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.

Marina Shishova, a former engineer and an Orthodox Christian, serves as vice-president of the Interchurch Partnership in St. Petersburg. The partnership promotes Christian education and and peacemaking and engages in research, publishing and social projects.

Shishova will be visiting presbyteries and congregations in Nebraska, Iowa, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.

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

“I will be addressing the challenges Russia faces in general ―  the weakness of civil society, human rights, justice, the insufficiency of tolerance between people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, and religious ignorance. I will speak about the religious situation and about the role of women in the church life. I will share our experience in peacemaking in Russia and hope to learn a lot from my American Presbyterian friends. Another issue I will address is resetting the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, not just politically but also the role of Christians in the relationship between our countries.”

Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?

“The churches are not usually engaged in these issues, but the Russian Orthodox Church has for the first time begun to conceptualize its thinking on human rights. The church usually argues that the  human rights of communities are more important than individual rights, but I believe that human rights are just that: community and individual rights.”

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

“Catholics and Protestants ― while they officially exist ― don’t have much voice in Russia, so they mostly help the Russian Orthodox Church in the area of social ministries. They hold a ‘servant’ role that is effective in society.”

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

“Russian and U.S. Christians must find new ways of cooperation to make our churches stronger and our relationships deeper.”