EEA Interview – “Unlocking Expectations: Collaborative Peacebuilding with Neighbors”

Originally posted on December 1, 2021 by the European Evangelical Alliance on its website here.

As part of our overarching communication theme of “Unlocking Expectations” in times of the pandemic in the second half of 2021, readers of the EEA Newsletter are being presented with a variety of perspectives on the topic in several issues of the EEA Newsletter. We are very pleased that Bryan Carey has agreed to answer some of our questions for the final edition on the topic. Bryan and his wife Stephanie work for Peace Catalyst International. In 2016, they moved to the Balkan region with their two children to work with Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant peacebuilders and to help local Christians get involved in peacebuilding work. Bryan hosts workshops, conducts trainings, and teaches about peace-oriented theology, peacebuilding practices, and how Christian groups can engage in community peacebuilding. He also organizes learning experiences that cultivate understanding and empathy for the narratives of other groups, ultimately with the aim to deepen relational connections that allow for collaborative work.

  1. What is the biblical concept of Shalom and how can we implement it in our daily lives? 

Shalom is God’s vision for the world when everything is as God intends: flourishing relationships with people and God, self, others, and all of creation. In peacebuilding language, shalom is a positive, just peace; it is not just the absence of tension or conflict, but the state in which people experience physical wellbeing, live with moral integrity, and enact justice in individual and group relationships. Shalom is about relational flourishing and wholeness in all spheres of life. For us who believe in the already and not-yet of God’s kingdom, shalom characterizes the reign of God and clarifies our ultimate vision and hope. Understanding the scope of this vision also shapes our discipleship and work as Christians following Jesus and seeking to live as firstfruits of his kingdom.

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Reflection: Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding online course

The Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding course wrapped up a week and a half ago after a great 5-week online experience, meeting 2-3 times a week with the lead instructors as well as a guest speaker each week. It was an incredible pleasure to work with Amela Puljek-Shank to coordinate and prepare the course, setting up the readings, sequence, and some of the English-language text about the course and each of the weekly modules. I’ve worked enough with topics of trauma, trauma sensitivity, and the necessity of being trauma-informed in peacebuilding work here in Bosnia & Herzegovina to have some basic awareness, but this was my first time doing a deeper dive into an academic level course. 

The lead instructor Amela Puljek-Shank personally lived through the Bosnian War and circumstances that are more traumatic than we hope people would ever experience in their lives (yet all too common). At the same time, Amela is sensitive to the reality that each person brings their own trauma and wounds and that ranking or comparing our traumas is not helpful. Rather, each of us has the opportunity to face our own individual and group traumas, engage with traumas, and integrate them into our stories so that we can experience post-traumatic growth. Indeed, we can heal from trauma and live into our best selves, individually and collectively. Post-traumatic growth is possible.

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Heightened tensions in Bosnia & Herzegovina

We’ve received some messages of concern and interest by friends and acquaintances regarding headlines about the potential for new violence in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH). First things first: this is not something surprising or unexpected to people in BiH, as if escalations have arisen suddenly. There has been ongoing political crisis for at least the past 10 years, including Milorad Dodik’s secessionist rhetoric. What is new in recent months is that Dodik seems to be testing various institutions to see whether he can take concrete steps toward secession. A lot of speculation exists about whether this rhetoric is serious or if it is simply an effort to maintain and consolidate political power.

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Review of the Political Crisis in BiH: The Question of All Questions, by Nedžad Novalić

Written by Nedžad Novalić and published on November 5, 2021 by the Center for Nonviolent Action here. Translated by Bryan Carey.

Carthage fought three times
After the first war it was still strong
After the second war it was still inhabited
After the third war, it no longer existed

B. Brecht

Will there be war again? This is one of the most frequently asked questions in the past two months in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Due to the current political crisis, the question of the possibility of a new war has become dominant: children ask their parents and parents their children, friends ask friends, people ask acquaintances what is happening with them, if they are making any preparations for the possibility of war. More information is sought. Everyone has someone or at least believes they have someone smarter, in some position, who has greater, deeper, or sharper insight. War has crept into ordinary, everyday conversations, not to mention the media – it has already begun there. Most people don’t hide that they are scared and afraid and those who turn everything into a joke seem even more afraid: “We have to make sure to tell them that we’re planting trees today; otherwise if they see us all in the woods, they’ll think we’re off for the border!”

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Balkan Evangelical Alliance national leader conference: Shalom & Shalom-Building

There appears to be a growing urgency for, interest in, and momentum toward peace-oriented theology and peacebuilding practice among Christians around the world.1 Perhaps in part due to this growing interest, I had the privilege to be invited as the keynote speaker and workshop leader for the Balkan Evangelical Alliance national leader conference at the end of September, specifically to talk about the biblical concept of peace and the work of peacebuilding. There were 16 leaders of National Evangelical Alliances from across the Balkans who attended the three-day conference, mostly in person and a couple online. 

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Growing Urgency for Peace-Oriented Theology

Edward Hicks, Peaceable Kingdom, painting – oil on canvas, circa 1834.

Earlier this year in May, the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance Thomas Schirrmacher spoke shortly after Pope Francis at a Catholic and Evangelical event with a speech, “Catholics and Evangelicals and their future relations.” He shared about how “the topic of Catholic-Evangelical relations has become more urgent” as many international churches are becoming closer theologically to evangelical churches, which is “rapidly increasing the number of theologically conservative churches who are contemplating how they will relate to the Catholic Church.” The same dynamic is true regarding how international Protestant churches are contemplating their relationships with the Orthodox Church, secular groups, Muslim communities, and many others as part of wider society.

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Introducing the Christian Peacebuilding Network social learning group

I am very excited to announce the launch of a new project to help Christian peacebuilders across the world explore together how we might faithfully and effectively build bridges of understanding, respect, and friendship with neighbors from other social, ideological, and religious groups. The Christian Peacebuilding Network (CPN) is a private learning and networking platform currently housed on Facebook. 

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Online Course: Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding | October 4 – November 12

As societies continue to fracture along political, ethnic, and ideological lines, becoming aware of and being equipped to deal with various types of trauma is increasingly relevant for all of us in our families, everyday relationships, workplaces, and communities. Trauma-sensitive peacebuilding requires that we recognize and acknowledge individual, communal, and historical harms and incorporate strategies for healing individuals and societies. This fall from October 4 to November 12, The Peace Academy Foundation, in partnership with Peace Catalyst International, is offering a 5-week online course “Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding.” Led by trauma-sensitive peacebuilding trainers, this course aims to contribute to an international conversation about trauma and peacebuilding by providing interactive approaches to recognize and respond to trauma as peacebuilders. This course is intended as an introductory to intermediate training for people in caring professions (e.g. social workers, counselors, teachers, pastors, etc.), students and activists passionate about trauma healing and/or peacebuilding, and everyday people who are interested in getting involved in peacebuilding work in their communities.

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Program for regular Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding training

I’m incredibly excited that the Peace Academy Foundation in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Peace Catalyst International are partnering together to offer a (planned) recurring Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding course. I’ve been volunteering with Peace Academy, developing friendships with their staff and network, and working to help make their peacebuilding and trauma-sensitivity expertise more widely available for peacebuilding practitioners and everyday people both in and outside of Bosnia. We have written more about the importance of this type of training for both peacebuilding practitioners and everyday folks looking to work to heal wounds and build bridges across social divisions. You can find that program introduction below, describing how this course is part of a planned iteration of two “Trauma-Sensitive Peacebuilding” courses, one in English and one in Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian (BCS) language. You can also find the program introduction on both the Peace Academy Foundation and Peace Catalyst International course pages.

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