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“If we want to be a peace church,” says Garcia Pedro Domingos, “we must also respond to and offer other alternatives to those who need jobs and financial stability.”
Domingos, who comes from Angola, made this comment during face-to-face meetings of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Peace Commission. He shared stories about some of the challenges of his country and how it continues to be a highly militarized society due to the effects of the long civil war that ended in 2002. One of the ongoing realities, Domingos says, is that the military is one of the most stable employers in a country that suffers from high unemployment rates.
“This affects the Colombian context as well,” says Jenny Neme, member of the MWC Peace Commission.
As Neme shared some of Colombia’s and the Colombian Mennonite church’s story, Domingos displayed both surprise and relief to hear how others also struggle with similar realities, even on different continents.
Despite distance and difference, there is a connection in the challenges that confront our common quest to work toward God’s peace.
Sometimes, within our local context, our view of the church can lead us to feel isolated. We may not know the struggles that others also face, struggles that may be similar to ours.
Our churches may also seem quite homogeneous. We do not see the diversity that we may want. This, of course, is truer in some contexts than others.
When, however, we only look to our local context and our expressions of church there as the foundation of our church, we fail to recognize how other churches from around the world offer a glimpse of who we can be together – sharing in each other’s challenges and burdens as well as gifts and differences.
What’s more, with a narrow local focus, we fail to recognize the multicultural beauty that has become reality within our global communion as Mennonite World Conference. This broader perspective provides an encouraging glimpse that can feed our drive for local congregations to embody this multicultural mosaic in our own contexts.
This mosaic of diversity offers a beautiful and hopeful reality. It demonstrates a church that is truly global. People from all over the world, representing different countries, socio-economic realities, races, ages and gender all come together as one family.
It provides an opportunity to share our lives with one another.
This does not, however, mean that tensions, differences and/or challenges are not present. Like in any family, disagreement is part of the richness of relationships. It does, however, offer opportunities to learn from one another, experiencing different ways of doing things and becoming more aware of the different challenges from around the world.
In expanding our perspective to the realities of other global sisters and brothers, we learn about the challenges of witnessing to peace.
Our world continues to suffer from the effects of an addiction to violence, greed and self-centeredness that prevent us from living in right relationships with others, the world and with God. And yet, when we come together to worship, build relationships and share about the struggles we face, we open our lives and worldviews to the presence of the Holy Spirit who transforms us through these experiences.
Such experiences provide ongoing opportunities to explore how we can walk together, witnessing to God’s peace in our world.
Andrew Suderman teaches theology, peace and mission at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He also serves as secretary of Mennonite World Conference’s Peace Commission. Andrew and his wife, Karen, served with Mennonite Church Canada as coordinators of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa from 2009 to 2016. They live in Harrisonburg with their two children. This article originally appeared at mwc-cmm.org.
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