|Waves Not Made of Waterby Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker MinistriesThe entire world grieves to see the destruction that has swept over Southeast Asia in the wake of the December 26 tsunami.
Yet in the midst of this tragedy, a light of hope has already emerged. By God’s grace, people around the world are joining together across every boundary in a wave of compassion. Here the Good Samaritan principle is being lived out on a global scale!
Although immediate needs are being addressed, greater problems loom ahead. Homelessness… Monsoons… Lack of jobs, roads, and bridges… Orphans… Cholera and hundreds of other diseases…
These undoubtedly will be much discussed in the days to come. But there is another disease that will inevitably break out in families, villages, and cities throughout the region—one that government programs cannot prevent or heal, one that the news media is slow to report.
It is the disease of sin and conflict.
Disaster breeds conflict—conflict for limited supplies of food, water, medicine, and housing. Conflict for construction equipment, building supplies, and foreign aid. Conflict between religions over who deserves to be helped—and who does not.
Even government agencies and relief organizations will struggle with conflict (all humans do) as they find themselves bumping into one another even while attempting to do good. As Food For The Hungry’s president said to me at the time of another disaster relief effort, “We have the food, the food is there; the problem is that conflict prevents us from getting it to the people who need it.”
Conflict slows not only the rebuilding of villages and roads, but also of families, too. When a woman reports to her husband that their children were swept away at the beach, he may yell, “Why weren’t you watching over them? Why did you let our children die?”
When villages begin to emerge from shock, they may accuse their leaders of failing to warn them, or of acting too slowly to save lives.
What is true in your life and mine is true for tsunami victims, too: hurting people naturally blame others for their grief, which fuels conflict and slows the healing and rehabilitative process.
It is in these dark and foreboding situations that the light of biblical peacemaking can shine forth with a power and glory that would capture the eye of thousands of people.
One major relief organization, Food for the Hungry, International, anticipated this need years ago and worked with Peacemaker Ministries to begin to train their international team in the principles of peacemaking.
At Peacemaker Ministries, our international program is growing—less because we are causing it to grow and more because water is not the only thing that travels in a wave. Peacemaking does too. Peacemaking practiced anywhere in the world casts a bright light that can be seen half a world away. In the last few years alone we have received e-mails from people in a total of one hundred nine different countries—including several impacted by this most recent natural disaster—petitioning us, “Teach us the ways that make for peace.”
As our senior staff met in the days following the tsunami, we recognized three areas where Peacemaker Ministries should offer immediate assistance:
- We are communicating with relief organizations and offering them free “Team Peacemaker” kits to train the relief teams who will be working in Southeast Asia in the weeks and months to come. Conflicts break out easily in these high-stress and exhausting relief efforts, and we want to do what we can to help the relief organizations that will be on the front lines in the difficult months ahead. To facilitate even more rapid access to these materials, we’re making them available on the web site. If you would like to a downloadable version of the Team Peacemaker materials, please click here. (140kb Adobe Acrobat file)
- We are researching peacemaking organizations in the region with the goal of contacting them and doing what we can to help them in their work.
- We are exploring the possibility of sending Peacemaker Teams into the region. These teams would be available as opportunities arise to work in cooperation with local churches and Christian organizations that request our help.
In addition to these steps, you may have other ideas, or you may have experience providing disaster assistance. If so, I would love to hear from you. Is there a unique contribution you believe peacemakers can offer in the event of natural disasters like these? How do you feel we should prepare to deal with disasters like these in the future?
Please give these questions your prayerful consideration, and, as God gives you insight, send your thoughts our way. I am eager to read what you share. You can e-mail me at President@Peacemaker.net.
More than anything, let us continue to join together in a great concert of prayer as halfway around the world the healing work begins.
Ken Sande is an attorney, the author The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, 3rd Ed. 2003), Peacemaking for Families (Tyndale, 2002), and founder of Peacemaker Ministries (www.Peacemaker.net), an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically.