Sunday, October 11, 2009

Connecting the Pieces of Peace

Something clicked in my head about the nature of my work while working on a sermon for Willow Street Mennonite Church. At the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) over the past 8 years I have co-facilitated courses on nonviolence, the basics of peacebuilding and how religion can be a source of conflict or a resource of peace. It strikes me that these three are on a continuum somehow for Christians.

One of Jesus' core teaching was to love our enemies. This is not just a 'nicey-nicey feel good stuff. It was his way of saying the work at making peace is with enemies, not friends and in order to do that you gotta move toward tough spots in relationships. This is the way it is when conflict sides fall on the fault lines of faith. We have to get together and talk with our religious neighbors, not just about the commonalities and points of overlap but the tough things that could divide us. In so doing, respect and tolerance are generated.

Jesus says that we will be blessed in our peace making. Blessing is such a nebulous word. But I can tell you from experience that anyone who has experienced the calm of peace after the storm of violent conflict feels blessed. The hard work is to refine skills of peacebuilding so that they become the norm out of which people seek to address conflict not violence.

Jesus' life demonstrated that nonviolence is the only way to undo the spiral of violence in which humans are trapped. Our commitment to non-retaliation is costly. It is not popular and makes no sense. But if I have learned one thing it is that the use of violence to solve problems, while seeming to be the logical choice at the beginning quickly spirals into irrationality.

So these three topics - dialogue, peacebuilding and nonviolence- are intimately linked. I suppose these three are what make sense to me because they are in such short supply in the world today. I suggest you read my mentor/friend Deng's blog to see how blending these three are making a real-life impact.