Damascus Road

Damascus Road Anti-Racism Process

An Anabaptist antiracism training and skill development program
An initiative of the MCC U.S. Anti-Racism Program

The name "Damascus Road" refers to the process of transformation that Saul experienced on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31). While Damascus Road (DR) provides space for individual transformation, the entire program is designed to work toward long-term transformation of institutions, particularly churches and faith-based organizations.

Much of Damascus Road's attention is given to workshops and training events, though Damascus Road is careful to place this educational work in service to larger organizing goals of dismantling racism. Damascus Road also provides other resources, such as networking events, consultation and antiracism audits.

Members of the Bluffton University Damascus Road team

  • Crystal Sellers Battle, chair, assistant professor of music
  • Paul Neufeld Weaver, assistant professor of education
  • Daryl Dowdy, director of multicultural affairs 
  • "Tig" Intagliata, campus pastor
  • Angie Montel, professor of biology
  • Lynda Nyce, professor of sociology
  • Hamid Rafizadeh, professor of business
  • Sally Weaver Sommer, vice president and dean of academic affairs
  • Jackie Wells, director of residence life
  • Mustaq Ahmed, supervisor of buildings and grounds

Why and how we do this work

As followers of Jesus we understand the call of God to work against all forms of oppression. Damascus Road is called to dismantle racism within the context of our community of faith. One of the ways we do that is through training race and gender balanced teams. We allow God to work through us in our learning, growing and struggling together.

Bluffton University Damascus Road team goals:

  1. Bluffton University’s anti-racist identity will be rooted in Jesus’ teaching of peace and justice.
  2. Bluffton will possess an understanding of racism within the institution.
  3. Bluffton faculty and staff will have a rich program of ongoing anti-racism teaching and training.
  4. The Bluffton Board of Trustees will be committed to and support the anti-racism mission of the college.
  5. Bluffton students will not tolerate individual or institutional racism.
  6. Bluffton will be committed to listening to and learning from people of color about how they experience Bluffton.
  7. Bluffton’s written documents will reflect the fact that Bluffton is an anti-racist institution.
    (2006)

Racism is racial prejudice plus the systemic misuse of power. Racism intends to keep the dominant group in power. We must not only know why racism was created; that alone will not dismantle it. Our team is to work toward transforming and reshaping Bluffton in order to change the way power is distributed.  We do this through looking at the following:

  • Personnel (Who are the gatekeepers?)
  • Policies and practices, constituency (Are people of color adequately or equally served?)
  • Organizational structure (bylaws, articles of operation, etc.)
  • The mission and purpose of the institution (Does the institution have an anti-racist identity and commitment?)

An anti-racist, inclusive institution is one that’s “life reflects full participation and shared power with diverse racial, cultural and economic groups in determining its mission, structure, constituency, policies and practices.” This implies action, work, change a conversion. Anti-racism needs to permeate and transform all levels of an institution. This work is long-term and ongoing. The ultimate goal is to institutionalize anti-racism.

Information taken in part from Jeannie Romero Talbert, “Debunking Myths about Damascus Road” in the Damascus Road Newsletter, Vol. 2 No. 3, September 1999; and from the Mennonite Central Committee Damascus Road website 

The Network

More than 60 institutional teams and 1,300 individuals have participated in Damascus Road Training. Teams come from a wide range of institutions, including congregations, church conferences/districts, denominational boards, mission agencies, colleges, high schools and service organizations.

Damascus Road's mission is primarily within the Anabaptist family of churches (Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Church of the Brethren), but we welcome all who want to join in our work, grounded in the Christian tradition. Non-Anabaptist teams include interdenominational groups, independent churches and colleges, and an Episcopal diocese.