A steadfast belief that light will always drive out the darkness was at the heart of Joy Balazo’s peace-building in the Asia-Pacific region, said Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan when launching a book about her life.
Live Peace, written by Margaret Reeson, recounts Ms Balazo’s life work with UnitingWorld and her inspiring peace-building program called Ambassadors for Peace.
In 2001, Ms Balazo devised a model of workshops and networks to sow ‘seeds of peace’ among young people living on opposite sides of conflicts. The program has changed lives and laid foundations for peace in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and East Timor.
Ms Balazo received the World Methodist Peace Award in 2013 in acknowledgment of her peace-building efforts. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan.
“I’m absolutely delighted to launch this book about our sister Joy Balazo,” said Mr McMillan at morning tea on day four of the 14th Assembly.
“Margaret has captured Joy’s story and heart for peace so very well.”
The President shared how he had long been inspired by the work Ms Balazo had been doing in conflict areas. He quoted participants in the Ambassador for Peace program: “We are all brothers and sisters…created in God’s image which is good, regardless of religion or culture.”
Author Margaret Reeson spent 15 years as a teacher with UnitingWorld in Papua New Guinea. On her return she joined the Assembly’s World Mission Committee, and was a member of this committee in its various forms until 2012. It was in this capacity that she got to know about Ms Balazo’s work. They also became close friends.
Ms Reeson recalled that when she first heard about Ms Balazo’s plans for a peace-building program, she was uncertain what impact it would have.
“My first thought was that maybe Joy was a little too ambitious, to think that one small program offered by our church to other churches could make a difference to such terrible conflicts,” she said “But Joy is very persuasive.”
The program went on to make a real difference in places of conflict and has been used in many contexts.
Ms Reeson said the story of Ms Balazo’s life was “very much a Uniting Church story”.
“Five past presidents of the Assembly have been supporters, friends and travel companions to Joy. Many in the Uniting Church have had the fun of trying to wrangle with Joy as a staff member.”
Ms Reeson acknowledged funding from the Western Australia Synod Special Purposes Fund, which made the publication possible.
Live Peace costs $25 and can be ordered by email firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.acornpress.net.au or phone 03 9383 1266.