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Last August I was honored to attend the Global Peace Conference in Mongolia. Mongolia, you say?! It was made available for me to attend as an observer. Parliamentarians, faith leaders and community leaders from the region attended an intercultural, interfaith, multifaceted leadership program.

I have heard many things about Mongolia over the years. Certainly it is a lot like Montana. The landscape, the plains, the mountains are like a reflection of Montana. The people are generous, open-hearted, kind and friendly. It was there that I found myself.

I found some universal lessons that are as applicable there as they are here in Billings and other towns in Montana and Wyoming. First, respect the traditions of religious and nonreligious people and do all you can to prevent conflict and discord.

Second, encourage all such communities to cooperate with each other to serve others. Third, the leaders of such communities can work together to accomplish a mutual mission of establishing world peace.

Though appearing idealistic, I found that such principles in this global peace conference profoundly impacted my soul. Principles such as the goal of humanity should be to understand the destination of the human journey, pooling our wisdom, combining our energies and working diligently to build a better world. We must strive to forget the past struggles filled with hatred and work out peaceful solutions.

Seeing the needs of people living in Third World countries spurs me on to contemplate how can we make this world a better place? Then I ponder, what am I doing in my own neighborhood? Do I seek to respect, cooperate and work together with others in my family, community, task force, city, county and beyond no matter color, creed, faith or culture?

We are living at a time where collaboration, cooperation, partnershipping, networking is emphasized and encouraged around our community tables. Whether it is interfaith work, suicide prevention, drug abuse education or neighborhood issues, leaders are looking for ways to be more successful. There is power and the Spirit is moved when we sincerely seek ways of coalition building on common causes.

After all, it is my firm belief we are one family under God, all in this boat together.

In the end, even small acts of kindness are big hugs to the heart of others. Raking the neighbor’s leaves from his or her street gutter, driving a person in need to the grocery store for supplies, even just shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk without being asked are all things that I believe can be a start to this new era of peace.

I am hopeful that a new paradigm for peace will emerge from the family to the community and beyond. Maybe more than anything, my trip to Mongolia reminded me of this simple but so often challenging principle: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

The Rev. Mike Yakawich is now retired as pastor of the Family Church. He continues to work on faith initiatives and community projects in the Billings area.

The Faith & Values column appears Saturdays in The Billings Gazette. Pastors, ethicists, educators or others who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or email to