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Travel study seminars to explore conflict and reconciliation in Rwanda and Ukraine


Application deadlines nearing for 2019 seminars

By Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterians interested in learning about conflict and reconciliation, from both an active and historical perspective, have an opportunity to do so by participating in one of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar series upcoming in Spring 2019. Reconciliation Work in Rwanda: Healing the Trauma of the Genocide is scheduled for March 11–23, 2019, and Ukraine and Russia: Peacemaking on the Front Line is scheduled for April 22 – May 6, 2019. The due date for applications is November 15 for the Rwanda seminar, and December 15 for the Ukraine-Russia seminar. After those dates, applications will be considered if space remains available.

“Both of our 2019 Peacemaking travel study seminars are more than just ‘bucket list’ trips,” said Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “These are carefully planned opportunities to engage in real, on-the-ground peacebuilding efforts. In Rwanda, we will engage in skill-building and learn from the reconciliation practices of our Rwandan colleagues. The Ukraine and Russia seminar will explore the context of an active conflict and conclude in Poland, where we hope to bring Ukrainians and Russians together for peacebuilding and reconciliation dialogue.”


rwandan woman and son harvesting crop

Nancy Collins

In a mere three months in 1994, nearly 1 million persons — identified as Tutsi — were murdered in Rwanda. This study seminar will explore the roots of the genocide, how the church was complicit, the level of conflict and trauma that still exists nearly 25 years later, and what reconciliation programs are being implemented today by the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR).

According to Nancy Collins, a mission co-worker in Rwanda, seminar participants can expect many things in their travels to Rwanda, including honesty, insight, and the magnificent power of the healing and uniting Holy Spirit.

“Individuals will experience a very clean country, lovely scenic hills, a welcoming population and a strong, well-organized partner church working intelligently and compassionately to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed,” said Collins. “The seminar’s focus is on post-genocide restorative justice, trauma healing, economic empowerment, and the work of the EPR in addressing the needs of the church and Rwandans who have survived terrible trauma.”

Horton also noted that participants will gain a perspective around the Rwandan experience through the eyes of PC(USA)’s South Sudanese partners.

“Our hope is to have several of our South Sudan church partners alongside us to learn from and apply those skills and practices to their own settings,” said Horton.

“This seminar is a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from Rwandans on what happened in the genocide and what is required to rebuild,” said Collins. “It will be a sobering but a deeply engaging and provocative experience that will open participants to intimate insights and knowledge and likely lead to deep cross-cultural friendships.”

Ukraine and Russia

Ukrainian woman stands in rubble outside her damaged house

Phillip Woods

The “Ukraine and Russia: Peacemaking on the Front Line” travel study seminar will explore the current conflict in eastern Ukraine from the perspective of PC(USA) partners in both countries. It includes a consultation in Poland, where Ukrainians and Russians will meet on neutral ground to engage in a dialogue on peacemaking and reconciliation within the context of the struggle.

The Ukraine-Russia conflict is one of the longest-lasting and least-known modern-day struggles. Their relationship dates back a century when Ukraine territories were consolidated into the Soviet republic, from which Ukraine gained independence in 1991, at the end of the Cold War. The current conflict dates back to 2014 when an estimated 2 million people were displaced from their homes. Recently the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I recognized the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a move revered in Ukraine but criticized in Russia.

Ellen Smith, a PC(USA) mission co-worker in the region and organizer of the seminar, noted that participants will learn about the complexity and historically rich relationship between the Ukraine and Russia.

“It is not a black and white situation and it is deeply intertwined with history,” said Smith. “The schism that is developing in the Orthodox family is very sad. This seminar provides participants an opportunity to listen amid history unfolding in a part of the world that is portrayed too simply by the media.”

The 13-day Ukraine-Russia travel study seminar will include meetings with refugees from the conflict and a visit to the buffer zone that separates Ukraine from the contested areas, as well as dialogue from the Russian perspective. Some of the travel will be strenuous, and includes train and airline travel, according to Horton.

For more information about both seminars, including a sample itinerary and an application form, visit the Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar web page or call 800-728-7228, ext. 5805.  

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar series is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

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