Facilitator stands behind a small group, listening to their discussion.
MCC Photo/Brenda Burkholder

Buller, shown leading dialogue activities at a North Baltimore Mennonite Church retreat in 2018

Peacebuilding is central to Mennonite Central Committee’s work. MCC is known around the world as the organization that does “relief, development and peace, in the name of Christ.” Our work over the past hundred years has created a reputation for working in partnership with local communities as an embodiment of Jesus’ call in Matthew 5 to be peacemakers.

Being effective in helping others through conflict does not mean we are good at living peaceably with one another, however. Even within the Anabaptist community the skills involved in conflict transformation and restorative justice are often missing.

As the world (including the Anabaptist church) has become increasingly polarized, this lack of peacebuilding skills is even more evident. From presidential elections to membership guidelines to COVID-19 practices, conflict has frayed many communities who have not been able to address and transform difference in constructive ways. As John Paul Lederach says, “we simply have not developed an ethos of living healthily alongside embodied difference.”

We have been content to let our peace witness reflect perspectives on foreign policy without addressing the conflicts at home. Yet how we engage in conversation with one another regarding things we disagree on is another important way to embody Jesus’ call to peacemaking. Ephesians 2:17 states that Christ came to proclaim peace to those who were far off and to those who were near.

Our mission of peacebuilding requires the integrity of practicing what we preach. We must use the skills and practices of conflict transformation in our own contexts. This means analyzing the peacebuilding principles, like those outlined on the insert, in relation to our own lives and local context.

These principles call us to listen to those we disagree with, opening our hearts and minds to difference. They ask us to acknowledge that nonviolence is more easily done from a position of privilege and to take our lead from those on the margins. They ask us to see and address the ways structures of violence inhabit all conflict, even at the interpersonal level.

As image-bearers of Christ, how we engage in conflict reflects a certain picture of Christ that either demonstrates the values of the kingdom, or does not. If we are to call ourselves peacemakers, let us model doing peace “in the name of Christ” authentically, here in our own communities and contexts, as well as in others.