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Fighting for Peace

Hey, check out this news article.

Just kidding -- it's in Russian. But let me do my best to summarize what happened:

A picture much like this one is what started it all. It is normal
for students to hang their national flags from their windows
as a statement of pride.
Some locals noticed a few of our Russian students hung their nation's flag outside their resident hall window. They interpreted it as "spying for Putin" and contacted a Lithuanian online publication, which added they were a "sign of Russia's occupation."

LCC students caught wind of the article, realized that their Russian brothers and sisters were being misrepresented, and proceeded to hang flags from nearly a dozen of the 25+ countries represented at the university.

This action, combined with a thoughtful letter by one of the students that was forwarded as a response to local media, transformed the situation. Here are some excerpts:
An explosion of flags and solidarity. Fun fact: my office is
through the window in the bottom left.
"[...] all the students who had flags of the countries of their origin hung them out of their rooms to support our fellow Russian students who suffered such an injustice. We want to make sure that these students know that they have support in the face of everyone at LCC, and that they are welcomed here [...] We are all a part of the Christian institution that promotes peace and understanding, and we must make sure that no one is discriminated [...]"
The result has been several articles like the one linked above that speaks to the unique nature of LCC International University and, more importantly, speaks to the importance of tolerance and love in a world filled with messages of fear and hate.

It also illustrates the level of creativity often needed to pursue justice and find lasting solutions to conflict that don't resort to force and coercion. The above situation is one that could have easily divided our students against the Russians or pitted LCC against Klaipeda. Instead, the parties have grown closer thanks to the creativity of a few students. 

Whenever it comes up that I'm a pacifist, I often find myself being written off. I suspect much of this is rooted in the misconception that pacifism is synonymous with being passive.

There is nothing passive about pursuing peace, justice, and following the way of Jesus. 

Let me write that in a larger font just to make sure that's clear:

There is nothing passive about pursuing peace, justice, and following the way of Jesus. 

I came across another article this week that really speaks to this idea. If you like the idea of redeeming neo-Nazis, check this out!

Neither of these instances of nonviolent activism are heralded as "Christian" events. But if part of the idea of God's Kingdom is that it's something that can be experienced both presently and in the future, then these are moments where you can get a glimpse of that.

Randomness: SIELOS

Two weekends ago, I took members of the LCC chapel band to play at the SIELOS ("SOUL") Christian music festival for the third time. 

Alisha and I also unveiled the most recent manifestation of our music making, "Sparrows." 



Ukraine and Russia and LCC

Josh and the residents from one of his floors sit down to feast on the pizzas they made together.
Alisha leads a panel of LCC student leaders as they share their experiences.
The situation in the region, at the political level, changes hourly. It could be a full-time job to keep up with the news media regarding Ukraine and its neighbors. In the news, it seemed just a few weeks ago to be a relatively peaceful protest movement in Independence Square in Kiev related to alignment with the EU or Russia (with the Winter Olympics the center of attention in Sochi). 

It then quickly changed with a government overthrow and almost 100 deaths, to now a situation related to the autonomy vs. foreign occupation of Crimea, and it bleeds into Lithuanian uncertainty with Russian naval exercises in the Baltic Sea and on and on...any description of the situation is rendered simplistic because of the layers of history and regional relations involved. The point here is not to describe the political context.

As a small university in Lithuania, LCC International University’s primary impact is not at the political level. But we believe we do play a very important role.

The LCC pond isn't frozen now, but broomball/hockey was a great
success this winter while it was.
We demonstrate community. We are an international university – and we happen to have 69 Ukrainian students, and 53 Russian students on campus. Each one of us has strong opinions about the current situation, opinions that are determined by life experience, or education, or the opinions of others. 

As a community, LCC states, “We celebrate diversity of cultures and traditions, personalities and opinions.” (Core Value #5) Living in community means that we work on what unites us, and not what divides us. We are people interacting with people, not representatives of a government interacting with representatives of a government. 

The orphanage is still a big part of our lives. And orphans still
love Josh's beard.
We serve a God of peace.  In John 14:27, Jesus says: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." 

Especially when it feels like peace is being threatened, we must continue to carry a message of peace and reconciliation.

Alisha is, at times, the mature mama bird the Study Abroad
students need, as the picture above illustrates.
We stand for justice. We must be Micah 6:8 people: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

When God models justice, it is never modest or polite or understated. Justice is bold. But it is accompanied by a love of mercy. We must live and speak accordingly and we teach from this perspective.

Viktorija, who attends the Klaipeda Vineyard Church with us,
shows off her painting after a community event that combined
art and faith.
We care for the needs of our students. Very practically, we are monitoring the fluctuation of currencies in the region. In the year ending on Feb. 28, the Ukrainian currency had devalued by 26 percent. Four other regional currencies had also devalued by 15+ percent. As always, we have emergency financial aid available should it be necessary. 

We are people of prayer.  Above all, we must demonstrate our faith in the One who holds the future. We pray for each other, for national leaders, for safety and security, for the church everywhere, for peace. We encourage each other by praying for each other. 

And we go on. We've just had mid-term exams, spring break, underground potlucks, and chapel. Our lives cannot be defined by politics. But sometimes political situations help us clarify our message and provide new opportunities for demonstrating who we are.