December 21, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Exchange Students: Demoscrat and Chronicle: Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: December 21, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Exchange Students: Demoscrat and Chronicle: Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.43.253) on Friday, December 24, 2004 - 4:39 pm: Edit Post

Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her  she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus  and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

Harmony comes alive in the hearts of local residents

Caption: Exchange student Duang Tongdee, 17, second from right, talks with her host family, Donna Suchy, left, and Jolene Suchy-Dicey, middle, and members of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Dec. 12 following Sunday services. SHAWN DOWD staff photographer

Marketta Gregory
Staff writer

(December 21, 2004) Several years ago, when Donna Suchy was serving in Ghana with the Peace Corps, a man came up to her she was the only U.S. citizen on the bus and asked why she was supporting apartheid.

Suchy was confused. She had recently protested against apartheid.

"Why are you doing this to us?" the man asked, and then explained that because the United States is a democratic society, each citizen is responsible for the government's actions and policies.

The message sank in, and Suchy has never forgotten the concept of personal responsibility. Responsible for casting her vote. Responsible for building bridges between cultures. Responsible, in her own way, for peace.

At a time when the United States is at war and peace seems so out of reach for society, Suchy and others in the Rochester area are taking the work of peace into their own hands by hosting foreign exchange students, inviting people of other faiths into their homes for tea and friendship, adopting children from other cultures and writing about peace and justice.

They have taken the "peace" scribbled on Christmas cards and sung in carols and made it a part of their everyday lives.

It's a daunting task, said Bishop Matthew Clark, leader of the Rochester Roman Catholic Diocese. "We can only do what we can do, but we need to do what we can do."

According to the Bible, Jesus used one boy's five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude.

"We need to offer our gifts in peace to one another that the Lord might fashion them into something that's greater than the sum of the parts," he said, adding that even though people living in Jesus' time couldn't imagine today's weapons and vast world stage, Jesus' words still stand: Blessed are the peacemakers.

"Over the long haul I do honestly believe that any gesture done to promote justice and peace will indeed bear fruit," Clark said.

One of the best ways to contribute to world peace is to live peacefully yourself and to live at peace with your neighbors, said Ayanna Hofmann, an Episcopalian who meets about once a month with Muslim and Jewish women.

Suchy lives at peace with another culture in her own house. She and her Rochester family are hosting Duang Tongdee, 17, an exchange student from Thailand.

Duang, who is Buddhist, sometimes attends church with Suchy and her family, who are Episcopalian. She cooks Thai food for them and has already learned to mimic the English accent of Suchy's husband, Tim Dicey.

"She's getting more sarcastic, too," said daughter Jolene Suchy-Dicey. "When she first got here she was so gullible."

Now, little gets past Duang, who four months ago knew about American teens only by watching HBO. She loves attending School of the Arts and has taken more than 300 pictures during her short stay, but some things film can't capture.

"It's opened up my eyes," said Duang, who always thought she would attend college in her hometown, where there's little focus on the arts. "We can do something more."

Suchy went to Belgium in the 1970s as an exchange student and has stayed in contact with friends she met there. Her daughters have traveled and stayed with those friends.

"If people know each other as individuals, then their view of the world is different," Suchy said. "When there are bonds between people ... that never gets broken."

Cultural exchanges

Exchange students often become like family, but for David Huth, people of other cultures are his family. His parents had two biological children Huth and a sister and then started adopting children from Asia. When the Vietnamese boat people hit U.S. shores in the 1970s, it broke his mother's heart for the plight of children all over the world. Plus, as Christians, his parents took seriously the biblical command to take care of the widows and orphans.

So, when Huth was about 10, they adopted two 5-year-olds. Then they adopted a group of three siblings.

"This is the best thing my parents could have done for us in terms of peace," he said, adding that most of his siblings are in interracial marriages and considering adoption. "There's something about redefining who is the 'other' in childhood that I think really helps people."

Now Huth, 35, of Houghton, Allegany County, talks to his friends about adopting. He uses any argument he can the world's limited resources, the call for Christians to take care of orphans, anything.

Usually people tell him that nothing compares to the miracle of birthing a child. But for Huth, nothing compares to the miracle of his family loving each other so much that they forget they aren't "flesh and blood."

"There's a tearing down of boundaries in my family that I'm proud of," he said.

Vanquishing fears

The Rev. Paul Evans has started seeing a blurring of racial boundaries in the celebration of Kwanzaa, which began as an African-American cultural celebration.

He and others visit universities and churches even those that are predominantly white to teach about the seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. When Kwanzaa is celebrated at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, there are always mixed "and very enthusiastic crowds."

"Everything that's there promotes peace," said Evans, one of the ministers at First Genesis Baptist Church in Rochester.

"As we reveal ourselves to each other, we then find that there is less to be afraid of. ... When fears disappear, that promotes peace."

Strengthening ties

Hofmann and the other 10 or so women who gather at each other's homes are working on getting to know one another, a meeting at a time. They usually have a theme or topic that they discuss, but sometimes it's the personal, spontaneous sharing of a daughter's wedding album, that helps strengthen the ties. Hofmann remembers the album of a Muslim woman, the pictures of the family party and the women's party where the bride's hands were decorated with henna.

"It's not like going to a class," said Hofmann, who also serves on the Commission on Christian Muslim Relations.

She hasn't hosted the event at her home yet, although she'd like to, but she knows one woman who likes to volunteer.

"She likes having it in her house so her children are exposed to the opportunity to witness people of different religious backgrounds getting together," Hofmann said.

Writing of peace

While the informal group Hofmann meets with gathers about once a month, Ruth Putnam and others work to put writings on peace and justice into bulletins at Roman Catholic parishes every week.

About nine people work with Putnam, who is Works of Love coordinator for Catholic Charities, to write 100- to 150-word reflections on the topic, striving to keep them timely.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks the diocesan public policy committee looked for some kind of response to the tragedy and "felt strongly that we needed an ongoing response," Putnam said.

Some writings include a request for the reader to take action. Some offer reflection suggestions. And some weave stories, like this one from the group:

A story circulated in the days following the 9-11 terrorist attacks about a Native American boy who asked his grandfather, "How are you doing after what happened on September 11?"

Grandfather responded, "My son, I feel as though I have two wolves within me. The first is the wolf of anger, vengeance, and hatred. It sees the suffering of innocent people, is saddened by the tremendous loss of life and wants to respond to the perpetrators in -kind. The other one is the wolf of reconciliation. It, too, understands the horror of what has happened. It sees the children who have lost parents, the friends who lost loved ones, the fear and anxiety it created in peoples' lives."

"Which wolf will prevail?" asked the grandson. Grandfather replied: "The one that I feed, my son."

"The idea is to get people thinking and talking about these things," Putnam said, adding that the reflections have made an impact on her life. "I think our lives are always changed when we have to focus on what we believe and how it impacts the life we're living."

MGREGORY@DemocratandChronicle.com





When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Demoscrat and Chronicle

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Exchange Students

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