A dozen international peacemakers from 10 countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 24-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bolivia, Central Asia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.
The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
Zakaria Jusuf Ngelow is a scholar, theologian and teacher in Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia. He has taught in a number of Indonesian universities and since 2005 has been director of Yayasan Oase Intim, an educational institution that promotes contextual theologies and empowering local ministry. He currently serves as a member of the executive committee of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia.
Q: Where will you be going?
- Mackinac Presbytery, northern Michigan
- Westminster College, Pa.
- Redstone Presbytery, south central Pennsylvania
- Community Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids, Minn.
Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
Ngleow said his presentations will vary depending on what each audience is interested in hearing about.
"I'm not here to teach but to share. I will share my stories and I will also listen to people here."
One subject that he probably will touch on involves the pluralistic nature of Indonesia. There are many different people, islands, languages and religions in Indonesia, and these differences can lead to inter-ethnic conflicts, Ngleow said.
"But we are one as Indonesia and we like to stay as one nation and therefore we walk together. I join with interfaith groups to promote good relations and better relations and especially how to cooperate on addressing our common concerns and common problems of the nation on issues like injustice and poverty, and also to discuss conflicts of different religious groups and ethnicities."
Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
"First you have to work for the short- and long-term. In addressing a conflict, first how to stop that conflict. But also you have to study the causes, the root of the conflict to work for a lasting peace. Maybe it’s something to do with the narrow-mindedness of religious teachings. Different approach to different cases."
It's also important for the church to engage in interfaith groups and to have an awareness of the cultural heritage of the community in which it’s working, Ngleow said.
"In our culture, we have the tradition of doing conflict resolution, like personal conflicts but also communal conflicts or even wars between different ethnicities. In our culture, we have the tradition of dealing with the different situations."
Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
Again, this answer depends on the audience to which he's speaking, Ngleow said.
"I have two things to share. One, our experiences on addressing the situation back home, whether it's me and my groups or other groups in the nation. I will tell stories of conflict but also how they found the way of making peace or conflict resolution.
"Secondly, as a Christian, I have my own convictions or theology or reflections of what will be our motivation, what will be our foundation on pursuing peace in our society."
Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
"When Pastor (Terry) Jones (pastor of Florida’s Dove World Outreach Center, which had planned to burn Qurans on Sept. 11) wanted to burn the Quran, it was a big problem at home. One of the big factors is the U.S.A. policies, international policies that affect us. And radical or narrow-minded Muslims … put Americans on the same level as Christians and Jews. And then conflicts create conflicts in our cities.
"Your country is setting the agenda of the world, so it is good if Christians here continue to develop just and peaceful approaches rather than war and whatever policies affect war and interfaith work."