Last week, as communities across the United States remembered and celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., I couldn’t help but think about the Peacemakers. Dr. King was a man who drew upon his faith to reach millions with a vision of nonviolence and equality. The Peacemakers, too, carry that vision. They are Christians, Jews and Muslims, whose peace work reflects the diversity of religious beliefs within the Abrahamic traditions, as well as a key shared objective – building peace with one’s neighbor.
Nearly three months ago, the Peacemakers gathered in snowy Sarajevo for their third Working Retreat. They came together from around the world as clergy and lay leaders, women and men, local heroes and national figures. They brought unique knowledge and experiences from 13 distinct armed conflicts, where they each take great risk to end suffering and build a foundation for peace. They may not get the recognition rightly given to Dr. King, but they’re remarkable just the same.
Three months later, I’m still thinking about Father Reid’s first-hand account of mediating behind the scenes of the Northern Ireland conflict. Or the stories that emerged when Bill talked about his work with the tribes of Southern Sudan, and asked what rituals from our own religions or cultures could be used to promote peace. Or the healthy debate on whether or not certain conflict resolution techniques apply in different contexts, which followed James and Ashafa’s description of their interreligious work in Nigeria. Not to mention the both intense and hilarious stories that were swapped over steamy Burek or Cevapi in the cozy restaurants within Sarajevo’s Stari Grad (often my favorite part of the day)!
Dr. King reminds us of the power of just one individual who dreams that peace is possible, and who is brave enough to follow that dream. I feel thankful for the Peacemakers, and the many others like them, who share that dream and call to action. They have much to teach us.