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Presbytery leaders are moved by 2016 International Peacemakers

Many say speakers left major impression

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Congregations, presbytery leaders and college students across the country are reacting positively to recent visits from the International Peacemakers. The group of speakers from across the globe recently wrapped up a month-long visit to U.S. communities, sharing the struggles facing those in war torn or poverty-stricken regions.

In a recent conference call, several presbytery leaders shared the impact on the visits with Peacemaking Program Coordinator, Carl Horton.

Plains and Peaks Presbytery hosted Dora Kanizsai-Nagy of Hungary, who shared experiences of working with Syrian refugees in Budapest.

peacemakers-logo“We had a friend from the Islamic Center attend, who has family in Aleppo,” said Howard Dotson, a pastor from Plains and Peaks. “He felt support in a lot of ways. We’ve worked with three Syrian families and Dora’s interpretation added another level of understanding.”

Grand Canyon Presbytery hosted Areej Murad Masoud of Palestine, who spoke in a number of churches as well as at Northern Arizona University.

“One of our alumni was Kayla Mueller, the young woman killed by ISIS. She had worked in Palestine before she died,” said Kathleen Day. “Kayla’s mother came to hear Areej speak and wanted to know what was happening in Palestine. She was very moved by Areej’s presentation. That meant a lot to us.”

Day says the campus interaction appeared to have an impact on Areej as well.

“She watched a video series on Kayla. Just seeing the struggles in other parts of the world and the commitment of people to participate and find a way forward impressed her,” said Day. “Areej was very touched by Kayla’s story and wanted to learn more.”

Areej also took part in a Palestine film festival in Rochester, New York and served as a panelist.

“It was a long and busy day, but it was so special for us to have her at the film festival,” said Elaine Johnson of Genesee Valley Presbytery. “Everyone who attended was grateful for her presence and input.”

Many of the presbyteries that participated in the International Peacemakers visits believe lives were touched by having individuals from around the world to come and speak about the trials and tribulations they face in their own countries.

“I came away with a commitment to pay attention and learn more about what’s happening through Palestinian eyes,” said Day. “There were a lot of questions and people will be looking at investments and would like to visit the region now.”

“The peacemakers bring a human face, contact and story to a conflict that few people experience up close and personal,” said Johnson. “We were just thrilled to have our speaker present and know that so many people took the opportunity to meet and listen to her. I know she had a powerful impact.”

Greater Atlanta Presbytery hosted Arda Aghazarian of Palestine.

“It is amazing how ignorant we are with geography, thinking Israel and Palestine are two places and that many are still refugees,” said Dale Carter. “She really brought it home and opened a lot of hearts and minds and many appreciate what we over-simplify here. We could not have had a better speaker. Spending time with Arda was just a blessing.”

International peacemakers have been speaking at churches and presbyteries for 32 years. More than 220 have participated from 57 countries.

“What I’ve been hearing is the value of these international relationships and hearing firsthand accounts.  Hearts are opened in so many ways when people bring their real life stories to us,” said Horton. “Presbyterians learned a lot from our peacemakers. Some things don’t sink in until we see and hear them.”

“The Peacemaking Program represents what it means to be church and makes me proud to be a Presbyterian,” said Johnson. “This is the work Jesus calls us to do and we do it in a very intentional manner. Bringing people from around the world who represent populations in turmoil and conflict is so important.”

The International Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

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Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

 


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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