Duane Ruth-Heffelbower returns to FPU, continues to make peace

Duane Ruth-Heffelbower may have been on leave from the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University—but he was still making peace.

Ruth-Heffelbower returns to campus after more than two years on leave in Indonesia. From August of 1999 to December of 2001 he helped set up and operate a peace center at Duta Wacana Christian University and volunteered with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), an international relief and development organization. His wife, Clare Ann, served as MCC Indonesia country director.

Among Ruth-Heffelbower’s new duties will be to teach mediation and the law, develop a business plan for CPACS, work on the graduate school and center website and pursue a mediation and intervention practice. He first joined the faculty and the center in 1996.

During his time in Indonesia, Ruth-Heffelbower was more than a teacher of peace, he was an active peacemaker. One mission took he and a team from Duta Wacana to assist Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa (GITJ) a synod of the Javanese Evangelical Church, which split 10 years before. The synod is the oldest and largest Mennonite group in Java, with about 50,000 people in more than 100 congregations.

Personality conflicts and personal offenses were the main problems. “There was enough hurt and blame for everyone,” Ruth-Heffelbower said. “They knew they needed to get back together, but they just couldn’t do it.”

The traditional method of solving conflict in Java, the island off southeast Asia which contains about two-thirds of the Indonesian population as well as the capital city of Jakarta, is to seek the advice of a wise person of status. In this case, however, the people of status were the ones fomenting the conflict. “They just didn’t have that wise person,” Ruth-Heffelbower said.

In meeting with leaders from all sides, Ruth-Heffelbower and his team focused on what people needed, not what they wanted. “As they thought through those things, the number of things they needed got really small,” he said. The peacemakers helped those in the conflict come up with a process to meet needs, then brought all parties together in a conference.

“They were able to elect a single board and keep it,” Ruth-Heffelbower said. “We created an opening for the Holy Spirit to work.”