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November 21, 2019, Detroit – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9).
Associate Carol Hofer has lived out this Beatitude in her volunteer ministry with Meta Peace Team, formerly Michigan Peace Team (MPT) – first in Israel in October 2004 and more recently the summer of 2019 in Detroit during a Gay Pride event.
“The MPT goes to many situations – such as to parades with the Ku Klux Klan – any time there might be violence,” Carol explained in a recent interview. “They go to areas where there’s potential violence and they try to be peacemakers.”
A Gay Pride celebration at Hart Plaza in Detroit this summer had that potential. “The purpose [of MPT] is to act as a buffer between those who might want to cause problems and those who are part of the event,” she explained.
Carol said she became involved in MPT through Father Peter Dougherty, the first coordinator of MPT. At the time, Carol was involved in Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organization, and heard about the work that he was doing with MPT. “I heard during the summer of 2004 that he was going on another peace mission,” Carol explained. “My mother had passed away in June and before that I was never free to take such a trip.”
Carol recalled being present in Palestine for three weeks in October 2004 during the olive harvest – and witnessing the hardship faced by Palestinians because of a wall erected on the West Bank separating areas of the Palestinian territory. “It could take people all day to get through the checkpoint,” she said. “There were all kinds of humiliations that the Palestinian people had to go through.”
Carol said the focus of the peace mission was not to be involved in politics but to “be with the people as witnesses to keep them from being victims of violence.” The peace team from MPT was one of many such teams that went to places of violence such as Palestine, simply to be a presence to keep people safe, she said.
Members of MPT peace teams are required to undergo training. Carol remembered vividly the overnight training program she attended before serving in Palestine. “In the middle of the night they came into the dorm and started banging pots to try to get us used to the fact that such a thing might happen if the soldiers came in with their guns,” she said.
The training prepares participants to remain calm in the face of violence. “You have to engage a person, perhaps walk them away from the other party when they’re having an argument and try to calm the situation down,” Carol said. “You can’t let yourself get angry or respond in a negative way. You have to stay very calm.”
MPT offers day-long Violence De-escalation Skills Training sessions for those who are interested in taking part in an international or domestic peace team. MPT has sent international peace teams to Israel, Bosnia, El Salvador, Mexico, Iraq, Haiti, and the U.S.-Mexico border.
The MPT, founded in Lansing, Michigan, in 1993, has received Ministry Trust grants from the Adrian Dominican Sisters. This year’s grant fortifies MPT hubs with training and team deployment education and equipment. Sister Ellen Burkhardt, OP, is on the MPT Board.