"Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.”
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa
Peace Work > The CONTACT Programs
A spiritual teacher once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended, and the day was on its way back. “Could it be,” asked one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?" “No,” answered the teacher. “Could it be,” asked another, “when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?” “No,” said the teacher. “Well then, when is it?” his pupils demanded. “It is when you can look on the face of any woman or man and see that she or he is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, it is still night.”
Teach Globally: The CONTACT Programs Cultivate Global Leadership for Peace and Justice
As a professor at the School for International Training from 1995-2015, I had the pleasure of training two decades of graduate students who would enter the workforce to carry on the tasks of peacebuilding at home and abroad. I had concern, however, for all those around the world who could not attend graduate programs but were caught in the grave dangers of war and oppression. To support and train potential peace leaders in such contexts, in 1997 I created CONTACT, Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, a residential program for participants from zones of conflict everywhere. Our goal was transformation for these participants personally, so they would internalize the attitudes and behaviors necessary to bring others to peace, beginning with their own healing and transformation. For that to occur, they needed to know and trust each other, no easy matter for those whose trust has been shattered.
As frequently as possible, we invited participants from opposing sides of war: Israelis and Palestinians, Indians and Pakistanis, Hutus and Tutsis. In our global community each summer or winter, our groups contained all the world’s major religions, an astonishing number of languages, a full mix of racial, ethnic, cultural and tribal identities, gender issues, and an enormous geographic and economic spread. All of us as faculty and participants were in a cauldron together, stirring and mixing until the ingredients reached the right consistency for transformation. Wonderful faculty from around the world taught conflict analysis, prevention, healing, and innovative methods for creating and sustaining peaceful societies. The community became a living, loving laboratory for reaching across boundaries and accessing our highest selves.
Decades later, this experience lives on in all of us. CONTACT graduates are now professors, lawyers, judges, doctors, directors of organizations, media professionals, educators, and community leaders, transmitting the values and skills they learned to myriad others across the globe. Our graduates are part of a great chain of peacebuilders who arise in each decade through history to serve their communities and pass their wisdom and compassion to those who come later.