Peace Conference

Contemplating the ‘voiceless’ at ICPF

BLUFFTON, Ohio—Seven Bluffton University students spent the weekend of Jan. 31-Feb. 2 exploring practical ways to give voice to the voiceless.

Mary Schrag, Jacey Dehogues and Robin Adams attended the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship conference—held this year at Eastern Mennonite University—along with fellow Bluffton students Kerry Bush, Matthew McCoy, Eliot Nofziger and Joe Schaer.

The annual peacebuilding conference addresses conflict worldwide and encourages attendees to adopt nonviolent conflict resolution methods.

Schrag, Dehogues and Adams were particularly moved by keynote speaker Lisa Schirch, who has spent years rallying for better relations between the U.S. and the Middle East. In particular, she strives to give Afghan and Iraqi women a political voice in their respective countries.

“She’s kind of a spokesperson for women in Afghanistan,” said Schrag, a Bluffton junior from Galva, Kan.

“They don’t have a say in it. They can’t change anything,” added Dehogues, a sophomore from Kalona, Iowa, about the women of those countries.

Schirch spends much of her time relaying the opinions of these women—on topics including foreign policy and American military intervention—to members of Congress, with hope they will consider the otherwise unheard voices.

“Women in Afghanistan are not even allowed to attend meetings between various political forces,” Schrag recalled from Schirch’s lecture.

The Bluffton students said Schirch asserted that most American politicians have little idea of what’s happening in the Middle East because most of them have never been there to survey the political situation.

“I think her work with women’s groups is important,” Schrag said, “and respectfully and carefully helping to empower those women could be a really good thing.”

“We don’t hear about all of the peace activists there,” she added.

At the end of the weekend, the students learned that peace in practice—the conference theme this year—is about applying their faith to aid and empowering those without a voice.

“A lot of people think peace is about sitting back,” said Adams, a sophomore from New Carlisle, Ohio. “You have to be aggressive to confront conflict.”