By Elizabeth Welliver, PPF GA Intern
In a world that is fraught with conflict and derision, how can the church be a global witness to the peace of Christ? While observing Committee 12, Peacemaking and International Affairs, I saw commissioners, advisory delegates, and advocates grapple with this central question as it pertained to contemporary issues. From Korea to the Congo, the committee passed overtures that call upon church, corporate, and government bodies to support the dignity and welfare for all involved in conflict regions. Committee 12 also passed two PPF-supported Commissioner's Resolutions that uphold the principles and ministry of Sanctuary, a movement to advocate for the rights of international refugees (12-12 and 12-13).
Throughout hearings, I learned about the historical witness of the Church's non-violent resistance through boycott, divestment, and sanction efforts (12-05). During the hearing on 12-05, Tarek Abuata from FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel - North America) testified on the importance of non-violent economic strategies in the movement to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. Tarek spoke about his experience witnessing Ahmed, a Palestinian child, reach through a fence to pick grape leaves on an Israeli settlement's street. He then watched as Israeli soldiers captured and subsequently tortured Ahmed. "In that moment I knew God existed because I could see Jesus suffering right in front of me," he said. Seeing Christ in a crucified Palestinian child, Tarek's testimony sent a bold message about the Church's need to engage in nonviolent resistance through BDS. The overture passed, though the committee added a comment to avoid its connection with any particular conflict so as to remain "neutral."
The Church's relationship to nonviolence became a central question for the committee that, in my opinion, has yet to be fully answered. Following a six year process of discernment, the committee amended and subsequently approved Risking Peace in a Violent World: Five New Peacemaking Affirmations (12-06). The committee amended the overture to include more concise language from Daniel Ott in some affirmations, while committee writing supplemented the ACSWP language for others. The affirmations support a variety of claims to peacemaking: Just War theory and Christian pacifism, military service and nonviolent opposition to war. It remains to be seen how these affirmations might inspire change, particularly when children like Ahmed are tortured for reaching for grape leaves across borders.
The committee's steps mark just the initial stages in our global witness to nonviolence. I pray that Christ, our Prince of Peace and Reconciler, would continue to work through the Church as we seek to enact these eleven overtures. With the Spirit's help, may we become a Church truly committed to risking peace.