Every year as a part of our Culture of Peace course, we ask our students to interview a leader in the Catholic Church. From your cultural context, this may not seem very significant, but in the Nicaraguan context, this is an important and sometimes difficult assignment. While there is a growing ecumenical movement and both Protestants and Catholics believe in and serve the same God, there continues to be many conflicts between the two groups. So where do we start as we try to promote a culture of peace? By talking to one another. We have seen relationships flourish from this small assignment.
This year Jennyfer, a student in her fourth year at the Baptist Seminary shared a touching encounter that she was able to have with a nun, Rosa, from her local community. We wanted to share this interview with you in order to promote a conversation of tolerance and acceptance of “the other.” As you read this, please reflect on who “the other” is in your own story.
Jennyfer began her reflection by stating the importance of making time for conversation and dialogue. Through her interview she was able to create a relationship with another woman, whom she had never spoke to before even though they practically live next door to one another. By talking, the women were able to share their passions and vision for a better community and they realized that their dreams were very much in common. “We are both very passionate about the role of our faith communities in strengthening our neighborhood and I am excited to work with Rosa in order to make this a collaborative effort in both of our churches.”
“Rosa is a very special leader. She is focused on ways in which the church should be working to improve our community. Her example is one that we need to follow as protestant leaders.” Furthermore, Jennyfer felt very challenged through her interactions with Rosa. “The focus she has on the community is a true inspiration. Rosa showed me that it is important to implement spiritual and social aspects of the faith in order to share the good news of God's kingdom with others.”
Both women expressed their hope that their own Catholic and Protestant churches can learn to cooperate with one another as brothers and sisters and not as rivals, that the churches will be able to practice ecumenical partnership and at the very least learn to show respect and not work against one another.
Jennyfer closed her reflection by saying, “I am very thankful for this assignment because without it I would never have had the opportunity to meet this wonderful friend. I now see the importance of partnering with those who are different from me, to build friendships and live out my calling.”
Oftentimes we become too comfortable with our understanding of God; we interpret different as negative. We encourage you to take a step away from your norm, in order to think deeply and live deeply into the faith you have.