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Today in the Mission Yearbook

What does Lithuania have to teach us about war?

PC(USA) travel study seminar to reveal the country’s lessons and history

April 28, 2024

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar, “Lithuania: Healing the Legacies of War & Oppression,” is set for Oct. 14-24.

A small country on the Baltic Sea with lessons to teach about the travails and tragedies of war will be the focus of a travel study seminar hosted by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program this fall.

“Lithuania: Healing the Legacies of War and Oppression” is set to take place Oct. 14–24 and will provide valuable insight into the European country bordering Latvia, Russia, Poland and Belarus.

The PC(USA) is recruiting participants, who will begin their journey in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, then move to Klaipeda, learning about various phases of Lithuania’s history, from the Nazi and Soviet occupations to today’s Ukrainian refugee crisis. (Apply here by June 14.)

“This seminar is set in a small Baltic country that has suffered through multiple wars and occupations,” said the Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “Its people bear the generational traumas of war and its aftermath. Today, they are faced with a refugee crisis and resource issues related to the nearby two-year war in Ukraine. Our seminar will be an opportunity for Presbyterians to learn from those who know firsthand the harms of war and live on the edge of conflict and crisis.”

Ellen Smith is World Mission’s regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe.

Mission Co-Worker Ellen Smith brought the idea of the Lithuania travel study seminar to Horton after visiting there last winter with the Eastern Europe Partnership Network — formerly known as the Belarus, Ukraine, Russia Mission Network — and learning about Lithuania’s complicated history.

“The Lithuanians committed many of the crimes of the Holocaust,” and the country was later occupied by the Soviet Union, said Smith, regional liaison for central and eastern Europe.

There are “undercurrents of secrets within the society from the trauma of both the Holocaust and Soviet occupation” and the “terrible experience of being caught between those two powers at their worst,” she said. “People in Lithuania are trying to open up and talk about that history and come to terms with it, and I think that’s something we need to do in our own culture, too.”

Jean Waters, who does communications for the network, added, “When visiting Lithuania, you experience a charming old European country, cathedrals and castles, alongside Soviet-style housing. It is important to see that the people of this country suffered, and they acknowledge their history so that they, and none of us, will repeat it.”

The Rev. Carl Horton coordinates the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Both Smith and Waters have visited the Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation at LCC International University (formerly Lithuania Christian College). Participants in the upcoming seminar will hear about the center’s peace and reconciliation work in Lithuania and elsewhere.

“Countries have been attacking each other, invading each other, and executing ethnic cleansing for centuries,” Waters said. “It is important for us to understand the impacts of these actions, how fellow countrymen are complicit, and the reasons people become refugees. They are so fearful and have so little choice.”

Horton said the travel study seminar is ideal for “Presbyterians who oppose war and want to learn, not only from the past but also from the work being done still today to recover from the atrocities and legacies of war.”

He added, “It will be clear to participants in this seminar that after wars end, for instance when they finally do end in Ukraine and Gaza, the hard work of rebuilding, repairing, healing and learning from history begins. It takes a long, long time and, sadly, may never be fully complete.”

For more information about the travel study seminar in Lithuania, go here.

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

Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 28, 2024, the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Today’s Focus: PC(USA) travel study seminar to Lithuania

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Edwin Gonzalez-Castillo, Director & Associate, Disaster Response for Latin American and Caribbean, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Theresa Goodlin, Team Leader, Raiser’s Edge Gift & Data Entry, Ministry Engagement & Support, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)  

Let us pray

God of the old and the new, the great and the small, thank you for the warmth of your love and the inspiration of your Spirit. May you continue to bring new life into your churches, that we might proclaim in a myriad of ways the wonders of your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.