Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18
Jesus instruction to His followers to be peacemakers is not as easily practiced in some areas of the world as we in the west might think. Tribal differences can cause deep divides.
In April 2011, Open Doors sponsored a Christian youth camp in the southern Philippines bringing together 115 youths, mostly believers from Muslim background (MBB’s) from four different Muslim tribal groups. The goal of this camp was to show the youths that Jesus is the ultimate source of peace. When we have Him in our hearts, then, we can have peace within ourselves, with others and with our environment.
Every activity of the camp was also designed to foster awareness and appreciation of each other’s tribal identity. Short drama presentations every night gave the youths a chance to tell their story. Bringing these ethnic groups to a point of understanding and acceptance was the crucial part of the camp. During Bible sessions, facilitators combined their lectures with tasks that encouraged campers to express their thoughts and feelings. They described their idea of peace, distinguished between peaceful and conflicting situations, and discovered their biblical responsibility as peacemakers taking after Christ’s example.
While peacemaking starts with one’s self, it does not end there. It must affect other people’s lives. And so, the campers did community service in three neighboring areas during the camp. But the true litmus test for a peacemaker is when a conflict breaks out. The camp was on its homestretch when two campers from different tribes got tangled in a fight during the morning assembly. It was about to turn violent, until other youths stepped in. The two youths were brought to the camp director. Everyone was clearly upset as they streamed into the classrooms for the day’s round of Bible sessions.
They were in for a surprise. An Open Doors co-worker shared, “The fight was staged. We wanted the campers to have an opportunity to apply what they had been learning so far. During the Bible session, we processed what happened. They realized that it brought out their biases and impatience; that some of their responses were condemning. They wanted to be a peacemaker, but they had yet to learn how to sow peace in times of conflict. It is a lifestyle.”
It was an important lesson for the youths to learn, especially for those who lived in conflict areas. After the session, many campers approached the two volunteer actors and asked their forgiveness for judging and condemning them.
Then, the youths were given some time to write down their commitments to becoming a peacemaker. One fifteen-year-old said, “It’ll be hard becoming a peacemaker, but I will try my best…The pastor taught us that becoming a peacemaker like Jesus comes with suffering. I must be prepared for that too.”
RESPONSE: Today I will take practical steps in being a peacemaker for Jesus wherever I am.
PRAYER: Pray for young tribal Christians who struggle with Christ-like actions and responses in conflict situations.