The “I Should Have” of Peacebuilding Gone Wrong

A few words from a novice
by Rebecca Brown


I arrived at the Mosque that afternoon with an outline for the day’s event, a Muslim friend to co-facilitate with me, and a trust in God to do good things. It was going to be a discussion on caring for sisters of other faiths. I left the Mosque with a heavy conscience, shaky hands, and no small amount of confusion.

During another Peace Catalyst Columbus gathering, I began the event with enthusiasm, a projector set up in my living room, and guests arriving with shy smiles. It was going to be a discussion of a girl’s empowerment documentary. I ended the event slightly embarrased, a little drained, and with confused Muslim sisters.

So much for my first “real” peacebuilding events. They did not go as planned. They went worse. During both events I felt adrenaline rush through my body as things spiraled. My face got hot, my breathing rushed. This is going terribly wrong, and I can’t recover.

The sound didn’t work on the film I was screening.
A woman openly challenged the premise of our planned discussion.
I said insensitive things in my introduction.
The group dynamic was awkward.
I failed to explain the PCI mission clearly.

It was a rough first try at more intensive peacemaking. The incessant voice of the “I should have” pierced my thoughts for days. You know that voice? It’s an ugly “I should have” voice of regret and shame that can dominate the mind with a force more deadening than hail on tender shoots.

I should have sat down to show humility. 
I should have coached my fellow Christians to not-proseletyzing in the Mosque.
I should have asked different discussion questions.
I should have tested the film sound one more time before everyone got there.
I should have taken more time to explain.

But Jesus calmed me each time. I heard His voice remind me to listen—to His tender words of reassurance, to the Muslim community teaching me, to my Christian family encouraging me. While there were things “I should have,” I am striving to hear more clearly the voice of Jesus, growing me through the tense moments that are inevitable in peacebuilding.

If it had not for my co-peacebuilders, that horrible voice would have killed the tiny bud of peace emerging from the soil of my heart. My co-workers in reconciliation encouraged me, “You don’t need to be discouraged. This is life in the arena as we attempt to find our voice.”

Both of these events humbled and taught me. They strengthened my relationships with my Muslim brothers and sisters and genereated hours of conversation discussion the complexities of multi-faith, Jesus-centered peacebuilding.

To my fellow peacebuilding novices, never let “I should have” or an event gone wrong stop you. You are made for this time and this place. Remain in Jesus. He is faithful to finish the good work He started.