Conflict transformation

“The Lord Bless you and keep you; the Lord make is face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”

This was the blessings from Numbers 6:22-26 that Professor Boaz Johnson sang over the participants in the different settings where he taught in during his time in Colombia. As he sang in English and Hebrew people received this blessing as a gift and as a reminder of God’s promises to them. The blessing came after a time of rich and interactive learning around themes of conflict transformation, peace, reconciliation, the influence of Jesus in the life of Gandhi. The opportunity to have people from North Park University come and teach in Colombia has been one that has enriched the processes and projects of the Covenant in Colombia.

In Medellin theology students, pastors, social workers, and lay leaders came together for 3 days of learning in order to grow in their knowledge of God’s word and what it has to teach us about conflict transformation. Boaz has a wealth of knowledge and he combines it with his own life experiences of growing up in the slums of India, as well as the different people and places he’s visited around the world. The students were touched by the willingness of Boaz to come and teach and they said they were challenged and equipped through what he shared. One of the women who was a part of the workshops stood up on Sunday to share that one of the most important things she learned was that women have value in God’s eyes and Scripture reaffirms it over and over again. She also said it made her want to learn Hebrew to be able to study Scripture in it’s original language.

After Medellin, Boaz and Julio traveled to the town of El Bagre to spend time with the people from the Be Peace, Make Peace project that is being carried out by youth and young adults. This project was the result of a year-long certificate program in peace and reconciliation that youth leaders participated in during 2017. Boaz was inspired by the leaders and the young men and women he met as he shared with us, “The Youth Peacebuilders have come up with so many strategies to counter these complex issues. These include education of the kids, advocacy for the vulnerable, and activities which would foster peace. They know that the road is long and hard. I pray that they would experience much wisdom and grace in this process.” He spent an evening with 50 people from the Be Peace, Make Peace project and the community. Boaz shared, “Most of the attendees were non-Christian. The session included a fairly long time of Q & A. The Be Peace, Make Peace team is making a huge impact on the city of El Bagre. They have seen much violence and trauma. Yet, I saw much hope in their words and eyes.” Boaz was clearly able to share the gospel message of peace and pray a blessing over this group.

After the workshop on conflict transformation, the participants said they wished they could have had a whole day learning together with Boaz. There was so much more they wanted to hear from him and ask him. It inspired them to continue to study and participate in the formational workshops that are being offered through the Be Peace, Make Peace project.

Boaz and Julio also met with a small group of leaders from the project who shared the history of their town, the challenges facing peace and conflict transformation and how they have already seen lives transformed by the project which began in May. Together they enjoyed sitting around the table, eating ice cream and sharing their stories. There were tears shed as people shared stories of suffering, but also of hope. Boaz’s visit is another reminder of the power of sharing stories and experiences with one another. We have so much to learn from each other. And not only did Colombians learn from Boaz, but he learned from his Colombian brothers and sisters. We are grateful for the ways North Park University and Theological Seminary and Covenant World Relief have partnered with the the peace-building effort in Colombia. And we are thankful for the testimony the Colombians have to share with their brothers and sisters in other parts of the word. As Yesid, one young man in the Be Peace, Make Peace project shared, “I understand that there is no short-cut to build peace, but I am willing to take the long road.”

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