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LCC International University > News and Events archive > Grassroots Peace Practitioner Connects with Students

Grassroots Peace Practitioner Connects with Students


“It was an atmosphere that encouraged us to engage with the guest speaker and made it comfortable to engage in deep discussion on difficult topics.” - Communication Student, Junior

John Stiefel graced LCC campus with his presence the last week of November to speak in classes and hold a discourse session with interested students and faculty on his international experience with INGOS and grassroots peacebuilding. The Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation had the opportunity to host his discourse session, “From INGOS to The Grassroots”, which ended up being a very engaging time with many students staying afterwards to continue asking questions to John and each other on the challenges of international peacebuilding.

John's dialogue session was held in Neumann dormitory lobby for 15 attendees from multiple majors and years. There were Professors who were interested in John's work who came as well, some of whom had invited John to speak in their classes. One of these classes was Professor Lowell Ewert’s Conflict Transformation and Civic Engagement course where he answered questions about whether theory really works in practice, and engaged in looking critically at imperialistic attitudes where aid to needy communities happens.

“John presented a wholistic view of peace, describing how water and sanitation are instrumental in creating a world in which people can live with dignity.”

“John presented a wholistic view of peace, describing how water and sanitation are instrumental in creating a world in which people can live with dignity. His presentations on peace as broadly defined, were delivered through the lens of his own experiences working in development in Africa, Middle East, and back home in San Francisco. He also emphasized how civil society builds a network of connections between individuals, and different people groups, and reflected on why the primary reason for poverty is the lack of relationships that work for the poor. His comments tied multiple aspects of peace and development theory together, and painted a compelling picture why civil society matters.” - Professor Lowell Ewert

In Conflict Transformation and Trauma Healing with Professor Naomi Enns, he looked at beliefs around homelessness, based on the phrase, “displacement is trauma and trauma is displacement”. He explored the power of narrative and power dynamics while suggesting how internally displaced persons are often victims of  dehumanization and ‘othering’ that occurs towards various unhoused persons. In his own words “Narratives have enormous power to influence the perceptions of a people group or an issue, and therefore a communities response to the homeless”.

John is a very engaging speaker and drew everyone into the topics he discussed. In his open dialogue on the journey of community peacebuilding he began with  giving a brief summary of his work and the history of how he came to be doing what he does now with grassroots peacebuilding. His introduction only lasted about half an hour, and was followed by over an hour and a half of intense discussion. Dajana Rrahi a Senior IRD student,  who was very engaged in the discussion said something she learned from John is that, “Working in the grassroots community is more difficult but it is more fulfilling at the same time,” the topics discussed covered a wide range from recognizing your privileged and using it to help marginalized groups be heard, to  the more technical aspects of international work in countries that do not appreciate foreign intervention.

Most people in the circle were actively engaged, adding comments and asking questions to each other and John. When the event came to a close, the attendees and John shared tea and continued talking in depth about fieldwork long after the scheduled end time.

The Center for Dialogue and Conflict Transformation is very grateful that he was able to come and speak with students here at LCC. John gets to the heart of the matter and the realities that those who engage with peacebuilding and listen to the stories of those suffering from conflicts need to be prepared to do their own soul care. We had worked with John once before at the Rukla refugee camps on the Lithuania-Belarussian border during Summer 2022, and we hope to see him come back again soon to share more of his story and experiences with our community.

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