On November 17 and 18, over 100 youth gathered at Philadelphia Mennonite High School (PMHS) for â€œPacking the Peace of Christ,â€ organized by Anabaptist pastors and youth leaders to â€œsound the call to Jesusâ€™ disciples to work for peace in Philadelphia.â€
Friday evening began with music led by the Philadelphia Praise Center. Christian rap artist Cruz Cordero and Yvonne Platts of Philadelphia Ministry Partnership then emceed a youth competition for creative alternatives to violence through the artsâ€”essays, visual arts, and rap or spoken word. Conrad Moore, a Philly son and Damascus Road Anti-Racism trainer, led a participative teaching activity called â€œForum Theatreâ€ to practice peacemaking skills.
Saturday was like boot camp for peace soldiers of Christ. Participants chose two of five peace-making workshops: Akidoâ€”self-defense without doing harm; â€œThe Big Bangâ€â€”the two sides of the heated debate on hand gun laws in PA, led by Sarah Thompson, Mennonite Central Committee, in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania State Representative John Myers; Conflict Resolution in a Christian Perspectiveâ€”Dr. Barbara Moses, PMHS Principal, helped participants identify their personal â€œanger triggers;â€ the Hip-Hop Generation, â€œWhatâ€™s beef?â€ (i.e., â€œWhatâ€™s the conflict?â€)â€”Cruz Cordero analyzed secular rap messages dealing with conflict; Violence: an American Problemâ€”Conrad Moore analyzed violent history of this country and concluded â€œViolence is not a problem limited to urban youthâ€”it is a national problem.â€
Arbutus Sider prepared a letter for participants to sign which was addressed to rural and suburban Anabaptist congregations in Southeast Pennsylvania asking for support in pressing for more effective hand gun legislation.
Anabaptist pastors and youth leaders organized this workshop with a grant from Mennonite Central Committee, Philadelphia, in response to the cityâ€™s increase in gun violence. As of this workshop, 359 homicides have occurred, mostly committed with hand guns. The workshop posed the question, â€œIn this context how can we bear witness to Christ, the Prince of Peace?â€
For the grand finale four local Christian rap artists treated participants to a showcase of their amazing gift of language to call people to walk in the light of Christ. The call to Jesusâ€™ disciples to work for peace in Philadelphia has been sounded. Pray that the call may bear fruit in the lives of those who heard it.