Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Blessed are the peacemakers..."

Painting of the Last Supper by John August Swanson

Two UN peacemakers gave their lives about two weeks ago in efforts to persuade militants in eastern Congo to end a relatively new armed rebellion.

The bodies of Michael Sharp, a Mennonite Christian from Kansas, and Zaida Catalan of Sweden were found yesterday in shallow graves.

As we approach Good Friday and Easter, let us remember these two innocents who lived and died like Jesus.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God," said Jesus (Matt. 5:9).

The report is written by Somini Sengupta, who covers the UN for the NYT.  She describes Michael in action:

I remember him from a reporting trip to a village called Kigogo on a Monday in June 2014. He had been in the Democratic Republic of Congo for two years, and he was trying to persuade militia members to put down their guns. He accompanied me into a hut to meet the commander of the notorious Rwandan militia known as the F.D.L.R., blamed for the Rwandan genocide. I suspect the only reason the commander tolerated my questions was that he trusted Mr. Sharp.

A tribute to him from Rachel Sweet, another UN researcher:

“Michael told me one time: ‘Rebels go to church. You build a relationship with them there.’”  Mr. Sharp, 34, had been in Congo for five years, with an enviable network of rebel commanders and local leaders, most of whom he had met in church. 

A tribute to Zaida by her friend Professor Brian Palmer of Uppsala University:

“She was not at all shy to talk about difficult questions,” he said. “She had come to see the people that she was trying to help as her equals and her friends and had very much loyalty to them.”

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