Grace to you and peace from Jesus Christ our Prince of Peace!
Every year for the last 101 years on November 11, Canadians, along with many other countries around the world, pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve during times of war, conflict and peace. We remember the more than 2,300,000 Canadians who have served throughout our nation’s history and the more than 118,000 who have died in war. We also remember the many others who continue to live but live with the painful memories and trauma of war. War leaves so many casualties in so many ways. It’s important that we stop to remember those who have given their lives, and made big sacrifices, to work toward a more peaceful, secure and just world. It is right that we pause and remember!
Mennonites have often struggled with the decision to go to war as a way to peace. Our “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective” states:
As followers of Jesus, we participate in his ministry of peace and justice. He has called us to find our blessing in making peace and seeking justice. We do so in a spirit of gentleness, willing to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. As disciples of Christ, we do not prepare for war, or participate in war or military service. The same Spirit that empowered Jesus also empowers us to love enemies, to forgive rather than to seek revenge, to practice right relationships, to rely on the community of faith to settle disputes, and to resist evil without violence.
While we are committed to “resist evil without violence” we should not neglect to respect those who, out of equally deep convictions to work for peace and justice, choose to participate in war. While our willingness to use war as means to peace varies greatly, it is so important that we not judge those who hold different views than our own. Years ago, when I pastored at Wellesley Mennonite Church, we hosted a Remembrance Day service where we invited a few veterans of war to share their stories. As they shared their stories they, with deep conviction, also named their commitment to peace and their desire to live in a world free of war. These veterans of war encouraged us Mennonites to continue to share our story too and to keep modelling and teaching a more nonviolent way to peace. We realized that night that we shared many common convictions and we have much to learn from each other.
In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul was helping Christians figure out how to treat each other when they viewed things differently. Three pieces of advice are worth repeating. “Let us stop judging one another.” “…let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build up one another.” (Romans 14.13, 19)
Thirty-one years ago Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began making a Mennonite button that said, “To remember is to work for peace”. This button over the last 31 years has sometimes replaced a poppy on the coats of Mennonites during the month of November. It has initiated spirited conversations and some unfortunate misunderstandings. Rick Cober Bauman, Executive Director of MCC Canada wrote these words in a Facebook post this week:
“Some Novembers I have worn both the MCC button and a poppy. With both emblems I try to remember all victims of war. I am acknowledging all those who have suffered whether wearing a uniform or not.
As an Anabaptist pacifist, I like that the poppy challenges me to remember the soldiers harmed by the horrors of battle. Physical scars, emotional wounds, broken relationships. All are part of the deep hurts born by the men and women who served in Canada’s armed forces. Maybe our Anabaptist peace witness needs to broaden. Maybe the MCC button’s call to “work for peace” includes caring for those who did bear arms, and were badly wounded by war. I continue to hope that we Anabaptists who see ourselves as peacebuilders do not overlook those soldiers who also saw themselves as servants of peace, but carry much deeper wounds for their service than I do.
To remember is indeed to work for peace.”
I invite you to ponder this Poem as you continue to remember.
Poem – Remembrance Day
Remember with clear eyes the horrific cost of war.
Remember with deep sorrow those who killed and were killed.
Remember with grief the blood-stained battlefields.
Remember with tears the rending of people from their homes.
Remember with compassion the bereaved and the wounded.
Remember with reverence those who risked their lives for peace.
Remember with tenderness the children’s longing for freedom.
Remember with gratefulness all who forgave their enemies.
Remember with hope the kingdom that is planted with small seeds.
Remember with confidence that faith, hope and love abide.
Remember with joy that our Saviour is the Prince of Peace.
Carol Penner (Canada), 2012. leadinginworship.com