The Art of Peace

Listening last week to a program titled “The Art of Peace” on NPR’s Speaking of Faith program (about the work of Notre Dame Professor John Paul Lederach) took me back to time I spent earlier this year with another maker of peace, Andy Dreitcer ’79.

Andy is Co-Director of Claremont School of Theology’s Center for Engaged Compassion, and last year he traveled Zimbabwe to help with reconciliation efforts there, teaching community leaders how to facilitate healing processes between victims and perpetrators of violence.

A few months later, he was teaching similar principles to members of the U.S. Congress and their staff members. 

It’s extraordinary work—hard to imagine, in fact.

But I got the chance to experience up close the spirit and men behind this work close last spring when Andy and his colleague Frank Rogers visited Wabash to lead a workshop for the College’s Center for Pastoral Leadership. I was there to document the session in photographs for Founding Director Raymond Williams and the Center (see an album from that session here)  but found myself so caught up in the proceedings that I almost forgot why I was there in the first place.

This was definitely not your typical academic workshop. (In fact, I’m not sure that in 15 years at Wabash I’ve ever seen a typical academic workshop, but that’s a story for another day.)

While the end goal was to learn ways to mediate conflict and create safe space for others to forgive themselves and one another and find common ground, this first session was about forgiving and healing ourselves. Specifically, healing the wounds that impede our own efforts to help and heal others.

It was at times confessional, at times hilarious (the extent to which we’ll go to avoid really dealing with our own problems can be that way), always honest and at times deeply moving. Some of the most insightful moments I’ve witnessed here.

I was reminded of something I’d read in John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara: “It is startling that we desperately hold on to what makes us miserable. Our own woundedness becomes a source of perverse pleasure and fixes our identity. We do not want to be cured, for that would mean moving into the unknown."

At the center of this group’s willingness to move into the unknown that day were Andy Dreitcer and Frank Rogers. I left not only with great respect for their work, but for the way they work together. You can find out more about it here.

Another line from Anam Cara comes to mind: “Every person has certain qualities or presences in their heart that are awkward, disturbing, and negative One of your sacred duties is to exercise kindness toward them. In a sense, you are called to be a loving parent to your delinquent qualities.”

It seemed to me that part of what Andy and Frank were teaching that day was how to become that loving parent to one’s "delinquent qualities," and in so doing, begin to heal yourself and create a space where others can be healed. 

Andy was kind enough to drop by the office to talk about how he’d come to this particular work, to tell me a little about his own spiritual journey, and we’ll have more about that in the Milestones issue of WM in the Fall of 2010.

For now, I encourage you to read Andy’s essay “The Grace of Hope in the Midst of Horror,” in the current issue of WM.

In photo: Frank Rogers leads a workshop for the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program.

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