American Baptists are among the nearly 300 people who have gathered for the Global Baptist Peace Conference convening Feb. 9 to Feb 14 just outside of Rome, Italy. The weeklong event includes worship, workshops and times of relationship-building and features multiple American Baptists and our partners on the program. American Baptist International Ministries is a co-sponsor of the event.
"I honestly feel that if I left with what I have just learned in plenaries, workshops, and hallway conversations over this last day and a half, it would have been worth it," said Stan Murray, International Ministries area director for Southeast Asia and Japan. "I can't wait to see what these next three and a half days will bring!"
Murray is among 268 registered delegates from more than 61 countries, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Indonesia, India, Italy and the U.S. Among the American Baptists present are Murray, current missionaries Dan and Estela Schweissing who serve in the Bahamas, Tom Myers who serves in Bulgaria, Ricardo Mayol, who serves in Mexico, and Ruth Mooney, who serves in Costa Rica. Former missionaries attending include speaker Gustavo Parajón, who served in Nicaragua and Virgil Nelson, who served in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Well-known partners like Samaresh Nayak of the Bengal-Orissa-Bihar Baptist Churches Association are speakers. Also in attendance are representatives from National Ministries and the president of American Baptist Churches, USA, Rev. Mary Armacost Hulst, of Denver, CO. Two other American Baptists, missionary Jim Kelsey, who serves in Italy, and global consultant for peace and justice, Dan Buttry, are working the conference on the planning committee.
The conference attendees bring a wide range of experiences that they are sharing. And they are learning from each other that working for peace in a non-violent way is as important as it has ever been.
"We have already touched some of the deepest pains in the world but also celebrated the transformative power of Christ," said Buttry, who serves as a registrar at the event. "The worship has been stunningly rich. Sometimes worship needs to be closest to the sorrow of the world to know the wonder of grace and resurrection joy -- that's certainly how our experience has been so far."
In addition to Baptists, there are Pentecostals, Catholics, Reformed, Methodists, Anglicans and even one Muslim at the conference. People have come from some of the places most distressed by violence, most torn by war and most hurt by religious and ethnic conflict.
Buttry said, "Peacemaking colleagues I've worked with are here from Nagaland, Orissa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Georgia, Nicaragua and Wado from the Karen refugee camp. It's like homecoming, but with a serious purpose, to help us sustain our peacemaking for the long-haul."
Additional conference information, including highlights and important documents from the conference will be made available at the website www.globalbaptistpeace.org.
American Baptist International Ministries, organized in 1814, is the oldest Baptist mission agency formed in North America. We serve more than 2,500 short-term and long-term missionaries annually, bringing U.S. and Puerto Rico churches together with partners in 76 countries in cutting-edge ministries that tell the good news of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs.