Churches in Action – A bit about the work of Peace and Justice

How does a country begin to recover after forty years of dictatorship?  After forty years of disappearances and assassinations, followed by a bloody revolutionary war, then almost 10 more years of war against counter-revolutionaries?  How does a nation heal and move on and not pass on the violence and trauma to the next generations?

These are the daunting questions that the Peace and Justice Commission of the Anabaptist Churches of Nicaragua is asking itself, and in its own small way trying to respond to.  Peace and Justice seeks to contribute to the construction of a culture of peace; overcoming the culture of violence in which Nicaragua finds itself.

Peace and Justice currently partners with four local congregations that are trying to respond to the violence and conflict that they encounter on a daily basis in their neighborhoods.  Two churches, located in some of the most impoverished and marginalized neighborhoods of Managua, are working with gang members in the community, searching for ways to reincorporate these ‘at-risk’ youth back into the community.  The Peace and Justice Commission has been working with members of the church involved in this new initiative, training church members on a wide range of topics from self-esteem to communication to conflict transformation so that the church is better equipped to work with these youth.  So far church members have been very encouraged by the response they’ve received from the supposed gang members.  Interest in the monthly meetings has been high and the youth have even requested that they meet more often.  The church has also begun seeking connections with community agencies to advocate for the youth to find more opportunities for education and recreation.

The other two churches volunteer in their local schools teaching children, parents, and faculty the basics about handling conflict without using violence and how to communicate and listen effectively in home and at school.  These church members have also been trained by the Peace and Justice Commission and continue to receive support from the Commission in their work with school families.

As the Peace and Justice Commission continues to motivate other congregations to be peacemakers in their communities, part of my job over the next 3 years will be to continue to walk along side and train the churches currently working with our organization.  The scope and depth of the violence is deep and the process towards recovery will be long, but churches are making a difference in their communities, influencing the way people interact with each other and think about conflict.

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