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Travel Study Seminars


The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program sponsors travel study seminars to different parts of the world to provide Presbyterians with the opportunity to learn firsthand from our partners about efforts for peace, justice and reconciliation in contexts of conflict, injustice and oppression.   Participants return from these travel study seminars informed and  transformed by their experiences, ready to share stories and bear witness to all that they have seen and heard.

Travel study seminars are planned in partnership with World Mission staff and mission co-workers and in cooperation with our partner denominations and organizations.

The following video offers reflections from participants and leaders of the 2018 Travel Study Seminar to South Korea:

Participants in the Peacemaking Program’s Travel Study Seminars will be:

  • Inspired by experiences in cross-cultural and global contexts that are addressing peace and justice issues
  • Equipped to bear witness to all that they have seen and heard and to strengthen their peacemaking witness
  • Connected to partners engaged directly in peacemaking and justice work.

2023 Travel Study Seminars

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Philippines and Hong Kong: February 3-17, 2023

Root Causes and Current Challenges of Forced Migration and Labor Trafficking

Since 1974, the Philippine government systematized its labor export program, in response to increasing unemployment and underemployment and social unrest. Several tribes of indigenous peoples of the Philippines struggle to protect their ancestral domains which yield a variety of natural resources. The militarized conflict over these lands, reflect the ambition to extract at all costs, without consideration for the survival and livelihood of these peoples and leads many to overseas employment. Philippines is the third largest country in the world to receive remittances. Almost 7000 workers per day, leave the Philippines to work in land-based and sea-based jobs. The labor force of Hong Kong domestic workers consists mostly of Indonesian and Filipina women. Accompanied by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) through their ecumenical, regional and international partner organizations, these migrant workers organize, mobilize and receive pastoral care and support, amid these historical and current challenges.

Applications will be due by November 5, 2022. After that time, applications will be considered as space is available.

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Puerto Rico: March 13 – March 20, 2023

In the Aftermath of Catastrophe – The Political, Social and Racial Dynamics Revealed by Multiple Catastrophes and How the Church Is Responding to Them

The word “apocalypse” is often used to describe a catastrophic or world changing event, like Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, causing devastation across the island. But in the Bible, especially the book of Revelation, the word apocalypse means something else: apo (un) kalypto (covered or hidden) points toward what is uncovered, revealed, by catastrophic challenges. As Puerto Rico’s people began the long struggle toward recovery, much was uncovered. In the months that followed, the strength of the churches, the resilience of the island’s people, and the common will to rebuild was evident. Evident also were the effects of trauma exacerbated by the chronic challenges of food insecurity, structural racism, a challenged infrastructure, an unjust debt burden hampering not only the island’s recovery but its ongoing ability to thrive and the Covid-19 pandemic. In this travel study seminar we will enjoy the beauty of the island and her people, hear from Puerto Ricans engaged in long term disaster recovery, policy advocacy and sustainable development. We will see how the Presbyterian Church and its three presbyteries in the Synod of Boriquen are working in partnership to support vulnerable communities; welcome U.S. volunteers to participate in rebuilding and better understanding; engage in creative partnerships to strengthen Puerto Rico’s food sustainability, access to power and clean water; and invite all of us to challenge the structures, laws, and colonial practices that continue to harm Puerto Rico.

Applications will be due by November 15, 2022. After that time, applications will be considered as space is available.

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Native Lands of the Southwest: April 28 – May 7, 2023

The Doctrine of Discovery and its Legacy Today

The lands of the American Southwest have been the home of Indigenous peoples for centuries. First contact with Europeans came in 1539, and a clash of cultures ensued. The expansion of European empires into the Americas had the blessing of the Church from the very beginning. A series of 15th-century papal edicts known collectively as the Doctrine of Discovery gave Christian European governments the religious and legal justification to claim lands occupied by Indigenous peoples and to convert, enslave, or kill the inhabitants. The Doctrine also provided the basis for the 19th-century concept of Manifest Destiny that Euro-Americans were destined to expand westward and take possession of the North American continent “from sea to shining sea.”

In 2016 the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, and in 2018 the 223rd General Assembly urged sessions, mid-councils, seminaries, PW groups, and other organizations to confess their complicity and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as well.

This Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar will journey from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Phoenix, Arizona, giving participants the opportunity to:

  • appreciate the rich history, cultures, and resilience of Indigenous peoples in the Southwest;
  • learn about the impact the Doctrine of Discovery has had on Indigenous peoples in the past and continues to have today; and
  • explore peacemaking issues such as land and water rights, intergenerational trauma, poverty and addiction, border town conflicts, environmental racism, the health effects of uranium mining, and the impact of boarding schools.

Applications are due by December 15, 2022. After that time, applications will be considered as space is available.

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Past Travel Studies

Ukraine and Russia: April 22 – May 6, 2019

Peacemaking on the Frontline

This seminar explores the conflict in Eastern Ukraine from the perspective of our partners in Ukraine and Russia, meeting with people on the ground in both places affected by the war. It will conclude with a consultation in Poland, in which we will bring together on neutral ground, Ukrainians and Russians for a dialogue on peacemaking and reconciliation in the context of the conflict. Participants will arrive in Warsaw, Poland, for an initial orientation and then head to Ukraine, where they will learn about the different identities and aspirations of the Ukrainian peoples. While in Ukraine they will meet refugees from the conflict and have the opportunity to visit inside the buffer zone that separates the contested areas from the rest of Ukraine. The group will then move on to Russia to hear a Russian perspective on the conflict and meet with people caught up in the conflict on the Russian side. The final weekend of the program will be a peacemaking dialogue in Warsaw, with some of those we have met, enabling them to listen to and engage with each other directly. In this way we will be facilitating an encounter between our partners that would otherwise be unavailable to them, directly contributing to the work of peacemaking and reconciliation in the region.
Applications are now closed for the Ukraine/Russia Travel Study Seminar

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Central American Migrant Trails: February 17-28, 2020

Exploring the Journeys to and from the United States and Why We Must Act

Dominating the news cycle have been stories of migrant children who have been separated from their parents upon arrival to the US. We are horrified by this policy and know that our immigration system needs major reforms. This travel study seminar aims to help concerned Presbyterians better understand the immigration context we are facing in the US with our Central American brothers and sisters and why they take the risk of embarking on this dangerous journey north with children in tow. We will also explore other potential and actual consequences of US policies, such as mass deportation, and how that is impacting the lives of the returned migrants, their families, communities and nations. The trip will include intentional space for reflection that can lead us to action towards our nation’s need for comprehensive immigration reform. The seminar will include visits with ecumenical partners in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. There is an option to extend the seminar on the US/Mexico border to learn about how our US church people are addressing these issues in their particular regions. The extension dates are February 28 – March 3.

Applications closed on November 1, 2019. Applications after that date will be placed on a waitlist.

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The U.S. Southern Border: Friday, February 28 – Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What is Happening and How Presbyterians Can Respond

This domestic travel study seminar will immediately follow the Central American Migrant Trails study seminar in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. This portion will begin and end in Los Angeles, California. We’ll travel from Los Angeles to Tijuana, Mexico to visit a migrant shelter and have interactions with important actors offering humanitarian and legal services to asylum seekers being forced to wait in Mexico. We will stay overnight in Tijuana, Mexico and on Sunday will attend a binational worship experience right on the border. Monday will be a full day, hosted by Pacific Presbytery, in meetings and conversations to further understand the context and gain tools and insight to discern ways we can get involved, offer support, accompaniment and much needed advocacy. This seminar is sponsored jointly by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, World Mission and Pacific Presbytery. It may be attended independently or added to the end of the Central America travel study seminar.

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Rwanda: March 11-23, 2019

Reconciliation Work in Rwanda: Healing the Trauma of the Genocide

In 100 days in 1994 nearly 1 million persons identified as Tutsi were murdered in Rwanda. What are the roots of this genocide? How was the Church complicit? How did the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR), our Rwandan partner, respond in the immediate aftermath of the genocide? What is the level of conflict and trauma that continues to exist today? What reconciliation programs is EPR engaged in implementing today? These are some of the questions our mission coworkers and EPR partners will address. The answers are riveting, and they provide insight into addressing conflict globally- whether American inter-racial conflict, South Sudanese inter-tribal conflict or Myanmar state clashes. Participants will enjoy the scenic beauty of the “Land of 1000 Hills” and the cleanliness and architectural innovation of Kigali as they visit the Kigali Genocide Museum and other “remembrance” sites located throughout Rwanda. We’ll be joined by a delegation of participants from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan who will share in community about their context and the relevance of the Rwandan experience to South Sudan.

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Members of the Border Peace School visit the observation platform at the DMZ

South Korea: November 5-17, 2018

The Conflict in Korea
The Republic of Korea (South) is filled with majestic mountain ranges, plentiful rice fields, and a population of 50 million people. Many technological advances have brought Korea alongside many top economies in the world, but a continuous state of war casts a dark shadow over economic development. The Korean War began in 1950, and an armistice brought a ceasefire in 1953, but no peace treaty has brought an end to the war itself. Meet Korean peacemakers like our partners in the National Council of Churches in Korea seeking to build on the opportunity of the Olympic Truce of 2018 and decades of peacemaking work such as connecting to Christians in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK North) and what they might teach us about the nature of the conflict.

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Guatemala and Costa Rica Study Seminar: August 7-18, 2017

Peacemaking, Climate Justice and Faith in Central America

Central America countries have a fascinating relationship with peacemaking and climate concerns. From highly conflicted communities to historically peaceful places, from environmentally degraded areas to ones of great ecologic beauty, people of faith in Guatemala and Costa Rica have been responding to issues of peace and environmental justice issues for generations.

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Madagascar Study Seminar: November 6-18, 2017

Creation Care and Reconciliation in Madagascar

Three times the size of Great Britain, Madagascar is a unique jewel of creation. More than 80% of its flora and fauna is found nowhere else on earth. Despite the richness of the island’s biodiversity and other natural resources, Madagascar remains one of the world’s poorest nations with 92% of its population living on less than $2/day. Political instability has also impeded development and contributed to social tensions.

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Russia Travel Study Seminar: May 23 to June 4, 2016

Exploring the life, faith and ongoing challenges of the Christian church in Russia St. Petersburg, Moscow, Rostov, Smolensk and Davydovo

These are challenging times in the former Soviet Union, but times have always been challenging in this part of the world. Russia is a land with a tragic history that goes back for centuries. The character of the Russian people is shaped by what they have lived through over the course of generations. The character of Russian churches has also been shaped by the people’s suffering.

In the West, we looked on the Soviet Union as our enemy and felt threatened by the Communist ideology. What was it like from within? How did the church survive those 70 years of isolation and persecution? What do we have to learn from their experience? What does the witness of Russia’s faithful offer to our understanding of Jesus Christ?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the church continues to rebuild and restore the vitality of its ministry. The last 25 years have been a time of tumultuous change and periods of instability. What does it take to rebuild? What was lost and what lessons can we learn from their efforts?

The present crisis in Ukraine has brought Russia into the spotlight, mostly in very negative terms.  Most Russians, including Christians, have felt their country slide back into the historic role of outcast – feared and loathed by the rest of the world. What does a deeper understanding of Russia’s history offer to our understanding of the current situation?  The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is in partnership with churches in Russia. The Congregational Twinning Program has made grass root connections over the past 20 years. Partnership is for both the easy times and the more challenging times.  How has partnership in the last 20 years built bridges and restored relationships? What are the bonds that tie us together?

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South Africa Travel Study Seminar: November 3-15, 2014

Twenty years toward justice, equality and a lasting peace in Johannesburg and Cape Town

12 Presbyterians traveled to South Africa November 3-15, 2014 to explore this still-transforming nation’s efforts to overcome the legacies of state-imposed racial and economic inequality and build a new nation marked by justice, equality and reconciliation. They met with past and present church and community leaders and learned more about South Africa’s ongoing struggles including the HIV and AIDS pandemic, land redistribution, educational reforms, and racial reconciliation.

Northern Ireland Travel Study Seminar: April 2 to 11, 2013

Reconciliation in the Celtic Context

The Travel Study Seminar to Northern Ireland focused on conflict transformation and Celtic spirituality.  Meeting with historians, conflict mediators, and community leaders who have been instrumental and continue to be engaged in the ongoing work of peace and nonviolence in Northern Ireland.


Reflections from the Travel Study Seminar in Northern Ireland:

  • Follow our group of 27 Peacemakers as we blog daily. Read
  • Navan Centre, Lunch with the Deputy Mayor of Armgh, Tours of the Two St. Patrick’s Cathedrals, and a visit to First Presbyterian Church.
  • An Up-Close look at Belfast’s “Peace Wall” and the Neighborhood it Divides
  • Following the path of Patrick.
  • Worshiping with Belfast Congregations.
  • Exploring the traumatic aftermath of violence.
  • Our visit to Derry/Londonderry the city of Bloody Sunday.
  • Putting the pieces together with prayer discernment and small group conversation.

Philippines Travel Study Seminar: February 12 to 22, 2013

Human Trafficking and Environmental Devastation; February 12-22, 2013

The Travel Study Seminar to the Philippines focused on understanding the complex realities of poverty and how climate events has contributed to the rise in human trafficking modern day slavery in the Philippines.   Meeting with workers, trafficked survivors, and church partners who continue to work for peace and human rights in the Philippines.