Celebrating unity and diversity as Peace Messengers

21 Dec 2022

Advent is a time to focus on the coming of the Prince of Peace. Youth from LWF member churches recently participated in a Peace Messengers training in Rwanda, and shared their stories.

Peace Messengers Rwanda - presentation

Wondmagegn Udessa, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, gives a presentation to fellow Peace Messengers about peace building in Ethiopia. Photo: LWF/S. Sullivan

20 youth at the fourth international training workshop in Rwanda 

(LWI) – Many young people in The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches actively engage in movements for peace and justice in their contexts. Twenty youth from 16 churches across the seven LWF regions shared their experiences and reflected together on skills that strengthen their capacities as local and global Peace Messengers. 

Co-Hosted by the Lutheran Church of Rwanda (LCR) the fourth international Peace Messengers training focused on how specific gifts and contexts prepare young people to be agents of peace. “Advent is particularly important to remember our call from God to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9),” said Ms Savanna Sullivan, LWF Program Executive for Youth, who led the 7-12 December training. 

The training was an opportunity to practice peace building skills such as active listening, finding common ground, analyzing conflict to identify issues of power and human rights, and seeking creative solutions together. Theological reflection and youth leadership are core parts of the training, which is structured around the LWF Peace Messengers Training Manual. 

“Peace is a seed for believers and they are called to spread it everywhere. It includes balancing both harmony and justice,” said Clémence Madara, Church of the Lutheran Brethren of Cameroon. “Training young leaders in peace- building and social justice on the one hand and in leadership and entrepreneurship on the other prepares them for actions that have considerable impact in society,” she added.  

The program also focuses on the intersection between peace and LWF youth priorities that include working for climate justice and revival in churches that are in ongoing reformation.  “I learned about the importance of discovering what unites us as people, while continuing to celebrate diversity,” said Ian Heseltine, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Through the time shared in Kigali, he had realized that youth “have a particular lens through which we see the world and willingness to engage with each other that can lead to revitalization within our member churches.”  

He added: “I hope to share the knowledge from our foundational training, contextual storytelling, and personal experiences of Rwanda with the broader church, and strive to make an impact in smaller communities across the United States.”

Peace Messengers Rwanda - participants

From left: Lydia Wisuttiporn (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand), Eunice Ingabire (Lutheran Church of Rwanda) and Irene Mwarumba (Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church) walk around Nyandungu Eco-Park in Kigali. Photo: LWF/S. Sullivan 

Building self-confidence 

Reflecting on youth leadership, Irene Mwarumba, Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church said training skills imparted at the workshop “give the young people an opportunity to develop, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, build their self-confidence and esteem and increase their abilities.” She is determined to “educate and empower my fellow youth and work with them to ensure peace is spread in the society.”  

LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo encouraged the group to learn from various peace-related encounters that were part of their training program, including a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial and Nyamirambo Women’s Center. A trip to the Nyandungu Eco-Park offered opportunities to discuss the intersection between creation care and peace building.  

Worship was an important part of the program, with daily devotions, symbolic remembrance of baptism, and Sunday worship at the LCR Kigali parish.  

This was the second Peace Messengers training this year and the fourth since the Peace Messengers program began in 2017.

Peace Messengers Rwanda - church

Lauri Grünthal, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, greets congregants of the LCR Kigali Parish during Sunday worship. On the left is LCR Bishop Evalister Mugabo. Photo: LWF/S. Sullivan

Impact in the LWF 

“Since LWF Youth chose peace as their thematic focus in 2022, nearly 50 young leaders have been trained as Peace Messengers, and this has had a huge impact across the communion,” Sullivan noted.  They have gone on to train hundreds of fellow youth in their own churches and the impact is expected to grow. “Youth in the LWF communion have the passion, creativity, and commitment that our churches and our world need to answer the call of the gospel to build peace,” she concluded.  

Like with previous sessions, participants at the Kigali training are expected to start small-scale peace building projects that are led by youth in their respective churches, with LWF’s support. 

Peace Messengers Rwanda - group

Participants in the fourth international Peace Messengers training workshop, gather outside the Lutheran Church of Rwanda Kigali Parish, following Sunday worship. Photo: LWF/S. Sullivan 

LWF/P. Mumia