The Pella Chronicle
---- — In an age of polarized viewpoints and extremist-driven agendas, a unique New York-based non-governmental organization, Intersections International, will promote mutual understanding and dialogue while in residence at Central College Oct. this week.
“Welcome the Stranger” is the theme for the week’s activities, which include a dialogue between central Iowa military veterans and civilians, intended as a community-building and social healing exercise. The veteran-civilian program addresses the cost of conflict in society by providing tools for reconciliation and healing.
Intersections International programming covers a range of topics, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, values-based leadership, global peacemaking initiatives and the role of the arts in change for social justice. Six members from the different programs will be visiting campus and hosting events, including Rev. Robert Chase, the founding director of Intersections International.
The group will also lead workshops, classroom presentations and a teach-in during the week. A public convocation October 31 at 11 a.m. in Douwstra Auditorium will be based on what the group learns during its visit and all in attendance are encouraged to be involved.
Intersections International works in communities of conflict by promoting peace through dialogue and uses direct service programs, advocacy, educational and informational outreach. It is a global initiative of the Collegiate Church of New York in New York City.
Chris Chartier, director of the Jasper County Office of Veterans Affairs, will participate in the veteran-civilian dialogue.
“What this forum provides is an open opportunity not for therapy, and not for politics, but an environment for people who are interested to sit down with veterans and address some of the questions or concerns they may have,” Chartier said. “By opening a dialogue where neither party is the focus, everyone’s attention can be focused on understanding differences, and hopefully creating a better community for all of our returning veterans.”
Cheri Doane, Central’s director of community-based learning, is excited by the opportunity to host the dialogue.
“Central College is pleased to be involved with dialogue that contributes to civic understanding and engagement,” she said. “Intersections International has a great deal of experience in facilitating meaningful conversations among veterans and civilians, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with them.”
“This residency provides a fabulous opportunity for the Central community to engage with a team of professionals with a wide array of talents who are experienced in peace building and conflict resolution efforts across the globe,” said Lyn Isaacson, associate dean for global education. “This emphasis aligns well with themes in our first-year Intersections seminar and also with the college’s long-standing commitment to fostering global competencies in our faculty, staff and students.”
Visiting staff members—Chase, is the Intersections International executive director and works globally in the field of cross-cultural dialogue. He has been involved in global peacemaking initiatives and multi-faith dialogues across the world, most recently in Pakistan and Kazakhstan. He is a producer and director of award-winning social justice documentaries, published author and playwright. Chase is also a nationally recognized speaker and has been featured by CNN, The New York Times and Associated Press.
Fred Johnson, the director of strategic initiatives, brings people together from diversified spiritual and cultural backgrounds to create artistic forums for learning, sharing, reconciliation, vision and hope. As the fellow for Intersections’ arts initiatives, Johnson organizes multicultural music and creative arts programs, and enhances other Intersections programs with specific arts initiatives.
Maggie Monroe Richter, the director of advancement, leads the work of advancing the organization’s programs, partnerships and publicity. Prior to Intersections, she spearheaded development at Jewish, Christian, Muslim and multi-faith organizations including Storahtelling, Cordoba Initiative, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Union Theological Seminary.
Vieve Radha Kramer, the director of insight initiatives and TE’A (Theatre of Engagement and Action), founded Radha Productions with the mission of engaging interactive theatre and the performing arts in the service of peace building and conflict transformation. Her artistic work is informed by her background in public policy and conflict analysis and resolution, including her work with Search for Common Ground in Washington D.C.
Chuk Obasi, project manager of TE’A, is an actor, writer and co-producer for TE’A projects. Obasi supports the vision of a new kind of theatre for social change and the belief that art is a universal healing tool.
Rebecca Summers, manager of veteran-civilian dialogue, is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and several combat deployments, serving onboard both amphibious and aircraft carrier platforms as well as within the strike fighter community. Her goal is to construct inclusive communities across America through dialogue and the collaboration between veteran organizations, colleges/universities and community leadership.
This residency is supported in part by a grant from the United States Institute of Peace.