Solvitur ambulando

When asked about the principle that guides the groundbreaking ecumenical peacebuilding that defines her career, Reverend Karen Sethruaman replied without hesitation: “solvitur ambulando.” As I recalled from my afternoons tediously translating Caesar in high school, and as Rev. Karen confirmed, the phrase means “it is solved while we walk.” In peacebuilding and intercommunity reconciliation work, one does not singlehandedly devise a solution and subsequently implement it. Rather, relationships are repaired and institutions rebuilt when people work together, engage across demographic and political lines, and figure it out as they go along. Rev. Karen emphasized the essentiality of the communal aspect of the aphorism: “it is solved while we walk.” In order to tackle conflict and division, one must walk alongside others, particularly others with whom one disagrees, and commit to giving oneself the time and latitude to truly connect and reconcile, to work through the social divisions between the oppressor and the oppressed, and to recognize each other’s humanity. “Theology,” and demographic and political differences, “come after the human,” she insisted. Walking alongside one another, both literally and metaphorically, allows us to transcend theological disagreements and demographic distinctions and recognize the humanity of the other, and thereby enables us to develop authentic connections and effectively collaborate—on peacebuilding work and on everyday challenges.

Walks have defined my first semester at Queen’s. Belfast is such a walkable city that an able-bodied person like myself can easily forsake the bus system in favor of peaceful rambles down University Road. I recently realized that I hiked every single weekend of fall semester, except for the one I spent in the Netherlands with a few of my fellow Scholars. From cliff hikes with friends Autumn and Natalie on the Isle of Man, to leisurely strolls along Lough Erne with Rohan, to ambulatory discussions on police oversight with the former Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, walking has provided me with opportunities to develop profound connections with others, learn from their experiences, and reflect on my own beliefs and convictions. Conversations I have engaged in while walking have challenged my ideological purity on the ethical necessity of open borders, taught me about inequities that plague the Dallas public school system, and undermined my approach to my intended dissertation project. They, more often than not, left me with more questions than I started the walk with. I also got lost regularly, both in Belfast side streets and expansive fields far off my planned hiking paths. Yet, however meandering the path or circuitous the discussion, taking the time and space to engage with others, listen deeply, and reflect on my own values and beliefs has been indescribably integral to the development of both my character and my academic capacity. I cannot wait to discover what walks await me next semester.

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