A letter on peace from César García, general secretary of Mennonite World Conference
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” John 14:27 (NRSV).
The how is what matters. That was true for Jesus and it has been for his followers too… although not always. Sometimes we seek to impose our values and ethics on others in the name of Christianity. We easily forget that Christian values are for Christians, and in our sincere effort to find the common good we end up riding roughshod over Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and people of no religion, all of whom do not share our values and lifestyle.
Even so, seen through an Anabaptist lens, the New Testament invites us to influence and achieve societal changes by living out the values of the Kingdom of God within a voluntary alternative community that demonstrates to the world a lifestyle worth imitating. From our perspective, social change is not achieved by imposing Christian values through the legal system, nor through the control of coercive Christian politicians, or the oppression of marginalized groups in Christian dominated contexts. Jesus always invites us to live a different life, not from the centre but rather from the margins of society.
The prisoners of Tacumbú penitentiary in Asunción, Paraguay, understood this. They voluntarily handed over their weapons to Pastor Jonathan Beachy as a symbol of having being conquered by the God of love. They were not motivated to do this because of some order or law. This flowed out of the love of God that invites without imposing, that conquers without controlling, that wins through sacrifice and not numbers.
The weapons belonging to the Tacumbú prisoners became the raw material for Paraguayan sculptor, Hermann Guggiari, as he created the sculpture called Metamorphosis. This sculpture is currently located in the library of the Evangelical University of Paraguay that I visited some days ago.
|Click here to see a picture of Metamorphosis by Hermann Guggiari|
The how is important. The peace of Christ cannot be attained, nor much less be forced, by human means. Christ’s method requires a convinced community that voluntarily lives out the values of the Kingdom. Today, on Peace Sunday, in the midst of so much oppression, violence and hate caused by religion, we ask God to help us to be that alternative community that attracts. May the presence of God flood us with wisdom and power to be able to be that!
In the shalom (peace) of Christ,
César García, MWC general secretary