Couple teach peace in AustraliaBy Rebekah Paulson Mennonite Mission Network
SYDNEY, Australia — Marcelline Tunim lived through much violence during the decade-long conflict between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. She watched loved ones die.
As Tunim told her story in a peacebuilding class, taught by Mark and Mary Hurst, she said, “The Bible tells us to fight back when we are attacked.”
Mark Hurst replied, “Where does the Bible say that?”
The Hursts — workers with Mennonite Mission Network and Eastern Mennonite Missions — have been working to bring peace seminars and conferences to Australia and Asia since 1990. Pacific Peacebuilding Initiatives, where the Hursts teach, is a nonprofit organization that offers courses in peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
During a recent PPI graduation ceremony, Tunim told a story of her experiences in the conflicts that began in 1989.
Racial tension and ethnic differences were a part of conflicts throughout the Pacific islands. She said people in Bougainville, one of the islands, are much darker than those in Papua New Guinea and have different languages and dialects. Believing they were a distinct cultural group, the people of Bougainville wanted to control their own land by becoming independent.
Riots broke out against the Papua New Guinea police, and close fighting took place. Many people were killed before a peace accord was signed in 2001, but tensions remain in the now-autonomous region.
Tunim was nervous about taking a class with others from Papua New Guinea. But once she arrived, she experienced something new: Walls of resistance came down.
Focusing on Ephesians 2, class members talked about how through Jesus they should build bridges, not walls.
When Tunim struggled to answer where the Bible says to fight back, she thought, “What a stupid white man! It’s common sense to fight back.”
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