This fall I was flipping through the pages of an academic coursebook when I saw an interesting course possibility for the interterm period. There were two intriguing classes listed, Dealing With Conflict and Negotiation Theory. I was curious to see what they were, so I signed up for them, and I’m glad I did.
Both of these classes are part of a unique Bethel offering, the Peace and Justice program that we have here. They are done through an institution called the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, or KIPCOR, that is affiliated with Bethel. KIPCOR is an independent association that also serves as a mediation center for individuals involved in disputes, domestic or otherwise, that they wish to work out. They are the first stop for individuals wishing to enter the local small claims and divorce court, as well as offering their services to anyone desiring help with mediation in a conflict situation. It’s a unique institution that offers students practical experience along with the theoretical knowledge that is oftentimes found in the classroom.
For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I have been traveling around Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank with a group of Bethel and Tabor students. The focus of the trip is on expanding our understanding and awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict and to visit different sites important to the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian faiths, as well as other tourist sites in the area.
Thus far in our travels, we have visited Petra (an ancient city hewn out of solid rock), ridden camels (!!!!!), the Church of the Nativity (where Jesus was born), the Wall separating Israel from the West Bank (tragic), the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Gaililee, the Dead Sea (we floated!!!), the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques (we were able to go inside, which is HIGHLY unusual), the Western Wall of the Jewish temple destroyed in 70CE, and many, many other sites mentioned in the Bible.
Many treated today as a day off from school, and work, but how many have stopped and realize what this day truly means. Do many see this day as celebrating an African American legend who used peaceful marches and dreams to help break racial barriers worldwide or is this day about celebrating an opportunity to sleep in, play around, and watch TV?
I don’t see today as just another day off. I look at today as a day of reflection. A day where we can reflect on how many of Dr. King’s dreams have changed from an image of a dream to reality. As I look at Dr. King’s dreams come true, I also reflect on how it’s not complete. If Dr. King were here today, he would be so pleased to see that people of different ethnicities are allowed to attend schools together, work together, and eat together. He would look and smile at the change that America has gone through as an African American president sits in office. He would be able to turn on his TV and see an African American woman with her own talk show, an African American coach that is the head of an NFL team, and African American quarterbacks. He could take a ride in his car and see an inter-racial couple holding hands without a care in the world. Dr. King would look at the world and see that so much of his dream has been accomplished, but he is not satisfied because his dream is not complete.
Gerardo grew up in Canada in a conservative family that had pretty strict religious views (Dutch Reformist I believe) and raised him in the traditions of Canadian dairy farming. He told us that for years he felt as though something was missing from his life, and even though he was making good money as farmer, he did not feel fulfilled. So with a group of other farmers around the area, he put together several trips here to Cuernavaca, to get to know the farmers here and what their need were. Eventually this group donated 30-some dairy cattle to the people here, and Gerardo brought them down from Canada and began helping out here among the poor and marginalized.
January may just be my favorite month at Bethel. The entire month is filled with more free time because of only having to worry about one class and if you play your cards right (like I did), that class is only two weeks long! That leaves much more time to hang with friends, play intramural sports and go support the basketball teams!
This last Saturday the teams went to Bethany College in Lindsborg and both got the win. The ladies are now 3-3 and in the top half of conference and the men are 4-2. They have been working very hard and have been back on campus since the 27th of December; talk about a short Christmas break!
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