At its most basic, peacemaking is about relationship-making among individuals and communities whether they are strangers, enemies, or friends. Peacemaking as relationship-making has its roots in the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. Perhaps even more significantly, peacemaking as relationship-making has been evidenced in my life in concrete, embodied experiences with women, children, and men in the communities where I have been in ministry with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).
This was once again proven as I began a new friendship with Aliana1, a delightful, curious young girl from the neighborhood where I live and work in Barrancabermeja, Colombia with CPT.
Let me tell you the story of the beginning of our friendship.
When I presented the idea of painting the new CPT logo on the wall of our new office I thought it would be great for a local artist to do the painting. Fellow CPTer Pierre knew who could do an excellent job; her name is Aliana. I was excited, immediately thinking she is a university student or at least a member of the local peace movement. To my delightful surprise I learned that she is an 11 year-old girl from the neighborhood known for her artistic gifts.
After learning about this young artist, I first met Aliana and her mother at a neighborhood party. That evening, under the cover of a huge tree, we sat together to avoid the rain and struck up a conversation. Aliana asked me all of the usual questions: where do I come from, am I married? do I have kids?; do I have pets?, and so on. I learned that she has two brothers, her dog’s name is Negro, that she makes him clothes, (Oh, yes I have seen this curly haired dog wearing his t-shirt running about the streets), that she loves to draw and paint, and that we are neighbors on the same street.
Upon invitation by her mother, one Monday I walked down to her house. Aliana showed me her drawings of princesses, Tinker Bell and an amazingly detailed horse whose mane appeared to be billowing in the wind. I also learned that she makes sculptures and was shown the t-shirts she sews for her dog. Aliana did come to the office to paint the logo of the dove, barbed-wire, and tree leaves. She looked at the CPT hat, looked at me and did a double take – during which she remarked, “Eso es facil.” “This is easy.” To which those of us CPTers in the room laughed in response.
At first Aliana was a bit shy as I took photos of each step of her progress. I was delighted to watch her study the logo, then the wall, and then begin the task of drawing the outline with a pencil. It was a joy watching her gain confidence as she painted the outline of the logo, then fill in the dove with such care. I was fascinated at the detail she used when painting the wire knot and the leaves.
The outcome of accompanying this young artist is so much more than the picture perfect replica of the CPT logo on our bright red office wall. The “outcome” is the process of developing a new friendship across barriers of language, culture, and age! Becoming friends with Aliana is the newest experience of the good news that peacemaking at its core is about relationship-making transforming human community towards the Kin-dom of God one friendship at a time.
1 Aliana is a name I chose to use to protect her identity.