building peace, literally

Imagine coming home after a being away for several years. Let’s say you were studying or on a temporary work assignment. And now, finally, you return. But upon arrival, someone is living in your house. Not just squatting, but literally taken over your home for their own. What do you do?

Demand they leave. Claim your ownership. Call the police! Yell incessantly, “Get out!!!”

Seems pretty simple to me. 

Now, of course if you’re a Christian, yes you’d do this as lovingly as possible, perhaps not pressing charges if the squatters were in a difficult place in life (after they pay for any damage of course). We are forgiving people after all - peacemakers even.

I often think such hypothetical situations are unhelpful to envision what peacemaking can and should look like. Because really, when is this type of thing ever going to happen?

Meet Caesaer Hakim (his story is told in this month’s MB Herald):
After fleeing aerial bombings and living in a refugee camp in Uganda for 14 years, Caesaer Hakim and his family were excited that the day to return home had finally arrived.

But when they got to their ancestral home in Opari, they found another family living on their land.
Not so hypothetical after all.

Prior to coming home, Hakim received training in peacemaking. And no, the training didn’t involve how to lovingly evict squatters. Hakim knew more was needed.
His skills were soon put to the test as he dealt with the new family living on his land. “If I had not had the peacebuilding training, I would have picked a quarrel with them. Instead, I built my house on another plot of land.”

Neighbours are aware of this action, and the example he set earned him respect as a peacebuilder. This enables him to share his knowledge and skills as he leads the committee and helps other families resolve conflicts.

“I am like a teacher,” he said. “Knowledge is like fire; it cannot be contained.”
I talk about peace and faith fairly regularly here. I’m constantly challenged personally with how a view of peacemaking and the gospel translates into everyday life. I realize my idealism and struggle to maintain it. In my life the way of peace risks abstraction and irrelevance. Hope wanes.

Then I hear stories of Caesaer Hakim, a man building peace, literally.

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