by Katie Cook for BPFNA
(Rome, Italy, February 11) — The Global Baptist Peace Conference at the Villa Mondo Migliori in Castel Gandolfo near Rome continued yesterday and today with morning devotions, plenary speakers, storytelling and a plethora of workshops.
Morning devotions Tuesday centered around women in violence, with Elizabeth Green of Italy preaching. Today the theme was “War, Violence and Immigration,” with Carmine Bianchi leading the worship. O. Roca Santana and W. Hernandez Murga of Cuba presented the sermon.
Gustavo Parajón, a Baptist pastor and physician in Nicaragua, was the plenary speaker. Parajón played a key role in mediation between the Nicaraguan government and rebel fighters at the end of the Sandinista-Contra conflict in his country. Among the storytellers were Rusadan Gotsiridze, a Baptist bishop in the Republic of Georgia; João Matwawana, an Angolan native working in Nova Scotia, and Nancy Hastings Sehested, a former Baptist pastor and prison chaplain in the USA.
Workshops covered topics ranging from a theology of peace to environmental concerns. Lee McKenna, from Ontario, Canada, led a seminar about the methodology used by Sudanese Muslims and Christians who encountered one another in a joint project to build peace in their country, where civil war has escalated into genocide. Munir and Sharon Kakish of Israel led a workshop on how to overcome violence in the Israeli-Palestinian context. Ngande Nelson Ngube of South Africa facilitated a session about using the arts for peace efforts in severely conflicted regions.
Asher Israel Quimson of the Philippines said he most enjoyed the workshop on building a theology of peace. This was a day-long process led by Paul Fiddes of Oxford, England. “The facilitator took thoughts and insights from the participants and by the end of the day we had found a better way of expressing this theology—including insights from the third world,” he said.
Jihosuya Jena of India recalled the morning devotions as his favorite, with intercessory prayers for suffering people all over the world. “But I have also found the workshops helpful—learning about how to do peace work in our communities, how to take it to our people,” he said. “The workshop ‘Do No Harm’ about development assistance and humanitarian aid in conflict was very helpful for my work.”
Pat Kember of the United Kingdom was inspired by Nancy Hastings Sehested’s presentation, during a storytelling session, about her work as a prison chaplain in North Carolina. Norman Kember, Pat’s husband, said he appreciated the evening Taizé prayer service (a musical, contemplative style originated in the Taizé community in France.)
For April Baker of Tennessee, the most important aspect of the conference has been in conversations, connecting with new people and reconnecting with old friends. “This morning there was an informal roll call of the countries represented, and I was moved just realizing that there were that many peacemakers, in this place, at this time,” she said.
Katie Cook is based in Waco, Texas, and is editor of BPFNA's journal, Baptist Peacemaker
. BPFNA is a sponsor of the Global Baptist Peace Conference