Building peace is the work of the Church

Church , Peace , Written

“The Church needs to become mediators in the event of unrest. We need to represent to people what peace is. Churches should be a place of refuge to all, regardless of whether they are members or not.” – Rev. Samu Khanyile

With the 2024 elections looming, and with the spikes of violent unrest over the past few years in our country, Heartlines and the South African Council of Churches (SACC) partnered to host a series of peace-building Bridge events. The aim was to facilitate a story-sharing process to equip Christian leaders to foster understanding, broker peace and build reconciled communities.

As Heartlines Facilitator Jeff Cele put it: "In times of crisis, can people know to run to the peacemakers – the Church?"

Two Bridge peace events were held in KwaZulu-Natal, with a third held in Gauteng on 23 May. Clerics gathered from various denominations, including the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, the Ethiopian Episcopal Church, and various Pentecostal and Evangelical congregations.

Preach and teach peace

Rev. Jabulani Mthethwa, a representative of the SACC, stressed the need for all to walk in tolerance towards people of all backgrounds. “We need to educate our congregations about the power of peace,” added Pastor Zandah Steenkamp. “We need to preach and teach peace, and teach and model forgiveness.”

Peace is wholeness and completeness – Hubert Tiger, Heartlines Rep

Drawing from story-sharing principles, delegates spoke about the importance of first reconciling your own story before you can actively engage in building understanding within your congregation. Throughout the day they shared their stories with each other, as well as challenges and the areas of conflict within their broader communities. “We need to find a way to put ourselves in spaces that allow us to become bridge-builders,” added Major Darren Huke.

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The liturgy of peace

Peace is revolutionary, it’s not just about mediation, according to Heartlines senior facilitator, Rev. Seth Naicker. “We cannot write peace out of our liturgy. The very words, Peace be with you, are critical to our mandate as Christian leaders.”

Naicker, who also works extensively in the space of diversity and racial reconciliation, shared a number of models for peace-building. One of them was from Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker:

  • Peacemakers are people who breathe grace
  • Peacemakers draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ to bring love, mercy, forgiveness, strength and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life
  • God delights to breathe grace through peacemakers and use them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice, and encourage repentance and reconciliation.

“We are on the cusp of a critical time in our country,” stressed Naicker. “The work of peace is more important now than ever.”

During the Bridge event, delegates workshopped several practical ways for churches and Christian leaders to model peace. The infographic below is a summary of their collective wisdom.

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