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Postcard from Italy: BPFNA at the Global Baptist Peace Conference, February 11, 2009

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February 12, 2009 | bpfna

from LeDayne McLeese Polaski, BPFNA Program Coordinator....

February 11, 2009

Outside, we've had warm sun, cold rain, and hard snow ( a treat for many of the Africans here who had never seen it!) Inside, we've had warm conversations with peacemakers from all over the world -- at the role call of countries this morning, we called out some fifty countries from Angola to Zimbabwe. One early highlight for Evelyn and me was our first-ever face to face meeting with our long-time friend Jimmy Diggs. Jimmy is a brave and bold peacemaker in Liberia whom Ken Sehested and Dan Buttry have worked with over the years, and with whom we've had a intense e-mail relationship for years. We've tried multiple times to bring him to the United States but have never been able to get a visa from the US government. But here in Rome, we have at last met. When we embraced shortly after our arrival on Monday, he said, "Now my joy is complete." Our joy is deep as well.

Each day we worship in a lovely layer of languages -- the talented worship team effortlessly combining Italian, English, Spanish and others  in word and song -- somehow making it possible for all of us to hear and sing in our own languages -- and in the tongues of those around as well.  More than one person has made reference to the coming day when ALL with gather and every tongue confess together.

In formal meetings, we hear stories of peacemaking from war zones in Nicaragua, refugee camps in Angola, maximum security prisons in the US. We cry at the stories of violence against the most vulnerable, women and children -- refugees escaping from genital mutilation, beatings and brutality, discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. We marvel at the strength of those who come through these experiences -- those who work with them -- and those who have survived who now care for those who come after them.

In informal settings, we hear the stories of people who teach peacemaking to war orphans, who counsel little children who draw pictures of bombings, who study conflict transformation so that they can change their warring homelands, who lead healing workshops on trauma recovery amongst those who have lost everything.

The children's art display is a blaze of color and of hope -- children all around the globe declaring their hopes for peace. Amongst the tongues and tales, work and witness of those gathered here, we see it happening.

More later as we find the time to write and we get internet access - which has been spotty at best here in the mountains outside Rome


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