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Mennonite Church honors Jonathan Kuttab as 2023 legacy peacemaker

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By Jessica Griggs for Mennonite Church USA

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA) — The Mennonite Church USA Executive Board has named two peacemakers, Jonathan Kuttab and Sydney Leah Bontrager, as the 2023 Bring The Peace award winners. The denomination gives the award to a Legacy Peacemaker and a Young Peacemaker each year. A Legacy Peacemaker is someone who has devoted their life to peace and justice work, whereas a Young Peacemaker is a young adult or teenager who has just begun their peacemaking journey, but who has already made a large impact. The award is sponsored by MC USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund.

Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MC USA’s denominational minister for peace and justice, said, “The Bring The Peace award is a tangible way to support the church’s peace mission and recognize the work of denominational peacemakers who are actively engaged in promoting peace in their congregations and communities.”

The MC USA Peace and Justice department receives Bring The Peace award nominations from across the denomination. MC USA staff and conference ministers — or someone they designate — then choose the winner by popular vote.

Dr. Jonathan Kuttab: Legacy peacemaker

Legacy Peacemaker: Jonathan Kuttab
Jonathan Kuttab was raised in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Kuttab is an international human rights attorney and is a member of the Bar Association in Palestine, Israel, and New York. He has represented the Mennonite Central Committee and Christian Peacemaker Teams (now Community Peacemaker Teams) in Palestine and was the head of the Legal Committee that negotiated the Cairo Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1994.

Kuttab has also been involved in the leadership of several Palestine-Israeli human rights groups, such as Al-Haq, Nonviolence International, MennoPIN, Friends of Sabeel North American, Holy Land Trust, and Bethlehem Bible College. He worships at the Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (Pennsylvania).

He represents people and groups from various religious and secular backgrounds and emphasizes universal principles that offer alternatives to violence across political, social, and religious divides.

“Working for peace and justice allows me to combine my faith commitment with my burning desire to do something about the oppression and struggle of my people in Palestine,” said Kuttab. “It allows me to care not only for my ‘tribe’ but also its enemies.”

Young Peacemaker: Sydney Leah Bontrager

Young Peacemaker: Sydney Leah Bontrager

Sydney Leah Bontrager, a 2023 Hesston College graduate, began her peace and justice work earlier this year when she learned about the plight of the people of Myanmar, a country she said she didn’t even know existed before she went to college. Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been under military rule for most of the past six decades, with the most recent takeover beginning in 2021. This regime has led to severe government-sanctioned violence — including burning people alive and razing entire villages — widespread poverty, an absence of basic resources, and a lack of overall safety.

With the help of one of her professors, Michele Hershberger, Bontrager set out to raise money to help provide necessary resources for villages and an orphanage in Myanmar. Bontrager said the difficulty in raising money for Myanmar is that there are no organizations to send the money to, because it is too dangerous for anyone to enter the country with humanitarian aid. Hershberger has a contact who is already in Myanmar, though, so Bontrager just needed to raise money, and Hershberger could send it. In January, Bontrager took this need to her congregation, Bellwood Mennonite Church in Milford, Nebraska, and the church raised over $14,000 in the first two weeks. To date, Bellwood Mennonite has raised over $16,000 to help feed the Burmese people and support the orphanage.

The orphanage Bontrager raises funds for, which serves children who live in the local trash dump, is planning to buy their own land to build a more suitable building in which the children can receive care and education.

“It is a great opportunity to win this award! I hope it will bring more attention to what is happening in Myanmar and possibly generate more donations,” Bontrager said, upon receiving the award. “I’m very grateful for my church and their willingness to help out! I know Jesus helped people whenever he could, and I believe we should help others like Jesus did.”

MC USA’s Bring The Peace initiative calls on individuals and congregations to extend peace in their communities. It is also a prayer, inviting God to bring the peace that expands our capacity for empathy, compassion, and love and that actively seeks to dismantle oppression and violence.

For more information on MC USA’s peacebuilding efforts, click here.

Mennonite Church USA is an Anabaptist Christian denomination, founded in 2002, and a recognized peace church. Members seek to follow Jesus by rejecting violence and resisting injustice. MC USA’s Renewed Commitments state the following shared commitments among its diverse body of believers: to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace, and experience the transformation of the Holy Spirit. MC USA is comprised of 15 area conferences and more than 470 congregations across the United States. MC USA is part of the Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 60 countries.

تكافح مجلة “ملح الأرض” من أجل الاستمرار في نشر تقارير تعرض أحوال المسيحيين العرب في الأردن وفلسطين ومناطق الجليل، ونحرص على تقديم مواضيع تزوّد قراءنا بمعلومات مفيدة لهم ، بالاعتماد على مصادر موثوقة، كما تركّز معظم اهتمامها على البحث عن التحديات التي تواجه المكون المسيحي في بلادنا، لنبقى كما نحن دائماً صوت مسيحي وطني حر يحترم رجال الدين وكنائسنا ولكن يرفض احتكار الحقيقة ويبحث عنها تماشيًا مع قول السيد المسيح و تعرفون الحق والحق يحرركم
من مبادئنا حرية التعبير للعلمانيين بصورة تكميلية لرأي الإكليروس الذي نحترمه. كما نؤيد بدون خجل الدعوة الكتابية للمساواة في أمور هامة مثل الإرث للمسيحيين وأهمية التوعية وتقديم النصح للمقبلين على الزواج وندعم العمل الاجتماعي ونشطاء المجتمع المدني المسيحيين و نحاول أن نسلط الضوء على قصص النجاح غير ناسيين من هم بحاجة للمساعدة الإنسانية والصحية والنفسية وغيرها.
والسبيل الوحيد للخروج من هذا الوضع هو بالتواصل والنقاش الحر، حول هويّاتنا وحول التغييرات التي نريدها في مجتمعاتنا، من أجل أن نفهم بشكل أفضل القوى التي تؤثّر في مجتمعاتنا،.
تستمر ملح الأرض في تشكيل مساحة افتراضية تُطرح فيها الأفكار بحرّية لتشكل ملاذاً مؤقتاً لنا بينما تبقى المساحات الحقيقية في ساحاتنا وشوارعنا بعيدة المنال.
كل مساهماتكم تُدفع لكتّابنا، وهم شباب وشابات يتحدّون المخاطر ليرووا قصصنا.

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