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International Peacemakers visits go virtual as pandemic surges

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program cancels in-person events, but virtual opportunities are still available

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Members of the 2019 class of International Peacemakers, the last one to participate in live visits, speak during a welcoming worship service at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — While the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program had hopes to return to an in-person International Peacemakers program this fall, the pandemic had different plans.

In the past, the International Peacemakers program has involved people in peacemaking work from around the world coming to the United States during the Season of Peace in late September and early October to visit presbyteries, congregations and community groups to talk about the work they are doing. Due to the pandemic, that could not happen last year, and the Peacemaking Program presented a Virtual International Peacemakers Symposium, catching up with a number of Peacemakers who had been part of the program in the past.

For 2021, Peacemaking was planning a hybrid Symposium-Virtual-Live event. But the resurgence of the pandemic along with challenges that were already in place have forced the cancellation of in-person visits by peacemakers.

“Peacemaking staff members met [Tuesday] with (Presbyterian Mission Agency) PMA leadership and mutually decided that this was the best course of action to protect the health and safety of all involved,” an email to groups that were planning in-person visits said. “We realize that while this may not come as a surprise to you, you share our profound disappointment.”

The Peacemaking Program is offering to arrange to convert the in-person visits into virtual visits that could potentially lead to in-person meetings in 2022. This also presents an opportunity to presbyteries and congregations that may not have previously considered engaging a Peacemaker this year.

The Rev. Carl Horton of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program leads a worship service to welcome the 2019 class of International Peacemakers to the United States. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“Because these visits are virtual, we aren’t strictly limited by the traditional dates of the International Peacemaker Program, Sept. 17 to Oct. 18,” Presbyterian Peacemaking Program coordinator the Rev. Carl Horton said. “If a host would like to schedule a virtual visit with a peacemaker later in October or even in November, we can try to set that up.”

There are 10 Peacemakers engaged this fall, hailing from as far away as Fiji, including nations such as Honduras, Greece, Malawi and Palestine. Their names, countries and biographies can be found on the International Peacemaker’s website, and in the coming weeks Presbyterian News Service will share more information about some of the Peacemakers available for virtual visits.

“The visits are scheduled as real-time virtual meetings, usually via Zoom,” said Amy Lewis, Mission Specialist with the Peacemaking Program. “We recommend limiting the meeting to 60 minutes. Depending on the needs and interests of the presbytery host gathering, the Peacemaker may give a presentation followed by a time of questions and answers, or the virtual meeting may consist of the host interviewing the Peacemaker.”

The resurgence of COVID-19 coupled with challenges already in place cancelled plans for in-person visits by International Peacemakers this fall. In this photo, the 2019 Peacemakers sing during a welcoming worship service at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rich Copley)

There will also be a second edition of the Virtual Symposium, starting Sept. 7. Here is the schedule of Symposium videos, which will premiere on the Peacemaking Facebook page:

Sept 7 — Peacebuilding in South Sudan: A Conversation with Lucy Awate of RECONCILE

Sept 14 — Hope and Hurting in Syria:  An Update from Salam Hanna

Sept 16 — A Report from Haiti:  A Conversation with Fabienne Jean and Cindy Corell

Sept 21 — Working for the Wellbeing of Madagascar — An Update from Lala Rasendrahasina

Sept 23 — “A Better World is Possible” — A Conversation about Colombia with Luis Fernando Sanmiguel Cardona

Sept 28 — The Situation in Cuba:  An Update from Edelberto Valdés Fleites.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Your gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering help support the continuing work of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

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