do, it is important to remember that no matter how much we disagree, the manner in which we respond to one another is an important measure of (and reflection of) our ability to see Christ in the Other.  (more…)


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Breaking News! CLE and CEU Credit has been approved 

for attorneys and licensed professional counselors!  

scroll down for conference topics, schedule, and speaker biographies:

Topic highlights are domestic violence, Africa missions, refugee children in USA, Middle East conflict, making peace in families, rule of law, preventing genocide … timely and relevant!!!!!


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8:30 AM Registration and Coffee

9:00 AM Light Amid Darkness: What Did the Twenthieth Century Teach Us For Prevention of Genocide, and Where Does Peacemaking Fit? (Alexandria Skinner)

10:00 Documentary Film of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Sudan, and panel discussion of restorative justice

11:00 AM Children At The Border: What Are The Legal And Practical Issues With Regard To Undocumented Alien Minors On Our Southern Border?  (Tammy Besherse, One hour of CLE / SW/ LPC CEU anticipated)

12:00 PM Lunch together

1:00 PM Introduction of the Work of Each Speaker: What We Do and Why We Do It

Leah Boyd: Building Peace Through Rule of Law

Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather:  Building peace by building communities

Hugh Hammond:  Building peace through small group dialogue

Julie Owens:   Building peace through training helpers

2:45 PM  World Cafe peacemaking exercise for participants

4:00 PM  Group Sharing and Recap

4:30 Close for Day


8:30  Registration and Coffee

12:00 Lunch together


Some Spiritual Dimensions of Forgiveness And Reconciliation (Hugh Hammond)

Healing Trauma, Transforming Conflict, And Building  Peace In South Sudan: The Work of RECONCILE, International (Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather)

The Church and Domestic Violence: Scriptures and Ways to Help (Julie Owens, 1 hr CLE anticipated)

Healing Trauma, Transforming Conflict, And Building Peace In Seven Countries In Africa: The Work Of ALARM (African Leadership And Reconciling Ministries) (Leah Boyd)

Use of Compassionate Communication To Build Bridges of Understanding  (Hugh Hammond, 1 HR CLE, LPC CEU anticipated)

Increasing Peace In Africa Through Rule Of Law: Practical Applications of Biblical Principles of Justice (Leah Boyd, 1 HR CLE anticipated)

From Justice to Mercy: Spiritual Aspects of Healing After Trauma (Julie Owens)

Stories of Hope in the Midst of Conflict (Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather)


3:25 Living as a Lamb Among Lions: Applying Biblical Principles of Peacemaking As A Christian in an Increasingly Hostile World  (Asher Din, Moderator, and Panelists)

4:00 PM Closing Worship


On Sunday, August 17th, for those who wish to hear more,

Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather will be speaking at Forest Lake Presbyterian at 9:00 and 11:00 AM

Leah Boyd will be speaking at McGregor Presbyterian  church at 10:00 AM.

swords to plowshares

August 15th and 16th, 2014

Spring Valley Presbyterian Church

8:30 AM – 4:30 PM each day, Childcare and lunch provided but we need you to pre-register so we know how many to plan for!



Shelvis and Nancy Smith-Mather are ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church (USA) .  They work in Yei, South Sudan, with RECONCILE, International, an African-led ministry which engages in peace-building and trauma healing work in South Sudan.

Leah Boyd is an American human rights attorney who works with ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciling Ministries), training African leaders in principles and practices related to Biblical justice.  ALARM is an African-led peace-building and trauma healing ministry which works in seven African countries affected by war and genocide.

Julie Owens is a nationally recognized expert and trainer in the subject of domestic violence.  In a state which ranks as a leader in the USA in domestic violence, Julie will speak not only about what can be done to counteract domestic violence itself, but the process of trauma healing for victims (a process which will have been described during day 1, in the context of the Africa experience).  Julie will help participants learn ways to apply this theoretical understanding of trauma and violence into practical knowledge that can be applied in local ministries and nonprofits, and in their own churches.  Domestic violence advocates will not want to miss this workshop!

Hugh Hammond, MDiv., is a former engineer who has a passion for bringing peace and reconciliation to those torn by conflict in the Holy Land, where he has traveled each of the last three years to do peace-building work with Palestinians and Israelis. Hugh is also a candidate for certification as a trainer in Nonviolent Communication, a method for building compassion pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg, who founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Asher Din  is a Ph.D. Candidate at Erskine Seminary in Due West, SC,  but he is a native of Pakistan.  Asher’s family has been Christian for many generations, living in a predominantly Muslim culture and navigating cross cultural dialogue and peacemaking as part of their everyday lives.

Alexandria Skinner, J.D., works as a mediator for families and churches in South Carolina who seek peaceable resolutions to difficult challenges.

This conference is sponsored by the Peacemaking Committee of Trinity Presbytery.


*The art on this page is the “Christ the Peacemaker” stained glass window located at Central Baptist Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania, has been used with permission.  The explanation for the art is:

Christ the Peacemaker They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.  Micah 4:3

The window facing Lancaster Avenue represents Central Baptist Church’s ministry of peacemaking and justice-building in the world.  The Light of God descends from heaven, coming through the figure of Christ the Peacemaker.  The light surrounds Christ’s hand and continues down through the sword to create the plowshare.  The bright colors represent the explosive transformation that occurs when peace breaks out in the world.

“To me it is like the phoenix arising from its own ashes symbolizing rejuvenation, continuity, and resurrection.  I used clear glass for the main part of Christ’s body as an invitation to the outside world to come in and know the Peacemaker.”  Lucinda Shaw, artist

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I believe that at the center of the universe there dwells a loving spirit who longs for all that’s best in all of creation, a spirit who knows the great potential of each planet as well as each person, and little by little will love us into being more than we ever dreamed possible. That loving spirit would rather die than give up on any one of us.

Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers, writing in Life’s Journey According to Mister Rogers



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Jesus had a remarkable gift for seeing through everything superficial, for peeling back the layers of the dusty, superficial robes of identity we wear,  to peer into a person’s inner soul.   Whether speaking to a Roman Centurian, to a Samaritan adulteress, or to a distinguished Rabbi,  Jesus always seemed to see beyond title or position and to respond to the deeper thoughts and real need of the individual he was relating to.

(From Wikimedia commons:  Guercino, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well)

This is no surprise, is it?  We expect God to know us!   Moreover, since there is no chance we will be embarrassed by meeting God in the supermarket tomorrow, it is relatively low risk for us to reveal in quiet prayer the yearnings of our deepest, secret places.

But wait!  What if, as the song says, God were one of us?  Would we be willing to reveal ourselves to God, in that case?

Consider Matthew 25:37-39:

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

What if God is among us, gauging us and knowing us even more, by every response we make to an other.  What if, by our responses to others, we reveal our self to God?  What if God is, in a real sense, in the other person?   And, if God is present in our interactions with an other, what does that say about how we ought to relate to that other?

Consider  Matthew 7:12:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

This is getting tough.  Does it make a difference if the other is my enemy?  Peter already asked that question.   God does not let us off the hook.  Jesus’s reply to Peter (in Matthew 5:46) was, in so many words, “no excuses:”

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  . . . And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?

Herein is the root of our calling to engage in Christian conflict transformation, not just conflict “resolution”.  Resolution may find a superficial solution, but it does not heal the conflict.  Resolution may address causes, but Christians are more or less directly instructed to go deeper, to see the other as Christ sees the other.  We aim to see, and to be seen, on a deeper and less superficial level.  Which is, more or less, to say that when we rise to this challenge, perhaps we begin to see ourselves and the other more like God sees us.

When we do this, we enable the cause of conflict to be addressed on a deeper and more fundamental level.  Our experience of the conflict is transformed.  This is what is called “conflict transformation.”  When our understanding is transformed,  our positions and views shift, and this new viewpoint often can cause shifts in how we respond to the conflict.  To call this merely “compromise” is trite.  It is the difference between the earth shifting as the result of an earthquake, versus moving a fence line.  Perhaps when the earth moves, the fence is no longer even needed.

Can we do it?  Yes, by the Grace of God, yes, it is possible.  The principles work whether we are Christian or not.  Kenneth Cloke, a secular mediator, speaks about conflict transformation in his book The Crossroads of Conflict  as follows:

Every conflict presents the parties… with a… choice. They can cling to safe territory, keep the conversation focused on relatively superficial issues and avoid mentioning deeper topics, remaining locked in impasse and placing their lives on hold.

Or they can take a risk, adopt a more open, honest, empathic approach and initiate a deeper, more dangerous, heartfelt conversation that could change their lives and result in transformation and transcendence.

Which path they take will depend partly on their willingness to engage each other in heartfelt communications.

A heartfelt conversation that could change our life.  Are we ready for it?  Cloke explains the secular side:

Transcendence occurs when people gain insight into the attitudes, intentions and perceptions that sustained their conflict, improve their ability to learn from it, work collaboratively to prevent its reoccurrence and evolve to higher levels of conflict and resolution.

On the spiritual side, we are doing nothing less than what our Lord demands.  We begin to see the other, and to see ourselves, more like God sees us.  And,  through this new revelation and by developing skill in relating to one another with love, we grow and learn more about how to exist as the transcendent, spiritual creatures that we are. 

THE CONTENTS BENEATH THIS POINT ARE ALL ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT RELATED TO, SPONSORED, OR ENDORSED BY TRINITY PEACEMAKERKS.   Content that follows does not reflect in any way the spirit or mission of Trinity Peacemakers. The presence of advertising here is the cost of having free hosting of this blog.

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Nonviolent direct action was employed by Martin Luther King, Jr., to effectuate change in the USA, and modeled on the writings and work of Gandhi in South Africa and India.  These are two examples of successful nonviolent change.  But are there others?  Does nonviolence really work? 

The answer is, yes. 

Nonviolent revolutions have about double the success rate of those marked by violent means.   The rates of success were documented in a study by Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict." International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44. 

According to Stephan and Chenoweth, of 323 violent and nonviolent movements between 1900 and 2006, 53% of the nonviolent ones succeeded as compared to only 26% of the violent ones. What’s even more telling is that when the movements were repressed, the nonviolent movements were 6 times more likely to succeed.

The article can be accessed at the following link:  http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/IS3301_pp007-044_Stephan_Chenoweth.pdf



The Pink Panzer



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A week from today, on September 23, 2011, the Rev. Peter Tibi, a Presbyterian Mission Co-Worker with RECONCILE, International (in South Sudan) and Visiting PCUSA International Peacemaker, will arrive in Columbia for a visit of several days.   This will be of interest to anyone interested in either peacebuilding or in Sudan and Africa missions. 

map-sudan Tibi

A flyer has been published HERE.   Please feel free to download it and post some copies, as well as announce the dates and locations of his speaking engagements!  There are several opportunities for those who are interested in hearing him.

A summary of his schedule is

· Saturday 9/24/11,9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, at Forest Lake Presbyterian (bring a brown bag lunch), Rev. Tibi will share in-depth discussion of his work in the morning. The afternoon will be a gathering of peacemakers for talk about Christian Conflict transformation.

· Sunday, 9/25/11, Rev. Tibi will share Sunday School and will preach at McGregor Presbyterian, followed by a church picnic at 5:30 P.M. that evening.

· Monday, 9/26/11,Rev. Tibi will speak at the University of South Carolina

· Tuesday, 9/27/11,6:30 PM, Presbyterian Student Center, University of South Carolina

· Wednesday, 9/28/11, 5:30 PM, Supper and an evening program at Shandon Presbyterian.


Then, the next opportunity for building our church communities through development of skills in reconciliation will be in November. Forest Lake Presbyterian will act as host church for the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center to conduct one of its four national level trainings, "Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders".

This is a great opportunity to send a pastor or elder for training that will equip that person to train others in ways to turn conflict into opportunity for cooperation. This week long seminar is designed to equip church leaders to assess and to deal with conflict of any degree or level, whether it is merely to assist individuals in working through individual disagreement, or to engage an entire congregation in mediation of conflict that threatens to tear a church apart. Endorsements from leadership in other Presbyteries can be found HERE.

Although this may seem like an expensive training, consider the alternative? This training is designed to inoculate your congregation with the conflict-competence it takes to resist (or to heal from) divisive influences. Hosting this training in the Columbia area results in substantial cost savings over sending leadership to train in distant parts of the United States. Please consider sending at one or two members of your congregation who could commit to then come back and conduct more trainings for your general congregation.


And then, on the weekend of April 21, 2012, Presbyterian minister Theresa Latini, Associate Professor of Congregational and Community Care at Luther Seminary (and author of the book, The Church and the Crisis of Community: A Practical Theology of Small-Group Ministry), has been tentatively scheduled to teach a weekend seminar on the communication technique called Nonviolent Communication (also known as Compassionate Communication). The aim of this seminar will be to strengthen families and congregations by increasing our skills in expressing to one another the things we feel most deeply about, without inciting retaliation, anger, or judgment. Theresa will help participants learn to use NVC as a tool in the church’s work of transforming broken and shallow forms of community into life-giving, life-sustaining relationships with God and others This will be an excellent workshop for people involved in congregational and personal care, such as Deacons and Stephen Ministers.

The Peacemaking Committee is looking for a church to host this workshop. Please call Alexandria Skinner at 803-414-0185 if your church would be excited to provide hospitality for this event.

Please share this information about upcoming events with your congregation and your church session!

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The Rev. Peter Tibi, Visiting International Peacemaker for the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUSA) will be in Trinity Presbytery from September 23 – 28th of 2011.

Rev. Tibi works in the area of conflict transformation among the peoples of South Sudan, the world’s newest country.  He is presently Executive Director of Reconcile, International, which is supported by many churches in Trinity Presbytery. 

If your church or organization would like Rev. Tibi to visit and speak to you about his work, please contact Alexandria Skinner at 803-414-0185. 


Rev. Tibi received his Bachelor of Divinity from Bethany Divinity College in Dotham, Alabama; his B.A. from the University of Gloucestershire, UK; and his Masters in Theological Studies from  Bethany Divinity College and Theological Seminary.  Rev. Tibi has served as the Principal at Imatong Bible College in Juba, Sudan. He served as an administrator and Assistant Executive Secretary for Africa Inland Church-Sudan, and worked within AIC for 13 years. He moved on to the New Sudan Council of Churches, where he served as the Deputy Executive Secretary; then in the Sudan Council of Churches as Acting Executive Secretary and General Secretary, all over a span of five years.  Rev. Tibi has served as the Executive Director of RECONCILE, International, since November of  2009.

After two decades of a brutal civil war that killed 2 million people and displaced millions more, a relative peace has come to Sudan with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. Now, five years after the signing of the agreement, how will Sudan hold tight to the peace?
RPI Class

Following a war that has occupied the great portion of a generation’s lives, how can such a traumatized people break a cycle of violence that has been building within culture itself?

In the midst of such ravaged infrastructure, where communication and interaction with other communities and government is so difficult, where can the people obtain the civic education needed to be effective members of a democratic society?

The churches of Sudan asked these exact questions, and responded with the creation of RECONCILE.  Please consider either inviting Rev. Tibi to speak to your group, or finding time on your calendar to attend one of the events which will be scheduled for that week.

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