Greetings in the name of Jesus you said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”
Jesus, though his life and teachings taught us to live as peacemakers in the world. But what does that look like in a time of war when so many lives, cities, communities, neighbourhoods, and families are being traumatized, torn apart, and destroyed by brutal violence? And the perpetrators of violence do not seem to be listening to the call to end the violence. Does our Anabaptist/Mennonite voice, calling for a commitment to non-violent, non-military responses to violence, calling for a commitment to peacebuilding, even make sense in the face of such terrible violence in the Ukraine, in Afghanistan, and too many other places in our world?
Rick Cober Bauman Executive Director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada shared a Facebook post that I invite us to read and ponder.
“At MCC we are highly engaged in humanitarian responses to the victims of military violence in Ukraine. And we have made statements in many places, about our commitment to non-violence and non-military responses to violence.
Many have asked me, does this voice have credibility in the face of Russian military aggression? Maybe Anabaptist peacebuilders should remain quiet this time?
On the other hand, our experience in MCC and the Anabaptist Christian peace community is that military solutions do not turn out to be just, lasting peace solutions. There is a growing body of evidence that careful, disciplined peacebuilding strategies carry a capacity for long term stability that has been long under-valued.
We may face ridicule for the perceived naivete of our non-violent peacebuilding. However, if we abandon this core commitment, will it be lost to the discourse? There are not many others voicing this commitment. Granted ours is a small voice, and especially hard to hear now. But if no one claims and amplifies the voice of non-violent peacebuilding, will it disappear?
Is there value in our small community, with its small voice, continuing to represent another way? Even when dismissed by policy makers as impractical, is it both our duty and our gift to society, to keep on being the Anabaptist voice for peacebuilding without armed, lethal force? “There go the pacifist Mennonites again!”, may be less about dismissing us, and more about someone reassuring themselves that there exists a voice that keeps on proposing something other than arms.
We have a small voice. And it is not best used arguing for more lethal military responses to Putin, nor are we wise condemning Ukrainians for defending themselves. Both are somewhat wasting our breath. When we speak, can we continue to speak for a firmly Jesus-rooted commitment to non-violent peacebuilding? Will our voice still be audible in the din of this war? Or perhaps more importantly to ask, will we still have our voice at the brink of the next war?”
I pray we still use our voice calling for the non-violent way of Jesus. It may not immediately stop the violence, but it may be the voice the world so desperately needs right now, and in the future. It may be the voice that contributes to, and partners with God, in the building of the non-violent kingdom of God that we pray will come on earth as it is in heaven.