Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conference considers ‘Peace Among the Peoples.’

Jamal, a Muslim refugee from Zanzibar, and Matthew, a Jew, got acquainted as their children played in a neighborhood parkette in Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Learning of Jamal’s computer skills, Matthew found him a job.

Later, as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded, Jamal came to Matthew’s house, shaken. "I’m so sorry, but I don’t know who to say sorry to." Matthew invited Jamal’s family to share dinner with them.

The relationship of these neighbors represents "a testimony to the possibility of peace among peoples," said Mary Jo Leddy, addressing the opening worship of an ecumenical peace conference, "Peace Among the Peoples," held July 28-31 in Elkhart, Ind.

At the same time, the US government’s response to 9/11 illustrates "the near impossibility of such peace in an age of empire violence," Leddy said. For almost 20 years this Catholic writer, speaker, theologian, and social activist has lived with and directed the Romero House Community for Refugees, people living in four small houses in Toronto.

"Our daily summons is to build peace among the people in our home, city, country, and universe," Leddy said. Christians are summoned "to preach with our lives the good news that we can, should, must love our enemies. If we simply hate our enemies, we become like them."

The Church of the Brethren was one sponsor of Peace Among the Peoples, along with a number of churches, national and state ecumenical groups, peace and justice organizations, and educational institutions. Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary hosted the event. Other sponsors were Bridgefolk, Catholic Peacebuilding Network, First Presbyterian Church of Elkhart, Historic Peace Churches-Fellowship of Reconciliation Consultative Committee, Indiana Partners for Christian Unity and Mission, Institute of Mennonite Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church USA and its Peace and Justice Support Network, Mennonite Mission Network, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, Orthodox Peace Fellowship, United Church of Christ, and the University of Notre Dame’s Institute of Church Life and Department of Africana Studies.

Just over 200 people attended, including 18 Brethren members and special guest of the Church of the Brethren, Jarrod McKenna from Australia, who a week before had been a speaker at National Youth Conference. Most registrants were from the US, but others came from Canada, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia, representing Peace Church, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Free Church traditions. Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, served on the Advisory Committee and Scott Holland, Bethany Seminary’s director of peace studies, served on the Steering Committee.

Peace Among the Peoples is part of the Decade to Overcome Violence, an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) culminating on May 17–25, 2011, in an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held in Jamaica.

In addition to Leddy, other keynote speakers included Rita Nakashima Brock, founding co-director of the Faith Voices for the Common Good. who addressed the opening plenary on "Alternative Approaches to Christians and War"; Linda Gehman Peachey, who directs the Mennonite Central Committee US Women’s Advocacy Program, addressed sexual violation, intimate partner abuse, and abuse of children; theologian and author Brian McLaren, who used the metaphor of story to show what peacemaking may look like in the future; and Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University and Gerard Powers of the University of Notre Dame, who dealt with "Just War and Pacifism in Dialogue"; among others.

One session reviewed the Decade to Overcome Violence and reported on plans for the peace convocation in Jamaica next year, which will revolve around four themes: Peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. In addition, the WCC is working toward an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace, said a staff member who explained the concept: a multifaceted, collective, and dynamic process of ensuring that human beings are free from fear and from want; are overcoming enmity, exclusion, and oppression; and are establishing conditions for right relationships that include the most vulnerable and respect the integrity of creation.

Conferees affirmed plans for a continuation committee of 12 people who will consider findings, recommendations, and next steps; work at ways to support the 2011 peace convocation; consider creation of a peace center; and review potential for a global peace network. For more about the conference see Photos are at

-- John Bender of Elkhart, Ind., contributed the bulk of this report.

Source: 8/12/2010 Newsline

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