My dad taught in a Lutheran school for nearly 40 years.
I went to a Lutheran school, as did my wife Julie. My two children in Melbourne went to Luther College, and our two boys still at home go to Tatachilla Lutheran College south of Adelaide.
I was even a chaplain in a Lutheran school – Grace in Queensland – for a short period.
So, I have witnessed firsthand the blessing this wonderful ministry of our Lutheran church brings to tens of thousands of young people.
Yet, recently I saw an entirely different kind of ‘Lutheran’ school.
These are schools our Lutheran family in Australia is building and equipping for Muslim Rohingya children trapped inside displaced-persons camps in Rakhine State in Myanmar – part of a plan to build 48 temporary learning spaces and 20 child-friendly spaces in the camps.
At the same time, our Lutheran church will support Buddhist Rakhine children in 15 formal schools, as these children are also victims of poverty and the brutal conflict.
More than 26,000 children will benefit from schooling which our Lutheran family provides!
This life-transforming work is delivered by ALWS Myanmar partner, Lutheran World Federation, supported by a 34:1 grant from the European Union, and by the Church of Sweden.
The good news is that this partnership, working alongside the Department of Education and other aid agencies, is already improving lives for children. We see progress in children wanting to come to school, parents getting involved in support committees, and teachers seeking more training.
Everywhere you go, you see the ALWS logo on buildings. But far more important than logos on buildings is what happens inside.
Yes, buildings need to be repaired, renovated or built. Teachers need to be recruited, trained and equipped with quality teaching aids. Children, both Rakhine and Rohingya, Buddhist and Muslim, need schoolbags, raincoats, textbooks, pencils and papers.
Yet what is needed most is the message that peace is possible, neighbours are neighbours, and that all are equally deserving of respect and rights.
It is in these small steps that trust can be rebuilt, forgiveness offered and healing begun.
In a world still hurting from the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terror attacks, there has never been a more important time for Christians to model peace. Here in Myanmar, we can do so by caring for both Buddhist and Muslim children, in schools where we might never expect ‘Lutheran’ schools to be.
This is not a place where we can preach directly in words – though it is a joy to see the work LCA International Mission is doing with the Lutheran churches of Myanmar.
Instead, in these schools behind the wire – building by building, teacher by teacher, lesson by lesson – we can be gentle, humble, patient peacemakers and, in grace, bring love to life where so much love has been lost.
Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.
ALWS has received a grant from the European Union that matches our help 34:1. Working with LWF and the Church of Sweden, this means a gift of $20 can support both a Buddhist child and a Muslim child to go to school through the ALWS GRACE Project. Simply call ALWS on 1300 763 407, or go to alws.org.au