"And on Earth, Peace"

Today follows the end of Christmastide, a season that began with a choir of angels singing about peace on earth. Yet last year on this date you might recall feeling that the future held anything but. On January 6, 2021, we watched a thousand people who believed they were following righteous orders when they assaulted police officers at the U.S. Capitol. They failed in their murderous attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to a President whose popular vote victory margin measured more than 7 million; however, they succeeded at opening a bleeding wound in our nation's body politic.

You may have felt the wound yourself and wondered "how do we heal from this?"

One year later the question is more important than ever. Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project information show that, rather than retreat in horror from what happened an January 6, a small portion of people may have been inspired by it. The portion of demonstrations at U.S. and state Capitols to which people came armed and ended up engaged in violence increased from 2020 to 2021. Polarization trends reported by groups like the Public Religion Research Institute indicate partisan willingness to accept violence in order to "save our country."

These are ominous statistics but they only measure points in time that are already past. The future may rest on us and how live into "peace on earth" this year. On how we bear the responsibility of citizenship to be active participants in society and the call of Christ to be peacemakers; to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.

Image courtesy Flickr user Maha, CCBY 2.0

How do we use our own labor, and wealth, time and talents, to make manifest the body of Christ and build the common good?

Over the last portion of 2020 the Minnesota Council of Churches Respectful Conversation project has held meetings with national groups and organizations invested in peacebuilding. From communications scientists at the Centers for Disease Control to electoral violence prevention staff at the Carter Center; from researchers at American University's PERIL Institute to a partnership with Princeton University's Bridging Divides Initiative we have been building our capacity to strengthen the bonds of relationship and empathy among those whose outlooks and perspectives differ. We have been researching how to reduce the likelihood of violence. We are preparing for targeted peacebuilding in Minnesota.

In 2022, the 10th year of Respectful Conversations, we will train more lead facilitators to help congregations and community organizations build peace in your own neighborhoods and mission fields; we will train more table facilitators who bring enhanced conflict resolution skills into the heart of your organization, and we will hold more Respectful Conversations that help you to build empathy and take peacebuilding home to the family dinner table. We will continue to scale our work, share it with other practitioners, and make the most of national partnerships with new initiatives.

How do we heal from the wound of January 6? How do we build peace on earth? It won't happen passively. We must do the work. You can:

As we embrace what 2022 has to offer and the good we all can do in it, use MCC as your resource to work for peace.