Several years ago Paulus Hartono, a Mennonite pastor in Surakarta, Indonesia heard rumors that a radical wing of Muslim activists had announced their intention to blow up a local radio station. It was operated by a moderate Islamic group. The one who bore the news urged him to do something to prevent such violence.
After seeking God’s direction and protection, Pastor Paulus took the courageous step of going to visit the head of the radical group, a telecommunications specialist. By God’s grace, he was able to persuade the leader to forsake his violent plans, thus earning him the reputation of a peacemaker.
Not long afterward, a destructive tsunami hit the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, wreaking some of the worst flood damage they had ever known. In response, Pastor Paulus joined Christian work crews to bring relief to the coast of northern Sumatra, where the predominately Muslim population was severely impacted by the tsunami.
To assist this Christian relief effort, Paulus recruited the head of the radical group to set up vital radio transceivers. Because of their earlier encounter, the commando accepted the assignment, leading to such an unprecedented level of cooperation between Christians and Muslims that many took special notice. A further outcome was that this radical Muslim leader sent some of his commando trainees to a Christian university to study peacebuilding.
What began as a courageous act of peacebuilding on the part of a local pastor has resulted in a witness for Christ that has touched hundreds of people’s lives.
Paul the Apostle once described the Christian’s spiritual armor, encouraging his readers to have their “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). It takes good shoes to traverse the rocky ground that we sometimes encounter in our efforts to share the good news.
Especially where the fabric of communities is torn apart by violence, the good news of Jesus Christ can shine its brightest light in the darkest of circumstances. In that vein, I am often moved by the stories of brothers and sisters in Indonesia who reach out to their neighbors with the good news of the gospel in extremely difficult circumstances. Because there is such strong religious tension in some communities, this good news often takes the form of Christian peacemaking.
Contributed by Ervin Stutzman. Reprinted from Beyond Ourselves, the magazine of Mennonite Mission Network. Ervin Stutzman is executive director of Mennonite Church USA and the author of a forthcoming novel based on a true story, Jacob’s Choice (publication date February 8, 2014) about an earlier courageous Christian peacemaker.