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11 mei 2019

Diversity as power of the conference

Andrés Pacheco (32) is the coordinator of the 2nd Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival (2ndGMP). Growing up in a Mennonite community in Colombia, a country where a civil war has been raging for decades, Andrés became interested in topics of peace and justice at an early age. Eventually he decided to study psychology in Bogotá and later moved on to the Netherlands in 2010, where he became acquainted with the Mennonite Seminary. Having obtained his Master of Research degree in Theology, Andres started a PhD track in Peace Theology and Ethics at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, focusing on different communities in Colombia who contribute to peacebuilding in the midst of violence. When the idea came up to organize a the 2nd Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival in the Netherlands, he was ready to accept the call to become the coordinator of the event.

While Mennonites around the globe think about peace and work for it, a space is missing where one could reflect and share with others. To create such a space, a first event was organized in 2016: the first Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival, in Waterloo, Canada. "I was present myself with a group of Colombians and it turned out to be a very inspiring event. It was a great opportunity to see Mennonites from all over the world gathered to share ideas, experiences and obstacles in the field of peacebuilding. In particular the combination of practice and theory I found very interesting. Such an effort had to be continued, resulting in the 2ndGMP!"

“Certainly, my thinking about peace and theology has been influenced by the fact that I was born in a country of violent conflict. Ideas about liberation, faith and peace building always start with our personal experiences. In light of those experiences we shall test whether academic theories are helpful to identify creative ways of peacebuilding. Peace is not separated from daily life and faith, especially in our Mennonite tradition. During the conference we hope to host guests not only from the academic fields, but also practitioners, involved in congregational work, as well as peace-artists; to meet, to exchange experiences, to share dreams and challenges, in sum; to share what it means to be a member of a Peace Church and to witness to peacebuilding in all our specific contexts.”

The conference ties in to the larger framework of a “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace”, launched by the World Council of Churches (WCC). We Mennonites are not isolated, but part of the larger ecumenical family. Mennonite churches of Germany, the Netherlands and of the Democratic Republic of Congo are members of the WCC. For them, it will be most instructive to share the connection between our conference and that larger ecumenical framework. How can we participate in that ecumenical initiative of pilgrimages of justice and peace, from a Mennonite perspective? This question will be central throughout the conference, yet we will approach it from different perspectives."

“What I have learned during my time in the Netherlands during the past for 7 years, is that every person finds itself in a very particular reality. I come from a context of violent conflict, with a deeply wounded society, whereas here in The Netherlands tensions exist that have to do with Dutch history and search for identity. Take a look at the topics that we will discuss during the conference: decolonization, immigration, peace spirituality and environmental issues. These are topics that are frequently discussed in this country. In the Netherlands, I have learned that actually the dichotomy of violence and peace can be found in every single context, presenting itself in different – visible and invisible – forms."

“The purpose of the conference is to network, in the broadest sense. Not only do we want to bring together as many Mennonites as possible, but we also want to provide the most complete ‘map’ of peace work possible. We will try to make that visible during the conference, by organizing workshops, panel discussions, concerts, theater-plays, art and music. It will be a unique opportunity with a very diverse representation from around the world, but also with a wide range of topics; from theology and ethics, to interreligious peace building, environmental issues, migration and ‘integration’, to mission and decolonization. Although the pursuit of diversity may be an organizational challenge, this will also be the richness of the conference. The international Mennonite family is incredibly blessed by its different contexts and ethnicities, ideas and experiences. Much can be learned from that wealth. ”

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