Manna feature: Transforming conflict

1st November 2023

Diocesan peacebuilders network

Christians are called to be peacemakers. ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples’ John 13:35. At their best Christian communities can reflect the Kingdom of God, demonstrating how people from diverse backgrounds and with different gifts can work together. In reality, things are not always harmonious. Anxieties about change, unexplored disagreements or interpersonal animosities can give rise to quarrels in which love and forgiveness are forgotten.

Simon Keyes, diocesan Adviser on Peacebuilding says, “Parishes can experience disputes and, just like family disputes, they are often complex. A parish which becomes a ‘house divided’ can be an uncomfortable place of anger, blame and pain. This is not easily remedied, even through dialogue or mediation.”

Simon leads the Bath and Wells Peacebuilding Network, a group of trained local volunteers, lay and ordained. Their new Peaceful Parish initiative aims to help parishes transform a conflict by approaching it as a call to repair Christian community, rather than a problem to be solved.

It rests on three core ideas – that we are fallible and all of us fall short of our ideals; that the Kingdom of heaven is a metaphor for the kind of community we might aspire to become; and that forgiveness offers a way to loosen the grip of the past.

These ideas can be explored in workshops through scripture, personal reflection, and community conversation. Simon adds, “It is no miracle cure, but it can help people begin to think differently about past events and re-orientate themselves towards a better future. And we should all remember that conflict isn’t all negative, it can reveal unexpected opportunities for learning and growth. To rediscover ‘the miracle of diversity in unity, of the grace of God breaking down walls’, as Archbishop Justin puts it.”

This article featured in the November 2023 edition of the Manna mailing.

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