Most everyone, Christians and people from all faiths and no faith, know the line from the Beatitudes in the Gospel According to Matthew, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Mt. 5:9) It has been a scripture lifted up by those committed to making peace for over two thousand years. Sometimes people forget that is the seventh step in what former executive of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Jim Forest called, “The Ladder of the Beatitudes”. For Jim, these passages were in a specific order for spiritual work. The belief lies in that all journeys must start with powerlessness. Whether you are taking the first step in recovery and realizing you are powerless in relationship to addiction or sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing, “Blessed are the poor in the Spirit.” (Mt. 5:3) Becoming a peacemaker does not happen overnight or even at will in the right moment. Peacemaking is deliberate and designed. Peacemaking is organized and strategic. Peacemaking is purposeful and positive.
That is why the Fellowship of Reconciliation, in response to the United Nations “Declaration on a Decade of Nonviolence” put the resources and commitment into creating a nonviolence training curriculum that would empower people to take the journey to become peacemakers. This training program would bring together both long time activists and those new to the movement. It would be a program that could be used across various community needs and individual experiences. This program would work for different cultures and different faith groups. It would be powerful and universal. When former FOR Executive Director, Janet Chisholm, started working on developing this program, she was wise enough and grounded enough to look at the steps that preceded peacemaking. She was our teacher and guide as we explored the process to becoming peacemakers. First we had to address our brokenness, forgiveness, love, desire, disappointment, and letting go. Then we would be ready to take nonviolent action and/or build a constructive, peacemaking path in the midst of a violent situation. It was the same wisdom Mohandas Gandhi used in leading a nonviolent revolution in India. Hating the British would not solve any problems. Loving them would create and opportunity for transformation. Creating a constructive, peacemaking path would change the course of history.
This ancient, peacemaking wisdom led to the formation of the program now affiliated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation called, Creating a Culture of Peace. It is in this training program that participants literally take on the important work of recovery from violence. We encourage powerlessness as the beginning of the journey to personal and social transformation. Along the way we play and experiment with forms of compassion, mercy, resistance, desire, prejudice, love, disappointment and letting go. During a Creating a Culture of Peace training participants learn strategic action planning and embrace emptiness and vulnerability. People learn how to transform disappointment into renewed power. And, most importantly, people leave every training with a concrete plan to create a culture of peace. We are training peacemakers to take on issues personally, locally and globally.
When Eugene Peterson wrote his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, he wrote the peacemaker scripture in this way, “You’re blessed when you teach people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (Mt. 5:9) This is the work of transformation that we are part of in Creating a Culture of Peace. During a basic training people learn the practice of cooperation and through that freedom, discover who they really are.
This training has transformed and formed my own ministry and I would recommend it to any leader of any group looking for the strategies and practices to create something constructive and new. There are over a hundred facilitators around the country ready and willing to lead a training in your area. To find out more, just reach out to www.creatingacultureofpeace.org and give us a call.