When a student recently hung the Russian flag from a dormitory window at LCC International, a Christian liberal arts university in Klaipėda, Lithuania, and a Mennonite Mission Network partner, suspicions exploded in the national media. Was LCC supporting the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine?
In a recent presentation in Elkhart, Indiana, Dr. Marlene Wall, president of LCC, painted a portrait of a country on edge — of a Lithuania "jittery" from the threat of Russian interference in the still-young democracy of the former Soviet region. Guided by a Christian vision since its inception in 1991, LCC has acted as an incubator of democratic values of freedom and transparency amid a historic context of secrecy and autocratic control. Campus visitors often comment on its democratic "feel," evident even in its architecture, which lets in natural light. LCC's feel is matched by its international flavor — 67 percent of its students come from outside of Lithuania. Moreover, though the university is clear in its Christian convictions, only 30 percent of its students come to the school as Christians.
This is the setting in which the student hung the Russian flag — and unwittingly launched a dramatic display of reconciliation. While Wall and her administrative team carefully crafted a statement to counter the media's false accusations, said Wall, "the students took care of the problem." Adjoining the flag of Russia, students hung the flags of every nation from which they had gathered as students of LCC. At the center of the display, between the flags of Ukraine and Russia, they adorned a heart shape in red lipstick. Upon hearing Wall's telling of the resolution, NATO representatives in the region marveled at the students' ease in fulfilling the "peacekeeping" mission for which they as international authorities strained.
The Hebrew prophets told of a time when the sight of the mountain of the Lord's house raised high would draw together a learning community among many peoples and nations. Schooled in the paths of peace, they would make peace (Isaiah 2:1-5, Micah 4:1-5). Walking in the light of the Lord, they would become "a light to the nations, that [the Lord's] salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 2:5; 49:6). Drawn by the light of the Lord upon them, even rulers and authorities would acknowledge "the brightness of [their] dawn" (Isaiah 60:1-3).
In line with those prophets, Jesus came "proclaiming peace" (see Matthew 5:17, Ephesians 2:17). "He went up the mountain." "His disciples came to him" and "he taught them" (Matthew 5:1-2). He made them to be a light shining in plain sight, "so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). As a community of the Lord's peace from "all nations," may the church — like those students from LCC International — pursue peace, "so that the world may believe" (Matthew 28:19, Psalm 34:14, John 17:21).