This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Shalom says it all

We could have called our Annual College Issue “Teaching Shalom, Making Shalom.” The word “peace” just isn’t enough to describe the many ways Anabaptist colleges are making a better world.

Why “shalom”? The Hebrew word’s meaning extends much broader than simply “peace.” Shalom is complete peace. Its meanings include wholeness, harmony, well-being, health, perfection, fullness. It’s a condensed version of the idea that peace is more than the absence of war. To make shalom is to restore right relationships. Shalom reconciles people to each other, to God and to God’s creation.

This issue tells stories of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ colleges and universities making peace in the broadest possible sense — well-being in all aspects of life. The stories illustrate three steps:

  • Peacemaking begins in the classroom. At Canadian Mennonite University, students hear from indigenous teachers and storytellers how their histories intertwine with First Peoples. At Goshen College, future music educators learn to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged students. At Bluffton University, The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center teaches children to respect and understand others.
  • Peacemaking continues beyond the campus. Hesston College students get to know prisoners in Hutchinson, Kan. Rosedale Bible College students live and work with Muslims through an internship program in Columbus, Ohio. Eastern Mennonite University’s Coalition for Climate Justice encourages conserving resources and supports environmental-protection campaigns.
  • Peacemaking continues after graduation. Messiah College alumnus Phil Wilmot founded and serves with Solidarity Uganda, supporting efforts for nonviolent social change. Bethel College alumni nurses put conflict-mediation skills into practice. Conrad Grebel University College alumni fulfill diverse roles of peacemakers.

Students at Anabaptist colleges learn to recognize peace as a way of life. This understanding emerges from the experience of learning alongside other people seeking to live their faith. The colleges offer the chance to get fully immersed in a community built on Anabaptist Christian values. The institution’s daily life educates the whole person. It shapes students’ futures in ways that going to class could never do by itself. What they learn from the community — the complete support system of friends, professors, coaches, administrators and alumni — becomes a part of who they are. This process of self-discovery is the essence of Christian education.

Educating the whole person and making peace in the broadest sense go hand in hand. Phil Wilmot, the Messiah graduate serving in Uganda, calls peace “total freedom and abundance that cannot be achieved merely through the not doing of violence.” He’s describing shalom. The absence of what is bad is just the beginning. The presence of what is good brings true peace closer. Anabaptist colleges teach it every day.

Subscribe to see “Teaching Peace, Making Peace” on pages 11-18 of the April 24, 2017 issue of Mennonite World Review.

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