The arts, service projects, and “beating swords into plowshares” (almost literally) will come together on campus and in the wider community in special events Sept. 16-22.
The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), Bethel’s peacebuilding institute, is leading a group of sponsors for a series of events marking the nationwide Campaign Nonviolence National Week of Action.
Joining KIPCOR in planning and organizing are Peace Connections of Newton, Offender Victim Ministries (OVM) of Newton, the Newton Ministerial Alliance and Bethel’s Office of Student Life.
The planning committee chose as its theme “Widening the Lens of Nonviolence.” One way of doing that is exploring how poverty, homelessness and violence (or nonviolence) are connected.
The kickoff event was a screening of the documentary Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home, as the year’s first offering in KIPCOR’s annual Film Series.
“Shining a light on poverty is a way of violence prevention,” and helped lead to the “Widening the Lens” theme, said Sheryl Wilson, KIPCOR director.
The “full week” starts Sept. 16, when Peace Connections staff and volunteers will facilitate a poverty simulation beginning at 6:30 in Memorial Hall on the Bethel campus.
Bethel students who participate will receive convocation credit, but anyone interested is invited to take part in this experience.
Sept. 18 is Bethel’s annual Service Day, when daytime classes are cancelled and all students are required, and faculty and staff encouraged, to find a service project to join on campus or in the community.
This year, Mike Martin of Colorado Springs-based RAWtools will be at Bethel Sept. 18-19, as the centerpiece of activities that help connect service and nonviolence.
Martin is a trained blacksmith and a Mennonite, part of a “historic peace church.” He began RAWtools in 2013, three months after the massacre of young schoolchildren and teachers at Sandy Hook by a young man with an assault rifle.
Martin and other blacksmiths who are part of RAWtools use their skills to turn rifles into garden tools. The guns are donated, and the materials can produce from two to four tools.
The inspiration comes from the Hebrew Bible concept of “beating swords into plowshares.”
Starting at 2 p.m. on the Green in the middle of Bethel’s campus, Martin will have his anvil operating to dismantle a rifle. Anyone is invited to observe and ask questions, with several students taking part in the “gun-to-garden-tool” work.
The action will be live-streamed on Facebook to a screen in Memorial Hall, where there will also be a collaborative art project taking place.
There are always pieces of the guns that can’t be used to make tools – instead, they become part of sculptures to be donated to survivors of gun violence.
There will be another service opportunity during this time. OVM will have materials and suggestions available for writing letters to inmates at Hutchinson Correctional Facility, emergency and disaster first responders and trauma center workers.
Peter Goerzen, campus pastor, organizes Service Day and supervises the student chaplains, who have been helping to plan the art activity and student story-telling associated with Martin’s demonstration.
“The student chaplains are very excited to help plan this,” Goerzen said. “I’ve also talked to an art student who is very interested in helping in any way he can.”
Martin will be on the Bethel campus Sept. 19 as well, and available to visit classes and talk more about RAWtools and his experiences over the past six-and-a-half years.
Starting at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19, Martin will have his anvil going at First Church of God at 620 Fairview Ave. in Newton.
Peace Connections and the Newton Ministerial Alliance are sponsoring a community cookout, along with Martin’s demonstration and the film Inside Peace. The OVM letter-writing campaign will continue during this event as well.
The documentary follows four inmates doing hard time in a Texas prison who take a “Peace Class” that changes their view of themselves and the world, and then try to take that with them in the hard transition back to life outside.
There will be a special presentation to the Harvey County Master Gardeners of a tool created from a rifle, right before the screening of Inside Peace, at 6:30 p.m.
“All of this is to say: ‘We’re transforming something that was harmful or traumatic into something positive,’” said Dan Wassink, KIPCOR senior mediator.
The concluding event is Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center at Bethel.
Palwasha Kakar, a Bethel graduate, will talk about her work with Afghan women seeking to end violence and build peace in their country.
Kakar is a senior program officer for religion and inclusive societies at the U.S. Institute of Peace, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Bethel College, a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887, is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest-listed Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly’s “Top Bachelor’s Colleges” for 2019-20 and according to Zippia.com, is the highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu