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Presbyterian Peacemaking Program offering travel study opportunities in 2021 and 2022

Puerto Rico and the Southwestern United States are among the destinations

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

June 1 is the application deadline for a travel study seminar to the Native lands of the Southwest. (Photo by David Mark from Pixabay)

LOUISVILLE — Travel study opportunities through the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program are expected to resume this year following a hiatus necessitated last year by the pandemic.

Peacemaking is offering a travel study seminar Puerto Rico from Aug. 16-23 as well as one to the American Southwest from Sept. 17-26. A third seminar, focusing on human trafficking and forced labor, is set to take place in the Philippines and Hong Kong in 2022.

“These are important, worthwhile experiences, and we want Presbyterians who would want to be a part of these experiences, once we can travel, to have that opportunity,” said the Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Peacemaking Program.

Anyone can apply to attend the seminars, but Peacemaking is particularly interested in attracting participants who feel a calling to participate and who have an action plan for when they return home.

This is an application-based program because Peacemaking wants to make sure “this particular experience fits into their understanding of God’s leading in their life,” Horton said, referring to potential participants.

“We want there to be a spiritual tug to this part of the world or to this particular issue,” he said. Also, “we want to know that people have a plan to not just go and see something but to return and do something,” such as making a presentation to their church or their presbytery.

A cross and amphitheater overlook Campamento El Guacio in western Puerto Rico. (Photo by Rich Copley)

May 7 is the application deadline for the Puerto Rico seminar, which is being co-hosted by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Participants will be able to see how the U.S. territory has rebounded from natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria, and to hear about Puerto Rico’s other challenges, such as food insecurity and structural racism. They also will learn how the Presbyterian Church and its three presbyteries in the Synod of Boriquen are working in partnership with others to support vulnerable communities.

“The experience of disaster recovery is a big part of the Puerto Rico travel study seminar, but also to look at colonialism,” Horton said, “so not only the aftermath of a disaster but the aftermath of U.S. policies toward Puerto Rico and the damage done by colonialism.”

June 1 is the application deadline for the travel study seminar to the Native lands of the Southwest, which is being done in partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national offices and mid councils.

That particular seminar is designed to give participants an appreciation for the rich history, culture and resilience of Indigenous people in the Southwest. The journey will start in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and continue to Phoenix, Arizona. Participants will learn about the Doctrine of Discovery as well as issues such as land and water rights, intergenerational trauma, poverty and addiction, and environmental racism.

“We were approached by Presbyterians in the Southwest, encouraging us to consider a travel study seminar that looked at the experience of our Native and Indigenous Presbyterians,” Horton said. “We really have been trying to do domestic travel study seminars at the invitation of a presbytery or synod, and that’s what happened with this one.”

In addition to the travel study seminars, Peacemaking is looking forward to hosting the Mosaic of Peace Conference in Israel and Palestine. That gathering, which normally takes place every two years, is scheduled for March 20-April 1, 2022.

“We’re excited that this conference is being able to be offered again because it’s really important,” said the Rev. Rachel Anderson, mission specialist for the Peacemaking Program.

Mosaic of Peace participants receive communion in Bethlehem. (Photo by Doug Dicks)

Participants not only get to visit holy sites but will hear from partners who “are used to our presence, and they are used to sharing their burdens and updating us on what life in occupation is like, and what it’s like to try to minister and follow Christ in an occupied context,” Anderson said.

The deadline to apply for Mosaic of Peace is Nov. 15. Peacemaking will adhere to health and safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as PC(USA) policies when travel opportunities resume.

Some limited scholarship opportunities have been offered in the past.

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

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