Grieving MJ Sharp
Job 2:13 “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.”
How do we make sense of the death of a peacemaker? All of us at Christian Peacemaker Teams extend our deepest sympathies to those grieving the death of MJ Sharp, who died while carefully investigating the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, andoffering creative violence-reduction solutions to the international community. Some of us had the honor of working with MJ in Palestine, or traveling on delegation with him. Some of us knew him growing up in Pennsylvania and Indiana, some had life-long friendships with him.
Grieving a member of our beloved peacemaking community killed after a kidnapping is stark and familiar territory at CPT. We are variously comforted that he died doing what he believed in; outraged at the loss of one so dear, so committed, so young, so brilliant; and despairing at what feel like endless cycles of violence.
We are fearful for our partners in peacemaking around the world, as climbing attempts and assassinations show human rights defenders are living in mounting danger. We’re reminded of the others we still grieve, and the young, colorful, activists in the Congo who continue to push on for democracy and transparency there. We know that in this work MJ will not be the last beloved peacemaker we lose. Grief comes quietly and with force, slowly and all at once; it comes in waves and steadily. It is not just one thing.
We grieve, too, for those who lay in the mass graves MJ and his colleagues were going to document. May none of them be forgotten as we recommit ourselves to the task of building partnerships to transform the violence and oppression we face.
Below, please find a poem by long-time CPTer Tim Nafziger.
Lima Bean Eulogy
We planted lima beans the morning after
villagers found MJ’s body.
The rotund little green dumplings
nestling to the damp earth
He nestled in a shallow grave with Zaida and Betu
along the road from from Bukonde to Tshimbulu in Kasai.
In a few weeks those dumplings will bust up, burst out
and wind their way above our highest hedges.
So this is what it feels like when a friend
(smiling smart blackjack shark, wisecracking lark, goofball genius, fingernail biting adventurer, rainbow vacuum salesman, globe-trotting strategist, adorable hunk, creative critical mind, mass grave documenter, consummate UN professional, Johnny Walker philosopher, lock picking ninja, Mennonite golden boy, rebel leader networker (at church), slightly bespectacled gadget nerd (according to the New York Times if you trust them), loyal comrade, Hot Doug’s line-waiter, burnt out social justice warrior, charismatic conversationalist, noble old soul, pugnacious puppy trainer, binge watching Netflix enthusiast, reconciliator, frequent flier, subversive prankster punk, bright brave peace worker, canny researcher, francophone fish, dummie teller, smooth talking soccer jock, sarcastic lover, humble impresario, fast talking militia deserter recruiter, board game geek, persistent investigator, fiercely independent expert, earnest-really-doing-that-swords-to-plowshares-thing-we-all-talk-about-doing-in-a-way-that-makes-us-feel-a-little-awkward-but-we’d-never-admit-it type, tuxedoed porsche driver, cherry eating long-distance trekker, bantering buddy, authoritarian undermining report writer, box free thinker, charming diplomat, cool calm calculated political operator, lovable troublemaker and texas hold-em chip supplier)*
becomes a seed.
Thank you for your support to the CPT community in such a time as this.