Peace & Global Witness Offering helps unlikely connections take shape
By Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — While they come from different generations and different continents, Ravo Vonialiosa and Lucy Janjigian are both shaped by histories of hardship that nurture their passion for peace and justice.
They say their commitment was strengthened last year after they encountered one another through a travel study seminar sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, a ministry supported through gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering. Participants in the seminar visited Madagascar, an island nation 250 miles off Africa’s eastern coast. Due to years of unsustainable development practices and government instability, the Malagasy people suffer from poverty and malnutrition.
Janjigian, a native of Palestine who now lives in Los Altos, California, and Vonialiosa, a future Malagasy pastor, connected at Ivato Seminary, where Vonialiosa studies.
Throughout the visit, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) group was impressed with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar’s efforts to alleviate hunger and promote democracy, Janjigian said. “The church there is so alive,” she observed. “It is active and strong, and they encouraged us to be faithful.”
At the seminary, Vonialiosa and her classmates were drawn to Janjigian’s account of her family fleeing Jerusalem during the 1948 war and her stories related to the ongoing struggles in the Holy Land.
“I was very surprised by the violence people there have experienced and was very sad to hear what was happening,” Vonialiosa said.
Vonialiosa noted her goal in ministry is to “bring new ideas and new life to the churches I serve and a new life to the nation.” Her resolve, she added, was strengthened by her Presbyterian visitors.
“I realize now that the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar is not alone. I will share this with the churches I serve so they know that there are many churches around the world praying for us,” she said. “I feel a greater connection to the worldwide church.”
Seminar participants say they are sharing the story of the Malagasy people. They are calling the PC(USA) to deepen its commitment to them through advocacy efforts that promote democracy, human rights and sustainable development practices.
Their commitment was deepened by face-to-face contact with the people they met in Madagascar. “I can see the faces of the people,” Janjigian said. “It makes it so much more alive.”
The Peace & Global Witness Offering helps the PC(USA) reach out to people who long for peace and reconciliation, said Bryce Wiebe, the PC(USA)’s director of Special Offerings. “One of the most important building blocks in shaping a foundation for peace is honest conversations and shared experiences,” he said. “On these building blocks, unlikely partnerships can take shape, and people can carry each other’s burdens, advocate for one another and share each other’s hope.”
Half of the offering is used by the national church to witness for peace and reconciliation in troubled places around the world. Twenty-five percent is retained by congregations for local ministries of peacemaking and another 25 percent is used by mid councils for these ministries on the regional level.
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