Center for Peace & Reconciliation fosters peace in Lima

LIMA — The mural outside the Center for Peace & Reconciliation invites passersby to write on the wall: “I inspire peace in my community by ___.”

For John Foster, the answer comes through acceptance.

The retired Methodist minister founded the Center for Peace & Reconciliation last February so he could invite refugees, migrants and people from different cultures, religions or ethnicities who are often misunderstood to share their stories with anyone willing to listen.

Lima is a diverse city, but “we live in a culture where people like to stay in their own little group — maybe it’s fear or a lack of understanding from different cultures and ethnic groups,” Foster said.

“We’re trying to build a bridge that links people together. Not a bridge of hate, but a bridge of love.”

Foster always yearned to see peace and acceptance in the world around him.

A retired minister from Trinity United Methodist Church, Foster now spends his spare time volunteering for a prison ministry and for the Peace Center, located on Pierce Street next to Churches United Pantry.

The center’s mission is to promote peace, reconciliation and justice through education, equity and empowerment.

Speakers as diverse as a woman who fled the war in Ukraine with her family, a man who escaped Jim Crow-era Mississippi and immigrants from Central America who sought citizenship in the U.S. have all visited the Peace Center since its founding in February 2023.

The center hosts special programs for the youth focused on art and conflict resolution, which Foster would eventually like to expand to include ex-convicts so students can learn from their mistakes and how they turned their lives around.

“Every one of us is responsible for our own actions and how we see other people,” Foster said. “We see people with an understanding of acceptance. We want to learn more about them — why they are who they are.”