|Eric Seibert, associate professor of Old Testament, draws from personal experience in conflict mediation as he helps people reconcile their differences.
Messiah professor is advocate for culture of peace
History books teem with stories of great warriors, brilliant generals, pivotal battles, and wars affecting generations. But where are the peacemakers? Short of Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mahatma Gandhi, we seldom hear about those who chose an alternative to violence.
Eric Seibert '92, associate professor of Old Testament, hopes to change that. Seibert, who shares the Brethren in Christ heritage of Messiah, blends his personal devotion to peacemaking with the College's rich history of promoting peace. He hopes to strengthen the message of nonviolence on campus. "People are not really taught a lot about the peacemakers, about nonviolent alternatives."
In addition to teaching in the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies, Seibert directs The Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies, which is home to the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) initiative. One of the key features of the PACS initiative is the peace and conflict studies minor. As director, he is in a unique position to cultivate an ongoing campus dialogue about making peace in a world at war.
The Sider Institute sponsors an annual peace lecture series intended to familiarize students with the peacemaking tradition. Last fall, a Jesuit priest and peace activist, John Dear, was the invited speaker. His presentations created a flurry of debate and controversy. Though student responses were intense and widely varied, Seibert says he was encouraged by the campus conversation that resulted. "I think the conversation is important and good, but I think we need to find ways to keep that conversation from becoming . . . locked into positions that prevent us from actively talking with each other."
Another way Seibert has attempted to encourage peacemaking at Messiah is by starting Conflict Mediation Services, a program which provides assistance to students and employees of Messiah College who request help in resolving disagreements and conflicts they have with other members of the College community. As students receive training in conflict mediation, they will be equipped to be co-mediators. "The skills they learn are just really good interpersonal skills that can help them in any part of life."
And it's that focus of a lifestyle change that underscores all of Seibert's peacemaking endeavors. "I'd really like to see people begin to understand that a concern for peace and justice isn't just one of a variety of things we as Christians can be interested in; it's at the very heart of what the Gospel is all about. Peacemaking has to grow out of a fundamental conviction. It's a lifestyle."
— Jonathan Vaitl ’06