Peace: "relationships"

With Remembrance Day and Veterans Day happening this week, as well as MCC’s Peace Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on peace. Oftentimes peace has remained an idea for me, as violence has had little impact in my life personally. In this sense, peace is a good idea, but an impersonal one. Reflection is the only peace I know.

This week I had the opportunity to meet Molanda Jimmy Juma as he’s been on a speaking tour in Canada with Mennonite Central Committee. Peace is anything but an idea for Jimmy. He grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and now teaches and works in the area of peacebuilding in South Africa and the surrounding region. Yet peace is not his story. His past is full of heartbreak and violence, where at one point his village saw 1000 people massacred in two days. If anyone is justified for rage and violence, it’s Jimmy. 

Yet he seeks peace in all he does. He shared his story with a gentle clarity - not weakness, but assurance in something beyond the cycle of vicious violence so characteristic of African life. Where I would be personally affronted, he forges ahead in the way of peace. Hearing him I was perplexed. Why peace, I wondered?

So I asked him.

And as I anticipated some spiritual wisdom or complex description of sustainable peacebuilding, Jimmy had one word for me: “relationships.” As he personally connects with individuals, knowing the burden of brokenness and violence, peace is found. Peace is personal. And no, this does not peace is easy or always achieved. Jimmy was honest to relate how reconciliation is hard work, at times feeling like one is “sewing on stones.”

Any progress towards a hope of peace comes through sustaining relationships. It’s villagers who commit to joining peace clubs. Enemies who meet face to face to share their stories. Friends who stand up to injustice and march boldly unarmed towards perpetrators of violence (something Jimmy has done often). Such peace is no mere idea, but a peace sustained through connecting people, the ministry of reconciliation at work in our world, one relationship at a time.


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