Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network: Combating Religious Prejudice


The Peacemakers in Action

In the field of religiously-motivated peacebuilding, Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action are extraordinary, yet unknown peace activists who work in conflict and post-conflict regions across the world. Together, the Peacemakers who make up the Peacemakers in Action Network are motivated by their respective religious traditions and they maintain a grassroots, community-centered approach to activism. In a rapidly changing world marked by transnational networks of communication, commerce, diplomacy and terror, it is often the voices of brutalized local communities and innocent civilians that go unheard in conflict zones.

Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action give voice to those who suffer in conflict zones and bring humanity to situations that are often approached within each country from a top-down political/policy perspective rather than from a local and humanitarian one. The Peacemakers are essential to peacebuilding in an age when local history and knowledge are eroding and often times bypassed in top-down efforts to end conflict. The authority of local peacemakers and the innate knowledge they possess of their homeland and the historical and cultural roots of the conflict they confront are essential in the effort to bring about sustainable peace.

Currently, there are 26 living Peacemakers in Action who operate in 23 conflict and post-conflict zones. Tanenbaum facilitates this Network of religiously-motivated men and women by bringing the Network together for capacity building retreats, facilitating grassroots peacebuilding interventions, and coordinating regular Skype calls so that the Peacemakers can brainstorm together. The Network of Peacemakers offers diverse perspectives and opportunities for peaceful solutions in contemporary local and global conflicts.

Tanenbaum’s Women Peacemakers in Action

Women and children remain the most vulnerable populations in both conflict and post-conflict zones. Following from this, female peacemakers and community leaders working in conflict zones often go unrecognized. Tanenbaum continuously strives to highlight the work of female activists and has brought attention to women leaders operating in diverse locales including Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines among others. While the conflicts they face are unique, as female Peacemakers they are united in their shared purpose of peacebuilding and female empowerment. The burden and dangers posed upon them as females working within patriarchal cultural and institutional systems are also shared grievances that they courageously face.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, a Tanenbaum Peacemaker since 2002, is founder of the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL), which educates and professionally trains both young women and men in Afghanistan. Operating in dangerous Taliban controlled regions of Afghanistan, Dr. Yacoobi has tirelessly sought to transform Afghan civil society by operating from the premise that education enlightens, empowers and ultimately changes a society. Following her highly acclaimed TED talk in 2015, most recently, Dr. Yacoobi spoke before a SXSW audience as recognition for her work continues to expand globally.

In a vastly different part of the world, fellow Tanenbaum peacebuilder, Dishani Jayaweera, seeks to heal wounds following Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war, infamous for its civilian casualties and brutalities. Dishani, following a different model than Dr. Yacoobi, works towards national reconciliation by creating local groups where youth, females, the elderly, religious leaders and others who often go ignored by larger powers , are given a voice in the country’s future while also healing any wounds incurred during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil conflict.

For more information about the brave women from the Peacemakers in Action Network who are working to combat violent extremism, see Tanenbaum’s recent Resource Sheet on “Women Who Pursue Peace and Justice” and corresponding questions.

Please refer to the Tanenabum website for more information regarding the current work of our Peacemakers, including Sheikh Abdulrahman, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Ricardo Esquivia, and Dishani Jayaweera.

Finding Peace with Faith as an LGBTQ Person

Leaving home and living on your own for the first time can be challenging. This event can be even more complicated if you are someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or those who are just beginning to explore who they are in terms of their sexuality or gender identity. For some LGBTQ young people, being on their own might symbolize stepping into the freedom to finally explore and claim who they are. For others, it might mean leaving a place of safety and acceptance to enter new environment of unknown and unpredictable variables.

I want to just speak about one area where LGBTQ people, regardless of age, often find their lives conflicted and complicated…faith. Along with figuring out who you are as a person, college can be an opportunity to explore, adhere to, question, alter, or discard previous beliefs or find new ways of believing and being in the world. Just as in our relationships with our families, many LGBTQ people have been hurt by faith communities. Others have experienced an open and embracing community of faith. Additionally, many of our supportive straight allies don’t want to be part of a faith community that is alienating to us.

If you do desire to belong to a faith community or you wish to explore and learn more about a different faith tradition than you have previously known about or been a part of, that conjures up a whole other minefield of questions. Where should you go?   Where is safe? That brings us to the heart of what I truly want to provide you in this blog post. Below are a list of resources and congregations that you can use in finding a way of believing or worshipping that is right for you. I encourage you to use your time in college to truly allow yourself to explore who you are in all aspects, including spiritually!

Christian Resourceswww.gaychristian.net

United Methodist Resources: King Avenue United Methodist – www.kingave.org; Summit on 16th United Methodist – www.summitmuc.org; Broad Street United Methodist – www.broadstreetumc.net. The term for United Methodist Churches that are affirming of LGBTQ persons is “Reconciling”. You can find more churches inside and outside of Columbus at www.rmnetwork.org

Baptist Resources: University Baptist Church – www.ubccolumbus.org. You can find more “Welcoming and Affirming” Baptist Churches at www.awab.org

Episcopalian Resources: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church – www.ststephens-columbus.org. Find more Episcopal “Welcoming” congregations at www.integrityusa.org

United Church of Christ Resources: St. John’s United Church of Christ – www.stjohnschurchcolumbus.org. The term for LGBTQ safe United Church of Christ churches is “Open and Affirming.” Find more safe congregations at www.openandaffirming.org

Mormon Resources: www.affirmation.org

Muslim Resources: www.mpvusa.org

Jewish Resources: www.worldcongressglbtjews.net; Congregation Beth Tikvah – www.bethtikvahcolumbus.org; Temple Beth Shalom – www.tbsohio.org

Unitarian Universalist Resources: www.uua.org/directory/staff/multiculturalgrowth/lgbtq-ministries; First Unitarian Universalist Church – firstuucolumbus.org

Mennonite Resources: Columbus Mennonite – www.columbusmennonite.org


Source: Flickr/B Tal

Josh Culbertson is a student at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio where he is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He is a member of Broad Street United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus, and he is the chair of their Reconciling committee. He has also worked in the arena of inter-faith organizing with Equality Ohio to bring voices of faith to discussions around LGBTQ rights and protections. You can read more about his struggles of coming to terms with being both a gay man and a person of faith at www.authenticculbs.com



Students Sow the Seeds of Food Security at #OhioState

Every person in America is aware of the growing costs of college tuition. It’s a common topic of political, social, and economic discussions. What many people are likely unaware of is exactly how much those costs have grown over time. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition and fees have doubled in the last 30 years[1]. Those figures also do not take into the astronomical increase in textbook costs, up 1,041 percent since 1977 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics[2]. With those massive financial undertakings now being forced upon the shoulders of college students, is it any surprise then that some students are struggling to afford feeding themselves?

When a few roommates and I learned about the growing issue of food insecurity on college campuses we immediately had a couple of big questions: 1) Is this a problem at Ohio State? and 2) If so, is something being done about it?

The answers we found were that, yes, it is an issue at OSU – 15 percent of students self-report low food security –, and there was nothing currently being done about it.

Thus, we created Buckeye Food Alliance in April 2014. We intended to start a food pantry specifically for students in need. Ideally, this would be a more convenient and more beneficial way to help those individuals, rather than having them go to another local food pantry.

Over the next two years; we worked closely with university administrators and faculty to determine the best way to bring this to fruition, sought advice and information from established food banks and pantries in the region, gained non-profit status from the IRS, and became one of many on the growing list of members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance.

All of the time, effort, and hard work has more than been worth it in seeing this project, once just an idea that five college kids had, turn into something real. The BFA food pantry officially opened its doors Wednesday, March 30th. In that short time, it has been immensely rewarding to provide help to those students in need, and even more rewarding to see the immense amount of support that the Ohio State and Columbus communities have given to our organization. In the past two weeks alone, we have received more than $1,000 in monetary and non-perishable food donations.

We look forward to being able to serve students in need for many years to come.

For those in need of BFA’s services: The food pantry is located in Suite 150 of Lincoln Tower and is open 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as Sundays 5-8 p.m.

For those looking to support our organization or to learn more about it, instructions on how to donate and our contact information can be found on our website: www.buckeyefoodalliance.org.


(Photo courtesy of  northjersey.com)

About the author: Alec Admonius is the treasurer and a co-founder of Buckeye Food Alliance. He is a third-year student majoring in Economics and Strategic Communication in the College of Arts & Sciences at The Ohio State University.

[1] Adjusted for inflation. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

[2] Not adjusted for inflation. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/freshman-year/college-textbook-prices-have-risen-812-percent-1978-n399926

Public Health and Peace? No, really, they go together likes peas & carrots

National Public Health Week: April 4-10, 2016 | Healthiest Nation by 2030


What is public health? Why are we talking about it in relation to peace?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations.”[1]

Most public health practitioners and those in related disciplines such as medical anthropology, epidemiology, and health policy would tell you that physical health is directly related to something called the social determinants of health. Basically, that’s fancy talk for knowing that being poor is a health risk. So is being African American, or Hispanic if you live in the U.S.

Riiiiight, but how is that related to peace?

Well, social determinants of health traditionally include things like educational attainment, housing, transportation options, and neighborhood safety. But some argue that peace, or more often the absence of conflict, should be included in this list as well.

That brings us to 1986, when Canada hosted a World Health Organization (WHO) conference that produced the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, in which “peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity” were listed as the prerequisites for health. Peace is often overlooked when we discuss social determinants of health, perhaps because the focus tends to be on domestic policy change. But when one considers the absence of peace, be it through armed conflict or structural violence, the danger to the health of all in a society becomes clear.[2]

Okay, now let’s bring that all back to National Public Health Week in the U.S. (April 4-10, 2016) and a Peace Festival in Columbus, Ohio (June 6-14, 2016).

Here’s the main thing: a peaceful society exists when individuals have their basic needs met, and when social justice and equity is perceived. Coincidentally, this is also the basic requirement for a healthy society.

What happens when those criteria are not met?

To get a little meta on you, in Chinese medicine it is believed that when the qi of the liver is stagnant due to external stressors (e.g. poverty) people become physically ill, which oftentimes manifests as mood disorders and emotional management issues, particularly anger.[3]  There’s a connection between the external environment/society, physical wellbeing, and mental health.

This non-allopathic viewpoint is sometime dismissed as folkloric, relegating public health and traditional medicinal practices to the banal relics of miasmas.

Until, ooops, this little big-deal study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2015 found that growing up in poverty alters brain connectivity in two critical areas: the hippocampus — responsible for memory and learning — and the amygdala, which regulates emotions and stress. This leaves impoverished children at an increased risk of poor academic performance as well as mental disorders such as depression, even before they are teenagers.[4]

That sure sounds like a recipe for conflict.

So, you can see that public health is a form of preventive public service (like promoting equity and social justice), when you consider the non-health actors like housing and neighborhood safety, which absolutely impact health outcomes.

And maybe you can also see that peace studies are sort of like a form of preventive medicine that you partake in (akin to a vitamin) so that you don’t get sick (or start a war.)

Peace promotion and public health are challenging to implement, mainly because we can’t always neatly quantify the positive impact of prevention, but we do recognize when it fails (e.g. the Vietnam War and the recent Ebola Virus crisis.)

Access to quality education and affordable health care are aspects of public health, but they’re also foundational for a peaceful society.

Give health a chance – just like you give peace a chance.

If you’d like to get involved with National Public Health Week #nphw (April 4-10, 2016) activities sponsored by The Ohio State University have a look here for some options.


About the author: Ashley M. Bersani, MPH, CPH is a global health advocacy and policy consultant that focuses on vector-borne diseases and humanitarian issues related to women and children. She received three degrees from The Ohio State University, created an international NGO with partners in West Africa, and actively contributes to the arts community in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Bersani resides in Victorian Village with her partner, Jon-Pau d’Aversa, and two children.



[1] http://www.cdcfoundation.org/content/what-public-health

[2] http://www.thinkupstream.net/give_health_a_chance_peace_as_sdoh

[3] http://www.simonlaucentre.co.uk/blog/2010/07/27/qi-stagnation/

[4] http://aplus.com/a/poverty-changes-childrens-brains