Peace with Justice Grants
Programming for children is one of the emphases of the Hilltop Community Shalom Zone, recipient of a 2012 Peace with Justice grant.
Peace with Justice Sunday is May 26
United Methodists in Columbus, Ohio's Hilltop community are using a 2012 Peace with Justice grant to help change the culture of conflict and violence that plagues their neighborhood. At least five gangs operate in the west side of Columbus, where the community is located.
The Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone is using a $3,000 grant to begin volunteer-run community-focused mediation and peacemaking programs.
The General Board of Church and Society awards Peace with Justice grants annually. Funding comes from the special offerings United Methodists make on Peace with Justice Sunday, set this year for May 26. Congregations may receive the offering on another weekend, if they wish.
"Community mediation centers are a great way for neighbors to resolve disputes," said the Rev. Eugene Brundige, a volunteer leader in the mediation and peacemaking effort.
"Rather than resorting to conflict, violence or the courts, people can bring their issues to a volunteer mediator," Brundige said. Training prepares mediators to handle domestic disputes, landlord-tenant issues and property disagreements.
The Rev. Julia Nielsen, Shalom Zone director, said the goal is both to have a successful mediation center to help resolve disputes and to "usher in a peaceful model of community relations."
The Hilltop Shalom Zone is a collaborative ministry initiated by eight United Methodist congregations, joined by social service agencies, educational institutions, law enforcement and local business and social service organizations.
Using mediation to resolve conflict has deep biblical roots. In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul wrote: "Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other." (Colossians 3:13)
Teenage peer mediation is an important element of the Hilltop program, Brundige said. Area schools identify students for training as mediators who can work to resolve disputes between young people. The center is also the home of an evolving model of restorative justice that addresses the harm crime causes to people, relationships and the community. At Hilltop, it focuses on juveniles who have had their first brush with the law, Brundige said.
"The young person will meet with the victim, victim advocate and a trained restorative justice mediator," he explained. "The mediator will help the parties work out a solution, including restitution." As the program evolves, the juvenile will be referred to one or more of the programs operated by the Shalom Zone as alternatives to gang involvement.
Adapted from an article by Stephen Drachler, freelance writer living in Harrisburg, Pa., which was originally published at www.umc.giving.org.
Free bulletin inserts, posters, worship graphics and other materials to promote Peace with Justice Sunday may be ordered online at www.umcgiving.org or by calling 888-346-3862. Gifts may be given throughout the year through your local church or online at www.umcgiving.org. To become involved in Peace with Justice efforts in your area, contact your annual conference Peace with Justice coordinator.