Mennonite martial artist to speak at International Day of Peace events
Steve Thomas was a victim of bullying throughout his childhood and youth. Although filled with guilt from his pacifist Mennonite upbringing, Thomas was driven to fight back against his tormentors, all the while wishing for a better way.
As an adult, Thomas learned how to manage his fear and anger. Attaining a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, he trained in martial arts, aiming to stop violence when words didn’t work. Using his skills, Thomas created an organization called Peacemakers to empower people with skills to prevent violence and transform conflict. The organization teaches positive alternatives to violence, integrating conflict transformation skills and martial arts training rooted in an ethic of nonviolence and peace.
“We must help youth learn another way,” explained Thomas. “Fleeing or fighting is not the way. Cowering or retaliating is not the way. Being submissive allows violent abuse to continue. And being aggressive escalates the cycle of violence. Youth can learn how to be assertive, engaging others and transforming conflicts that escalate into violent aggression.”
Thomas’ Peacemakers organization teaches youth self-management of fear, anger, and aggression. Youth are taught how to stand when threatened, “Tongue Fu” verbal defense, and basic skills to stop violence. They learn courage, self-control, and problem solving skills while gaining self-esteem and building respect for one another - the basis of living in peace with others.
“I wish I had learned this earlier in my school years,” reflects Thomas. “I would have been less fearful and angry, and more free and confident. With others, I’m now trying to be a good steward of my bad experience to empower youth to prevent violence and transform conflict. There is another way. Let’s help youth find it and empower them to follow it in their life.”
Steve Thomas has served as a Mennonite pastor for the past 26 years and worked in a community ministry of peace education since 2000. He also taught as an adjunct professor in the Peace, Justice, Conflict Studies department at Goshen College for six years. Thomas has taught the emPower peace education program in public elementary schools for six years and has led many workshops in area churches and organizations. He is a graduate of Goshen College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
The International Day of Peace is a day designated by the UN to highlight efforts to end conflict and promote peace. As a Day of Ceasefire it provides an opportunity to make peace in our own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our day. To commemorate this day, University of Waterloo’s Peace and Conflict Studies program at Conrad Grebel University College is pleased to host Steve Thomas for a number of events.
Friday, September 21, 8pm
Making Peace with Personal Violence: The Use of Assertive Force in Active Nonviolence
Conrad Grebel Great Hall
Saturday, September 22, 10am-12pm
emPower Bullying Prevention Workshop: Training Youth to Transform Conflict and Violence
Conrad Grebel Great Hall
Please register in advance for this free workshop
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Rd. N, Waterloo ON