Eleven international peacemakers from different countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 23-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 Bangladesh, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, Russia and Sudan.

The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

Arda Aghazarian is an Armenian Palestinian Christian, born and raised in the Old City of Jerusalem. She studied at Birzeit University in the West Bank after the Second Uprising “Intifada,” a phase which brought forth difficult questions and an interest in human rights and conflict resolution. She has taken various courses in media and film, and worked as a producer and presenter for a radio station that aimed to build bridges between Palestinians and Israelis. She is the Media and Advocacy Coordinator at the YWCA of Palestine. 

Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?

“People watch politics all the time and they have an idea what’s going on, but they rarely meet an actual Christian person living in the Old City of Jerusalem. I would just like to give a closer, more personal image of what’s going on.”

Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?

In 2009, a group of Palestinian Christians presented the Kairos Palestine Document. “Their position is that silence is not the way. There is persecution going on and it’s the church’s role to take that on. The message there is about love and peace with justice and making it possible for Christians to have a decent life over there.”

Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?

“I’ve learned that it may be easier to become a fundamentalist … but it’s not rewarding. It’s a more difficult path to take to have more questions than answers and to be open-minded and dare to by sympathetic.”

Aghazarian added that this is also a benefit of the International Peacemakers program, which allows people to challenge their own narratives.

Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?

“Fundamentalism isn’t strictly in the Middle East.”

Aghazarian said that fundamentalism and polarization can also be seen in U.S. politics, with each side sticking to its own convictions without question.