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Exploring reconciliation in communities devastated by violence

Living without Enemies: Being present in the midst of violence

IVP Books 2011

RRP $17.95

Reviewed by Peter Harvey, Rural Ministry Associate, Presbytery of WA.

In Living without Enemies, theologian Samuel Wells (dean of Duke University Chapel and professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School) and community activist Marcia Owen (executive director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham) describe the journey of transforming enemies into friends within the city of Durham, North Carolina.

After gun violence threatened to destroy the neighbourhood, a religious coalition that Owen formed and leads began holding prayer vigils.

Being present with both victims and offenders in the aftermath of violent events started a journey of reconciliation, leading to a transformation, and a community which began to love in radical ways.

Living without Enemies explores the missional ministry and reconciliation that emerged from this one woman's deep hurt for the gun violence in her community. It specifically details the path of engagement and reconciliation that happened in one situation, but I believe it can serve as a larger framework or template for people to engage with similar and varied social problems in their own communities.

The story is profoundly moving and intimately connected to the heart of mission — being connected to the community in which we live.

In the face of what may seem an overwhelming problem, people often fail to act because the issue seems too big.

Living without Enemies helps to bring these issues down to a personal level.

Together, Owen and Wells navigate the fragile yet explosive boundaries of reconciliation that can give way to new, holy ground in communities everywhere which have been devastated by violence.