Longing and Living For Peace with Justice
Moises Colop, a former World Renew colleague in Guatemala, pictured above, used to talk with me
about “la lucha de los pueblos.” He meant the struggle of the peoples and nations to have deep freedom— a freedom of peace with justice. Five hundred years after the Spanish conquest, Moises saw the continuing struggles of the brown-skinned native peoples of Latin America for land, food, health, education, and for identity as God’s image-bearers as our challenge as World Renew workers. I often recall Moises’ phrase, la lucha de los pueblos because this struggle for peace with justice seems so long and so hard everywhere, not only in Latin America. Our American journey for healing and harmony among the races is like this. And, in our work with Asian countries, Bangladesh is an example of this “lucha.”
During November and December 2013, Bangladesh lived a new chapter of its struggle for a just government, freedom, and fullness of life. In the lead up to elections, there were executions of opposition party leaders accused of atrocities in the civil war of the early 1970s, there were repeated nation-wide strikes, and there were killings and burnings in the villages. The burning attacks were often started by majority people against minorities, usually those of Hindu culture. Pathos in Bangladesh was real, and forgiveness—even more than 40 years after their war of independence with Pakistan—still so lacking.
But, this week I read this hopeful little blurb in one of the reports from one of our partner organizations
in Bangladesh: “A number of primary groups, especially in Panchogorh, Birgonj, Kaharol, Tanor, and Debigonj, have many transformed leaders who are working for their communities using the values they have learned by working together. We can give you an example: the majority people save their fellow group members during the post-election violence.”
What a precious fruit from years of community development work! During the intense emotion of a controversial election result, some Muslim majority people stood up to protect their fellow
group members of the attacked Hindu minority from violence. And they protected each other because of shared values and shared accomplishments—in working to free their shared communities from poverty. Here are some of the accomplishments those people have made together:
• 3,250/4000 children under 5 years old are at normal
weight for age.
• 755 households are eating 3 meals per day.
• 637 farmers have vegetable gardens to supplement
• 437 farmers are trying new methods of growing
rice and 471 are using compost.
• 45 box libraries are running so that newly literate
people have good things to read.
• Their own organizations, called “peoples’ institutions,”
are advocating for social safety-net services.
It happens that this morning I read something striking about the theme of justice in the Bible: “There is
absolutely no concept in the Old Testament with so central a significance for all relationships of human
life as that of righteousness and justice (sdqh). It is the standard in the Old Testament not only for man’s
relationship to God, but also for his relationships to his fellows, reaching right down…to the animals and
to his environment…for it embraces the whole of Israelite life.” *
We as Christians share this longing of Moses and the prophets, and we share in this lucha for peace with
justice. As Christians we work together with Muslims and Hindus in Bangladesh for this longing.
* Paul Hiebert, p. 160, in Transforming World Views, quoting Gerhard vn Rad on this.