Each month in 2017 OUTLOOK is featuring individuals who are actively involved in peacemaking with their families, friends and communities. The following interview focuses on Carl Wilkens.
What does it mean to be a person of peace?
When I think of a person of peace I think of someone who is in the habit of putting others first in such a way as to not destroy themselves in the process.
What does peacemaking look like to you?
A peacemaker is someone who listens to understand rather than listening to respond.
How do you try to keep peace at home, work or in other settings?
Peacemaking anywhere begins with a heart and mind steeped in REI—respect, empathy and inclusion. Namely, respect for our Creator, respect for the children of our Creator, respect for all that our Creator has made. Within that environment of respect we can begin to learn one another’s stories. Empathy grows within us, driving out the fears of inclusion and leading to a welcoming, unconditional atmosphere of inclusion for all.
Can you share a specific example?
When I think of someone who practices REI, I think of friends I have made in the Rwandan prison system. Many people think that men and women who killed their neighbors should be locked up and the key thrown away, to put it mildly. However, the spirit I have seen among these friends who work in the prison system with these perpetrators of genocide is enormously inspiring. They demonstrate respect, empathy and inclusion not only in their conversations and interactions but in advocating for the physical needs of the prisoners and working tirelessly within the restorative justice program to help them return home to lead productive, healthy lives. And they have accomplished this with thousands of prisoners.
What is a saying about peace that you like?
If we are going to build lasting peace we cannot define ourselves by what we have lost; we must define ourselves by what we do with what remains.
Is there a Bible verse about peace that is especially meaningful to you?
Matt. 5: 9 (Message Bible) says, “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
What peacemaking resources would you recommend?
Among the many wonderful resources on peacemaking I especially appreciate the movie As We Forgive that shares stories of healing in Rwanda.
—Carl Wilkens is the only American who remained in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide after all foreigners were evacuated. He is currently the director of World Outside My Shoes, a non-profit educational and professional development organization committed to inspiring and equipping people to enter the world of others.