The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has appointed Steve Tollestrup in Auckland, New Zealand as its Director of Peace-building and Reconciliation Initiative (PRI), a special project launched by WEA in a bid to expand its existing global Christian peace-building efforts.
“I am delighted to appoint Steve Tollestrup as the Director of our Peace-building and Reconciliation Initiative,” said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the International Director of WEA. “Steve brings experience, skill and passion to this very important role. As we look across the globe we recognize this initiative is more needed than ever. I want to see us to be on the frontline of promoting and reconciliation.”
At the 2007 WEA International Leadership Team meeting in Africa, the organization’s leadership agreed that peace-building efforts are a priority for the alliance. With this in mind, the WEA made a goal to have at least 40 percent of its 128 national evangelical alliances, member organizations, partners and commissions help cultivate and sustain peace in places impacted by violence. WEA has encouraged its partners to especially focus on children of impoverished nations stricken by armed intrastate conflict.
"Reconciliation seems to me, from my reading of scripture, is a unique Christian ministry that cannot be separated out from either proclamation or works,” said Tollestrup, who is also a member of the Global Reconciliation Network which was initiated at Lausanne 2004.
“To be Christian is to be a peace-maker. I cannot think of poverty anywhere in the world where I cannot trace back to some conflict either directly or as exacerbating. For this reason Evangelicals must become conflict literate and be able to contribute to reconciliation and peacemaking. As Jesus emphatically stated, 'Blessed are the peace-makers.’”
Mr. Tollestrup said a small group of three part-time staff employees will work with him on this project, and it will be financially supported by TEAR Fund New Zealand. The plan is to initially build awareness among WEA membership of WEA PRI and its goals, expand their mailing list, develop their website and make available simple peace-building resources. WEA PRI wishes to build cooperative relations with other Christian peace and reconciliation networks throughout the world as they look to prepare for Cape Town 2010, the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.
“I am approaching this with a real sense that we are late-comers on the scene of Christian peace-making. Many Christians and their networks have for years, even centuries been concerned for peace-building. One only has to consider the Mennonites for instance. So with a sense of humility I want to work with others as a learner and a listener as build WEAPRI over the coming months and years."Mr. Tollestrup has previous experience in field based reconciliation programs throughout the world and was awarded a New Zealand Government Scholarship for work in impact assessment among poor communities in the developing world at the PRIA Institute in New Delhi. In the past, he has served as the Chairperson of the New Zealand Council for International Development and currently serves on the Executive Council of the Integral Alliance and the New Zealand Micah Challenge.