Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ginny Telego pays Tribute to John Stratton


By Ginny Telego

Today my heart is heavy with the loss of my dear friend, Dr. John Stratton.

I first got to know John in 2013, as I was transitioning in my career and applied for a part-time position as the Assistant Director for the Ashland Center for Nonviolence at Ashland University. I knew who John was from a previous time of employment at Ashland University, but I had not worked with him directly. When I had my initial “interview” for ACN with John in his office, we immediately hit it off. I loved his brash exterior that vaguely covered his true heart and giving nature. After being hired, I had the privilege to spend a great deal of time with John and his wife, Dorothy, sharing our views on nonviolence and world events as well as the ongoing challenges at AU during that time. John brought me into ACN’s circle where I quickly found a place that I could be myself, openly expressing my “inclusive” views as well as learning more about the impact that nonviolence could have in resolving conflict – whether among families, neighbors or countries.

John was passionate about peace. He believed that it was indeed possible to resolve conflict without the use of deadly force and he wasn’t afraid to voice those beliefs to anyone who would listen, as well as to those who might not want to listen. John loved teaching and empowering others and he taught many people how to work to create change in achieving peace. He was a leader in educating both students and the broader community about the power of nonviolence as a method for conflict resolution.

I will especially miss our conversations about current events and sharing with him the work I am doing with my equine assisted learning program. Even after I left ACN to focus on my business, John continued to encourage me and pushed me to open my mind to opportunities that would allow me to guide people in gaining more self-awareness – with the hope that such self-awareness might lead to new insights on how they could become more accepting of others and resolve conflict through nonviolent means.

Most of all, for me personally, John encouraged me to pursue my own beliefs about connection and to not be afraid to question the belief among others that violence is the answer to conflict. He taught me to not be afraid to ask questions of others who believed that working towards peace was a waste of time. He taught me to believe in myself and that I could make a difference in the world. For that I will be eternally grateful.

As I bid John farewell from this world, these words from Gandhi will always make me think of him: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Thank you, John Stratton, for setting the example of this and for encouraging others to speak out to create change. Many thanks to you my dear friend – for accepting me for who I am and for teaching me to not accept the status quo in the world.


Ginny Telego served as Assistant Director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence from 2013 to 2015.


Monday, August 29, 2016

What John Stratton taught me about Peace



By Craig Hovey

John Stratton passed away at home on Sunday. I knew John to be a deeply generous soul with an enormous heart mostly in his work as a local leader in the cause of nonviolence. I’m honored to have succeeded him in leading an organization he founded, the Ashland Center for Nonviolence. While there will no doubt be a lot of tributes to John in the coming days, I wanted to reflect on what I learned from him about peace.

John didn’t just wish for peace. He was committed to making it happen locally and was flat-out mad at the fact that American society seems to resort to violence so quickly. At the same time, John didn’t think of himself as a pacifist, but as a skeptic. He was especially skeptical of either/or thinking that ruled out creative approaches to resolving conflict without violence. He could also be skeptical of religious people if he sensed rigidity. It occurs to me that my own brand of Christian pacifism might have struck him as somewhat rigid too. John was adept at looking for different, untried ways, which I observed in him on many occasions, but presumably on none so critical and sustained as his recent illness. (I hesitate to “use” John’s illness as an “illustration” for what are probably obvious reasons. Yet if dying well is really about living well, we should take notice of how others and ourselves do both.)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What the Khan Exchange Reveals about America

By Craig Hovey

The recent exchange between the Democratic National Convention speakers, the Khans, and Donald Trump reveals a lot, not least about Trump’s insensitivity and lack of tact and political judgment.
Source: Slate.com
But I’m also interested in what it reveals about what really counts when it comes to demonstrating belonging, even unity, in America. The Khans, Muslim immigrants to the US, spoke at the DNC about their son’s sacrifice for his country in the US military—Humayun Khan was a US Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004. Trump’s very simplistic (not to mention dangerous and frankly un-American) suspicion of Muslims and immigrants is shown so strikingly by an equally simple demonstration of a single counter-example. It simply falls apart. Trump, who is notoriously anti-immigrant and anti-Islam, publicly mocked the family, drawing harsh criticisms from many veterans, including John McCain. We see in the DNC’s choice of the Khan family the strongest kind of example available for displaying the full inclusivity of American society: that fact that Muslims too will fight and die for America.

I believe that the Khans deserve deep admiration and respect. But I also wish that the lengths we apparently need to go to in America to communicate the full inclusion of Muslims and / or immigrants didn’t have to involve the death (sacrifice) of members of those groups.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Responding to Orlando

By Craig Hovey

We at the Ashland Center for Nonviolence join with so many others throughout the world in mourning the shooting in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in US history. There is just too much to mourn at once: the 49 lives lost, the 53 additional wounded, the terror felt especially by LGBT people, the inevitable backlash against Muslims in the US, the increasingly shrill tone of the debate about assault rifles, and the opportunistic political responses that jump on one or the other of these facets.

What is the meaning of nonviolence at times like this? I remain convinced that nonviolence is never just about ending violence; it is also a spirit that seeks justice through peaceful means. There are competing ideas about justice in our world, of course. After all, it appears that the gunman in Orlando was motivated by a version of “justice” understood as punishment and moral condemnation. But this separates justice and peace; we must hold them together. “There is no way to peace,” said A.J. Muste. “Peace is the way.”

I am aware that quoting Muste’s famous words risks sounding like a platitude, especially at a time like this.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Obama Won't Apologize for Hiroshima

By Craig Hovey

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is historic—he is the first sitting president to visit there—and he spoke movingly and philosophically about the desire for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to mark the “start of our own moral awakening.” But observers also noted that Japan should not expect an apology for America’s actions 71 years ago. Why not?

Hiroshima Peace Memorial - Wikipedia


According to Stanley Hauerwas, war is a sacrificial system which, like anthropologists have long noted about religion, sacralizes violence through ritual. Even when surrounded by the most rigorously secular discourse, war often takes on a quasi-religious significance for a society, especially in how it is remembered. It is very difficult for a society to admit that an entire war was wrong (Vietnam) or that particular acts within a war otherwise thought justified might be wrong (Hiroshima) because admitting this calls into question all of the sacrifices that that society asked of its people when it waged those wars in the first place.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ACN receives Outstanding Award for MLK Day 2015

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence was recently honored at the Ashland University Service and Leadership Awards ceremony for our 2015 Martin Luther King Day event featuring civil rights legend C. T. Vivian.



For Martin Luther King Day 2015, the Ashland Center for Nonviolence bridged the AU campus and the wider community through an event featuring the civil rights legend, C.T. Vivian. At 91 years old, Dr. Vivian addressed a crowd of 650 attendees in Upper Convo, discussing his personal friendship with Martin Luther King, as well as his impressive involvement in pioneering activities for desegregation and civil rights such as the famous 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Faith & Ferguson: Coming soon to Ashland


The Ashland Center for Nonviolence is joining with the Ashland University's Religion Department to host musician and activist Michelle Higgins on April 20-21. She will have a full schedule preaching, teaching and conducting workshops with Ashland students. A number of the events are free and open to the public:


Wednesday, April 20

12:00-1:30
Workshop: Nonviolent de-escalation in the midst of crisis,  Eagle’s Landing, Hawkins-Conard Student Center
7:00-8:30
“Last” Lecture: Your Faith for Justice, Ridenour Room, College of Business
Thursday, April 21

10:50-12:05
Conversation: The New Civil Rights Movement After Ferguson, Ronk Lecture Theater, College of Education
8:00-9:30
Sermon: Praying with your Feet, The Well, Miller Chapel


"It is exciting for us to have Michelle Higgins coming to campus," said Peter Slade, chair of the Religion Department. "Here at Ashland University we are always trying to make connections between our faith and the communities we live in and serve. Michelle will bring her wealth of experience and wisdom and help us understand the responsibilities and opportunities we have as Christians to engage with these issues of justice and race." Michelle will be speaking in Dr. Slade's class Religion and the Civil Rights Movement. "It is important for us to realize that the movement didn't stop with the passage of the Civil Rights Act or the assassination of Dr. King," Slade said. "This is a living history that calls people of faith to action today."

The Director of Worship and Outreach at South City Church  in the Shaw neighborhood of south St. Louis, Michelle is actively engaged in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She has participated in civil disobedience, leadership development, logistics and administrative support in both sacred and secular spaces.

Michelle is the Director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group founded in 2014 dedicated to continuing the biblical story of activism. Faith for Justice promotes and leads public justice actions and events that connect faith communities to the movements that seek to dignify and humanize Black lives.

Though working primarily as a local organizer, Michelle’s work is challenging the wider church. She rose to national prominence with her plenary speech at Urbana 2015, the annual InterVarsity Student Missions Conference. The New York Times commented “in her wide-ranging comments about social justice, Ms. Higgins did little to make her speech more palatable.” The Washington Post concurred,Michelle Higgins has been making waves.” The Evangelical publication Christianity Today described her historic speech as "powerful and prophetic testimony.”

Michelle holds an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis and lives in North City with her husband Sean Loftin, and their two children - Moses and Matilda

InterVarsity made this short video introduction to Michelle and her work:

The Possibility of Peace

By Emily Wirtz

I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting with Miki, who was a guest in my American Literature IV class with Dr. Jayne Waterman, for what I thought would be a brief, perhaps 30-minute discussion over dinner. What happened was a two-hour discussion (getting us scolded out of Convo) about our own experiences of culture. We talked about television and the perception of anime and movies, politics and the voting process—in the light of the upcoming election—the perceptions of violence and control, history, and the perception of foreigners, among a plethora of other topics.

It’s incredible, and I think very important, to be able to see and understand how vastly different we all are. Miki also works as an intern for International Student Services on campus, and it was equally intriguing to get her own insights. She expressed that while she is aware of her own uniqueness as an international student, there is also an incredible amount of diversity our national resident students may not even realize. As a full-time international student (as opposed to partaking in a semester- or year-long exchange program), Miki is able to develop lasting relationships with the students she helps, even with a clear language and cultural barrier.