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Conference Inspires Youth to Pursue Peace and Seek Justice

‘The great adventure we get to be on is following Jesus,’ speaker says

How do we practice peace and justice in our daily lives? That was the question acclaimed activist Shane Claiborne explored at Peace It Together (PIT) 2013, Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) conference for youth focusing on biblical and Anabaptist themes of peace.

Shane Claiborne at PIT 2013
Shane Claiborne at PIT 2013

Over the course of three worship sessions, Claiborne challenged the more than 100 youth, youth sponsors, and pastors from across Canada who gathered at PIT to see that being a Christian isn’t about what happens to us in the afterlife, but rather, it’s about the way we spend our time on Earth.

“Jesus didn’t come just to prepare us to die, but to show us how to live,” Claiborne said.

Claiborne, author of a number of books, including The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, told stories from his various ministry experiences, including working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India; a trip with a Christian Peacemaker Team to Iraq in 2003; and living with The Simple Way, a community he helped start in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighbourhood.

He told listeners that there are a variety of ways to pursue peace and seek justice in their daily lives, and that everyone is invited to do something with their gifts that contributes to the redemptive work God is doing in the world.

He added that ultimately, more important than what you do or accomplish in this life is who you are becoming as a child of God.

“In the end, the great adventure we get to be on is following Jesus,” Claiborne said.

On Saturday afternoon, youth participated in a variety of different workshops to put into action the things they learned from Claiborne.

Youth had the option to visit a L’Arche community; visit Cedar Lane Farm, an organic farm located in a house-barn in rural Manitoba; spend the afternoon at Neechi Commons, a supermarket, bakery, and fish market in Winnipeg’s North End that fosters neighbourhood revitalization; visit House Blend Ministries, an intentional community in downtown Winnipeg; build instruments; or create and distribute a broadsheet newspaper with recent news stories rewritten from the perspective of peace

PIT also included times for small group reflection; opportunities to play sports or create art; and social events like square dancing, karaoke, and a talent show.

Robbie Friesen, a Grade 12 student from Vineland, ON., said the conference gave him a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ

Shane Claiborne addresses youth at one of his three speaking sessions
Shane Claiborne addresses youth, youth leaders, and pastors at one of his three speaking sessions

“When Jesus said, ‘Give up everything and follow me,’ there are different ways you can look at that,” said Friesen, 17, who traveled to Winnipeg with his youth group from Vineland United Mennonite Church. “I’ll definitely remember Shane’s stories of active peace and following Jesus.”

Hannah Thiessen, a Grade 11 student from Cambridge, ON., agreed.

“Shane makes it easy to wrap your brain around actually doing these things,” said the 15-year-old, from Wanner Mennonite Church. “I hope that I can act on what I’ve learned and contribute to my community in some way.”

Lois Nickel, Director of Enrolment Services at CMU and one of PIT’s organizers, said that was the goal of the conference.

“We wanted to show youth that you can live out peace wherever you are,” Nickel said. “We hope youth pastors and leaders will be taking ideas and inspiration from this weekend to go and try new things with their youth groups.”

CMU will host the next Peace It Together youth conference in October 2015.

Articles Student Projects

Voices of the Voiceless: Homeless teen encounters judgment and ridicule

Christian activist and author Shane Claiborne advocates with the poor so that their voices are heard. 



By Carter Brooks

At first glance, Shane Claiborne and Arika Fraser have little in common.

Claiborne, 37, is from Tennessee, is a popular author, and is in demand as a speaker in Christian circles.

Fraser, 15, lives in inner-city Winnipeg and sleeps under parked cars on nights when there is no better option.

What they have in common is poverty.

Claiborne’s experience with service to the poor is famously recounted in his book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. He spent 10 weeks living in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa. He made his own clothing and carried no possessions with him during that time.

He has since become a Christian activist, a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement, and a founding member of The Simple Way in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In a telephone interview, Claiborne said he re-learned the concept of true love from Mother Teresa, how she based all of her decisions on love, and love alone.

Proverbs 31:8 instructs us: “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.” Those living in the poorest areas of Calcutta can easily be classified as voiceless, but Claiborne challenges us to know someone at a deeper level before we write them off.

“We think it is our job to stand up in their place, rather than standing with them and helping them project their own voice,” he says.

“They are struggling, they have wants and desires too, but more importantly, they have needs. Shelter, clothing, food, and water—that is what it comes down to.”

According to Statistics Canada, about one in 10 Canadians live in poverty. Statistics show that 882,000 Canadians used food banks monthly in 2012. Thirty-eight percent of those helped were children.

Fraser can occasionally be found at Agape Table, a soup kitchen in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She believes it is important for the voices of inner-city youth to be heard.

She and her older brother, Jordin, have lived in the hardscrabble neighbourhood of Winnipeg’s North End for the past three years. Through intensely hot summers and chilling winters, Fraser and her brother overnighted in bus shelters, dumpsters, under trees, and occasionally, under parked cars.

“It doesn’t bother us, really,” Fraser says. “I’ve learned how to tune out the noise and shivering.”

“My momma died when I was born, and [my] brother is all I have left,” she added. “We live on the streets, but no one seems to care.”

Fraser says she and her brother encounter judgment and ridicule every day.

She has deep scars running across her forearms.

“Yes I used to cut. [It was the] only way I [could] deal with things sometimes.”

When informed of Shane Claiborne and his work, Fraser says she appreciates having someone out there advocating with the poor.

“I’m really happy that someone is actually doing what we do and getting to speak out for us. This makes me happy. I want out, and want to talk, but [people] don’t like to listen.”

When she isn’t begging for money or searching for leftover food in the streets, Fraser can be found once a week visiting her mother’s tombstone.

“I do it to stay connected. I’m a person too, I have feelings. I miss momma.”

Claiborne believes we are called to do what God did through Jesus, by standing with people like Fraser.

As Mother Teresa often said, “Calcuttas are everywhere, we just need to have eyes to see.”

Shane Claiborne will speak at Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) annual Peace It Together conference October 18-20, 2013. For details, visit

Carter Brooks is a student at CMU. He wrote this article as part of his work in the course Journalism—Principles and Practices. “Voices of the Voiceless” is a class project that aims to chronicle the humanity of often-ignored people on the margins of our community.