Seeds of peace and reconciliation  

A seed begins to sprout in a garden in La Florida, Colombia. This garden is part of MCC partner Sembrandopaz's work rebuilding lives and livelihoods in communities affected by Colombia's armed conflict in this region in the early 2000s. (MCC photo/Annalee Giesbrecht)

As we approach Election Day in the United States, we are keenly aware that we live in a time of heightened polarization within our country -- and, sometimes, within our families and church communities. There is concern that, no matter the outcome of the election, these divisions will only deepen and that acts of celebration and protest alike could turn violent.

As Christians who believe literally in Jesus' call to be peacemakers, how can we be seeds of peace and reconciliation in this moment? Here are a few concrete suggestions to apply to whatever action your faith compels you to take.

If you might attend a protest or other public event, consider taking an active bystander training to equip yourself to respond constructively and nonviolently to a confrontational or potentially violent situation. At a minimum, review basic guidelines for being a peaceful presence at protests. Churches and faith leaders can inspire calm with events such as prayer walks and hymn sings.

Encourage civil discourse by modeling it yourself. If one of your preferred candidates wins, and you choose to respond on social media, in church or in the public square, do so in a way that does not demonize or mock those who are not as pleased with the result. Conversely, if you are frustrated by the outcome, commit yourself to a constructive, thoughtful response and encourage those around you to do the same. Rather than seeking to be right, seek to listen and to be heard. Build bridges of mutual understanding by engaging in respectful dialogue.

We cannot build up God's kingdom while tearing each other down. Only by finding ways to work together will we succeed in creating a better world-one brave step, one bold relationship, one small act of peacemaking at a time.
  Resources for peacemaking and nonviolence  
  The views expressed in these resources reflect those of the organizations that prepared them, and not necessarily those of Mennonite Central Committee U.S.  
  Choosing Christ's way of reconciliation  
  The leaders of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S.' supporting denominations - Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches, Brethren in Christ U.S., CMC (Conservative Mennonite Conference), LMC -- a fellowship of anabaptist churches, Mennonite Church USA and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches -- together requested that MCC U.S. staff prepare this message. We pray for the witness of the church in the U.S. at this tumultuous time.

Nearly 500 years ago, the Anabaptist tradition was born of a small group of believers whose commitment to following Jesus showed an alternative path to the widespread Christian practices of the day, which were bound up in politics and power.

For this group, following Jesus meant orienting their lives around Christ's call - not as second, third or fourth priority, but as primary. As articulated in their Schleitheim Confession, this included rejection of the sword as their protection, declaring it was "outside the perfection of Christ."

Their faithful witness inspires Anabaptists in this time of enormous division and upheaval in the United States.

Read the full message.

  Lessons from our sister churches  
  One blessing of being a worldwide ministry is the wisdom we can learn from our Anabaptist brothers and sisters around the world who have been peacemakers in uncertain times. In 2011, Colombian Anabaptist churches came together across their differences to sign a statement renouncing violence and committing themselves to peaceful action. A few excerpts from the statement are below:

Following Jesus, the Son of God, who we recognize as the almighty God, we affirm our Biblical and historical conviction that the way of Peace is active nonviolence and love of our neighbors, especially the weak, marginalized, poor and our enemies.

We invite our fellow citizens to commit to nonviolence in all their relationships.
  • I commit to cultivating a personal and family spirituality of love and nonviolence.
  • I commit to practicing nonviolence in all my family relationships, rejecting physical, verbal and psychological abuse.
  • I commit, out of love for my neighbor, to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent way.
  Washington Office updates  
Oh God of peace, in a time of division, we ask for the patience to be reconcilers, for the gentleness to be comforters, for the courage to be active peacemakers. We ask for hope -- not optimism that things will work out on their own, but the radical belief that through You our actions can make a difference.

In the name of Christ,