I do believe something of significance to the conversation on religion in the public square happened in a town in northern India, Sampurna Nagar, on February 4, 2020.

A Christian school, PTL India Christ Academy, hosted a large community gathering for the opening and dedication of a new school building which will provide facilities for up to a thousand primary/secondary students.

Over 1200 people attended the festive celebration marked by speeches, dances and eating together.

Guests included families of students, local dignitaries, and even the principals of several neighboring Hindu schools.

The Christian school administrators ( Sisily Thomas, principal, and PC Alexander,Director of PTL India, the parent organization of Christ Academy) were clear on the Christian Gospel. They did not mute the Gospel’s distinctiveness.

The Hindu, Sikh and Moslem parents were clear and enthusiastic about the high value they placed on the education their children received in this Christian school. They cited the discipline, the values and the commitment of the teachers to the total wellbeing of their children. Many had chosen PTL Christ Academy although it’s physical facilities were significantly inferior to neighboring Hindu schools.

So how do people of such diverse religions live and work together in peace?

It was not always so. Twenty-five years ago there was opposition, even to the point of violence, from the community, including the press, and the police, directed against those opening the Sapurna Nagar PTL Christ Academy.

But through prayer focused against the spiritual powers underlying the opposition and through a consistent loving Christian witness, all sides came to trust one another. The Hindus, Sikhs and Moslems came to see that the Christians had a gift in their love and faith which enriched the lives of non-Christians. And they came to see that their sacred things were respected by the Christians. One of the main opposition leaders, in time, sent his own children to the Christian school.

The Christians, for their part came to see that they best honored those of other faiths when they were clear about the uniqueness of Christ’s call rather than trying to minimize the distinctiveness of the call so they would be accepted. They also came to see that peace comes at the cost of laying down one’s life in sacrificial service to the community and in persevering through prayers of faith.

As I helped dedicate the cornerstone of this school, I praised God for what He has done here and I prayed that He would multiply centers of peace on earth among all people on whom His favor rests.

Christ, Not Peace, Is Lord

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We find it difficult to make clear sounds on the issue of war and peace at a time when the Church is divided on these issues. Yet it is not about what we find difficult; it is about what the Spirit is saying to the churches. After prayer and discernment with other church leaders, we offer you the following word.

1. Christ is our Lord, not a peace position. As highly as we value our historic peace position, Christ, rather than a position or a doctrine, is Lord. We face the same danger as the Israelites. They were saved by looking at the brazen serpent in the wilderness. But then they began to worship the serpent, the means that God used to bless and heal them. They became, as it were, the “brazen serpent” Christians. God has blessed us and the world through our peace witness, yet it seems at times we value our position more than we value Jesus. We talk about it more than we talk about Jesus. We even feel more affinity with non-Christians who are pacifists than we do with other Christians who do not share our position on peace. We find our identity more in our peace position than we do in our faith in Christ.

Christ is calling us to listen first to Him as to how to live out our peace witness, rather than to let our commitment to peace shape how we hear and follow Him. He is calling us to find our identity in Him and not primarily in our peace position.

2. The judgment of God begins with the household of faith and not with the civil government. As we bear witness to governments we must do it with respect because we are called to honor all men. Even Michael the archangel did not bring a slanderous accusation against the devil. We displease our Lord if we devalue and disrespect our president or the leaders of other countries justifying our attitudes by their supposed wrong behavior.


Before we speak to others we need to first ask God to reveal to us the condition of our own hearts. Are we “waging peace” with a spirit of pride, presumption, bitterness and self righteousness? Or do we love and bless all mankind, even the enemies in our own country. We can be wrong in our attitudes even when we are right in our position and doctrines.

3. We are called to pray for all people. It is appropriate to thank God for those political leaders who are placed to bring order and not chaos into the world. We pray for leaders both of our own and of other countries, believing that they all lead under the sovereignty of God.

It is appropriate to pray for the salvation of soldiers and civilians on all sides of a conflict, that they may carry out their responsibilities with humility and justice. We pray for a speedy resolution to war with a minimum amount of bloodshed on all sides.

It is appropriate to pray that God will bring defeat to those forces which would counter His purposes for the advancement of His Kingdom. We pray with humility, knowing that God may wish to judge our own nation as well as others.

4. We are called to lay down our lives for Christ. Our neighbors are willing to lay down their lives for the fatherland. Christ is calling us who do not participate in secular warfare to lay down our lives as well. He is calling us to serve in dangerous battlefields—in violence-ridden inner cities, in prisons, with drug addicts, prostitutes and violent criminals, in third world countries, to AIDS victims, and to terrorists.

When we heed Christ’s call as a church, dying will no longer be a theoretical issue. Some of our best and brightest will die on the streets of our inner cities. Some will be physically violated. Some will be tortured and killed.  They will experience these things because they did not value their lives above faithfulness to His calling.

5. We are called once again to be a peace church. Christ wants us to be a peace church because we know and trust Him, the Prince of Peace. We live in peace because we have abandoned ultimate outcomes to Him. We give up trying to make things work out the way we want them to work out. Our peace comes from knowing He reigns in this world and that we need do “only what we have received from the Father.”

So, dear brothers and sisters, this is the word we have sensed from the Holy Spirit. We now submit it to you as a fellow member of the household of faith. As you create an “expectant space” for Him to speak to you, we pray that He will give you the grace to live and die as a peacemaker in this broken world.

Your brothers,

Enos Martin, Stephen Haupert, Lloyd Hoover, Nate Showalter and Carlton Stambaugh, all bishops in Lancaster Mennonite Conference; and Richard Showalter, president of Eastern Mennonite Missions. Although the above message was reviewed with dozens of Christian leaders, it was not processed as the official word of any board or group, and the undersigned take full responsibility for its content.












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