On Sunday, I posted a blog entry that unofficially kicked off the Peacemakers in Action retreat. In that entry, I promised to update you as much as I could about the retreat happenings. Unsurprisingly, the agenda has been packed, but now I have time to share one of the stories I heard.
On Sunday, Bill Lowrey delivered a session on personal resiliency. Why is personal resiliency important for peace activists? Bill's experiences answer that question quite completely.
Bill has been involved in tribal peace work in southern Sudan for over 20 years. In those years, Bill and his family sometimes lived in Sudan – and sometimes in the United States. In both locations, his and his family's lives were at risk. While in Sudan, his wife and daughter narrowly escaped an aerial bombing. And Bill was subject to consistent death threats and plots against his life. All of that doesn't even account for the times when Bill was working with militia leaders to change their attitudes towards the conflict. In those instances, he was often in the middle of battle zones.
Even when he returned to the United States, individuals loyal to his enemies in Sudan sent him death threats here, stating that they were perfectly capable of killing him and his family at home in Virginia. These threats were intended to make sure Bill knew that he and his family were at risk anywhere.
Fortunately, Bill and his family were not physically harmed, but the emotional and psychological toll of this stress was substantial.
In his training to the other Peacemakers in attendance, Bill delivered a strategy for managing the stress and weight that comes with working for peace in the midst of the world's most devastating conflicts. The training participants were comforted to know that they are not alone in their experiences and were invigorated to learn about ways to help overcome the personally negative impacts of combating violence.