5 essential characteristics of a peacebuilder

Integral mission and theologyPeacebuilding

In our last blog, we looked at the way Christians are transformed through their relationship with God to become more like Jesus. In this post, we’re going to discuss some of the characteristics that we think are essential for peacebuilders.

Photo: Kate Remmer/Unsplash
Photo: Kate Remmer/Unsplash

They are: 

  • Humility 
  • Hospitality 
  • The willingness to take a risk 
  • An ability to live with complexity without seeking simple resolutions 
  • Imagination 

These are attitudes that many people possess, but they are also characteristics that we think Christians should be seeking to nurture as they seek peace and that should characterise a Christian approach to peacebuilding work. 

Humility is a characteristic that says that I am not more important than you or than us. It allows us to let go of our own power and privilege and to use them or lay them aside for the good of others. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we say or think that we have no value: it recognises that we find our value in our identity as people made in the image of God, and so we don’t have to fight for worldly recognition. 

Hospitality is an attitude towards others that welcomes, listens and responds. We will look at it in more detail in another post, as this is a key practice in Tearfund’s approach to peacebuilding. It is an attitude we seek to practice – but we also seek to grow as guests, accepting the hospitality of others, as a way of seeking peace. 

Often humility and hospitality involve the willingness to take a risk in order to make a change to the status quo. It is not foolish risk-taking but courage in the face of uncertain situations, made possible by our trust in God. We see all three characteristics in the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. Abigail’s husband, Nabal, insulted David, who then swore to take revenge. Abigail then loaded up food and drink on to donkeys and went to David – without her husband’s knowledge and without any guarantee that David would welcome her – to try and make peace between the two men. She did this by displaying humility, bowing at his feet, and offering him the food and drink that he should have received if her husband had displayed hospitality to David. And her risk was rewarded with welcome by David and a peaceful resolution. 

Watch Tearfund staff reflect on the characteristics to look out for in peacebuilders and how to spot them.

Finally, peacebuilders need to be able to live and work in complex situations where there are no simple right or wrong answers or completely good or bad people. Conflicts are complicated, with deep roots in history and society. To navigate this, peacebuilders have to avoid moving too fast towards an easier answer, to show humility, hospitality and love to all those involved in the conflict. 

They also need to use their imaginations, to be able to imagine, dream of, and share the vision of a future in which peace exists. For the Christian, this imagination is grounded in our certain hope of the kingdom of God and its shalom. This imagination and vision enables peacebuilders, and those they work with, to begin to take the next steps towards peace. 

You can read Hannah’s introduction to the Peacebuilding blog series and her post on Peacebuilding as a part of God’s mission here.

Hannah Swithinbank
Hannah Swithinbank is Tearfund’s Theology & Network Engagement Manager.