What is Shalom House?
Shalom House is an intentional community that I’m a part of in Philadelphia. It was founded by Circle of Hope (“Circle”) in 2007 to give people a chance to explore what peacemaking means. The idea is that the people who make up Shalom House will then also be catalysts for Circle as it grapples with what peacemaking looks like for a church and how it can be a part of God’s worldwide peace movement.
What brought you to Shalom House?
As a result of 9–11, I enrolled at a graduate school in Spain to study peacemaking with students from around the world. Whether it was the person from Egypt or Palestine or Ghana or India, they kept saying, “As a U.S. citizen, you sit at the top of the global hierarchy at this moment in history, and you carry a lot of weight with your identity. We feel the presence of your country where we live. So go home, be with your people, and figure out your part in the war-making and international injustice.”
It was a pretty strong message, and it was a pretty hard message to take at times. But it stuck with me. And it sent me back home to the U.S.
How has Shalom House been involved in peace initiatives so far?
Our work takes a lot of different forms—conversation, training, traveling, action, celebration. I would say that what we’ve done around gun violence is something that people at Circle have been the most impassioned, the most vibrant and active about. Circle really rose up and was very present, whether by being out on the streets, or participating in vigils, or being in the courtroom when some of the work ended up there. In fact, I was arrested for my involvement in the peaceful direct action we took at one gun shop, although I was acquitted of all charges later on.
What’s next for you?
What we’re setting out to do right now is to engage in a listening tour for the next six months. The question we’re going to ask is, “How are Philadelphia and southern New Jersey affected by war?” We know what our thoughts are on war more or less, we have an idea of how our area has been impacted, but we want to put those things aside and listen. From that, we are hoping to hear from people and from God what it is that Shalom House is to do. What can we tangibly do in an effort to end war? It’s an audacious statement, but that’s our desire.
How might people living outside of an urban context respond to the call to be peacemakers?
I feel like, many times, the violence of the urban areas is splashed across the news and it’s highlighted more, but conflict and violence are going to be in any community. It just looks different. It could be domestic violence, bullying in a school or in the workplace, families falling apart because of the economy, people losing their homes and not having enough food, or veterans facing PTSD when they return home.
As peacemakers, we need to go into our communities to find out how they’re suffering, where they’re broken, and where our churches can work with others and within themselves bring something better. Wherever we are, wherever our churches are, we need to go out into our communities and listen. We need to find out where the violence is and what the conflicts are, and in that process a lot will be revealed to us.