“They didn’t want to leave”

Virtual education series explores peace theology

At the end of the first evening of the virtual educational series, “From Chaos to Shalom: Exploring Peace Theology Together,” Andios Santoso and Joe Sawatzky struggled to wrap up the Zoom session. The concluding prayer had been spoken. The scheduled end time of 9 p.m. had come and gone. None of the nearly 100 attendees wanted to sign off quite yet. 

The webinar series from 25-27 January 2022 was the first of its kind: a collaboration between Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Mennonite Mission Network (MMN), Mennonite World Conference (MWC), and the three Anabaptist synods in Indonesia – Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa (GITJ), Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI) and Jemaat Kristen Indonesia (JKI). 

Each of the webinars featured input from two theologians: one connected to AMBS and another from one of the Indonesian Anabaptist synods.  

Each evening examined an aspect of peace theology through the lenses of the two theologians.  

Chialis Thuan, who translated between English and Indonesian for the webinars, was “amazed” at the turnout. “Participants had missed that international fellowship together” since the onset of the pandemic. 

Chialis Thuan, along with her husband, Andios Santoso, are part of the GKMI synod. They are currently living in Elkhart, Indiana, USA, while Andios Santoso is studying at AMBS. 

MWC Assembly was originally scheduled to be hosted in Indonesia in July 2021. The pandemic pushed this international gathering back a year. 

The collaborative nature of the webinar series – between organizations (AMBS, MWC, MMN), synods (GITJ, GKMI, JKI) and nations (USA, Indonesia) – was planned from the first brainstorming meeting, held outside on the campus of AMBS in May 2021.  

“It really was a ‘together’ venture,” says Joe Sawatzky, the international education liaison for a partnership between AMBS and MMN. 

Initially, the idea was to host the event in person in Indonesia, spread over two or three weekends in the months before Assembly. 

Instead, like many things touched by the pandemic, the event adapted. As an online event, it became less formal but easier to attend. 

Each evening, after the session with an AMBS and Indonesian theologian, the attendees discussed the evening’s topic in breakout rooms. Then, the full group reconvened and posed their questions to the theologians and one another. 

“Church leaders in every region of Mennonite World Conference have said that the most urgent need is to strengthen the Anabaptist identity of congregations and pastors,” says David Boshart, president of AMBS. “By collaborating together, ... we can really accelerate and deepen our engagement with MWC members around the world.”  

“With this event, [webinar attendees] felt like they are not just a small congregation in Indonesia, but they have brothers and sisters internationally,” says Chialis Thuan. 

“When people come to Indonesia, [webinar attendees] will be even more enthusiastic because they already knew some of the people from Zoom.” 

—An MWC article by Mennonite Mission Network