We are expanding our missionary presence as Witness Workers of Mennonite Church Canada. PeaceBuilders Community is now operating from the northernmost to the southernmost parts of the Philippines. We praise God for the trust of many communities who have invited us to journey with them as they seek justice and peace in their historical context. We are also happy that many pastors and church leaders have joined us in a national Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Movement. However, some of these Christian leaders, mostly funded by foreign mission groups, think that our mission of peace and reconciliation is another strategy for proselytizing people and communities into a Westernized Christianity that was used to colonize us in the past.
And so, we are now evaluating the various peace and reconciliation initiatives being done by leaders who have finished our PAR Seminar Series. This season of evaluation is prompted by some reports that a few of our PAR Seminar graduates would enter various communities with a so-called “Christian mission” and tries to do things for the community, without free, prior and informed consent, without cultural sensitivity, and without respect to the people’s dignity, as if God was absent in that community before our ministry arrived there.
Some reports were true; many were not true. Nevertheless, Joji and I have decided to sit down with certain PAR leaders and volunteers we have trained.
Our ministry’s concept of “Christian mission” must be evaluated with the love of Christ.
Philippians 1:9-11 is a good prayer and set of lenses for evaluation if our PAR advocacy is indeed motivated by the love of Christ. These are what we’re sharing with our fellow PAR leaders:
:: The love of Christ “abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…”
We start with fact-finding and data-gathering. We analyze our data in the context of the community’s worldview, value system, and behavior patterns. Our depth of insight is sustained by spiritual consciousness and awareness.
:: The love of Christ is “able to discern what is best…”
We discern best when we listen. We listen to the facts. We listen to the people’s worldview. We listen to the people’s values. We listen to their actions. We listen to their emotions. We listen to their stories as they journey as a community and as a people. We listen to their aspirations. We listen to their definition of what is best for them.
:: The love of Christ is “pure and blameless…”
We do community work not for the sake of our organization’s reputation or records of accomplishments (mostly used for fund-raising purposes), but for the justice-oriented peace and development of the people and their environment. We do not use the community for the preservation of our organization. We are called ‘faith-based organization’ precisely because we depend on God, by faith, for our organization’s funding. When God stops providing funds and resources for our organization, perhaps it’s time to consider that our organization’s purpose may have been accomplished. Let’s not make an idol of our organization.
:: The love of Christ is “filled with the fruit of righteousness…”
Righteousness is being right before God and being right before the people with whom we serve and whom we serve. Righteousness follows ethical principles such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
:: The love of Christ is done for “the glory and praise of God.”
Our peace and reconciliation ministry is an offering to glorify and to praise God — not our organization, not our religious denomination — but God alone.
Thank you for your prayers as we grow in our informal leadership in this national peace and reconciliation movement. Joji and I will be so happy to listen to your comments, insights, and suggestions.
Peace and blessings!