For the first time, three Malone students are studying in Washington, D.C. at the same time through the American Studies Program. Throughout the semester, Suzanna Bregar, senior history major; Madi Carper, junior history major; and Kaitlyn Stump, senior history major are taking turns blogging about their experiences studying in our nation’s capital.
Is peace possible? A surface level look at recent news headlines would suggest that this is a false hope. From ISIS and Hamas in the Middle East to the civil war in Ukraine, student uprisings in China, and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, it can sometimes seem like the entire world is busting at the seams.
I am spending the semester interning with the Mennonite Central Committee, an Anabaptist organization which advocates for peace and justice in conjunction with international partners. In order to not suffer burn-out, I must have hope that the answer to the above question is “yes.”
Ultimately, I am grateful to have the experience of interning with MCC, an organization which shares my values and offers me an outlet which encourages this hopeful thinking and peace building in a place where that can be difficult when even Congress can’t agree on legislation.
Last semester I had the opportunity to read Sandy Tolan’s book The Lemon Tree for the History and Politics of the Modern Middle East class. Tolan’s story of a home occupied by a Palestinian Muslim family and later a European Jewish family introduced me to the historical context of the current conflict in the Holy Land, but also offered an example of how people from different backgrounds are reaching out to hear the other side of the story. When the region was erupting this summer, I remembered this story and clung to a hope for peace.
Last week I had the opportunity to listen to a partner of Dalia Eskhenazi from The Lemon Tree speak in Georgetown. Elias Chacour, a Christian Palestinian, operates a school in Galilee which welcomes Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students, giving them a chance to see that the racial and religious distinctions don’t matter; they are all just kids.
He concluded by asking that we stand with him in solidarity, not favoring one side over the other. If being pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian causes us to be anti-someone else, we are not helping.
I also heard Canon Andrew White and his colleague Sarah Ahmed speak about their experience in Iraq. White is an Anglican priest and Ahmed is a Muslim doctor, and both are working together to provide for Christian refugees from Iraq who are fleeing persecution from ISIS. While the Obama administration was beginning to order increased air raids in Iraq and Syria, White and Ahmed were requesting that we advocate for peace and stressing the importance of prayer and not increased violence.
It is not that advocating for peace is easy. The world is complicated and there are hardly ever easy answers to the problems we deal with. However, I cannot ignore the examples of the stories I have heard and read. I don’t know what peace will look like, but I am excited for the opportunities I have in D.C. to listen to stories of people advocating for peace and to advocate for it myself with MCC.
Kaitlyn Stump is a senior history major.