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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Sharing peace and understanding


Preparing for the Peace & Global Witness Offering

September 30, 2023

Every year, Presbyterians are asked to give to the Peace & Global Witness Offering. And every year Presbyterians ask: “Why?” One reason that Presbyterians contribute is because 50% of the offering stays with their local congregation and presbytery, empowering local peacemaking work in their own community. The other 50% supports the peacemaking work of the denomination, through our office, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

I’d like to share a personal story about the power of the interpersonal interactions that are necessary in peacemaking efforts. Our office provides in-person and online educational and leadership development opportunities to help Presbyterians engage issues of justice and peacemaking. One effort is the Standing Our Holy Ground webinar series, which focuses on how the faith community can be involved in gun violence prevention.

Our first webinar was broadcast live from the Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University. The webinar featured a panel discussion of youth as well the deputy chief of the Purdue University Police Department, who talked about how the university was trying to prevent gun violence.

After the webinar and discussion was over, a young man approached the front of the stage. I’m going to describe him, so you understand the context of the situation. He was a young Black man, wearing a du rag, tank top, green gym shorts and pristine gray basketball shoes. Around the U.S., he would be a prime target for racial profiling by police.

This young man came to the front of the stage and greeted the Purdue University deputy police chief. He said, “Hello, officer, thank you for the presentation and comments today. I’d like to ask you a question.” The police chief said, “Certainly.”  The young man said, “I appreciated how your comments about how you are trying to keep students safe. But I’d like to ask about the incidents of police brutality and being quick to shoot in situations involving Black individuals and members of the African American community.”

Standing Our Holy Ground — Young People and Campuses (provided)

The police chief responded, “Thank you for asking about that. First, I would say that every police officer needs to undergo proper training. Training about not only how to operate a weapon as a police officer but about how to evaluate situations with a measured head. Unfortunately, we get a lot of young officers coming in who are not trained properly and they shoot impulsively in a situation or engage in inappropriate actions. Secondly, we as police officers need to remember that even if we are arresting someone, that they need to be treated like human beings. A practice I use to remind myself that I am working with a human being is I ask, ‘Are you OK?’ I was in the process of arresting a man who was resisting and very agitated and distressed. I took a breath, and I asked him, ‘Sir, are you OK?’ The man stopped resisting and moving around as much and said, ‘yes.’ Then I replied, “OK. I’m going to put these cuffs on you now.”

After this conversation, the young Black man said, “Thank you, officer. I really appreciate you talking with me,” and they shook hands.

I like to think in that situation there was a moment of peace and understanding between these two people. But it is saddening that one year later the very public instances of police brutality and racism against Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor undermined this moment of peace.

In a world that is fractured and chaotic, we need more moments like the one at Purdue University of genuine understanding and conversation. If we can foster moments like this every day and all over the world, imagine how much our world could change. Imagine if our Communion tables would be used not just for the sharing of elements, but tables for the sharing of experience and understanding.

Of course, systemic reforms are needed as well to address the injustices in our world. But at a personal level, this is one way we live into God’s call to us as peacemakers. It requires courage, boldness and a willingness to step outside of our comfort zone. But if we are willing, only God knows the possibilities for transformation and peace that can ensue.

Simon Doong, Associate for Peacemaking, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Today’s Focus: Peace & Global Witness Offering

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Sally McKinsey, Managing Editor for Call to Worship, Theology, Formation & Evangelism, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Andrea McNicol, Manager, Budgets & Forecasting, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

Dear God, bless all those who do peacemaking and justice work in your name. May we be brave and feel your love and comfort even in difficult moments. Help us to remember we are not alone. May we find peace in sitting around a table together to engage in intentional conversation with all our siblings near and far, being the world communion that you call us to be. Amen.