Peace in Our Time (Mennonite Church, 1993)

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[edit] Peace in Our Time (Mennonite Church, 1993)

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In the "post-cold war" world we are called to live out our commitment to the way of peace in a radically different context. With the end of the superpower dance of death the threat of a nuclear obituary for our civilizations has receded. For this we are deeply grateful. We take it to be one of God's miracles in our day.

At the same time, wars and conflicts within countries have not ceased, although now they often take different forms. Many are remnants of the superpower struggle for world dominance. For example, both superpowers armed Somalia at different times, and the suppression of free political life in the former Yugoslavia has led to chaos and violence.

Today's conflicts, however, seem motivated less by ideologies of foreign superpowers than by nationalist aspirations, ancient animosities, or the age-old desire to control the centers of power and wealth. In these struggles, as in the struggles of the cold war era, the victims are most often those who are weakest and least responsible for the wars they endure. In these struggles, as in the struggles of earlier times, we are called to meet human need in the name of Christ.

In this "post-cold war" world we are also faced with military operations that seem to intend good rather than harm--intervening to stop wars and starvation--and that seem to have greater legitimacy because of United Nations backing or sponsorship. Distinct from the military operations of cold war superpowers, they may resemble "police" functions more than traditional wars.

In many respects these "new" uses of military force raise classical questions for us--questions about how we understand the mandate of the state (or of the United Nations) and how we regard the legitimacy of the state's use of force or violence in the name of "protecting the good." These are hard questions on which we have not yet been led to a full consensus. We need to remain open to God's leading in seeking clarity on these questions.

Despite our lack of consensus on how to respond to government or UN. use of military force in certain cases, we as a Mennonite people must reclaim and restate our priorities as Christians who are given "the ministry of reconciliation." We commend the following affirmations as contemporary expressions of our calling as Christian peacemakers.

1. In continuity with the faith tradition entrusted to us, we commit ourselves anew to refuse participation in activities that train us in the art of killing, no matter how attractive the intended goals of such training may appear to some. While we do not fully understand how God may work when "peacekeeping" or "peacemaking" operations which rely on force of arms are undertaken, we are convinced that God calls those who would follow the way of Christ to renounce the use of lethal force in all circumstances.

2. While reaffirming this refusal to be instruments of destruction, we confess that our peace witness has too often amounted to little more than a negative refusal to kill. We also confess that too often our focus on war refusal as the center of our peace commitment has allowed us to ignore other forms of violence in our own midst, including sexual abuse and domestic violence within our churches and families. We have no excuse for violence among us and must call one another to repent and turn from these behaviors.

3. Knowing that the pride and arrogance of nationalism feed the forces that make for war, we call on all Christians to affirm their first loyalty to the kingdom of God rather than to any nation or state. We affirm a worldview that begins with our common humanity under God, and that takes seriously the transnational reality of the Christian church.

4. Building on these convictions, we commit ourselves to "pursue the things which make for peace" in positive, active ways that will transform and broaden the scope of our traditional war refusal. We confess that we do not have immediate nonviolent solutions to all conflicts which may spiral into wars. But we know that there are often alternatives available or that they can be created. In recent years, we have learned much about alternatives to the armed pursuit of peace. We are grateful for the emergence among us of initiatives such as conciliation/mediation and direct interventions in conflicts. Therefore we pledge ourselves to assist in finding or creating nonviolent alternatives for protecting the lives and well-being of peoples so that the situations where political leaders must face agonizing choices about using lethal force may occur less frequently.

    a. We know also that injustice, poverty and oppression are seedbeds of violence and war. We have learned that care for the marginalized, long before conflicts appear in the headlines, can ward off wars. Therefore we commit ourselves to ministries of reconciliation and justice for the powerless, and to creating communities of goodwill, understanding, respect and well-being for all.
    b. In seeking alternatives to armed conflict, we call the U.S. and Canadian governments to greatly reduce the sale of evermore sophisticated armaments to other nations. We urge the deployment of our national resources toward providing food, clothing, shelter, employment and medical care for the peoples of the world.
    c. In these last years of the 20th century, we affirm our calling to these tasks of positive peacemaking. We must seize these opportunities if we are to be true to our calling. We recognize that we have been given much and know that much will be required of us. We pledge new commitment, support, and energy to the building of faith communities that embody biblical justice and love. In all our efforts, we look to the enabling power of our God who made peace through Jesus Christ.

Mennonite Church General Assembly approves "Peace in our Time," for study and discussion in our congregations and conferences.

Mennonite Church General Assembly July 30,1993

[edit] Context of Statement

This statement originally prepared by the Peace Social Concerns Committee of the Mennonite Church arose from the post-Cold War increase in regional ethnic and tribal conflicts, and the peace-keeping efforts by United Nations and NATO-sponsored troops. Peacekeeping by military force created tension for Mennonites who wondered how this "positive" use of military force meshed with the Mennonite peace witness.

As a follow up to approval of this statement, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee proposed formation of a Peacemaking Task Force formed by representatives of Mennonite Conciliation Services, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Board of Missions, Eastern Mennonite Missions and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Such a task force was ultimately not created.

The Peace and Social Concerns Committee had been authorized at the Mennonite Church General Assembly in 1991. There were five members of the committee; the only Canadian was Doug Pritchard of Toronto, Ontario.

Statements by the Mennonite Church General Assembly state the understanding of the Mennonite Church at the time of the action. Statements have informal authority and influence in the denomination; they have formal authority as confirmed or endorsed by area Mennonite Church area conferences and/or congregations.

[edit] Bibliography

Workbook, Mennonite Church Convention & General Assembly, July 27 to August 1, 1993, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Elkhart, IN : Mennonite Church General Board, 1993: 52-54, 93-94.

Proceedings, Mennonite Church Convention & General Assembly, July 27 to August 1, 1993, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Elkhart, IN : Mennonite Church General Board, 1993: 23-25, 38-39.

[edit] Additional Information

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams
  • Mennonite Central Committee
  • Peace and Justice Committee of the Mennonite Church
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