Several Summer Institute for Reconciliation alumni hosted a town hall summit on racial reconciliation in Durham, N.C on Nov. 9, 2019. The event featured former 2019 institute speaker Dr. Célestin Musekura, founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM, Inc), an organization that works for tribal reconciliation and restorative justice in east and central Africa as a keynote speaker. Dr. Edgardo Colon-Emeric, the Irene and William McCutchen Associate Professor of Reconciliation and Theology and the director of the Center for Reconciliation, served on the summit’s panel of community leaders following the keynote.
The all-day summit was held at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church with approximately 115 people attending. Among the attendees, 17 local churches and six community organizations were represented, including CFR community partners DurhamCares and Organizing Against Racism (OAR).
The idea for the town hall summit originally came from a group of leaders at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church—Rev. Linda Vanhook; Dr. Deborah Boston; and Rev. Martha Monnett, M.Div. ’18—who had numerous conversations about how Christian reconciliation could address the current political divisions in Durham.
Monnett initially met Musekura at the 2017 Great Lakes Initiative leadership institute, an initiative the CFR co-founded, as part of Dr. Ellen Davis’s class on African Biblical Studies. Vanhook and Boston also met Musekura while attending the 2019 Summer Institute for Reconciliation, where Musekura served as a plenary speaker. Although VanHook and Boston had attended the institute in previous years, they heard something new in 2019—a call to action.
Vanhook said, “The clear call we heard was to assume leadership and engage both the church and community in racial reconciliation.” With the support of their congregation, they began planning the summit and invited Musekura to speak.
Musekura’s address at the summit reflected on tribal conflicts that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Musekura urged participants to nurture the gift of Christian forgiveness to sustain relationships, even in the midst of unjust suffering.
Following the keynote address, a panel of pastors and community leaders gave their perspectives on racial tensions in Durham, including Colón-Emeric; Camryn Smith, founding member of Communities In Partnership and co-chair of Organizing Against Racism-Durham; DeDreanna Freeman, co-founder of Episcopalians United Against Racism and Durham City Council member; Rev. Ricky Harris, Summit Church campus pastor of North Church Durham; and Rev. Breana van Velzen, M.Div. '17, Community Minister at Duke Chapel.
Vanhook said the organizers of the summit plan to hold more events to continue the conversation around racial reconciliation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about these events.
The next Summer Institute for Reconciliation takes place on May 18-22, 2020 at Duke Divinity School. Registration opens online at the end of February. Please contact Valerie Helbert for more information.