International Peacemaker the Rev. Arlington Trotman visited North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church Sept. 21 as part of the 2019 Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) International Peacemaking Program.
Trotman is one of 14 International Peacemakers who visited various points in the United States Sept. 13-Oct. 7. He gave talks at Presbyterian churches in Greensboro Sept. 20 and Sept. 23.
PCUSA is working to live out the “Matthew 25 Church Initiative,” to confront racism, address environmental concerns, stand against violence and advocate for the dispossessed. In discussions around the country, the 14 International Peacemakers shared their experiences and stories from their work in hunger ministries, clean water/environmental justice, immigration/migration/refugee welcome, poverty alleviation, health and wellness and racism/systems of oppression and violence.
Originally from Christ Church in Barbados, Trotman now lives in South London, England, and is an ordained minister with the Methodist Church in Britain. He is most known for his peacemaking work through ecumenical organizations such as the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and Churches’ Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ).
An immigrant himself, Trotman left his family behind and emigrated to England when he was 17. In Barbados, he was only allowed to have an elementary education and wanted to further himself. Barbados is an eastern Caribbean island and is an independent British Commonwealth nation.
As a child, unlike his sisters, Trotman said he resisted going to church and would make up excuses not to go so he could play cricket instead. When he was 14, a girl he liked invited him to church. “I didn’t get the girl,” Trotman said, “I got God instead.” He felt “the call” to ministry. Trotman attended 12 years of Bible college in England, and became an ordained Methodist minister.
The question of social justice started “burning in his heart” in 1993 when he counseled the parents of a young black man who was murdered by five assailants who were white. Police failed to arrest and prosecute the assailants, even though they had the evidence to convict them within a week of the crime. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered an investigation in 1997 and the public and private organizations were found to be “institutionally racist.”
After the law was changed in 2012, the case was retried and two people went to prison.
Trotman said to combat racial and ethnic stereotypes, we must start a conversation, and must re-learn or un-learn what we have been taught and re-educate ourselves. A key component, Trotman said, is inter-denominational support.
His work with ecumenical organizations such as CCME and CCRJ has given him much insight. Trotman suggested several key ways churches can engage in peacemaking such as providing a human face/touch. He suggested finding opportunities to help personally. “Faith is not just intellecual, it’s relational,” Trotman said.
In his work with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, Trotman has gone into detention centers and worked one-on-one with refugees and has been an advocate until their case is heard.
Another way, Trotman said, is to help refugees/immigrants become integrated into the community by helping them find a language class and access needed services such as education and medical care.
Throughout history, European citizens have emigrated from or moved within Europe, and migrants and refugees have built new lives in Europe. Trotman reminded the group that in the United States everyone comes from somewhere else; we’re all immigrants.
Trotman believes churches are uniquely positioned to promote understanding and acceptance between communities and to play an active part in building a just society.
After all, Trotman said, we are “one race, the human race, but different ethnicities.”