Seeking Peace in Chicago
by Kay Guyer
Pumpkins, family time, and relaxation fill a typical fall break from Manchester University. For the peace people, though, it's often a different rap. Just as classes finished, six of us stepped into five days of experiential learning Chicago style. Our schedule marked out a whirlwind adventure: Christian Peacemaker Teams fundraiser, Chicago End the Wars and Occupation Rally, construction and volunteer work at the Christian Peacemaker Teams House, and a variety of cultural immersions in Pilsen and the Su Casa Catholic Worker House. As a student, these opportunities offered me so much in the way they turned theory into action and learning into understanding. Sketching out a few of these experiences will help you understand just what I mean.
Stopping first at the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) fundraiser gala, I found myself intermixed with longtime peacemakers, college students, and young ones playing on the floor. Between taking tickets and selling baked goods, I listened to story after story of courageous nonviolent work in Colombia, Iraq, and Palestine. In a student's world of recognizing such dire need for transnational strategic nonviolence, CPT is stepping up in the here and now. Envisioning a world without war is no small dream to carry. I find great strength in building my own vision from the tangible work already being done by those willing to risk just as much for peace as those who engage in war.
Immersion number two brought us to the End the Wars and Occupation Rally in downtown Chicago. For some in our group this was the first time to experience a rally, making for fresh dialogue and revived boldness. Marching behind the Manchester University Peace Studies banner, we made our way through the streets of Chicago demanding an end to the racist wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was no longer an activist tethered within college walls (as much work as there is to be done here as well). I was free to break into the wide open realm of open dialogue – a place where such unsettlement exists, but also where real learning is found.
Our third experience brought us to the Christina Peacemaker Teams office doorstep where we spent a day and a half doing construction and volunteer work. How good it was to be tarring roofs and pounding siding in fresh air! Walking into the newly renovated training room I was struck by the number of recognizable faces bordering the walls. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Dorothy Day – all of these leaders were looking into the room as though inspiration and support flowed from their mere collective images. What a special house.
Learning, support, and inspiration flowed from my days in Chicago. I left Manchester searching for adventure and interactive learning; I returned with experiences refreshing me and challenging me to work intensively for peace day by day. May these personal strives band together as we each reach for a more just world.