Listening to the Most Vulnerable
By Charlotte Schreyer ‘15, LM Marketing Intern
Anna Groff ‘02 first engaged with peacebuilding in her education at LM, where she confronted challenging topics such as anti-racism, living out pacifist values, and learning that listening to the most vulnerable is necessary to bringing about peace, however uncomfortable it might be to listen.
Now, she serves as the Executive Director of Dove’s Nest, a Mennonite organization that helps equip churches and faith communities with the tools to address and prevent child neglect and sexual abuse. “A major part of peacebuilding is working to end sexual violence and abuse,” Anna says. “Often Christian Mennonites want to focus on violence happening outside of our communities, but the first step is admitting that abuse happens within our communities as well.”
Anna always found LM to be a safe and welcoming place, and is glad that the school is working to implement the practices Dove’s Nest developed, especially the Circle of Grace consent and safe environment curriculum. The curriculum gives students the tools to interact with others in the ways they consider safe within their boundaries. For instance, in an intergenerational worship service, they recommend offering options in greeting their neighbors, ranging from hugs, sidehugs, handshakes, high fives, and even peacefully sitting out. “Working for peace and justice can be surprisingly complex,” Anna says to future peacemakers. “Speaking truth to power sometimes means making other people feel uncomfortable. But I would encourage young people to lean into that.”