When Darnell Barkman found out he would be home in Canada during the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), he had to enrol. Barkman was one of 84 students from around the world who gathered at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) June 15-26, 2015, for two weeks of courses for peacebuilders from all faiths, countries, and identity groups.
Originally from Abbotsford, B.C., Barkman was in Canada on furlough after spending the past three years living in Manila, Philippines, working as a pastor and peacebuilder. It’s work he feels passionate about, but because the Anabaptist-peace position is a relatively new concept in the Philippines, it’s difficult at times.
“Peacebuilding can be very lonely work,” Barkman says, adding that the CSOP was energizing because it allowed him to connect with other peacebuilders. “It’s amazing. It’s what we need.”
Creating that sort of environment at the CSOP is key, says Valerie Smith, the school’s co-director.
“There are all kinds of ways to measure success, but to me the most important are how valuable people find their classes, and how engaged they are with their instructors and each other,” Smith says.
Students, not only from Canada and the U.S., but also from Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran, and elsewhere travelled to Winnipeg to learn, network and engage in peacebuilding. Topics covered included: women and peacebuilding; youth voices and peace activism; human rights and peace; conflict transformation; indigenous approaches to peace, justice, and friendship; biblical teachings of peace and justice; and peace psychology.
Instructors included Leroy Little Bear, one of the continent’s leaders in the advancement of North American Indian philosophy, and Christopher Marshall, a trained and accredited restorative justice facilitator who teaches at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
The 2015 CSOP also included a launch event for Voices of Harmony & Dissent: How Peacebuilders are Changing Their Worlds, a book exploring the stories, theory, and tools of 16 peace leaders, trainers, and activists from around the world. Each contributor has taught at the CSOP. Smith edited the book with Richard McCutcheon and Jarem Sawatsky.
“All of the essays are written by deeply committed, experienced peacebuilders who are living what they teach,” Smith says, adding that the book was a few years in the making. “It’s really exciting to have it finished and available to the public.”
Smith has now turned her attention to the 2016 school. Registration is now open at www.csop.cmu.ca. CSOP always aims to provide a mix of courses dealing with biblical and theological studies, basic peacebuilding skills, and indigenous issues.
This past April, CMU announced a new Masters of Arts in Peacebuilding and Collaborative Development, which bridges the fields of peacebuilding-conflict resolution studies and development-transformational justice studies. Four of the courses the CSOP will offer in 2016 can be taken toward earning that MA.