Speech contest winner invites us to ‘join the feast’

December 1, 2022

Food can be a tool for peacebuilding if we accept Jesus’ invitation to join the feast. This is the theme of Danika Warkentin’s grand-prize-winning speech in the 2022 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest, a binational and intercollegiate event for students at Anabaptist colleges and universities administered by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Started in 1974, the contest commemorates the late C. Henry Smith, a Mennonite historian and professor whose deep interest was in the Mennonite commitment to peace. Warkentin, of Pincher Creek, Alta., is in her third year at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg, where she is majoring in peace and conflict transformation studies. Her speech, “Join the feast,” draws inspiration from an experience she had while living in Burkina Faso. A stranger on the street generously offered her and her family a portion of his simple meal. Warkentin says, “He had faith that tomorrow, if he was hungry and had no food, someone might share with him. That’s feasting.” Warkentin talks about the centrality of food to Jesus’ ministry—from banquets with tax collectors and parables about fruit trees and wineskins, to the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus modelled abundance and inclusion. Food used in this way is a tool for peace-building, Warkentin states. At the same time, food can be used to exclude and oppress. Warkentin implores listeners to follow Jesus’ ministry of sharing food and feasting together, asking, “Are you willing to join the feast?” To watch the three winning speeches, visit mcc.org/speech2022.


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