Skip to main content

Janessa Gans Wilder and The Euphrates Institute

02/27/2017 12:55PM, Published by Jordan Venema, Categories: In Print, Community




Wild Transformation

March 2017
By Jordan Venema
Photo by Eric Leslie

Most Americans remember where they were on September 11, 2001. That day forever changed the course of American foreign policy, but for Redding native Janessa Gans Wilder, “it changed my life forever.” In January 2001, Wilder was hired as an analyst for the CIA, nine months before the towers came down. 

“I had no interest in the Middle East,” she admits. “I found it dark and depressing, but when 9/11 happened, I was transferred to a taskforce on Afghanistan.”

Over the next two years, Wilder became an expert on a country she didn’t even visit. Accustomed to traveling as a child, Wilder began to feel she would “rather dodge bullets than spend another day at my cubicle.” So she volunteered for a 90-day assignment as a counter-insurgency analyst in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, which would stretch into 21 months between the years 2003 and 2005. In her own words, the position was Wilder’s first taste of the frontlines. 

A seminal moment for Wilder came in spring March 2004, when four Blackwater security guards were killed in Fallujah, and their corpses burned and strung from a bridge. The United States responded by invading the city to rid insurgents – and Wilder was there.

“I was the only woman on base, sleeping in a tent with six guys. It got to the point that I was so exhausted, so mentally drained, that I felt a sense of helplessness.

What is this actually doing to end the insurgency?” Wilder asked herself. “It felt like catching drops of water from a leaky faucet.” 

Wilder found some clarity one evening after a run while overlooking the Euphrates River. “It was so calm and peaceful, and the only thing I could hear was the gurgling of the water and the swaying of the bulrushes, and not the sound of a bomb,” recalls Wilder. “It was such an incredible contrast to what I had experienced in Fallujah, and I remember wanting to float down that river, let the stress go, and I realized that if I did I would end up downstream underneath the bridge that had started it all.

“When you’re just focused on the war zone, you miss the beauty of the river,” continues Wilder. “So which do you choose? You can’t focus on both, and in that moment, I chose the river.”

In other words, says Wilder, “I was tired of just fighting the enemy. I wanted to build something.”

Wilder made the decision to begin working with the Iraqi transitional government, during which she began “seeing Iraqis as partners instead of enemies. It was a complete transformation for me… and one that every American can and should make.”

The problem is one of perception, and not limited just to the Middle East, though Wilder acknowledges “most Americans see that part of the world as ‘other’ and the enemy. So how can we turn the others into brothers, and how can we find that common ground and help them, and help ourselves?”

After Wilder returned to Redding, she founded The Euphrates Institute to help answer those questions through creating avenues of dialogue. Practically, Euphrates has organized trips to the Middle East to give people the opportunity to learn about a region that many people have opinions about but little knowledge.

“We also bring people out of the region on speaking tours and media appearances,” says Wilder, “so other people can be inspired by amazing peace builders who are there making a difference.”

Euphrates also has a physical presence through local meetings, with 20 chapters spread across the country and internationally, including India and Pakistan, Palestine and Sweden, Colombia and, yes, even Redding. 

These chapters, says Wilder, “are doing the work of creating more understanding of the Middle East and its issues, while building bridges in their own communities with whoever the ‘other’ is.” Locally, that could mean political parties or the homeless, even neighbors. 

“Groups will go see films together, hear speakers or read books together, and usually there’s an interfaith component,” says Wilder, adding that many chapters visit mosques and synagogues. Mostly, though, chapters seek transformation through dialogue, with topics aiming to inform, inspire and transform.

It’s like counseling in some ways, says Wilder, “by creating a space for listening, without an attempt to persuade or react.” 

That method is simple in theory, but difficult in practice. Still, Wilder has seen people transform to find common ground where they didn’t believe it existed. 

“You can’t force people to be open if they’re not ready,” says Wilder, but the doors of any chapter remain open for anybody when
they are. •


The Euphrates Institute

www.euphrates.org

Redding Chapter meets the first Thursday every month, 7pm

Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2850 Foothill Blvd., Redding




pilgrim congregational church The Euphrates Institute Janessa Gans Wilder


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Canvas and Cocktails

    05/26/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Come drink and paint with us! You don’t need ANY art experience to enjoy this evening of fun, mus...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Ranger-guided Activities Offered on Memorial Day Weekend Whiskeytown National Recreation Area...


  • 53rd Whiskeytown Memorial Regatta

    05/27/2017
    10:30AM — 06:00PM

    The Whiskeytown Memorial Regatta is a two-day sailing race that brings competitors from far and w...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tours

    05/27/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Healthy Eating and Being Active Class

    05/29/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Looking for FREE classes on tips for healthy eating and being active? Then this is for you! Cla...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Senior Health & Fitness Day

    05/31/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    Shingletown Medical Center Presents 24th Annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day® The Shi...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    05/31/2017
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesday and get $3 off a growler fill.


  • Weaverville Farmers' Market

    05/31/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Weaverville Farmers' Market is held on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm from May through October! tr...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/26/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Canvas and Cocktails

    05/26/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Come drink and paint with us! You don’t need ANY art experience to enjoy this evening of fun, mus...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Ranger-guided Activities Offered on Memorial Day Weekend Whiskeytown National Recreation Area...


  • 53rd Whiskeytown Memorial Regatta

    05/27/2017
    10:30AM — 06:00PM

    The Whiskeytown Memorial Regatta is a two-day sailing race that brings competitors from far and w...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/27/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tours

    05/27/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/28/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Healthy Eating and Being Active Class

    05/29/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Looking for FREE classes on tips for healthy eating and being active? Then this is for you! Cla...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/29/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/30/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity. Brew Craft Coffe-Havens Humane Society 1...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    09:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    10:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Art For A Cause

    05/31/2017
    11:00AM

    LOCAL's Gallery Presents: Art For A Cause During May Percentage of All sales will go to charity...


  • Senior Health & Fitness Day

    05/31/2017
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    Shingletown Medical Center Presents 24th Annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day® The Shi...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    05/31/2017
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesday and get $3 off a growler fill.


  • Weaverville Farmers' Market

    05/31/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Weaverville Farmers' Market is held on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm from May through October! tr...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    06/01/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch Spotify for t...


  • Hayfork Farmers' Market

    06/02/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Come listen to live music, shop for local goods and produce and cultivate community! The Farmers'...


  • First Friday on Main

    06/02/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Join us at Enjoy the Store Red Bluff, home to Cedar Crest Brewing and Vineyard, for live music, f...


  • The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber Certified Farmers' Markets open June 3rd! All farmers and ve...


  • Join Tangle Blue Saloon and The B.A.M.T. Coalition for Fun Times for the 2nd annual Trinity Celti...


  • Saturday, June 3rd, The Friends of the Shasta County Libraries will sell gently used books in the...


  • Mountain Wintu Herbs Class

    06/03/2017
    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Learn how to make: Fire Infusion* (Cider) w/Turmeric When: Saturday, June 3, 2017 Time: 10 a...


  • CityConnect 2017

    06/03/2017
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    CityConnect is a free event for all ages to make connections and become a part of the solutions f...


  • Reggae Fest 3

    06/03/2017
    04:00PM — 10:00PM

    Come enjoy live music, dancing, fun for kids, local food and community vendors, beer garden and m...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tours

    06/03/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    06/03/2017
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Whiskeytown Paint Out!

    06/04/2017
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    The National Park Service working in partnership with the Friends of Whiskeytown and Redding Bank...


  • Healthy Eating and Being Active Class

    06/05/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Looking for FREE classes on tips for healthy eating and being active? Then this is for you! Cla...


Enter to Win a $100 Gift Card!

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living

 

Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors