Twelve international peacemakers from around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Sept. 19-Oct. 12.

They are sharing their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan and Syria.

The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

The Rev. Tseganesh Ayele Asele is director of the Women’s Department of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Jesus. Her areas of study are theology, leadership, and gender and diversity, with a special emphasis on conflict resolution and peacemaking.

What is the most important situation in your country that you will be addressing?

The status of women ― because of discrimination, abuse and cultural traditions such as female genital mutilation prevent women from taking their rightful place. The government is locked into economic development but because of a lack of education women and children are left out of the benefits of development. In both the churches and the government, women are marginalized. The weakest are always left out. 

How are the faith communities trying to address this situation? 

This situation is a very big challenge to the churches. Most of civil society has limited rights and cannot speak out. Faith groups are put in a box ―their voice is locked up. Muslims can be aggressive, but Christians are expected to be passive and peaceful. Churches have a big opportunity, but tend to stand for various ethnic groups rather than for the marginalized. They are completely missing the point.

What peacemaking lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?

Churches must follow the teachings of the Bible and Jesus Christ and not the politicians. The marginalized must be spoken for.

What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians about your country?

The church must be voice for the voiceless, to bring justice and fairness according to the principles of the Bible. Let us raise up the Gospel and stand on our faith. If we have faith in Jesus we can have peace but only by following Jesus ― by living for others, not for ourselves.

Tseganesh Ayele Asele will be visiting the presbyteries of Shenandoah ― and Mary Baldwin College ― Coastal Carolina, Los Ranchos and Plains and Peaks.