A former Maoist rebel, a Muslim corporate lawyer, a conservative Baptist pastor and an Indigenous coffee farmer walk into a coffee shop . . . and sit down for a board meeting for PeaceBuilders Community, Inc.
In Mindanao, Philippines, these people and others are part of the community that works together with Lakan and Lakambini (Witness workers Dan and Joji Pantoja) in peacebuilding and inclusive community development, which includes fair-trade coffee farming. Staff say that this board is more like a family that works together, supports each other and finds ways to build peace in their communities.
While we in Mennonite Church Canada are striving towards equity, diversity and inclusion, there is a constant concern about tokenism. This isn’t an issue for PeaceBuilders because they have deep relationships with people from many walks of life—they live life together. They happily use the gifts of all those who want to walk with them in the journey toward peace and reconciliation. These people become friends and even family for each other. They are focused on a common goal, not on the structure of their organization. Their relationships lead them to activity and advocacy. They gather to eat, to celebrate, to mourn and to work for this common goal: peace, justice and reconciliation between Indigenous and settler peoples in the Philippines.
This leads me to think of my friendships. Where does God want me to move based on the relationships with which I have been gifted? In Luke 10, Jesus sends out his disciples with these instructions: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a person of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon them; but if not, it shall return to you.” Who are the people of peace in my community, in my city, in my church?
A young coffee entrepreneur serves coffee at this meeting. She is an intern at Coffee for Peace. She tells us her story. She never knew her father and grandfather. They were killed in intertribal conflicts. She says that she is learning from her companions at PeaceBuilders to forgive and walk in peace, but admits it is hard. She also admits that several of the staff and board members supporting her on this journey were from the tribe that killed her father. She says that they were all victims of violence together, and only together can they heal. Relationships are powerful that way.
Sara Wenger Shenk writes in Tongue-tied: Learning the Lost Art of Talking about Faith: “Humility and a willingness to hold together tension from opposing perspectives must be our starting place, from which we call on the Holy Spirit to bring people closer together in Christ.”
May we learn, like this young coffee farmer, that only together can we heal.
Jeanette Hanson is director of International Witness for Mennonite Church Canada and wrote this column while visiting the Philippines in September. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more From Our Leaders columns:
A new chapter?
A narrative of hope
Evangelism that heals
A season of Jubilee
Diversity in our unity: Belonging to each other in the body of Christ