Peacebuilding is one of those words that mean many things to many people.
While peacebuilders can be involved in a wide variety of programs, we should always aim to nonviolently transform individual and societal conditions that lead to injustice, oppression, and destructive conflict.
I just want peace. “Just peace,” the positive peace that encompasses all these things.
It’s been nearly 25 years since bombs fell on Serbia, almost 30 since the Dayton Agreement ended the war in Bosnia . . . yet these countries and those surrounding them are still permeated by a negative peace. Violent conflicts occur on the border with Kosovo, cities are still divided along ethnic lines, and nationalist rhetoric allows authoritarian leaders to remain in power. Without connections, without communication, divides will never be bridged, healing will never occur, and reconciliation will remain forever out of reach.
A number of nonprofit organizations in the former Yugoslavia seek to restore broken relationships and establish positive peace by bringing together people of different ethnic groups and gathering those willing to speak out against divisive nationalist tendencies. However, a number of factors including lack of time, language barriers, and limited networks prevent them from reaching potential participants and possible donors.
By volunteering my writing, editing, organizational, and content creation skills, I amplify these existing nonprofits’ voices, increasing their reach and freeing their leaders to engage and educate the public about their vision.
Young adults continue to leave the traditional Christian church in high numbers—but not because they no longer believe. They are worn out, tired of congregations and denominations that don’t speak of the God they’ve encountered, an inclusive God who desires equity and freedom for all creation. Many find others experiencing the same type of evolving faith on the internet and through social media.
As a neurodivergent millennial with chronic illness and limited mobility, I understand the importance of the internet to connect with those who feel outside the norm. The peacebuilding movement I’ve created, #BeGracefullyPunk, is a form of digital ministry that combines spiritual practices and calls to create social justice, offering hope to believers seeking a different vision of God.
To inspire others to view faith differently, I write Substack newsletters, host Zoom courses, and use digital platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook to engage with Christians in every stage of belief. I also offer free facilitated group discussions centered on the “Introduction to Christian Peacebuilding” curriculum created by Peace Catalyst.
For many of the same reasons, my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is dying; current trends suggest it may cease to exist by 2050. Yet it can offer exactly what believers who have disaffiliated desire. Through the Word, through Holy Communion, through prayer and praise and worship and wonder, the Lutheran liturgy offers glimpses of God. At the same time, by heeding Martin Luther’s own belief that Christians should respond to the love God freely bestowed upon them by loving their neighbor through acts of service, congregations should actively engage with social justice issues.
ELCA congregations are perfectly poised to become “third spaces,” a bridge between work and family life and state and international institutions, where communities can come together. The goal is not conversion but conversation and contemplation. Such interactions with their neighbors sets up the next step: actively working alongside the community to create positive change and lasting peace.
We can revitalize the ELCA, and provide a model for other Christian denominations, by encouraging the denomination to adopt peacebuilding as a framework that provides a way for them to engage with their communities while remaining true to their Lutheran traditions, strengthening members’ faith to remind them of God’s promises and give them hope as they go out into the world.
Program Director, Peace Catalyst International
Graduate student in Justice and Reconciliation, Luther Seminary
20+ years of nonprofit involvement in a variety of roles
15+ years of professional writing and editing experience
BA, International Political Economy, emphasis development in the Global South
JD, International Humanitarian Law, emphasis self-determination
Training in Kingian nonviolence
Training in conflict resolution
Training in digital ministry
Certificate, Peace and Conflict Studies in the Former Yugoslavia
Certificate, Youth and Family Ministries
These identities and experiences have coalesced to form who I am now: a program coordinator with Peace Catalyst International and a graduate student at Luther Seminary. I amplify the voices of reconciliation and social changemaking nonprofits in the Balkans; I engage in digital ministry to persuade Christians to adopt peacebuilding as a way to live out their faith; and I educate current and future pastors and church leaders on how peacebuilding can bridge their congregations’ spiritual practices and active engagement in their communities.
I spend most of my time in Belgrade, Serbia, where I live with my husband, two cats, and an ever-growing number of plants. Video calls, virtual events, and regular visits to the US keep me connected to family, friends, and the church. When not actively peacebuilding, I relentlessly pursue rest as a form of resistance; I read nonstop, rewatch the same five TV shows, subversively cross-stitch, and listen to my noughties scenekid playlists. You might also find me dancing, hopping a plane to Italy, screaming at a soccer match or commiserating over lost baseball games, searching for a new craft beer or lingering over a tiny coffee for two hours at a cafe by the Danube.