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Boot camp for peace builders


In the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2011 seminar, “Boot Camp for Peace Builders”, Matthew Bailey-Dick used exercise instruction as a way of demonstrating to teens the obedient acceptance society has of violent responses to violence.

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July 15, 2011
-Emily Loewen, Canadian Mennonite Young Voices Editor

Waterloo, ONT. — Stand up, raise your arms above your head, bring them down a little, now just hold that position, keep holding, keep holding — how are your muscles feeling now? Instructions you might expect to hear at a boot camp, but these exercises were designed to strengthen the peace builder’s mind, not muscles.

In the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2011 seminar, “Boot Camp for Peace Builders,” facilitator Matthew Bailey-Dick, from Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, encouraged youth to think about how today’s violent society has influenced them, and then to break that pattern and find non-violent solutions.

Throughout the presentation Bailey-Dick had the teens stand and follow his instructions without giving them a reason. He later explained that in society people tend to accept the belief that more violence is the proper response to violence, without asking questions – just like they obediently followed his commands. An important part of boot camp for peace builders, he told them, is training to be uncooperative in a non-violent way.

That series of activities and the message of disobedience was a highlight for Simon Friesen, who chose the seminar wanting to learn more about peace building strategies for his own life. Youth also got to witness a few techniques for physically responding to violent behaviour, though there wasn’t time for the group to test them out. But Bailey-Dick suggested youth find a way to learn those skills on their own because just like the best way to describe a drum is to play one, the best way to describe peace building is to live it.