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Peacemaker and anti-oppression leader to speak for MLK Day

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A young leader in peacemaking and anti-oppression will highlight Bethel College’s annual celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Jan. 19.

The program takes place at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center and is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken.

The keynote speaker is Sarah Thompson, Chicago, who is completing her first year as executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She will speak on “Moving Toward Conflict.”

There will also be a display in the Fine Arts Center of artwork related to Dr. King’s work and witness, by students at local schools.

Thompson will also be a guest at Shalom Mennonite Church, Newton, Jan. 18, participating in the adult Sunday school forum at 9:30 a.m. and preaching in the worship service that starts at 10:45. All are welcome.

A native of Elkhart, Indiana, Thompson spent six years as the volunteer North American representative to Mennonite World Conference’s Youth and Young Adult Executive Committee and Global Youth Summit planning group.

She has also been a volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., and her hometown of Elkhart.

Thompson has traveled widely while holding these positions and through other volunteer and activist work with feminist anti-war movements, Spanish translation opportunities, the Fulbright Scholars program and Spelman College, Atlanta, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 2006 with a double major in comparative women’s studies and international studies and a minor in Spanish.

A 2011 Masters of Divinity graduate of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Thompson served as a member of CPT’s steering committee from 2010-12, and worked for a year as CPT Outreach Coordinator before taking the executive director position.

In accepting that position, Thompson said, “I feel called to the spiritual practice of building partnerships that transform violence and oppression.”

She also recalled first learning about CPT as a member of her high school’s Peace Club. “After attending the CPT Peacemaker Congress my sophomore year, I knew that CPT would be a part of my future,” she said.

“Like my previous work with grassroots, political and social justice organization, working through CPT has been a deeply formative and positive experience for me,” she added.

Christian Peacemaker Teams was founded in Chicago in 1986. Originally sponsored by the two major North American Mennonite denominations and the Church of the Brethren, CPT has become increasingly ecumenical and now receives support from American Baptist, Presbyterian, Friends and other North American Christian groups.

Though unapologetically Christian, CPT seeks “the Gospel liberation of all people through the power of forgiveness and nonviolence,” according to its identity statement.

Small groups of trained CPT volunteers and stipended workers focus on building “an organizational culture of justice, inclusion, mutual respect and welcome … [and] structures that reflect the rich diversity of the human family in ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender identity, language, national origin, race and sexual orientation.”

On its project sites in North America and internationally, CPT works with local partners from a variety of faith traditions, encouraging the formation and development of other faith-based, nonviolent peace teams and working cooperatively with them.

Also Jan. 18 at Bethel, there will be a screening of excerpts of the documentary Freedom Riders at 3 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center, followed by open discussion with two guest resource people (free and open to the public).

For more information on the special events on campus Jan. 18-19, see the Bethel website,, or call Multicultural Student Union adviser Jean Butts at 316-284-5338.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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