Sarah Cox, from Vermilion, Ohio, is currently serving as the Peace Resource Person for MCC in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. But Cox is not from the traditional MCC constituency and didn’t grow up knowing about MCC like some service workers.
Instead she learned about the organization while reading Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies by John Paul Lederach who wrote about his time serving with MCC in Central America. The book left such an impression that upon graduating with a masters in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies from King’s College London, Cox began searching for positions with MCC and found her current role in Ukraine. “I am lucky to find an opening for a position that perfectly combined my interests, values, and training on a continent that I was already calling home,” she reflected.
As MCC’s Peace Resource Person, Cox has two main responsibilities. She maintains close relationships with MCC’s current peacebuilding partners and connects them with resources, including educational materials and trainings. Secondly, she meets with various individuals and organizations looking for intersections with MCC’s values with the hope for future collaboration. According to Cox, she constantly thinks how MCC’s work fits into the larger, strategic approach to sustainable peace in Ukraine.
By the end of 2016 there was an estimated 1.6 million individuals registered with the government of Ukraine as internally displaced. Both the outgoing and incoming communities are affected by the migration caused by conflict. Some host communities in Ukraine have struggled to find housing and employment for newcomers. Tensions can also arise when the native poor in the hosting communities go unaided when internally displaced persons receive aid from international organizations specifically allocated for them. These tensions frequently are under reported.
Cox often hears stories of individuals and families who had to make the impossible decision of whether to flee their homes or stay. “The choice is difficult - to stay and pastor a church or care for the elderly and remain in danger or to move to protect their families which often include vulnerable children,” said Cox. “I cannot even imagine having to make that choice.”
Through the pain and suffering she has also seen beautiful stories of the resilience of the Ukrainian people. They have an incredible capacity to celebrate life through private and public festivals using art, music and culture. Celebrations are an act of resilience proclaiming there is beauty and joy in life that cannot be taken away by evil or conflict.
Cox, along with a colleague, participated in a Christmas celebration which included an outdoor dance party. Even though they were foreigners they were welcomed into the dance. “Ukrainians can showcase their creativity and imagination and show that in a fragile world, they are still very much alive,” explains Cox.
Work for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine is ongoing as the conflict and its effects on the people of Ukraine continue. As MCC continues to respond to conflict around the world we hope you can pray, give and advocate. Pray for peace, the end of war and all those affected by the conflict. Give donations of relief kits and comforters or volunteer at your local meat canning site. Advocate for those who all too often are not given a voice.