“This peace pole is how we deal with conflict among our people,” the young seminary student explained, pointing at a huge wooden column in the center of the building. We had just stepped inside a “betang” (longhouse), a traditional 19thcentury Dayak home shared by several families. Dayak is the name for the many (50?) ethnic groups on the island of Kalimantan (Borneo) in Indonesia. In 1874, an inter-tribal peace treaty was signed amongst the former head-hunters and this ushered in an era of peaceful relations between once-warring groups.
How does a peace pole work? If someone has a problem with another member of the community, they bring the conflict to the elders gathered in front of the pole. Each side is given a chance to explain their side of the story. If, for example, it is a land dispute the whole party walks to the area in question where they discuss the conflict in detail. Then the elders make a decision that both sides will honor.
What a beautiful model for dealing with disagreements in a way that promotes harmony in the community. It’s a method consistent with Paul’s exhortations in 1 Thess. 5:12–15. We have much to learn from our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world!
I (Ann) learned about the peace pole when I was teaching at a seminary in Kalimantan. Each day, I met with over 120 students to study biblical principles of leadership in the New Testament. One colleague later wrote: “we are very encouraged to interpret the Bible with the new eyes since you are here.” And the principal graciously remarked, “[your presence] was not only to enrich our theological insight, but also to open our eyes that we have sisters and brothers with the same mission in Christ. [You] motivated our students to see a wide world in which everyone can participate in God’s mission.”
As we enter into the season of Advent, may Jesus the Prince of Peace teach us new ways to deal with differences in a God-pleasing way, whether in our families or churches, at school or work, and especially on social media. How might you be able to erect a “peace pole” in your context? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you for making it possible for us to serve as Christ’s ambassadors of peace in this part of the world.