“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
The autumn after we moved, we along with a few friends, started an English-speaking club among university students. Our group grew to about 50 young adults, all representing different homelands. About 6 months in, we had to stop meeting – like most of the world – because of Covid. As time passed, however, we’ve continued to stay connected with a core group of those students, and last summer we decided to start a new project together—which we called “Seeds for Peace”. The whole point behind Seeds for Peace is to work together to plant seeds that will create peace in our community.
Many of our friends come from places where there has been prolonged conflict. Some of them really struggle to believe that peace could ever be possible.
Last year in October, when cafés were open temporarily in our city, we decided to organize a Seeds for Peace seminar-type camp in order to inspire these students to form a vision for peace in our world.
At the peace camp, we did different sessions where we discussed conflict resolution, peacemaking, helping those in need, peace within, forgiveness, and allowing our hearts to dream again. It really was an impactful time for all of us, as we sought to make each session super engaging for those who came.
Following the camp came an increase in Covid restrictions with weekend lockdowns, nightly curfews, and the closure of cafés and restaurants for many months. We noticed a huge increase of people begging on the streets, and heard of more and more who were losing their jobs, and struggling financially. In order to do something to help we were able to access funds as a group and purchased grocery gift cards and help pay off utility bills for many families who were without work. We know that all these are just small seeds that fell in the midst of so much need, but they certainly impacted the lives of those who were touched by God’s love.
This last month was a challenging one for our Seeds for Peace community as their news feeds were suddenly filled with images and videos of turmoil. It became apparent that one particular friend in our Seeds for Peace group was very angry and really hurting. We are realizing, peacemaking is not the practice of trying to keep the “peace” by avoiding conflict or difficult conversations, but rather seeking to jump into those potentially hostile spaces in order to build a deeper understanding where differing beliefs and experiences exist.
Injustice naturally makes the human heart angry. Year after year of seeing the same injustice going unchecked has got to do something tragic to the human spirit. And of course, the natural response is to try to seek some kind of justice, however, that might look. We recognized this in our friend as our Seeds for Peace group chat was suddenly filled with articles and videos. As you all know, nuance is (just a bit lacking) over text and any differences of opinion can begin to appear insensitive because of the impersonal nature of messaging. Because of this, we decided it was best to get together and listen to one another over a meal (nothing brings people together like food) and take time to pray for those in the region.
As a way to show love to our friend, we undertook the daunting task of trying to recreate a dish that his mother would have cooked for him weekly when he was growing up. The main building blocks of this dish are chicken and onions. As we chopped the mountain of onions for the dish, tears began to fill our eyes. Although we have wept at the loss of life and injustice, these tears were from the sheer potency of the many onions we were chopping. We did find it interesting, that a people who have experienced such loss and devastation over the years would have a national dish that is almost certain to make the tears flow.
As we sat surrounded by our friends, we shared a meal and were able to gain more understanding and empathy for how they feel and what they’ve gone through. This whole experience has opened the door to share our faith in Jesus, the One who brings peace and who taught us to love our enemies. There are Christians just like them too, and during this time we were massively encouraged through our research about them, and seeing how they have been a witness of Jesus’ own words in the midst of their sufferings. We are grateful for the incredible opportunities we have had to share the gospel through these conversations.
Maybe we can’t end the turmoil, but we can at least try by planting a seed for peace. Maybe we can’t meet all the needs to end the humanitarian crisis, but we can plant a seed for peace. Sometimes the problems seem oh so complicated, and just thinking of a solution makes us want to throw our hands up and say “it won’t make a difference anyhow”. But as long as we have been gifted our moments and our days, we can use our hands to plant seeds.
It’s a call to get off the couch, resist passivity and stop believing that our actions don’t make a difference. Of course, they do! Everyone wants to do something, it’s in us to do something. So we’re encouraging each other as a community to plant seeds of peace, however small.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.“—James 3:17-18
Photo by Joshua Lanzarini on Unsplash