LOUISVILLE - "International Voices on Iraq" - a series of electronic conversations between Presbyterians and Presbyterian Church (USA) partners around the world - have proven so popular that the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program (PPP) and PresbyNet, the denomination's computer communication network, have announced they will continue indefinitely on a monthly basis.
The next "live chat" will be this Thursday, May 8, at Noon (EDT).
"For me, the chats have something to do with mind expansion," said Mary Pace of the PC(USA)'s Office of Communication in Louisville, who has participated in the first two chats. "Here is a group of people who are shattering stereotypes and learning lessons from these conversations that they're taking back into their daily lives."
The chats bring together a wide spectrum of participants - from a Muslim newspaper editor in Egypt who is struggling with his own perceptions of Americans as Christians to a farmer in Kansas who doesn't trust American media coverage and wants to "get the whole picture."
Each chat, moderated by Barry Creech, coordiator for information and planning in the Office of Communication, features PC(USA) partners overseas who bring their own unique perspectives and then engage in dialogue with conversation participants from all over the U.S.
The first chat, on March 13, included Ms. Kyocha Kang, a Presbyterian who recently retired as general secretary of the South Korean YWCA and who is a much sought-after international speaker; the Rev. Pablo Jose Noguera Guevaca, a school chaplain and church leader in Bogota, Colombia; Hadil Ghoneim, a Muslim newspaper editor in Egypt, who was part of last fall's Interfaith Listening Project; the Rev. Philip Woods, secretary for international relations for the United Reformed Church in England; Ismat Mehdi, a Muslim teacher from India, who also participated in the Interfaith Listening Project; and the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem who is currently missionary-in-residence at the Presbyterian Center here.
The second chat, on April 10, included Woods and Ghoneim; Claudio Carvhalaes, a PPP-sponsored "international peacemaker" from Brazil who is studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York; Bernard Adeney-Risakotta, a PC(USA) missionary who serves as professor of social ethics and philosophy at three universities in Indonesia (which has the largest Muslim population in the world); the Rev. Hunter Farrell, PC(USA) missionary in Peru; and Christopher Doyle, who facilitates the Presbyterian Hunger Program's "Joining Hands Against Hunger" program in Egypt and Jordan.
This Thursday's chat will focus on the issues of "full spectrum dominance" and "preventive war," two capstones of current U.S. foreign policy.
By Albert H. Lee