This August marks one year since I first reached out to the Partners in Health & Wholeness (PHW) team as a potential host site for my Senior Practicum in Peace & Conflict Studies at UNC Greensboro. The ministry and values of PHW put them at the top of my peace internship wish list.
It might seem odd at first to think of community-focused, faith-based health ministry as peace work, especially given common conceptions of high-level international diplomacy and crisis negotiation as being the true and ultimate work of peace. In fact, the work of peace can be found at the intersections of the everyday conflict between our commitment to embrace and embody the belief that “All people are God’s beloved children, made in God’s image, and deserving not only of personal well-being, but of dignity and equality” and a society and culture that does not reflect this belief in policy and practice.
The reality of this conflict of values touches our communities and affects our friends, family and colleagues–from racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in access to clean air and water and safe and healthy foods, to inequitable access to physical and mental health care, to the overdose crisis and the disproportionate racial impact of the “War on Drugs,” to the ways in which systemic inequities affect aging outcomes across the lifecourse. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
PHW’s ongoing commitment to educate and advocate alongside North Carolina’s faith communities to address such injustice and its effects led me to their door during International Peace Month one year ago. One year on, and in a new role with PHW post-internship, I am ever more convinced that the work of health-related justice is the work of peace. This work is far from done, but we are not without hope. As we observe International Peace Month, we are grateful for your partnership in the work of “seeking peace and pursuing it” (Psalm 34:14, paraphrased). Through our collaborative efforts and our shared commitment to advocate for health justice in our communities and across North Carolina, we can truly make a difference.
For more about the connection between health ministry and peace work and how insights from the field of Peace & Conflict Studies can inform our ongoing pursuit of health-related justice in our communities, check out the PHW Sacred Conversation and Resource Guide: “Practical Peace: Transforming Health from the Roots Up.”