In the post below, ESR MDiv student Andy Henry shares about his experience attending the recent International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Columbus, Ohio:
On March 16-17, I joined two fellow ESR students—Tom Decker and Ashlyn Stanton—in attending the 11th annual International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education. The event took place at the student union on the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. It was encouraging to see and hear from so many diverse practitioners during such a tumultuous time. There is a great need for healers and coaches who are skilled in modes of conflict engagement and teachers who can impart those skills to others. Our country and world are anything but short on conflict and violence so we need all the help we can get. My fellow students and I attended workshops on circle processes and restorative justice in various contexts as well as ones that focused on the conference theme.
The theme of the conference was “Tools for Preparing the Change Leaders of the Future: Social Enterprise, Innovation, and Education.” I was particularly attracted to this topic of social enterprise and was curious about how it could be connected to conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Through the workshops, I learned about social enterprises like zero waste initiatives, produce auctions, and revitalization efforts in Appalachian Ohio. I also learned about the value of tying social enterprise to a larger narrative rooted in a community’s history. These enterprises are vital for providing services in a sustainable way, innovating for a community’s future, and promoting peace through cooperative ventures. It is interesting to consider these themes of social entrepreneurship in conversation with ESR’s emphasis on spiritual entrepreneurship. There are several places of overlap and the language of faith and spirituality provides a unique source of inspiration and vision.
While we hosted a table and provided materials for folks interested in exploring ESR, our presence in the workshops and discussions seemed to be the primary point of contact in representing the school. To the best of my knowledge, ESR was the only seminary present at the conference. We were able to bring a unique perspective to the workshops, reflecting on how the ideas and practices discussed by the facilitators can be applied or reframed in terms of spirituality, theology, and faith community. That is one of the great qualities of ESR: we seek to be present to conversations happening in society, particularly those related to peace and justice. We also have a unique perspective to offer, one rooted in the enduring language of faith and the living light of spiritual vitality. I think we all left carrying some beneficial ideas and topics for reflection. And I hope that we were also able to contribute to the conversation of the conference.