Thousands dead after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. cities. Countless endure long, endless suffering and death in Sudan. 2.5 million dead in past three years of war in the Congo. Killing and animosity continues in the Middle East. Drug wars in Colombia taking tragic tolls.
In the face of such horror and suffering, what can we do? As Christians, how are we called to respond? What does the Bible say about this? In response to Sept. 11 and all the other places that are conflicted and torn in this suffering world, the Peace Commission offers the following thoughts—mostly based on Scripture—about how we as Christians can respond to terrorism, war and suffering. The Peace Commission, a U.S. Conference ministry, is dedicated to educating and helping MBs in efforts of peacemaking.
Grieve and weep
- When one part of the body suffers, the entire body suffers (1 Cor. 12:26).
- As Jesus wept upon the death of his friend Lazarus, grieve and weep with those who have suffered loss (John 11:35).
- “No man [person] is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main . . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind” (John Donne, 1571-1631).
“Be angry but do not sin” (Eph. 4:26)
- Leave vengeance to God (Deut. 32:35, Rom. 12:19).
- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
- Use anger as motivation to do something constructive and helpful,
Value and respect all as precious in God’s sight
- “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
- “I have learned not to call anything that God has created as unclean or dirty” (Peter, Acts 10-11).
- “Jesus loves the little children, / all the children of the world; / red and yellow, black and white, / all are precious in his sight; / Jesus loves the little children of the world” (a popular children’s song).
- Pray “for all the saints” and the messengers of the gospel around the world (Eph. 6:18-20).
- Pray for everyone (1 Tim. 2:1-6).
- Pray for leaders of the nations and for peace (1 Tim. 2:1-6).
- “Pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:44).
- Give to those both in crisis and in continuing need—the hungry, thirsty, homeless, destitute, refugee, those in prison or any others in need (Matt. 25:31-46).
- Give internationally through organizations like MBMS International (the North American MB global mission agency) and Mennonite Central Committee (a Christian world relief and development agency), through whom we extend our Mennonite Brethren arms to the world.
Understand the other—including the enemy
- “Be quick to listen…” (James 1:19).Don’t confuse listening with agreeing. Listen to understand. Understanding is the beginning of peacemaking. Like Jesus, engage those who are outsiders in conversation and understand them (see, for example, John 4).
- Learn to see from another’s point-of-view. Consider subscribing to a periodical like World Press Review, which regularly publishes articles on current affairs from newspapers and magazines around the world that represent different points of view. Read to understand.
- Become more than a tourist of the world by choosing a current conflict in the world and learning about it in depth—the people involved, their history, the concerns of all sides and other relevant matters—and then share your learning with others. Do this as a family, or as a small group.
Salt and light the world (Matt. 5:13-16)
- The Kingdom way of dealing with evil in this world is neither the extremes of silence nor violence; it is a third way of “overcoming evil with good” and bearing witness to “truth with love” (Rom. 12:21, Eph. 4:15).
- Counter evil with acts of goodness: food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, a blanket for the cold, a dwelling for the homeless, a sanctuary for the endangered, a home for the refugee… (Matt. 5:38-48, Rom. 12:9-21).
- Confront evil with words and deeds by bearing witness to the powers that be. Make a visit, write a letter, or send an email to a person in power who can make a difference—as Paul, a converted terrorist, once reasoned with the governor Felix about issues of “justice, self-control, and the coming judgment” (Acts 24).
- Confront evil with words and deeds by standing in solidarity with those who are suffering, weak and voiceless.
- Confront evil with words and deeds by working for nonviolent social change where there is injustice. When Christians and the church are silent or cooperate with evil—as in Nazi Germany—evil triumphs. When the church leads, as did the Black church in the civil rights movement of this country, or advocates for justice, as in apartheid South Africa and other countries, evil is diminished.
- “Do justice…” (Micah 6:8).
- “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke, 1729-1797).
Be a peacemaker
- Pray for peace (1Tim. 2.1-6).
- Embrace the ministry of reconciliation that God has entrusted to us (2 Cor. 5:18). Learn the skills of peacemaking through training (e.g., workshops on conflict resolution, peer mediation training in schools for children and youth, etc.).
- World peace begins at home. Practice and model peacemaking in parenting, teaching, leading, managing, mediating, etc. Teach peacemaking in the home, church, school, workplace and community.
- Contribute to world peace by supporting peacemaking and peace building efforts in other countries through organizations like MBMSI and MCC.
United we stand
- Participate as a church in the Mennonite Brethren Peace Sunday on February 17, a day set aside by the U.S. Conference to encourage churches to celebrate the peace of God and the ministry of reconciliation he has called us to.
- Plan for a Peace Forum in your church using Peace Forum materials prepared by MCC in response to Sept. 11. Scheduling a Peace Forum on Peace Sunday is an option. For more information and materials, call (888) 563-4676.
- Discern as a family, small group or church at least one activity that you might do together to support peace in the world.
Members of the Peace Commission include: Dalton Reimer, co-director of the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University, an MB university in central Calif., and member of College Community Church; Rose Buschman, retired teacher, Wycliffe Associates mission volunteer and Leader columnist; Don Isaac, professor at Tabor College, an MB four-year liberal arts college in central Kansas and member of Parkview MB Church; and Sam Resendez, owner and manager of Resendez Financial Services in Sanger, Calif. and member of Grace Community Church.