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Achieving Peace with “Lots of Cups of Tea”

Jesus’ teaching on peace may begin in our hearts and our homes, but it pushes us beyond our comfort zones and outside the walls of our churches to our neighbors and even our enemies.
It overflows to our cities, states and nation. It encompasses global conflict and foreign policy. This is peacemaking without borders.

So what does peacemaking without borders look like in the real world?

No one could have predicted some of the amazing peace breakthroughs that have taken place during my lifetime.

Some of these peace movements were led by Christians, while others were at least influenced by Christians or Christian principles.

Here are five out of the many prominent events that demonstrate the power of nonviolent resistance, highlighting social, national and international peacemaking:

â—     The civil rights movement in the United States, led by Martin Luther King Jr., outlawed racial discrimination against black Americans and restored their voting rights.

â—     People power in the Philippines was a series of nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations that toppled the brutal dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

â—     The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism.

â—     The dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, after decades of cruel oppression, took place under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

â—     The end of a 14-year civil war in Liberia and the toppling of the ruthless dictator Charles Taylor happened when Christian and Muslim women partnered together under the leadership of Leymah Gbowee.

But the work of “shalom making” is not just about momentous occasions like these peace breakthroughs above. Here’s an example on a much smaller scale of urban peacemaking.

In 1998, serious conflict broke out between Christians and Muslims in the city of Solo in central Java. Consequently, the religious leaders formed an interreligious peace committee to rebuild trust and work toward concord.

A young pastor on this committee tells of his first visit to the Hizbullah command center.

The commander greeted him gruffly, “You are a Christian and an infidel, and therefore I can kill you!”

Unfazed, the pastor returned again and again to the commander’s center to drink tea and converse.

Then the pastor invited the commander and his officers to fly with several Christian leaders to Banda Aceh to work with Christian teams in the post-tsunami reconstruction.

Remarkably, the Hizbullah leaders accepted, and for two weeks they worked with the Christian teams in rebuilding projects.

The commander slept in the same room with the pastor, and they became friends.

He confided in the pastor, “I have discovered that you Christians are good infidels.”

Afterward, they met again for further peacemaking talks. They had invited David Shenk to speak to the group and offered to translate the book he co-authored with Badru Kateregga titled “A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue.”

When the pastor handed the book to the commander, the commander broke down.

When he regained his composure, he said, “I am overcome, for this book is revealing another way, the way of peacefully sharing faith instead of violently confronting one another.”

When asked about his evangelism, the pastor says, “My calling is to bear witness, mostly through praxis, to the reconciling love of Christ. I give account of my faith in Jesus to all who ask. Conversion is not my responsibility; that is the work of God.”

Remarkably, his church has grown from 40 to 250 in the last 12 years, and with the advocacy of Hizbullah, they are planning to build a second church in Solo.

When asked how the transformation in relationships took place, the pastor replied, “Lots of cups of tea – and the Holy Spirit!”

This is what peacemaking without borders looks like in the real world.

Rick Love is the president of Peace Catalyst International and author of “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.” His writings can be found on his website, and you can follow him on Twitter @drricklove.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from an excerpt in his book, “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities,” which is available here.