Coffee breaks at the triennial Mennonite World Conference (MWC) General Council, Commissions and networks meetings in Kenya April 2018, allowed Colombia peacebuilder and human rights lawyer Ricardo Esquivia to share with an old friend his desire for the Global Anabaptist Peace Network (GAPN) to build networks to support peacebuilders in the field and to communicate with the broader Mennonite community.
After years of planning and building on the work that has come before, the steering committee of the emerging GAPN met for their first face-to-face meeting 17–20 April 2018, in Limuru, Kenya.
The steering committee representatives come from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe, and different member churches of MWC. Each representative brings a wealth of peacebuilding involvement in their local/regional organizations’ contexts.
The goal of GAPN is to provide the infrastructure to connect the many different peace initiatives and organizations that are the fruit of MWC-related churches working in peacebuilding, active nonviolence and conflict transformation. These organizations are often not known to each other, resulting in duplication of efforts and missed opportunities for mutual beneficial and transformative exchange.
Meeting face-to-face allowed the steering committee to explore more deeply the formation of GAPN and its rationale, mission, potential actions and structure.
The meeting in Kenya brought together GAPN steering committee member Wendy Kroeker and Esquivia. They originally met in the 1990s in Canada when Kroeker helped to organize Mennonite Central Committee events for Esquivia (then director of Colombian Mennonite peace organization Justapaz) to present on his peacebuilding work.
“Ricardo and I stumbled through numerous dinners together and somehow found ways for our hearts and work passions to connect despite the challenges of communication,” says Kroeker.
Now, they connected once again during the meetings in Limuru, Kenya. “There was a difference in our meeting this time,” says Kroeker, who now speaks Spanish more fluently. “Ricardo shared of the continuing challenges of his work. He asked GAPN to consider how we could build networks for supporting peacebuilders in the field and to alert the broader Mennonite community regarding the challenges Anabaptist peacebuilders face in their respective contexts and communities.
“I want to take that request seriously in the context of my work in the Peace Commission and GAPN,” says Kroeker.
The meeting between Kroeker and Esquivia exemplifies the pertinence of a network that enables peacebuilders to meet face-to-face.
GAPN aims to share news and prayer requests, facilitate exchanges (resources, staff, internships, studies, etc.), and create space for mutually transformative relationships between members, and for solidarity and support in political advocacy initiatives. Rather than becoming an organization on its own, GAPN will create, enable and nurture the formation of relationships.
The steering committee plans to officially launch GAPN at the second Global Mennonite Peacebuilding Conference and Festival taking place in Elspeet, The Netherlands, 27–30 June 2019.
—a Mennonite World Conference release by Andrés Pacheco Lozano, coordinator of the Global Anabaptist Peace Network
Every September, the Peace Commission invites churches to celebrate Peace Sunday with the global Anabaptist church.
GAPN steering committee members:
- Andrés Pacheco Lozano (Colombia/Netherlands), GAPN coordinator
- Andrew Suderman (Canada/USA), Peace Commission secretary
- Wendy Kroeker (Canada), Peace Commission member
- Scott Holland (USA)
- Pascal Kulungu (DR Congo)
- Christina Asheervadam (India)
- Fulco van Hulst (Netherlands)