International Ministries

Conflict as Holy Ground

February 13, 2005 Journal

"Peace has come in the Democratic Republic of the Congo"!

"Peace has come in the family of CBCO."

I WISH that I could report that "peace has come" as a result of the 3 seminars on Conflict Transformation led by Global Missionary Rev. Dan Buttry in December.

I CAN say that over 140 people in Kinshasa and Kikwit have not only NEW PERCEPTIONS of conflict, but also NEW TOOLS for not only understanding and finding "resolution," but also for seeking TRANSFORMATION of the situation and all the key players.

In the preparations, the CBCO leadership changed its mind at the last minute and decided to completely exclude one group from participating in the seminars even though at one point the seminars were seen as a "means" to help resolve the conflicts between the two leadership groups.

In the midst of last minute extensive efforts to encourage them to change their minds, we received a call from Dan Buttry's wife Sharon, that they had been in a bad auto accident and Dan was hospitalized for further testing. (The accident was Tues. Nov 30 the night before he was to have flown.) Friday and Saturday's seminars were canceled, and the following weeks put on hold until we had further word. At least THREE miracles came in response prayers after the accident: 1) Dan was released with only broken ribs, and enough energy to come!

2) While all flights were booked until Dec. 7th, his agent found an open seat on Dec. 3rd and he arrived Sat Dec. 4th.

3) In the delay, and re-configuring of the remaining seminars, the CBCO leadership relented and allowed the "dissident group" to participate!!

How can conflict be perceived as a "holy ground"? As a "gift"? As a special opportunity for individual and group growth? As the cutting edge of where a person, relationship, group is being challenged to re-define his/their existence?

Being a biblically based Christian community, our initial "tools" for imagining and study were to be discovered in Biblical stories.

Moses, raised in Pharaoh's household, has killed a man and fled to the wilderness to escape the consequences of the murder, and the raging conflict between his brothers and sisters serving as slaves for their Egyptian masters.

In this context he encounters God, and is ordered to remove his sandals because he is "standing on holy ground". (Exodus 3:5) The "middle" of a conflict can be "holy ground". And it is INTO this "space", into "God's space" that we can learn new things: about ourselves, about the "others" in the conflict, and about God.

Like Moses, we can learn that we have a "call", a job to do. Moses did not feel adequately "equipped" to do the job, but he/we can learn that we have resources we were not aware of.

Pharaoh was the "other" for Moses. Moses learned that although Pharaoh thought he was "all powerful;" he was not "god." We can easily "give power" to others in a conflict which is not theirs, and so we give up.

About God: It was in the midst of this conflict that we learn that "God heard" the cries of the oppressed, and was ready to seek to bring relief and justice. God IS involved in and concerned about our conflicts and the suffering in our world, and calls people everywhere to find solutions.

It was in the midst of this conflict that God first reveals His divine name: "I am that I am." This amazing revelation, "in" a conflict! In the image of the cross and the suffering of Jesus, one can also find God's love revealed even for those killing him.

Conflict seen as "holy ground" opens the doors for new ways of being, and can create "holy space" and times and places for listening to our own pain, to the "others" and their pain/perceptions, and offering ourselves in the efforts to find the common ground and join hands with the "other" to transform the world together.

During the seminars, small groups played many "peace games." We are familiar with "war games" as a means of helping analyze situations, gain new skills, and practice working together. So in playing "peace games," we can learn analytical tools, create and practice new strategies in a "safe" setting, and learn how to be a team together.

Besides the Seminars on Conflict Transformation, an additional 32 people spent three days "experiencing" how to plan and lead EXPERIENTAL LEARNING sessions. Enthusiasm was high as people truly felt the difference between this culture's standard "lecture format" and the highly participative learning experiences facilitated by Dan.

To paraphrase one of Dan's closing remarks: we know that as Jesus approached Jerusalem in his final hours, Jesus WEPT and said, "Oh that today you knew the things that make for peace." (Luke 19:42). We know that Jesus weeps over CBCO, the Congo, and over the United States as well, for we don't seem to know those things that make for peace.

Will you join in studying, learning and practicing those things that make for peace, for in so doing, we can begin to DRY THE TEARS OF JESUS.

Thanks for your prayers and partnership in supporting ministries locally there in the USA and around the world, and for helping make Dan Buttry's presence here possible.