Gunnar Aas: Speaking Out for Justice
Gunnar Aas has demonstrated an early interest in love, peace, and justice. Gunnar has enjoyed support and challenges from his family, Peace’s youth group, East High’s Green Team, Amberwing and the YMCA. Through these relationships he has woven fiber and content into his commitment to justice.
As an informed and engaged young man, Gunnar has developed a number of questions about the root causes of the violence and aggression we see around the world. He recalled a particularly vivid interaction when he was in middle school with Pastor Paul Van Antwerp about injustice the in the Middle East and the impact of violence on innocent civilians. Gunnar also recalled a number of one-to-one conversations with Pastor Kathy Nelson about the role of faith in the midst of so much confusion and aggression. He has come to understand that faith is carrying Jesus’ message forward in your actions rather than simply identifying with the symbols and icons of Christianity. He noted that some folks claim to be Christian, but demonstrate no love or mercy. Gunnar has a good eye for irony.
Gunnar has appreciated growing up through the Peace youth group, where he developed many friendships. The loss of his friend Gregg Nugent last year had a huge emotional impact on Gunnar. Thanks to his work at Amberwing and guidance from Becky Halversten-Mellel, he was able to weave the pain of loss into his drive for more justice, love and peace. He has had a vivid personal lesson about how imperfect life can be. But dealing with this profound grief has helped Gunnar find focus and has added courage to his action.
Gunnar has been involved with the YMCA’s Youth in Government program for three years. This helped him build skills for speaking, researching and organizing. Wrestling with his grief gave Gunnar an opportunity to act in ways that countered bullying. Gunnar, along with ten other Peace Church youth, participated in the Youth Summit at the Capitol rotunda in St. Paul, where they lobbied state leaders on the issue of bullying in high schools. Gunnar spoke with passion and reason to Senator Reinert at the Capitol. He felt very good about the delivered message. And he was delighted that the legislation passed with support from the Youth Summit. Peace Church has helped Gunnar find his voice and lends content and commitment to his drive for justice in the 21st century.
Interviewed by Bill Mittlefehldt