A Joyful Start
“One planet, one people, one song.” Teaching us these lyrics, Laura Hassler, founder and director of Musicians Without Borders officially opened the Second Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival in harmony! This song hit the exact right note for the upcoming days.
Following a vigorous start with our “body percussion orchestra” of around two hundred participants, conference coordinator Andres Pacheco Lozano and professor Fernando Enns discussed the importance of encounters like this weekend. Meeting, thinking, and talking about peacebuilding, we can network amongst ourselves and encourage one another in our work: on a local or global scale. All of this proves to be more than important in our contemporary context of rising nationalism and increased polarization within nations, which not only affect our identities but also our ideas about peacebuilding.
With this thought in mind, our first key-note speaker was Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches. Pushing the Mennonite church to use its courage and strength in crucial times like this, she emphasized the presence of Mennonites at the global stage in the continued work on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. “If we believe in peace,” as she said, “then it is a lifetime calling.”
The second key-note speaker of the conference, Ruard Ganzevoort, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at Vrije Universiteit, discussed the necessity of trauma healing in peacebuilding. Without returning to the wound, Ganzevoort explained, there is no justice or peace, but merely seeds for a next conflict. Connecting trauma to the religious traditions, which all have traumatic events at its core, the audience shared their favorite ‘traumatic’ Bible stories, ranging from Mark to Tamar.
Someone who clarified that violence is more than just physical wounds, was Rachel Goosssen, professor of History at Washburn University. Confronting the audience with the individual and collective trauma experienced by members of sexual minorities, she incited Mennonites internationally to contest such forms of violence as well and live up to the ideal of inclusiveness in church.
With these interesting key-note stories presented, and even more topics to be presented throughout the weekend, the start of the conference could not have been more exciting. We are looking forward to the following days, filled with dialogue, performance, and more importantly, with laughter. Because, as Laura Hassler mentioned, “one basic element of peace is joy!”