Proactive Peacemaking

Chris Blake, associate professor of English and Communication at Union College, is chair of the Lincoln Peacemaking Coalition. He spoke to Spectrum about the Coalition's big event last Sunday, which attracted lots of local news coverage, featured the city's mayor, and even a long-distance message from the Dalai Lama.

Question: Last Sunday, the Lincoln Peacemaking Coalition celebrated its 30th anniversary by hosting an event for all city residents, inviting them to contribute to a campaign for 10,000 Acts of Peace. How did the event go? Who was there? What was the atmosphere like?

Answer: Drenched in warm sunshine, hundreds of people celebrated peacefully in a musical, festive atmosphere. Ringing the event stood 18 tables of community organizations (including the Adventist Church’s Good Neighbor Center) that do peacemaking all year long. Mayor Chris Beutler read a Lincoln proclamation about a “City of Peace Week.” As former Lincoln mayor Coleen Seng wrote to me afterward, “What a great event! And the people just kept coming!”

Lincoln's 10,000 Acts of Peace campaign is part of a larger project: the One Billion Acts of Peace project supported by 13 Nobel Laureates. The city of Lincoln is the first city in the US to sign up to contribute as a community. Is Lincoln a particularly un-peaceful place? What is an "Act of Peace" anyway?

This world itself is a particularly un-peaceful place, and we are all residents. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates spent two years coming up with 10 areas of peacemaking focus:

* Education and community development

* Protecting the environment

* Alleviating extreme poverty

* Global health and wellness

* Non-proliferation and disarmament

* Human rights for all

* Ending racism and hate

* Advancing women and children

* Clean water for everyone

* Conflict resolution

PeaceJam co-founder Ivan Suvanjieff said, “When you see something wrong, and you try to discover the root cause of the problem, and then create a plan to tackle the root of the problem, either alone or with others who also care—that is an Act of Peace.” Keynote speaker Dawn Engle, co-founder of One Billion Acts of Peace, called Lincoln’s 10,000 Acts of Peace “bodaciously ambitious.” She noted, “Governments are paralyzed and polarized, “ and that if everyday, ordinary people become difference makers, “maybe our leaders will follow us.” We are a grassroots movement to make the world a better place, beginning in our own back yard.

What are some innovative Acts of Peace you have come across?

My wife, Yolanda, together with fellow second-grade teachers at Beattie Elementary, led their 66 students in studying the courage of Ruby Bridges, one child who led the way in U.S. racial integration. Church members purchased livestock through Heifer International. Our Union College Conflict and Peacemaking class conducted a Peace Camp for inner city children. Martha, a Methodist friend, invited a Muslim neighbor to coffee. The world is healed one person at a time. Thousands of examples can be seen at lincolnpeacemakers.com.

Are there other ways the students and faculty of Union College been involved in this campaign?

The Lincoln Peacemakers website and Facebook page were developed as a project by Union College students Misha Darcy, Aria Bodden, and Helen Maijub for their Public Relations Principles class taught by professor Pat Maxwell. Social media outreach was coordinated by recent UC graduates Harry Smith and Misha Darcy. Union grad Justin Gibson created the Lincoln Peacemakers brand. At Sunday's event, Union College students from Conflict and Peacemaking class and the Amnesty/Tiny Hands International Club set up, handed out programs as greeters, and cleaned up afterward. The Union College Octet, directed by Dr. Ricky Little, provided sublime music. Dozens of Union College faculty and staff attended and supported in various ways. So yes, Union College represented.

Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers." But why is peacemaking important?

What’s the alternative? Violence? Hatred? Peacemaking is a new earth value, one that will stand forever. Peace is also proactive: It’s more than the absence of hatred and violence, just as light is more than the absence of darkness. The four pillars of peacemaking are dialogue, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Peacemaking is fundamentally about action. The difference between a peace lover and a peacemaker is the difference between loving money and making money—we have to work at it. It isn’t all doves and rainbows.

Peacemaking is more than kindness. Sometimes peacemakers have to take and stand and say, “No more.” Sometimes peacemakers have to be visionary and say, “What if . . .?” That goes beyond kindness.

You are chair of the Lincoln Peacemaking Coalition. How long have you been involved? How long had you been planning Sunday's event? I understand you had a message from the Dalai Lama?

Our Coalition, with which I’ve been involved for five years, planned this event for a year. Yes, the Dalai Lama spoke to us. (No biggie, obviously.) In addition, Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for her work in eradicating landmines globally, talked to us via Skype on the giant Cube screen. Our event was well publicized beforehand, as shown in this local news article.

To learn even more, people can connect to Lincoln Peacemakers on Facebook.

Has the Interfaith Peacemaking Coalition organized anything similar previously?

We have sponsored such speakers as Jim Wallis, Jane Goodall, and Shane Claiborne. One year ago, the Coalition organized its event around the theme of economic discrimination. Keynote speaker Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer Prize columnist, spoke to more than 1,000 people on “Eating (Jim) Crow.” Afterward we held five practical workshops to empower economic justice, hope, and healing in our community. The goal of the workshops is to inspire and inform practical application.

This is the first year we have held our event outdoors. We may do it again, although I did say a prayer of thanks for the good weather (84 degrees Fahrenheit) on April 3 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Five days earlier we had snow. Whatever the weather, we were determined to make peace with it, naturally.

Chris Blake speaking at the event.

All photos by Steve Nazario


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7408
4 Likes

Thank-you Chris, et al!

The seed of peace is present in us all as the light of Life. Water daily. For best results, clear the surroundings of impediments.

Practice the presence of God.

7 Likes

Interesting that when it is something controversial, we have all sorts of folks weighing in with great bravado assert who is the rightest or greatest. When we have someone like Chris Blake fostering true community connection, building social justice into the SDA higher education experience and demonstrating that there are remnants of the SDA church that are still relevant, there are crickets in terms of conversation.

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

Thanks for giving me enough hope to stay connected to the SDA church a little longer.

5 Likes

This interview–part news about something wonderful that goes on in Lincoln; part arresting theological perspective–has just brought me a truck-sized Sabbath blessing.

Thank you so much, Alita. You persist in calling our attention to some of the most thoughtful and upbuilding figures in our community. As the American TV commercial says, “priceless.”

Chris, thank you. Your leadership and witness inspire me so much. In one response to Alita you said: “Peacemaking is a new earth value, one that will stand forever.” Wonderful. Eschatology is not just about what comes last; its about what LASTS. So it’s a fine clue to where our energies should go now.

Can’t we all agree on this?

Chuck

5 Likes

One should hope so Chuck. Important to stress the role of the individual in the peacemaking process. Great read. Rene G.

2 Likes

This is simply…beautiful! Bravo to Chris and all involved. This is truly thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Thanks…

Frank

1 Like

Chris, your example and your call to active Christianity have served as a rebuke and an inspiration to me, as they have done many times before. We need these reminders to do justly and to love mercy. I’ve just joined the One Billion Acts website and logged my first entry.
-Mary Christian

2 Likes

I am really surprised that even among the Adventist there are so many of those, who after about 6000 years of experience still naively delude themselves, that without the Prince of Peace we can achieve lasting peace in this world. Seriously, how much influence do we have as individuals on world’s peace or war?

It is too bad we SDAs “dont like Catholics” [tongue in cheek] other wise we could follow in the footsteps of St Francis’ Prayer.
Pray to become an instrument of peace, sow love where there is hatred, announce pardon where there is injury, bring union where there is discord, exchange faith for doubt, proclaim truth where there is error, exchange hope for despair, bring joy where people are sad, give light where there is only darkness.
Become people who console, who love, who give, who pardon, and receive eternal life by dying to self.

Another saying I like – If we would all light just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.
These are the ways in which SDAs, at least in North America can do Millions of peacemaking acts.

Among “the disadvantaged and poor” illiteracy is rampant. Creating a literacy movement.
In just the Prison System – Promote Restorative Justice instead of Punitive Justice. Promote ways of helping prisoners to return back to society, become functional members of society.

On-going health promotion in churches during the week. Just Diabetes. It is estimated that in a little over 10 years 25% of the american population will have Type 2 Diabetes because of obesity trends. Teen agers now are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes because of obesity.
Type 2 Diabetes is an inflammatory disease and goes along with hypertension, clogged arteries, arthritis, kidney disease, respiratory problems. Reverse Diabetes and one reverses hypertension, clogged arteries, arthritis, respiratory problems, kidney failure.
BUT DOING ACTS requires DOING ACTS. Not just having fun one afternoon a year.
As it says, being Proactive every day. Being Proactive as a community, what ever that “community” is made from.
Diabetes Reversal Programs can be an Ecumenical Project. Doesnt have to be an “adventist only project”.Too often we want these health programs to produce baptisms, so we are exclusive in inviting persons from other church groups [sunday keepers] from joining us, or using their church facilities.

Tony R – Yes, it takes an Ecumenical Movement, and even [HORRORS!!!] inviting Agnostics and Atheists to join.
Yes! We can"t do everything, but we can do some thing on that list.

1 Like

This is a positive movement. I only wish our local churches could take the peace message to our street gangs that operate in every major world city.

Some things I wonder if our theology does not mitigate against a inter-faith peace movement. In that we declare the Mark of Beast (Rev 13) is given to all who chose to worship God on Sunday instead of Sabbath. A common call for peace movements is for greater understanding and acceptance of different religious cultures and practices that are not openly violent in intent.

1 Like

Now I dont know much about this Coalition event, but from what I can see it has to do with alleviating suffering, providing clean water, education, etc. Hows that a waste of time?

5 Likes

We will never know because as a church organization we failed to stand up against slavery. We failed to stand up against Nazi Germany. We failed to stand up against the Rwandan genocide. We take no stand as a church on Palestinian statehood or the Syrian crisis. Perhaps the “delay” in the second coming is that God is waiting for us to live in the kingdom He established at His first coming.

3 Likes

Tact is the art to proactive peacekeeping making a point without making an enemy…especially spousal enemies! A happy wife lived an elated husband buried the coldest argument in the infernos. If she had taken for example the Roman Centurion for a husband from Julius Ceasar top General fighting machine. The “No more.” "What if…? Visionary absence of hatred and violence are estascy kindest returns. She is the luckiest than Cleopatra. The General when was returning from wars he used to send his top tracker and top bellower ahead to inform the General’s wife, so as not to surprise her in the act. Now, that’s a priceless peaceful proactive peacemaking so rare so few in modern men.

Yes, by joining the proactive peace movement and taking part in marches, parades and demonstrations, but doing nothing, we will show ourselves to be caring, concerned, loving, exactly like pope Francis, who presented many wonderful speeches but so far did absolutely nothing.

“Joining the proactive peace movement and taking part in marches, parades and demonstrations, but doing nothing, we will show ourselves to be caring, concerned, loving” is definitely not what took place at 10,000 Acts of Peace. In fact, people were specifically encouraged to actually do something, and were given opportunities to connect with the community in marvelous ways. Here are a few responses from Union students who attended:

“Just realizing that there are 700 kids in the community who want and need a mentor inspired me and my boyfriend to get involved in the Teammates Program and other channels in the community.”

“At the voting booth I signed up to process my citizen application because I want to vote in the upcoming elections. The only purpose of the people in this booth was to inform people on how to register and actually register. They were not affiliated with any party.”

“I was specifically interested in the booth called Lincoln Literacy, which is an organization where people volunteer to tutor in English. I think it will be a good experience for me.”

Oyo, it sounds as if we share similar concerns. Here’s my concern:

“Joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church and taking part in sermons, singing, and potlucks, but doing nothing to actually interact with the local community or provide thoughtful solutions to existing problems, we will show ourselves to be caring, concerned, loving.”

You’re right. That approach is utterly ridiculous.

3 Likes