by Riley Naylor
I came into the summer ready to impress everyone, and instead I’m sitting here humbled by my experiences and the people I met. My name is Riley Naylor, and I was blessed to work as an intern with Peace Catalyst this summer. I’m a Senior at Bethel University in Minnesota, and I thought I had the right theology, ideas, and training to rock this internship. I was confident that I had what it took, but God had other ideas for my summer, and I’m so thankful He did.
Through this internship, I was able to improve my research skills as well as have conversations with many people about what it takes to run a non-profit. I was able to visit the Golden Islamic Center, and volunteered with Project Worthmore teaching art classes to the Burmese refugee community once a month.
However, what impacted me the most was siting in on Rick Love’s class at Denver Seminary and listening to the debate between him and his students. They were talking about Islam and terrorism, which is a touchy subject under normal circumstances, but some of the adult students were from regions where they had been personally affected by Islamic extremist groups, making the discussion even more personal and heated. However, by the end of the class, everyone was able not necessarily to agree on the points discussed but to understand where the others were coming from. I think this is the most practical aspect of peacemaking that we can practice in our daily lives.
Witnessing these relationships between people who have different points of view and different religions changed in my heart the belief that peace is a lofty idea that is too great to attain. Peace doesn’t have to mean agreeing on the same ideals or morals but striving to understand one another, especially when we don’t agree. As our cities and states become more and more diverse, as our world becomes smaller and easier to navigate, peace is not just a lofty goal but a necessary part of life.
Peace isn’t simply a nice idea. It comes through uncomfortable encounters, tough conversations, and revised expectations. Peace isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is for those who desire to live in a community with people who view life and faith differently. What is holding you, me, and our neighbors back from peace? If we can identify that, we can start making moves towards change, and a great outpouring of new relationships can be built.