Archive for the 'Foundational Principles' Category

Sep 09 2013

A Time for Peace or War?

by Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries

The following article was first written by Ken in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and recently revised, in light of the debate regarding Syria.  While the geography has changed from the U.S. to the Middle East, many of the issues and peacemaking principles remain the same.

The recent use of poison gas in the Syrian civil war has heightened global concern for this increasingly deadly conflict and triggered many challenging questions. Chief among these questions is, “How should we respond to these violent acts?”

This question is especially challenging for those who follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Teachings on peacemaking are difficult to apply in the shadow of a war that has killed over 100,000 people, 1,400 of whom died in clouds of poison gas. As a result of these deaths, President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional and international support for military intervention. Other U.S. and global leaders are calling for restraint and continued diplomatic negotiations.

So, is this a time for peacemaking or a time for war? The answer can be both.

But how can both paths be right, especially when they seem to go in opposite directions? Both can be right, because God himself has assigned different paths to different people.

The Bible teaches that God has delegated some of his authority to civil governments and assigned them the responsibility of promoting justice, protecting their people from aggressors, and punishing those who do wrong (see Isa. 1:17; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is a heavy responsibility, especially when it involves the exercise of lethal force—but without this restraint, evil would run rampant and innocent people would suffer. Thus there are times when those who lead and protect a nation can and must walk the path of war.

Whether this is such a time, I am not qualified to say. But since our leaders are publicly contemplating such action, they certainly need our earnest prayers.

But even as we pray for our civil and military leaders as they contemplate or pursue military action, we are often called by God to walk a different path as individuals. Just a few verses before God describes the government’s right to wield the sword in Romans 13, he describes the individual Christian’s responsibility to be a peacemaker:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:14-15, 17-21).

This passage echoes Jesus’ earlier teaching on how individuals should respond to those who wrong them: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Most Christians think that these are fine and noble concepts … until someone actually hates us, curses us, and mistreats us. Then these words seem naïve and simplistic. But it is precisely at times when much wrong has been done that these words take on their greatest power and offer their greatest benefit. Here are some practical ways that you can put these commands into practice in your personal life, regardless of what world leaders decide to do in Syria.

  • Mourn with those who mourn. All of us should grieve deeply with those who have lost loved ones, have been personally harmed by these attacks, or are distraught over the trouble and destruction they are facing (Rom. 12:15). In doing so, we Christians should share not only our tears and words of comfort, but also our time, energy, and material resources to minister to others and help rebuild their lives. We should also pray that these events would make all of us more compassionate for people throughout the world who suffer such violence.
  • Pray for our leaders. Our President and a multitude of other civil and military leaders will be making difficult decisions in the days ahead, many of which will either save or end lives. They carry an agonizing burden. Therefore, we should pray for our leaders every day, asking God to give them humility, wisdom, discernment, courage, and strength, so that they will act wisely, promote justice, protect the innocent, and restore peace as quickly as possible (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • Remember God’s mercy to you. All true peacemaking springs from what Jesus Christ did on the cross to reconcile a fallen world to a holy God (Rom. 5:1-8). We cannot truly love or do good to those who do wrong until we see that God has done exactly that with us. When we recognize our own sin, acknowledge the eternal judgment we deserve, and stand amazed at his offer of mercy and forgiveness, then and only then can we respond lovingly to acts of violence and do the hard, unnatural work of peacemaking.
  • Fight against anger and vengeance. In the face of acts of evil, it is natural for us to be filled with anger. Sometimes that anger is appropriate and will move us to do all we can to stop such evil. But at other times our anger is contaminated with sin. As the psalmist realized, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (Ps. 73: 21-22). To counter these feelings, whether in yourself or those around you, read the rest of Psalm 73, which reminds us that God will eventually avenge all wrongs, and remember Jesus’ promise that his final judgment is more severe than anything a worldly army can impose (see Luke 12:5).
  • Pray for those who have done wrong. Praying for those who do wrong is not easy. Even when we get past our feelings of hatred and judgment, we struggle to know what to pray. Should we follow David’s example and pray for justice to come upon them (Ps. 28:4), or should we follow Jesus’ example and ask God to forgive them (Luke 23:34)? As we remember our own need for God’s mercy, I believe we must do both. We can pray, “Lord, display your love for justice and prevent further acts like this by bringing the people involved in these acts to account in this life for what they have done. At the same time, Father, display your love for mercy and magnify the glory of the gospel by bringing these men to repentance and faith in Christ, so that whatever temporal judgment they face at the hands of men, they might experience the eternal forgiveness that you purchased for us by the infinitely precious blood of Christ.”
  • Stand up for the persecuted. Some of the pent-up confusion and frustration in our country is being vented toward innocent people of Middle-Eastern descent. Christians should be the first ones to stand up for the oppressed (Ex. 22:21; Isa. 1:17). In addition to preventing individual acts of hatred that would echo the violence of the Syrian conflict, your loving intervention could open the door to share the gospel with people whose faith has been shaken and whose hearts have been opened.
  • Make peace with those around you. Although you and I do not murder others with a gun or hand grenade, all too often we kill others in our hearts. As Jesus warned, “You have heard it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says, ‘You fool,’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21-22). The violence in the Middle East could encourage a harvest of peace and reconciliation if each of us were inspired to fight the cancer of sin and estrangement in our own country on a personal level, seeking genuine reconciliation with a spouse, child, parent, friend, co-worker, or anyone else we may have offended. (For practical guidance on how to resolve personal, church, business, or legal conflicts, see the many resources at
  • Study and teach peacemaking. World violence is challenging many people to ask questions about how to deal with conflict. The time is ripe to wrestle with practical issues of confession, confrontation, justice, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation. Please do not let this incredible “teachable moment” pass you by. Dig into God’s Word and see what he has to say about these life-changing matters, and then teach others what you are learning about peacemaking (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Engage your children, talk with your friends, start conversations at work, lead a Sunday school class at church. Now is the time to learn and to teach!
  • Share the gospel of peace. Above all else, seize every opportunity to be an ambassador of reconciliation by pointing people to the Prince of Peace (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Death is increasingly real to many people in the world, and questions about evil and judgment abound. People who would have brushed the gospel aside not long ago may be open and interested in talking about eternal matters. The fields are truly “white unto harvest,” and there can be no greater peacemaking than to help others to be reconciled to their God.

Terrible violence is erupting in front of our eyes, not only in Syria but throughout the world, sometimes on our own streets and in our own homes. By God’s grace, however, we need not be overcome by this evil. Rather we can overcome evil with good.

Now is the time to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ as we never have before. Even as our national leaders contemplate how to carry out their heavy responsibilities of promoting justice, securing peace, and protecting innocent people from harm, let’s seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ and promote personal peace and reconciliation. In doing so, we can redeem these dreadful times and fulfill one of the most wonderful promises ever given, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”

Ken Sande is an attorney, the author of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, 3rd Ed. 2003), Peacemaking for Families (Tyndale, 2002), and founder of Peacemaker Ministries (, an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. He now serves as the president of Relational Wisdom 360 (

This article in its entirety may be photocopied, re-transmitted by electronic mail, or reproduced in newsletters, on the World Wide Web, or in other print media, provided that such copying, re-transmission, or other use is not for profit or other commercial purpose. Any distribution or use of this article must set forth the following credit line, in full, at the conclusion of the article: “© 2001 Peacemaker® Ministries, Reprinted with permission.” Peacemaker Ministries may withdraw or modify this grant of permission at any time.

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Jul 26 2013

Curious About Training?

Ever wondered what our training is about or what you’d learn if you attended? Check out our new video overview for our training to get an idea of what we do and how we might serve you:

Training Promo from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Our training courses are designed to supplement and build upon the basic principles of peacemaking, which are given to us in Scripture. This training is an integral part of embedding peace into your church, your vocation, and indeed, into every aspect of your life through a Gospel-centered Biblical approach to conflict resolution. Students learn how to assist others resolve conflict according to biblical principles and applying the Gospel to their specific situation.

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Jul 25 2013

The Peacemaker’s Privilege – Reconciliation of a Family Conflict

By Annette Friesen, Conciliation and Training Specialist at Peacemaker Ministries. Taken from our latest edition of Reconciled

There are times when the opportunity to serve reminds us what it was like to first learn God’s peacemaking principles and the incredible power contained in them. A recent weekend experience was one of those times for me.

I had the privilege of leading a Peacemaker Seminar, but before I even arrived, I knew it might be just a bit different. I had been told that four “conflicted” sisters would be at the event—a conflict had erupted years ago that had been devastating to their family life and was severely damaging their collective witness to the cause of Christ. Yet they were all going to be at this seminar, willing to hear words of hope and see a practical, God-honoring path toward reconciliation.

As we began the teaching, to build a foundation for the peacemaking principles, we spent quite a bit of time unpacking the context of Matthew 18—examples of God’s great grace and mercy and ultimately unpacking the gospel and how it applies to our relationships (and our conflicts). I was reminded again how much people resonate with the truth of the God’s Word!

During a break, one of the sisters came up to me and said she thought her two sisters (who were at the center of the conflict) were ready to try to be reconciled. But they needed my help. Would I be willing to stay afterward to help them? Of course I agreed.

I finished the teaching, grateful for how God had worked. One woman told me she had been scared to come because the woman she was in conflict with was in the room. Yet after the first session, her heart was totally at peace and ready to hear what God had for her. She knew now what to do. Two other women—one African-American and one white—held an impromptu “reconciliation session” to heal over an offense between the two. Many more expressed their thanks.

But soon after the seminar was over, I was hustled off to a room to begin the sisters’ quickly-arranged mediation. After clarifying what we were doing, setting some basic ground-rules, and separating out the sisters not in conflict (they watched from the side), the two began to share.

Nearly three hours later, emotions were still running high as we moved toward making an apology. I was praying—I honestly didn’t know how this was going to end. Finally, with more hard work, we reached a point where they could begin to apologize to one another. One sister made a sincere apology, but the other struggled. That sister began by acknowledging what she had heard, but had trouble taking ownership of any specific wrongdoing. I asked gently if she believed she had done anything wrong, and she was honest in saying she struggled. With a little help, she was able to move on to a genuine apology.

It wasn’t until they made the Four Promises of Forgiveness to each other that the dam broke. With tears running down their faces, they both continued to confess and extend forgiveness, hugging one another. The two watching sisters hugged and cried, too, and then, unable to contain themselves, rushed across the room for a group hug. This went on for about five minutes while I slowly packed up, gratitude flooding my heart for God allowing me to witness His precious and beautiful work of reconciliation in the lives of those women that day.

The next day, I was approached by oldest sister, who said that after the mediation their evening together was precious and just like old times. She simply couldn’t thank me enough.

So whether you are someone who helps others in conflict or someone who could use some help, let this story be an encouragement to you. God’s Word is powerful—it penetrates the heart, “opens blind eyes” and brings about reconciliation. And it’s a joy and privilege when you get to see it happen in right in front of you

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Jun 14 2012

Anatomy of a Conflict

Published by under Foundational Principles

Over at the 9Marks blog Michael McKinley has a great piece on the anatomy of a church conflict from Mike Minter‘s seminar he attended. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. An offense occurs.
  2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
  3. Friends take up the offense.
  4. Sides begin to form.
  5. Suspicion on both sides develop.
  6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
  7. Exaggerated statements are made.
  8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
  9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
  10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
  11. Integrity is challenged.
  12. People call each other liars.
  13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
  14. Many are hurt.

This reminded me of the introductory passage in Getting to the Heart of Conflict that introduces where conflict really comes from:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy. In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.

Jesus provides us with clear guidance on this issue. During His earthly ministry, a young man approached the Lord and asked Him to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15).

This passage reveals a common human pattern. When faced with conflict, we tend to focus passionately on what our opponent has done wrong or should do to make things right. In contrast, God always calls us to focus on what is going on in our own hearts when we are at odds with others. Why? Because our heart is the wellspring of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore the source of our conflicts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

The heart’s central role in conflict is vividly described in James 4:1-3. If you understand this passage, you will have found a key to preventing and resolving conflict.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

This passage describes the root cause of destructive conflict: Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. If someone fails to meet that desire, we condemn him in our heart and quarrel and fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way. Let us look at this progression one step at a time.

You can read the whole thing, including how conflict progresses in our hearts, here. Also, check out the original 9Marks post here.

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Jun 08 2012

Hardships as Opportunities

Published by under Foundational Principles

Over at the CCEF Blog, Ed Welch has a really great post about how hardships are a part of God’s purposes and how we, as His children, can rest in this truth. He first quotes Ken Sande:

“What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about conflict?”

Ken Sande asked this question at a conference I attended. He could have asked “what is the first thing” or “what are the first fifty things.” For me, the answers would all be variations on the same theme. I hate conflict; I want to run from it. The “things” that come to my mind about conflict are: hate, loathe and avoid.

Then he asked, “How many people thought “opportunity”?

Not me. Not in a million years, even if I could cheat by consulting a dictionary or Wikipedia. To me, conflict is misery—not an opportunity…

And then he connects this concept to the hardships we face in life:

Since God is sovereign and has good purposes, hardships are opportunities. They must be.

Many people have already learned this. Here is what some of them have said.

That “C” on the exam—is an opportunity to live by faith in Jesus rather than in my perceived successes.

That hard marriage—is an opportunity to love as I have been loved.

That miscarriage—is an opportunity to know that my Father has unlimited compassion for his children and I can trust him.

That cancer—(and this is really a hard one) is an opportunity to die well and show my children what it means to live and die by faith.

I found his whole article very encouraging and worth the read. You can read the whole thing here.

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Mar 22 2012

Ways To Receive Criticism

Over at The Blazing Center, Mark Altrogge just kicked off a series on receiving criticism that I plan on keeping an eye on. In his first part, he talks about how it doesn’t feel good to get criticized but that it’s good for our Christian growth:

David actually prayed for God to people to correct him.

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5)

I don’t remember the last time I asked God to send people to rebuke me.  But if David prayed for it, it must be good.

Altrogge then recommends 5 ways for us to be better recievers of rebuke. I’ve listed them here but you can read the whole description over at the blog.

-If it comes from a believer, view it as a kindness .

–Make it easy for people to bring stuff to you.–Remember you’re a sinner. 

There’s almost always some truth in every criticism, even if it’s inaccurate or given poorly.

– Don’t be wise in your own eyes.

As one who doesn’t much like getting criticism, I found the post helpful, especially when combined with the lessons in The Cross and Criticism by Alfred Poirier.

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Nov 15 2011

Hunting Rifles or Relationships? or How We Chose Our New Tagline

PM Logo w/ Tagline
by Ken Sande

After months of consultation and testing with ministry friends, Peacemaker Ministries has adopted a new “tagline”: Transforming Relationships with the Power of the Gospel.

This phrase communicates two key aspects of our ministry. First, we are committed to not simply helping people resolve substantive issues in conflicts, but more importantly, to being used by God to transform relationships.

When people come to us for assistance, they are usually focusing intensely on specific substantive issues, such as “Who gets custody of the kids?” “Should we fire our pastor?” “How do we divide Dad’s estate?” and “Has my boss discriminated against me?”

We’re happy to help people address these concerns, but we’ve learned that we serve them well when we press through to the relational issues that underlie their conflicts.

So instead of negotiating who gets the kids, we thrill to see a mom and dad tear up divorce papers and recommit themselves to a marriage that models the love of Christ. Rather than deciding on a pastor’s severance pay, we prefer to help him model repentance and lead his congregation through revival, advancing the kingdom with his flock.

Instead of dividing Dad’s hunting rifles and property, we seek to embrace the family, giving them a safe way to resolve hurts from long ago and celebrate their father’s life as they gratefully share part of his legacy.

And rather than negotiating damages for workplace wrongs, we find fulfillment in reconciling relationships, preserving jobs and helping employers and employees work together to create a healthy work environment.

None of these relationships could be truly transformed without the second key aspect of our tagline: “the power of the gospel.” As valuable as good communication, negotiation, and mediation skills are, they are powerless to change the human heart and produce lasting relational improvements.

But when the gospel is brought into a conflict, the door is opened to radical change. By focusing on God’s amazing grace, people are encouraged to shift their priority from vindicating themselves to honoring Christ. When they focus on the hope and freedom of the gospel, they become less defensive and find it easier to admit their wrongs. As they recall how gentle God has been with them, they are inspired to gently correct those who have wronged them. And when people remember how the Lord has forgiven them, they are empowered to forgive even the deepest of wrongs.

Through the gospel, God provides both the path and the power to transform our lives and relationships. We are excited to communicate this truth concisely through our new tagline and in all of our training and resources, to the glory of God!

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Jul 26 2011

Why Do We Fight?

Published by under Foundational Principles

Over at the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog they have a series on our motives for fighting. I recommend reading the whole thing, but wanted to pull out this gem out just to give you guys a taste:

…deep within the human heart are self-loving desires that are so strong and so determined to be satisfied that, when thwarted, lead to conflicts with those who get in the way of their fulfillment. “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2).

Jerry Bridges writes, “Resentment, bitterness, and self-pity build up inside our hearts and eat away at our spiritual lives like a slowly spreading cancer. All of these sinful inner emotions have in common a focus on self. They put our disappointments, our wounded pride, or our shattered dreams on the thrones of our hearts, where they become idols to us” (The Practice of Godliness).”

Read the rest here.



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May 05 2011

No Right of Refusal

If you are struggling with unforgiveness, take another look at the enormous debt for which God has forgiven you. Turning to the Bible and reminding yourself of God’s holiness will help you see more clearly the seriousness of even your smallest sin (see Isa. 6:1-5; James 2:10-11). Make a list of some of the sins for which God has forgiven you. In particular, ask yourself whether you have ever treated God or others the same way you have been treated by the person you are trying to forgive. Take a long look at this list and remind yourself what you deserve from God because of your sins. Then rejoice in the wonderful promise of Psalm 103:8-11: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love….  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

The more you understand and appreciate the wonders of God’s forgiveness, the more motivation you will have to forgive others.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217

Food for Thought

I remember when I read this part of Ken’s book for the first time, having spent years refusing to forgive an individual who had wronged me. I had rationalized my refusal by telling myself that since he hadn’t asked, I wasn’t obligated to have an attitude of forgiveness. I had decided to wait for this person to ask me for forgiveness, and had planned how much he would have to suffer in my process of forgiveness. I doubt I’m alone in thinking this way. But then I was convicted. I was reminded that Jesus went to the cross to forgive my sins long before I ever acknowledged those sins and sought forgiveness. Who was I to withhold forgiveness, as much as it depends on me, in light of this realization?

I took Ken’s challenge that very day and began to make a list of some of the sins for which God had forgiven me. I didn’t have to think back more than a few days to have a sizeable list. Looking at my list, I recognized immediately the enormous debt God had paid on my behalf, and that I was in no position to refuse that same forgiveness to anybody else.

Are you withholding forgiveness from somebody today? Perhaps it’s time for you to accept the same challenge from Ken. Take a few minutes and write down some of the sins for which you’ve been forgiven. Then write down the sins this other person has perpetuated against you. How do the lists compare? Do you recognize the enormity of the mercy you have been shown? It is only when we first meditate on how much we have been forgiven that we can even begin to follow the exhortation to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13b).

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Dec 22 2010

Peace Initiatives

On the website of World Magazine (, there is an excellent article on peacemaking by Andrée Seu that will be in the upcoming January 1 issue of World.

In the article, she documents 5 conflicts resolved in her life over the last week.  Reflecting on them, she writes:

“I feel quite happy at the moment. Not with myself, precisely, but with the Lord. I had done things His way, and His way paid off. I have peace. Peace is nice, I like it. Please understand, I am not viewing this repentance business mechanistically, nor appreciating doctrine from a purely utilitarian point of view. Nevertheless, it is fun to see how well God’s commands “work.” I feel like I just bought a new double-flex rod “pocket fisherman,” and it practically catches trout by itself.”

Isn’t it wonderful how God commands us to do things that truly are in our best interest?  He loves us, and that is why he calls us to be peacemakers and to live at peace with Him and with those around us.

Read the whole article on the World Magazine website.

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