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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.

May 28 – June 6, 2024

Exploring the Legacies and Lessons of the Civil Rights Movement in the US South: 

A Pilgrimage to Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, Jackson, the Mississippi Delta and Memphis

Join the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program as we embark on a civil rights pilgrimage through the U.S. South, exploring the historically important sites of the civil rights movement, learning about the lives of the people who made up the movement, meeting with leaders and those who can share stories of those times, and wrestling with the legacies of racism and white supremacy even as they reappear in our communities and nation today.

This Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar will begin in Birmingham, AL and travel to Montgomery and Selma, AL, Jackson, MS, the Mississippi Delta region and conclude in Memphis, TN. 

Applications are still being accepted as space permits.

October 14-24, 2024
Lithuania: Healing the Legacies of War and Oppression

The trauma of war lies deep within societies and transcends generations.  This study seminar will explore the painful and lingering legacies of war in the small country of Lithuania located on the Baltic Sea, bordering Latvia, Russia, Poland and Belarus. Once an empire that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, by the 20th century its borders were vastly diminished and it was left caught between Prussia and Russia, as the world went to war. Our seminar will move from Vilnius to Klaipeda learning about Lithuania’s history from the Nazi and Soviet occupations to today’s Ukrainian refugee crisis.  At the time of the Holocaust, Vilnius was the Jerusalem of the north and Lithuania had a very large Jewish population. Under Nazi occupation, 90% of Lithuania’s Jewish population were brutally murdered, largely at the hands of Lithuanians.  As the Soviets began to invade the Baltic coast, the Prussians pushed children across the border into Lithuania. These German-speaking children, known as “Wolf Children,” were perceived as a threat and struggled to survive in Lithuania.  Across the former Soviet Union, times of occupation are a history of deportation and betrayal. Lithuanians have dealt with these many tragedies in silence. Today’s war in Ukraine and the many refugees it has brought to Lithuania are reminders of what many Lithuanian’s have held in silence. We’ll learn about efforts to help survivors, descendants and communities open up, confront, heal and learn from war-time experiences. LCC International University (formerly Lithuanian Christian College) in Klaipeda has a Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation. The University hosts students from across the former Soviet Union (including Ukraine, Belarus and Russia) and war affected countries in the Middle East and Africa. We will spend time with LCC learning about their peace and reconciliation work in Lithuania and beyond.

Applications are due by Friday, June 14, 2024. After that date, applications will be considered as space remains available.

February 25 – March 5, 2025
A Future with Hope: A Travel Study Seminar to the Republic of Cuba

Join the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program as we embark on a journey learning about Cuba, its rich history, church and society, culture, and political landscape. Participants will engage and meet with church and community leaders who will share about life and ministry in the Caribbean Island, gaining a comprehensive view of the current state of relationships, including the centennial relationship with our sister church, Iglesia Presbiteriana-Reformada en Cuba. Under the theme “A Future with Hope” (Jeremiah 29:11-13), this Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar will be led by the Centro Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr. (Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center). The journey will begin in La Habana and will continue to other provinces in the western and central areas of the island.

Applications are due by Friday, October 25, 2024. After that date, applications will be considered as space remains available.

Past Travel Studies

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.

Learn more

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

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, causing devastation across the island. 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.  In this travel study seminar, we enjoyed the beauty of the island and her people, heard from Puerto Ricans engaged in long term disaster recovery, policy advocacy and sustainable development.  We saw how the Presbyterian Church and its three presbyteries in the Synod of Boriquen were 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.

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Philippines and Hong Kong: February 3-17, 2023

Root Causes and Current Challenges of Forced Migration and Labor Trafficking

This seminar introduced the historical context and contemporary challenges of the labor export program of the Philippines. Half of the seminar was in the Philippines, and the other half was in Hong Kong where families hire mostly Filipina and Indonesian domestic workers. Participants learned about the conditions that contribute to overseas employment. heard the testimonies of migrant workers and their families. Special attention focused on how faith-based communities are assisting migrant workers in their struggles for justice and human rights.

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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 immediately followed the Central American Migrant Trails study seminar in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. It began and ended in Los Angeles, California and included travel from Los Angeles to Tijuana, Mexico to visit a migrant shelter and learn from important actors offering humanitarian and legal services to asylum seekers being forced to wait in Mexico. This seminar was sponsored jointly by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, World Mission and Pacific Presbytery. 

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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

This travel study seminar aimed 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 also explored 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 included intentional space for reflection that can lead us to action towards our nation’s need for comprehensive immigration reform. The seminar included visits with ecumenical partners in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. There was 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.

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Ukraine and Russia: April 22 – May 6, 2019

Peacemaking on the Frontline

This seminar explored 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 concluded with a consultation in Poland, in which we brought together on neutral ground, Ukrainians and Russians for a dialogue on peacemaking and reconciliation in the context of the conflict. Participants learned about the different identities and aspirations of the Ukrainian peoples, met refugees from the conflict and visited inside the buffer zone that separates the contested areas from the rest of Ukraine. Participants also heard 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 was a peacemaking dialogue in Warsaw, Poland with some of those we have met, enabling them to listen to and engage with each other directly.

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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 addressed in this travel study seminar. The answers were riveting, and they provided insight into addressing conflict globally- whether American inter-racial conflict, South Sudanese inter-tribal conflict or Myanmar state clashes. We were joined by a delegation of participants from the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan who shared 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 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. We met 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 learned how they might teach us about the nature of the conflict.

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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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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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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?

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.