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1,000 acts of peace growing

   
 

girl sitting at a school desk writing a letter
Menno Simons Christian School student writes a letter to her pen pal in Najile, Kenya, as one of the acts of peace undertaken by the Menno Simons School community in Calgary.

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Elementary school class, many children sitting on the floor with many hands raised
Menno Simons Christian School held a Peace Festival on Nov. 20, 2009, for students in Grade 1-3 hear stories of peace by guest speakers from Mennonite Central Committee Alberta.

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February 5, 2010
- by Dan Dyck, with files from Byron Thiessen and Deborah Froese

CALGARY, Alta. — They may only be getting their feet wet in life, but students at Menno Simons Christian School are taking on a challenge most adults would balk at: they will record three acts of peace each day for the entire school year.

The idea began when staffer Kari Enns of Mennonite Central Committee Alberta discovered a web site called www.onethousandactsofpeace.org. Using inspiration from the web site, Enns and colleagues developed a 1,000 acts of peace project with added Anabaptist values – and then invited leaders at Menno Simons Christian School in Calgary to consider how they might work together to get students thinking intentionally about creating conditions for peace.

It proved to be a good fit, said Byron Thiessen, Principal of the K-9 school in Calgary. The Menno Simons school community believes that peace is paramount to the church’s mission and vision. “Peace needs to become a discipline and a way of life,” said Thiessen.

Peace acts are recorded in journals crafted from recycled floppy disks and recycled paper. “We believe that this is a practical way of becoming peacemakers with the environment, as well as in our own lives and in the lives of those around us,” said Thiessen. The student journal entries remind students of their commitment to live as Jesus did. “We are spurred on to become more creative and intentional in our peacemaking lifestyle,” added Thiessen.

Grade four student Hanna Braun says the writing helps her think about how she acts everyday, “…and challenges me to think, say and do things peacefully.”

Throughout the school year, each grade takes turns planning, organizing, and sharing ideas of peace during chapel times, and each class participates in service projects in the community.

For Grade 6 student, Paige Bergen, keeping a peace journal has become a welcome routine. “The journaling helps me realize that I can have a direct affect on others in a peaceful way,” she says.

Grade 7 student Kennedy Krahn shared three peace journal entries made on one day in December:

“Today I shovelled my neighbour’s sidewalk and stairs. There was a lot of snow around our community and my neighbour is older and has a hard time shovelling. It felt good to serve him.”

“I spent some time time with my classmates assembling health kits for Mennonite Central Committee. Our school bought enough supplies for 100 kits. We were excited as a school.”

“I gave my Grade One friend a hug in the hallway. I think it helped her because she had a big smile on her face and she went away skipping.”

Connecting with pen pals in Kenya is another way students are bridging cultures and bringing new understandings of peace to one another. Nathan Jack, a Grade 9 student describes the growing relationship with Najile Primary School as “exciting and enlightening.”

“We have written back and forth and received gifts from each other. My new friend lives in such a different culture and economic situation. However, we have the same hopes for peace in our own communities and the world. It is truly an eye opening experience for me to get to know someone in Africa,” said Jack.

Much good can come from many sources. Unaware of the web site from which Enns drew her inspiration, Mennonite Church Canada staff developed a 1,000 Acts of Peace initiative in the spring of 2009. Learning about MC Canada’s project in the fall – and wanting to work with the denomination also – provoked Thiessen’s imagination even further: he now hopes to fund a billboard or bus bench near the school promoting a peace message. MC Canada’s 1,000 Acts of Peace initiative and related (www.liveforpeace.org) is the result of a 2008 delegate decision to become more active in promoting messages of peace in the public square.

“We invite others to join us in this initiative, in this hourly, daily and yearly passion for peace,” said Thiessen.

SIDEBAR: Peacemakers are…

For Menno Simons Christian School in Calgary, the words “PEACEMAKERS” is an acronym:

Participants are
Enthusiastic
Accepting
Christ-like
Encouraging
Mentors
Aspiring
Kind
Excellent
Responsible
Servants