Category Archives: Peace and Nonviolence

The Weapon for a Peaceful World

If we believe or agree that physical violence or any form of violence is an effective response to fight against oppression, racial discrimination, segregation or other type of conflicts that we might face within our communities or around the world; there’s no reason to proudly identify ourselves as Human being. In order to create a life-giving world or community while wrestling with oppression, racial discrimination, segregation, etcetera…. we need to start considering a nonviolent approach to conflicts.
“Nation will not take up swords against nation, nor will they train war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4
God calls us to seek nonviolent solutions to conflicts for a long-term peace in the world that he beautifully made.

Picture taken by Dee schwartzman Raeside during the Shalom International Ministry's Youth silent auction at Shallowford Presbyterian Church
Picture taken by Dee schwartzman Raeside  during the Shalom International Ministry’s Youth silent auction at Shallowford Presbyterian Church

Growing up in a place of political instability, violence was considered as not only the right way but the excellent approach for resolving conflicts or accomplishing wished ends. My community believes in “an eye for an eye ” therefore; we were dealing with conflicts by harming or demolishing relationships and refusing the needs of other human beings, which derived more pain and division within the community. Several friends of mine lost their loved ones in one way or another, the majority of them had parents that were locked up in prison for destroying properties, and others’ parents were killed during riots. These additional problems that my friends were unfortunately facing were due to the method that the community used to resist injustices. My beloved community believed violence was a wonderful method to resolve conflicts, but after a few years the community started to suspect that violence had only created supplemental struggles and promoted barriers to peace within the community. This is to say that my community definitely needed a powerful “weapon” that would be accessible to everyone to fight injustice. A tool used not to punish, but to change and eliminate barriers to peace.
It’s has been over three years since I moved out of my community. I was discombobulated and frustrated of seeing injustices or people being humiliated. I felt like as a human being God was calling me for something greater than hate or supporting violence of any type. The great Albert John Luthuli, who was persecuted by his own government in South Africa and was a remarkable human rights activist, worked tirelessly against apartheid in South Africa and was also Africa’s first Peace Prize Laureate in 1961. He summed up pretty well what I felt and how I feel whenever there’s violence both in my community and around the globe, “I sin if I submit to the indignities that are hurled at me. I am a guardian of the Divine and it’s my Duty to defend it.”

Moving forward, I started doing research on ways that would help me and my community to handle conflicts not destructively, but constructively. One day along the road of finding a better and powerful way to fight injustice I came across the Micah Corps, which is an eight week summer internship program designed to empower young adults to link their faith with social justice issues and also help them explore different prayers methods as a way to grow deeper with their faith in Christ. This fantastic internship program is sponsored by The Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. Earlier in the internship, my teammate Amy Kenyon and I had the privilege to travel to Tecumseh, Kansas and met with Sarah Marsh who was our host and trainer on Peace and nonviolence. Rev. Sarah Marsh was a pastor at Tecumseh UMC, and also an associate community organizer through Topeka Justice Unity and Ministry Project (JUMP), an organization which stands for Justice by taking actions that honor the worth and dignity of every human being. Rev. Sarah Marsh is currently going to commit one-year to work in Lawrence, Kansas as a community organizer for Justice Matter, an organization that is similar to JUMP. She’s such an amazing woman with a heart that is profoundly concerned about social justice issues and she’s an inspiration to me. The way she links her Christian values with social justice is so fascinating. It’s with her help that I finally discovered and learned how to manipulate the famous “Weapon” which is “Non-Violence”. Everyone in my community along with most people around the earth knows about nonviolence, but we sometimes misunderstand or minimize the power of nonviolence.

Nonviolence is actually the only weapon that is available to all of us and it doesn’t require any money to purchase it, yet many still share the same allusion as my community that nonviolence is passive or lack of actions. More often though, nonviolence sadly appeared as voiceless to some people, but the world itself has proved us many times that without this breathtaking weapon we will never be able to experience the goodness of being in a world of  Shalom that God tended us to live in. Having this weapon of nonviolence is the world’s most valuable thing that a human being can truly ever possess. Selma, Alabama for example is a living testimony of the powerful weapon of nonviolence. There Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Viola Liuzzo, Reeb James and The Southern Christian Leadership Conference ( SCLC) along with many others who believed that the only reasonable or significant decision that a human being can make by fighting injustice is to consider a nonviolence approach. Together they fought the Voting Rights Acts in Selma, Alabama in early 1965. They did not want to punish the Selma government for all the abominable, deplorable, and horrible things they had done to the people of color who were denied their rights to vote. Instead they stood up and protested peacefully to change the system.

We as human beings are called to love and care for one another despite the fact of our religious differences or skin color or gender may differ. We belong to one another. That’s why it’s important to consider nonviolence in our community, family and around the world. Every human being has value as part of God’s creation meaning each one of us has a particular contribution in the Kingdom of God. By using this weapon of nonviolence at all times, together we help break the cycle of violence and encounter violence with love.

By Elysee Fachet Mahangama  

       Micah Corps’ intern


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New Nehemiah: Community Action Organization

Nehemiah chapter five tells of the prophet coming to Jerusalem when the Jewish people are in distress. It was a time of famine, and the people were dependent on grain to feed their families. In order to afford the grain, however, they had to mortgage their fields, borrow money at high interest, and sell their sons and daughters into slavery. These unfair practices had come as a demand from another group of Jews.

Nehemiah hears the complaints of the people. He gathers the people together, goes to the officials, and lays out the charges. He tells them what they are doing is not right, that fellow people do not deserve to be treated this way. He demands the return of the land, houses, and interest that had been unfairly collected. The officials agree and sign a document tying them to the promise of fair practices.

This process, of seeing an unfair situation, gathering people together, pointing out the problems to leading officials, and holding them accountable for making change, is a powerful form of social action. Therefore groups such as Topeka JUMP use this process to solve issues in their own communities.

Elysee and I learned about this organization when we traveled to the Topeka area to begin our training on Peace and Nonviolence. Our host was Sarah Marsh, pastor at Tecumseh UMC. Sarah has a heart for social justice and kindly offered several sources to spark our thinking on what it means to be peacemakers.

Micah Corps Interns Amy and Elysee with Sarah Marsh (Tecumseh UMC pastor) and Shanae' Elem (Topeka JUMP organizer)
Micah Corps Interns Amy and Elysee with Sarah Marsh (Tecumseh UMC pastor) and Shanae’ Elem (Topeka JUMP organizer)

Among these resources was Topeka Justice Unity and Ministry Project (JUMP). Topeka JUMP has been in operation for two years and brings together 18 Topeka-area ecumenical churches. It centers its work on the story of Nehemiah. Each year group leaders begin by hosting house meetings where they talk about issues they have noticed in their communities. By the end of this gathering stage, the groups have collectively determined which issue to focus on for the rest of the year. During the research phase, leaders delve further into the selected issue to understand its root causes, complications, and avenues to help. In the final stage, the organization brings its findings to community leaders with a clear action plan forward. At their Nehemiah Action Assembly, they ask leaders if they would be willing to take these steps to make a change.

In their first year of operation, Topeka JUMP focused on children living in poverty and the supports they need to be successful in schools. Unlike in the Nehemiah story, the superintendent did not agree with the gathered crowd. She resisted change by insisting there was no money to implement the requested programs, drawing on community sympathy. This left people with sympathetic feelings for the superintendent and some negative press for Topeka JUMP. Despite these frustrations, however, Topeka JUMP continued into their second year by focusing on job assistance for people with mental disabilities. The group has persisted in staying organized and being a recognizable community force.

Moving forward, Sarah Marsh is transitioning this summer to a one-year commitment in Lawrence, Kansas. In Lawrence, Sarah will work as a community organizer for Justice Matters. Justice Matters operates under a similar format to Topeka JUMP but is only a year old and includes 21 interfaith churches. Sarah is excited to learn about the organization, details, and commitment required in the early stages of an association like this. She is an inspiring example of how an individual can commit their lives to social justice work.

The examples of Nehemiah, Topeka JUMP, and Sarah Marsh show us the collective power of people. This work relates to the topic area of Peace and Nonviolence because it seeks methods of fulfilling community needs and resolving conflicts that prevent anyone from coming to harm. These stories also show, however, that this work is not easy. It involves resistance from those in charge, may be influenced by matters of money or media, and requires a good deal of dedicated organization. Though nonviolence is often thought of as being passive, it in fact requires dedicated action, organization, and courage.

These stories teach us that when we dialogue about problems, open space for information gathering, and develop avenues for change, we can make a difference.

By: Amy Kenyon