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International Peacemakers arrive in U.S.


Nine are commissioned at PC(USA) chapel service

By Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Nine International Peacemakers were commissioned at worship service held in PC(USA)’s chapel on Sept. 19. Ellen Sherby

LOUISVILLE – On the eve of the International Day of Peace, nine peacemakers from around the world arrived in the U.S. to begin their three-week visit to presbyteries, congregations, universities, men’s and women’s groups, theological institutions and other groups across the country. On Wednesday morning, they gathered at Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s national offices in Louisville to participate in a chapel commissioning service. After two days of orientation, each will travel separately across the country to share their peacemaking vision and experiences with their American audiences as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s International Peacemakers program.

Representing eight countries, each peacemaker had a role in the service, which included prayer and song.

Amal Nassar of Palestine brought the Call to Worship and Zulema García de Rojas of Venezuela delivered the Gathering Prayer in Spanish, which was translated into English by Hannah McKerley, a Young Adult Volunteer alumna.

Zulema García de Rojas (right), from Venezuela delivers the Gathering Prayer in Spanish. Hannah McKerly, YAV alumna, translates into English. Scott O’Neill

“How good it is, O God of peace, that in the beginning you created light and fashioned it into dancing things, suns and moons and stars above. As we watch them move and spin, you taught us to keep time, tapping our feet to the rhythm of hour, day, week and season. How good it is that you gave us time, so that in every time and in every way, we might know your peace. Send your Spirit to move our hearts to dance in the steps of your Son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

Michael Muot Put, from South Sudan, offered a Call to Confession and a Prayer of Confession. A Passing of the Peace by Greek peacemaker Manolis Ntamparakis followed.

“With thanksgiving, we rejoice in the reconciliation found in forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ. Let us therefore be reconciled with our neighbors and share signs of Christ’s peace. The peace of Christ be with you. Let us greet one another with signs of Christ’s peace.”

A Prayer for Illumination and a reading from Psalm 147:1–11 was offered by Roceni Bakian of the Philippines and Alex Awad of Palestine. Jerome Bizimana of Rwanda and Mary Mikhael of Syria shared concerns for those who have experienced mass shootings and senseless acts of violence in towns and villages around the world in Prayers for the World.

“In many parts of the world today, the air is tense with waiting, uncertainty, insecurity,” said Bizimana. “From ravaged lands, destroyed by war, your peoples lift their heads to you. We pray for stillness, for justice, and for peace to come and to last. We fear that they will not.”

“We pray for a peaceful existence between Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims, Jews, and Christians and people of all beliefs and backgrounds around the world,” said Mikhael.

Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, aided by Peacemaking mission specialist Rachel Anderson, commissioned each peacemaker by calling them forward to stand in front of the congregation, calling on each to confirm their Lord and Savior, be Christ’s faithful disciple, and to welcome their responsibility to work for the reconciliation of the world. The congregation confirmed the call of their sisters and brothers in Christ as International Peacemakers and offered prayerful support and encouragement for their upcoming journey.

A Charge and Blessing, given by Fabienne Jean of Haiti and Cindy Correll, mission co-worker, who translated Jean’s native Haitian Creole into English, closed the service.

Worshippers gathered at the 2018 International Peacemakers commissioning service. Scott O’Neill

“So go out in the world and make peace, have courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one evil for evil, but strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the suffering, honor all people, love and serve the Lord your God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“We are incredibly blessed to welcome these partners into the PC(USA) during this Season of Peace,” said Horton.  “They are, for me, the physical manifestation of the invitation we hear each time we gather at the Lord’s Table.  ‘…people will come from east and west, from north and south…’ They come from contexts of conflict and human-caused disaster like Syria, South Sudan and Palestine.  They come from lands of deep poverty, environmental devastation, food insecurity and political corruption like Madagascar, Haiti and Venezuela.   They come from nations seeking to welcome refugees, migrants and those displaced by war like Greece and Lebanon.  They come from places where human rights are threatened, and natural disasters put people at risk like the Philippines.  They come from places healing the wounds of war and working to reconcile perpetrators of violence and their victims like Rwanda.  Our church has the opportunity to not only be inspired by these peacemakers, but to learn from them, be equipped for the challenges we face in our communities and to accompany them in their work.”

The International Day of Peace is observed each year on Sept. 21. It provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and contribute to building a culture of peace.

The International Peacemakers Program is made possible by your generous gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering. 2018 worship resources for the Peace and Global Witness Offering can be downloaded here.

Since 1984, more than 300 International Peacemakers from more than 50 countries have participated in the program. Visit the Peacemaking Program’s web page to follow the International Peacemakers as they travel across the church between September 21 and October 15.

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