When Jonathan and Sarah Nahar were first approached by Mennonite Mission Network staff to help produce the "Stir Up Peace" video series, they were not yet married. When Jason Boone, who, at the time, served as Mission Network's minister of peace and justice, asked them where he should send the payment for their work on the series, they told him that he could send both payments to a shared account — making Boone one of the first people they informed about their upcoming marriage.
The Nahars share much, peacemaking work included. They shared participation in Mission Network's Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) program. Sarah Nahar participated in the Elkhart, Indiana, unit from 2007-2009, and Jonathan Nahar participated in that same unit from 2016-2018.
After completing a Fullbright scholarship, Sarah Nahar joined MVS during her first year at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart. The heart of her time in the program, she said, was calling local youth back home to Elkhart to serve in their community. With them, Sarah Nahar learned to leverage her social capital and resources, not just for service, but for positive social change.
Through the relationships that she deepened during her time with MVS, Sarah Nahar has now come to advise the board of the Tolson Center for Community Excellence. She said that this organization attempts to increase the city of Elkhart's investment in its southcentral community, where the recently closed Elkhart MVS unit used to be located.
"It makes the most sense to [Jonathan and me], as we work internationally on issues of systemic violence and harm, to also pay attention to how oppression shows up in our home community," Sarah Nahar said.
Jonathan Nahar's MVS experience dealt directly with Mennonite Church USA's (MC USA) 2017 resolution: "Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine." Jonathan Nahar, along with his supervisor, Andre Gingerich Stoner, who, at that time, was the director of holistic witness and interchurch relations for MC USA, brought together a group of three authors, ten consultants and an even broader group of advisors to rewrite the resolution that had been tabled two years earlier.
The new resolution encompassed taking action to support the rights of the Palestinian people and challenging the illegal Israeli occupation. Additionally, the resolution recognized and challenged the ways that Mennonites have been and are complicit in the occupation, as well as anti-Semitism, Jonathan Nahar said.
"It was a big process," Jonathan Nahar said. "A lot of people [were involved]. [We participated in] a lot of Zoom calls, before Zoom was a ubiquitous thing."
Former Mission Network Executive Director Stanley W. Green and Jonathan Nahar (then Brenneman) spend a day on Capitol Hill advocating for the sentiments expressed in MCUSA's Israel-Palestine resolution passed in Orlando in 2017.
After the resolution had been rewritten, Jonathan Nahar's spent his time advocating for it. He connected with numerous churches, asking them to organize educational events, and helped created the Palestinian and Jewish Voices for Peace speaking tour.
In the end, the resolution was passed at the 2017 MC USA conference in Orlando with 98% approval. During his second year at MVS, Jonathan Nahar helped implement the various commitments that were made in the resolution.
"[My time with MVS] was very formative," Sarah Nahar said. "It was a chance to live in intentional community, sharing joys and struggles [with my housemates]. It gave me a chance to connect and work with a lot of creative people who care about their community."
Jonathan Nahar said that his time with MVS, working on the Israel-Palestine resolution, fueled his peacemaking work in so many ways. "I made so many great connections in [the peacemaking] field of work in those two years, both within the Mennonite church and outside it." As he made connections with people and congregations while advocating for the resolution, he also connected with people like the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition, as well as through MC USA's abolitionist curriculum and connections through advocacy for Palestine.
Even though their time with MVS has ended, the Nahars continue to support the program. During the pandemic, they led parts of the MVS online orientation. "We're always recruiting for MVS," Sarah Nahar said. "We're always looking for ways to make MVS more accessible for those who come from underprivileged backgrounds, because it's an incredible experience. It's one of the key programs that has led to the transformation of the Mennonite church."
The Nahars recently worked with Mission Network to produce "Stir up Peace," a video series that details how non-violent direct action can create change. Mission Network continues to commit to peace work and expanding our peacemaking and justice resources. In this vein, the Nahars are currently working on an educational curriculum to accompany the video series. Look for it in early 2022.