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Brooke Strayer

Preparing to complete a one-year term in Zambia with Mennonite Central Committee’s S.A.L.T program, her heart beats for peacemaking. Ladies and gentlemen . . . Brooke Strayer.

What kind of work are you doing in Zambia?

My main responsibility here in Zambia is to work alongside the 12 Brethren in Christ school peace clubs. These peace clubs are extracurricular clubs in each of the 12 Brethren in Christ schools in Zambia where students meet once a week to learn about peace and nonviolence. The material is divided up into five modules: conflict, violence, gender-based violence, journey toward reconciliation, and trauma healing. I help monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the clubs and support less active clubs. A major part of my job involves collecting and sharing stories of those involved in the peace clubs.

What sort of fruit are you seeing from these clubs?

Some of the peace clubs are simply amazing; I am blown away by the maturity of these young adults. Academically speaking, peace club members are among the top-performing students in the school. Many of them are student leaders in other areas as well. Their understanding of conflict and how to resolve it in a constructive manner is beyond their years. They have such a hunger to learn and do more within the community and school.

Home congregation The Meeting House (Carlisle, Pa.) Education Messiah College (Mechanicsburg, Pa.); B.A. double major in Peace and Conflict Studies and History Current Role Assistant Coordinator of Peace Clubs, Choma, Zambia Favorite Movie Pride and Prejudice (2005 edition) Favorite Quote “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine of Hippo

How did you become interested in pursuing peace work?

Growing up, I was not inclined toward peace, but I also could not say I was inclined toward war; I was simply indifferent. My thoughts and attitude changed after completing a semester abroad at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. As part of the learning, our group travelled to Rwanda to learn about the genocide and how Rwanda recovered (and is still recovering) from the horrors of 1994. Before I left, though, I had decided to change my major to Peace and Conflict Studies. I didn’t realize at the time it would quickly become a life passion. Maybe God planted a seed when I changed my major, and it took several months of learning and experience to recognize that passion.

What is one thing Americans could learn about peaceful living from the work being done in these clubs?

I think we can learn that there can be no peace until you yourself are at peace. We’ve got to learn how to constructively deal with conflict, because conflict will always be present. It’s how it’s managed that matters as we work toward reconciliation. I think it’s incredible that schools here in Zambia are taking an initiative to learn about peace, conflict, and nonviolence. Every time I visit a school, I think, “What if American schools had peace clubs?” Just imagine if such a program existed! Perhaps we’d see more racial reconciliation, reduced gun violence, more unity in politics, and an increased love for those who are “different” from us.

This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2016 issue of In Part magazine.

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