NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams will give the next Peace Lecture sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), based at Bethel College.
Gene Stoltzfus, International Falls, Minn., who directed CPT from 1987-2004, will speak Monday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at Shalom Mennonite Church (note change from Krehbiel Auditorium), 800 E. First Street in Newton. His topic is “Peacemaking in an age of terrorism.”
CPT trains and places violence-reduction teams in high-conflict situations like Iraq, West Bank, Colombia and various native communities in the United States and Canada. CPT currently enjoys wide participation among Roman Catholics and Protestants, with 38 full-time and 125 part-time volunteer peacemakers.
Stoltzfus traveled to Iraq immediately before the first Gulf War in 1991 and spent extensive time in Iraq in 2003, consulting with Muslim and Christian clerics, Iraqi human rights leaders and families of Iraqi detainees, and talking with American administrators and soldiers.
Stoltzfus’ commitment to peacemaking is rooted in his experience in Vietnam where, as a conscientious objector, he served with International Voluntary Service during the U.S. military escalation from 1963-68. He recalls that watching helicopter personnel unload their cargo of bloodied bodies in Saigon set him “on the search to make sense of life and death where the terms of survival, meaning and culture don’t forbid killing.”
In the early 1970s, Stoltzfus directed Mennonite Voluntary Service, based in Newton. Under Stoltzfus’ leadership, MVS placed Christian service workers in different locations in the United States and Canada with a view toward engaging with the social justice and peace issues of the day in order to awaken church and society. In the late 1970s, he co-directed Mennonite Central Committee’s Philippines program. This was during the Ferdinand Marcos/martial law era, and Stoltzfus focused MCC’s work on human rights and economic justice. He then went on to help establish Synapses, a grassroots international peace and justice organization in Chicago that worked at connecting people from North America and the developing world.
Stoltzfus graduated from Goshen (Ind.) College and holds an M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies from American University and a Master of Divinity from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. He is married to Dorothy Friesen of Winnipeg, Man., and they live in International Falls and Fort Frances, Ont.
Stoltzfus’ Peace Lecture is free and open to the public. A freewill offering for CPT will be taken. For more information or for directions to Shalom Mennonite Church, call KIPCOR at (316) 284-5217.
This Peace Lecture is made possible in part by the Peace with Justice Task Force, Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The KIPCOR Peace Lecture series is now in its 34th year. It has received support from the J. Winfield Fretz lecture fund, which helps bring speakers and events on topics of peace and justice to the Bethel College community, and from individual contributions to KIPCOR and to specific lectures. Peace Lecture series speakers have included scholars, performing artists, activists and visionaries.
For the final Peace Lecture for 2006-07, Dr. Sarada Sreedevi Amma will speak Thursday, March 8, on issues related to international trafficking of women and children. The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium and will be followed by an hour-long concert by Full Circle, a local women’s ensemble, in honor of International Women’s Day.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.