PEACEBUILDING AND SPIRITUALITY IN EL SALVADOR: EXPLORING APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY METHODOLOGY

Joanne attended a course with me, Peacebuilding and Spirituality in El Salvador.

I recently had the opportunity to study peacebuilding and spirituality with Chencho Alas, in El Salvador, as one of 13 students in a course offered by Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto, Canada. This was the third peacebuilding course I had taken as part of my theological studies. For me, this was an opportunity to experience Chencho’s peace work firsthand after researching his work and talking to him on Skype for a case study in the fall of 2012.[1]

Our Peacebuilding and Spirituality in El Salvador class

We covered a lot of material during our time with Chencho including his Theology of Peace, the Appreciative Inquiry methodology, Liberation Theology, Indigenous spirituality and the impact of colonization on the people of El Salvador. We met local people engaged in community development initiatives and toured San Salvador, including some of the important landmarks in the struggle leading up to and during the Salvadoran Civil War.

For my final assignment I chose to write a series of blog posts to explore Chencho’s use of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology in his peace work. One of the things that interests me about his approach to peacebuilding is how he maintains a focus on the positive throughout the process. AI methodology is a tool that helps to achieve this.

In my blog posts I will first provide an overview of Chencho’s approach to peacebuilding and how it has changed over time from confronting individuals with power to empowering marginalized people. In the second post I will explore how Chencho has adapted AI methodology, a tool designed to help organizations increase profits, into a tool to inspire individuals in his peace movement. In the third post I will share how I experienced Chencho’s use of the Appreciative Inquiry methodology both in a formal workshop setting and as it was woven throughout our time in El Salvador. In the last post I will share three benefits I see to using Appreciative Inquiry methodology in the peace movement.

Chencho is interested in sharing the learning experience that we had with others, for example church groups, universities, non-governmental organizations. Perhaps my reflections will inspire you to engage with Chencho in a similar experience.

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[1] Joanne Scofield, “Chencho Alas: Peacemaker and Peacebuilder in El Salvador,” (Case Study, Religious Peacebuilding, Victoria University, 2012).

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