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Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Environmental Ministries team up for Travel Study Seminar

Guatemala and Costa Rica trip scheduled for January

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Costa RicaLOUISVILLE – Presbyterians interested in seeing firsthand what countries are doing about climate change have an opportunity to join the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Environmental Ministries and World Mission in a two-country tour next year. The ministries are hosting a Travel Study Seminar to Guatemala and Costa Rica January 9 – 20.

“As we began thinking about future travel study seminars, it seemed prudent for us to identify places where we had partners who were facing immediate concerns about climate change,” said Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “We wanted to look at countries dealing with fragile eco-systems, places where climate change had a profound impact on people’s lives. This gives us an opportunity to see two very different countries with two very different reactions to the threat of climate change.”

Rebecca Barnes, associate for Environmental Ministries, believes the seminar will give travelers a new perspective on what climate change is doing to communities.

“I think mission co-workers there will be very helpful in connecting the dots on these issues,” she said. “Some people might be wondering how peacemaking and climate change interact and this will be an interesting look at the coalescing of these issues.”

Both Barnes and Horton say this is one of the first travel study seminars to combine both ministry areas.

“While in Costa Rica, participants will look at what eco-tourism does for a country. It is demilitarized but also has a lush rain forest and people travel there to see how the country is practicing resiliency and sustainability in different ways,” said Barnes. “In Guatemala war and conflict have hurt both the people and the earth, but it also has rich history and powerful stories from which we can learn.”

Horton says peacemaking is not only about relationships with other human beings but also a caring and respect for creation as a whole.

“Concerns about climate change are peacemaking issues. It has to do with actions we can take as Christians and as sisters and brothers in Christ to help one another and care for the earth,” he said. “Environmental justice is something peacemakers ought to be concerned about and it is a part of our call to be peacemakers.”

Horton says this is an opportunity for Presbyterians to visit other places where the Christian church is alive and active. He and Barnes are hopeful it will open eyes to the challenges of climate change and the impact of what partners are doing.

“We don’t want Presbyterians to just come back more informed. We want the participants in this trip to return sharing stories, telling others what they’ve seen and heard,” he said. “Hopefully, they can inspire others through their stories to take action, be concerned, to partner with or strengthen partnerships in other churches and denominations that are working to take action.”

Barnes says she’s found that having stories of people or places with a spiritual or emotional connection transform lives and churches.

“When I traveled to the mountains of Peru a few years ago, there were faces and pictures of both contamination and beauty of the earth,” she said. “That is now part of my story and when Presbyterians go on a trip like this, it fleshes out some concerns you might read about and gives you a new passion for taking care of God’s earth in a more holistic sense.”

The 12-day trip includes two days of travel, six nights in Guatemala and five nights in Costa Rica. Applications will be accepted through October 1. Late applications will be accepted as space is available and time allows. The seminar itinerary and application form are available on the Peacemaking Program’s Travel Study Seminar webpage or by calling 888-728-7228 x 5200.

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