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9/12/2006 Apel explores peacemaking in new book

McMINNVILLE - Peacemaking and interfaith understanding are the focus of a new book by a Linfield College religion professor and former college chaplain.

William Apel wrote "Signs of Peace - The Interfaith Letters of Thomas Merton" published by Orbis Books. The book includes excerpts from letters between Thomas Merton, a Catholic Trappist monk, and nine of his interfaith friends. Merton, a well-known religious writer, lived most of his adult life at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Through extensive correspondence with people of all religions he broke ground as a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. He believed that the wisdom and practices of other religious traditions could help him become a better human being, Christian and monk.

This book acts as a primer for people who are interested in understanding world religions on a personal level, Apel said.

"With so much violence and war in our world today, I wanted to write a book about men and women who speak a different word to us - a word about compassion and peace," Apel said. "Thomas Merton and his interfaith friends lived and witnessed to an emerging community of the spirit which rejects violence and war as a way of solving any kind of conflict - either personal or global."

Apel spent approximately 200 hours reading correspondence in the archives at the Thomas Merton Center in Louisville, Ky., in preparation for writing the book. He devoted a 2004 sabbatical to the project as well. One of the most satisfying aspects of the project was the people he met - scholars, monks, artists and others from different walks of life who shared a common interest in peace.

"Personally, I wanted to present a small message of hope in a time of great despair," Apel said. "I wanted to help others learn more about the world's great religions - something we need to do if we are to be responsible and educated individuals in this new century."

In addition to "Signs of Peace," Apel is also the author of "Witnesses Before Dawn" and "Silent Conversations." He has contributed chapters to books about the works of theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dom Helder Camara and Howard Thurman.

At Linfield since 1975, Apel holds a B.A. with honors from Muskingum College, a M.Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in the history and literature of religions from Northwestern University. He served as Linfield College chaplain from 1975 to 1995. He is a member of the International Thomas Merton Society and the International Bonhoeffer Society.