And then I returned to the US last week, and suddenly the people around me aren’t talking about peace anymore. Saturday I watched in horror the images and videos that filled my newsfeed of torch-carrying Nazis, peaceful counter protestors being beaten, a woman being killed, and police letting it happen. I felt sick hearing Trump blame both sides and learning from friends that the worst of the violence had been covered up.
But looking at the faces of the people who stood up to the hate and racism, I saw the same thing I saw every day in Colombia: peacemakers. In Colombia they like to say that the purpose of the peace accords is to create a just and lasting peace. The accords aren’t just about convincing the guerillas to lay down their weapons. The accords seek to address the issues of injustice and inequality that caused people to take up arms in the first place. They offer reparations to the victims of the conflict, including minority communities that have suffered disproportionately. They offer rural reform to fix the economic inequality between urban and rural communities. They offer more effective measures to combat drug production and use that take into consideration why people grow or use drugs. The goal is to create peace for all. There is no true peace until all can live in peace.
The counter protestors who stood up to white supremacy on Saturday want that same kind of peace for the US. And they understand something important about peace: peacemaking is different from peacekeeping. Peacekeeping means preventing conflict by upholding systems that cause inequality and injustice. Peacekeeping means blaming violence on the oppressed when they stand up against their oppressors. Peacekeeping means saying there are “many sides.” But peacemaking means stirring the pot. Peacemaking means breaking the status quo. Peacemaking means tearing down the system and rebuilding a new one so that there will be peace for all.
In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Two verses in 5:11 later he says “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Seeing the responses to peacemakers both in Colombia and the US, I believe these two verses are connected. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, but the world will insult us, persecute us, and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of it. Peacemakers are attacked, beaten, and killed for standing up for peace. But that is what Jesus calls us to do.
If we call ourselves Christian, it is clear which side we belong on. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Be a peacemaker. Don’t let hate win.