Jason Boone is coordinating minister for the Peace and Justice Support Network, a joint position with Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite USA.
A few times a year I’ll get calls from people not in the Mennonite church. They call to have a conversation (i.e. try to argue) about peace. Really, they want to have a conversation about one aspect of peace – not engaging in deadly force. You know where this is going:
“If you oppose war, what would you do about what about ____________ (fill in the blank here with Hitler, ISIS, AL Qaeda or the terrifying, violent figure of your choice).
I’m happy to have these conversations because they give me a chance to bring up the 198 methods of nonviolent action, and how non-violence is proven to be effective, and Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the Sermon on the Mount. I could on (and usually do).
And when I have the chance, I also like to broaden the conversation. Instead of defining peace as what it doesn’t do, let’s talk about Shalom, right relationships and the Kingdom of God. How we respond to violence is important. Just as important is how we respond to injustice, how we contribute to God’s work of reconciliation in the world, how we love our neighbor.
For me, those elements of “active peacemaking” define our peace witness as much as opposition to war or lethal force.
They need to be as supported and celebrated as much as our opposition to war and violence.
One way the Peace and Justice Support Network supports this type of “active peacemaking” is through Spread the Peace grants. These grants go to support peace projects happening in our churches and conferences.
We recently awarded five Spread the Peace grants and they give an exciting glimpse of the creative width and breadth of our active peacemaking.
Spread the Peace grants went to support:
- Neighborhood and community building
- Learning about the Doctrine of Discovery
- Teaching Trauma awareness and Restorative Justice
- Providing Legal assistance to immigrants
- An art project to promote Christian-Muslim relations
There are many, many other peacemaking initiatives happening across Mennonite Church USA, proving that our peace witness is defined not only by what we are opposed to, but by how we follow Jesus actively into our neighborhoods and communities.
Those peace conversations generally end on good terms.
The caller doesn’t usually have a change of heart, but they will often say that even if they don’t agree with our peace position, they are glad there are peacemakers in the world.
Amen to that!