News and Views - Church and Peace newsletter

Spring 2003

 

 

War will not have the last word...

 

The time has come to mourn. Once again, and in a spectacular manner, we are witnesses to that which government leaders - despite so many diplomatic efforts and opposition from all levels of society - have dared to present as a just and necessary war. The religious language being used to support the attack against Iraq doesn’t change anything; far from eradicating evil, this new war will only cause it to run wild. We literally are witnesses to an unleashing of destructive forces. The immediate victims are thousands of human beings, including the most vulnerable of society. It is impossible to calculate the longer range conse-quences of this undertaking.

 

The time has come to mourn but not to despair. One of the unexpected effects of this new catastrophe was and continues to be an immense wave of protest throughout the world and particularly within the churches. Never before in the history of the Church have Christians been as unanimous in their condemnation of a war. This formidable force should help all people of faith and conscience to not give in to despair, and to view current events in a different perspective. As former Church and Peace Administrative Committee member Hansulrich Gerber wrote us recently, “As horrific as war is, it will not have the last word. (...) This is a time of despair and danger, but it is also a time of hope and an opportunity for the truth to be heard.” To transform this spontaneous wave of protest into a true movement for peace - this is the task facing our world and, in particular, the churches and Christians now, so that our rejection of war is converted into the pursuit of peace with justice.

 

The time has come to act. Over the past weeks and months our association has strived to inform our members via email about different actions and campaigns against the war. This issue of News and Views gives a few examples of such work by groups and churches in the network: a report from a member of a peace delegation to Iraq, a fast held in New York. News has reached us as well of the involvement of groups in a number of other important activities: prayers for peace, vigils at military installations, protests at American military bases in Germany, support and counseling for conscience objectors, petitions and letter writing campaigns, participation in marches and rallies on February 15th and March 15th...and the list goes on. So many signs of hope in a seemingly deadend situation. We must continue to act for peace so that the struggle against war does not lose momentum now that the bombs have begun to fall.

 

The time has come to reflect and discern. I am writing this letter during Lent, just before the Passion of Christ. During this time we focus on how through the Cross “the scandal that is violence has been made powerless” (H. Gerber). We need to reflect on this truth and hold fast to it. The Church and Peace international conference to be held at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Osijek, Croatia, will be an excellent opportunity to continue this reflection and to discern collectively “the things that make for peace”. Believers from across Europe and a region still recovering from the wounds of the recent past are invited to take part in this reflection. May the God of peace see that this discernment bear fruit and strengthen the participants in their conviction that “true justice is the harvest reaped by peacemakers from seeds sown in spirit of peace” (James 3:18).  For, as horrific as this war is, it will not have the last word.

 

Marie-Noëlle von der Recke

Trans: TRM

 

 

“Speaking to the Heart”: Arche Members Fast in New York

Theo Döllgast

 

To give up something may mean taking action: this is the well-known paradox of fasting. The buildup to war in Iraq drove the Community of the Ark (Communauté de l’Arche) to organise an eight day, water only fast in New York. The fast took place on February 16-22, beginning the day after worldwide demonstrations on February 15. Eleven members of the Ark from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and the Isle of Jersey took part in the fast. We stayed at a Catholic parish house in Brooklyn and were supported and joined in our fast by Quakers, Mennonites, Methodists, Franciscans, two Jewish families and representatives of several NGOs including IFOR/USA (International Fellowship of Reconciliation) and Pax Christi New York.

 

Our idea: a fast in the tradition of Gandhi, not a hunger strike; an appeal to the conscience, not blackmail; to speak to the hearts of others, not to simply repeat tired positions and arguments. Our priority was to reach members of the UN Security Council, the primary decision-making body at that time. We had four different contacts which were helpful in this respect: the Vatican’s and Germany’s Permanent Missions to the UN as well as Mennonite and Franciscan UN liaison offices. Hans Blix confirmed receipt of our message during a short interview with our film-maker.

 

Our days were full but not overloaded - morning and evening we had devotions together as a group, shared experiences and discussed plans for the next day. In the morning and at noon we maintained a presence in different churches, offices (for example at the Mennonite office across the street from the UN building) or the small meditation room at the UN. These hours were the highlights of our fast as we met together, small in number and weak, before the gigantic mechanisms of the UN, direct in the belly of the whale “Manhattan”...lost, yet not truly lost. The afternoons were taken up with meetings, phone calls, correspondence, reading. Together we read a book by one of the fast participants* which traces the American propensity for violence from its roots in colonial times to the current era.

 

As I write these lines (March 17) unsanctioned warfare continues in Iraq but an outright invasion has not yet been launched. Another group of five persons from the Ark held a second fast from March 9-15 in New York in the same spirit of the first fast and with the same audience in mind. We do not give up even if there seems to be no hope: this is another crucial paradox.

 

*Roots of Violence in the U.S. Culture by Alain J. Richard, ISBN 1-57733-043-9

 

 

Truth - the first victim of any war

Cor Keijzer

 

“The perfect traveller doesn't know where he (sic) is going” (Lie Tseu, 4th century BC)

 

I can certainly vouch for the truth of this. At the beginning of February I set off for Iraq. Representing Church & Peace I was on a Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) peace mission: The founders of CPT were the Historic Peace Churches in North America (Quakers, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren). At present CPT is trying to send a delegation of 10 to 15 people to Iraq every month. This was a great opportunity for me to discover that there are a lot of Americans opposed to the aggressive policy of the White House.

 

The aim of these Peace Missions is to listen to the voice of the Iraqi people on the spot. Another aim is to pass on information to the media in our own countries. These two things are very important as all objective opinion is at risk from propaganda. Truth is always the first victim of any war. Fortunately, there are still newspapers that try to inform public opinion in a way independent of all pressure. The result is that in several countries majorities are forming to seek a favourable solution to all the problems of the Middle East. France and Germany are playing a very important role. We must encourage the governments of these two countries to continue on this path. History will be grateful to them for having contributed to avoid-ing a third world war.

 

During my stay in Iraq I heard the same questions everywhere: why are you making us suffer for so long? Stop the sanctions, stop the bombing! We've had enough! The Americans and the British are using arms that have destroyed our land for centuries. They are the weapons of mass destruction that affect the civilian population, above all. Isn't it genocide when the United Nations report that over a million children and old people have died gratuitously because of the sanctions and the bombings? What is even more serious, every month 4-5000 children die of leukemia or other cancers.

 

I have been back home since 15 February. I am still furious. Who gives us the right to humiliate the people of Iraq in this way? We certainly do not all realise that it is our children who will have to pay for it someday. An African proverb says: "The earth was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children".

 

I love my five children very much. Do you love yours?

 

Leeuwarden – The Netherlands, 4 March 2003

Trans: Elaine Griffiths

 

 

Church and Peace International Conference 2003

Meet the Partners in Osijek: Evangelical Theological Seminary

 

From its humble beginning in 1972 in the basement of a local church in Zagreb, Croatia, the Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETS) has grown into a premier Christian school in Eastern Europe. Established to train pastors and lay persons in biblical and theological studies, ETS was one of the few Protestant theological institutions to be opened under communism in Central and Eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union. Restrictions on religious freedom elsewhere in the region made ETS a strategic center for those seeking advanced ministerial training.

 

Thirty-one years later, hundreds of graduates now minister on all continents and in more than 40 nations. The seminary serves over 70 full-time and 200 part-time students who represent eighteen countries and nine denominations.

 

Graduates have pioneered churches and Christian ministries of various kinds including radio programs, Christian educational television and video, and programs for students. ETS faculty and students have made a tremendous impact, not only under the difficult times of communist rule, but especially now in the post-communist era where they minister in areas across Eastern Europe from Albania to Armenia. The seminary has served as a significant bridge between East and West.

 

Today, the seminary is both international and inter-denominational in character and vision, seeking to train a new generation of leadership for the post-communist era.

 

Based on the biblical concepts of the dignity and worth of humankind made in the image of God, ETS’ Institute for Life, Peace and Justice seeks to become involved with the practical implications of the Gospel as it touches these three vital areas of human experience and value (i.e. life, peace and justice). The Institute hopes to influence the macro structures of society by promoting dialogue and the circulation of ideas that will support a quality of life embracing justice and peace. The microstructures of society, such as the quality of personal relationships and family life, are influenced by educational activities made available to the community through the Institute.

 

Specific goals of the Institute for Life, Peace and Justice include:

• translating and publishing important works on the themes of justice, peace and life;

• promoting dialogue at the grassroots level among religious leaders in the community;

• bringing in guest lecturers with expertise in areas such as conflict resolution and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome;

• sponsoring peace education events for teachers in the community;

• supporting other like minded groups with similar goals

 

The training of Croatians to carry on the Alternatives to Violence program and the organization of a seminar with Miroslav Volf and local peace workers are some examples of the Institute for Life, Peace and Justice’s recent activities. A current focus is the devel-opment of a Master of Arts program in Peace Studies.

 

 

Overcome Evil with Good

Church and Peace Germanic regional conference

Wolfgang Krauss

 

Paul encouraged the church in Rome to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This admonishment was also the motto for the conference on 18-20 October 2002  organised jointly by Church and Peace and the German Mennonite Peace Committee (DMFK). The meeting functioned as the annual DMFK autumn conference and the C&P Germanic regional conference. Keynote speaker Arnold Neufeld-Fast from the Bienenberg Theological Seminary gave an introduction to the topic of conflict transformation and presented different methods, models and developments in the field.

 

From conflict management to conflict transformation

Drawing on his own experience as well as other sources, Neufeld-Fast began by tracing the development of Mennonite and peace church theology and practice from the position of more passive nonresistance to that of active peacework. Then he gave an overview of the developments in peace and conflict studies and the resulting concepts and methods, focusing on the concept of conflict transformation proposed by Mennonite peaceworker and conflict studies specialist John Paul Lederach.

 

In conjunction with his experience in conflict settings worldwide, Lederach developed a concept which moves beyond the more mechanical approach of conflict management to a holistic concept of conflict transformation. Rather than having mediators from outside introduce Western methods of conflict management into a conflict whose complexity they cannot fully grasp, through key groups those affected, usually the whole community, become participants in the transformation of potential conflict into a creative process of reconstruction. This concept of “conflict transformation” integrates ideas often viewed as incompatible: from diplomacy and mediation to different grassroots activities. In this model various affinity groups work with different methods along a variety of timelines which are integrated into a long-term overall plan embracing all generations.*

 

In four working groups specialists shared insights in different areas related to the overall topic: Frieder Boller, pastor of the Ingolstadt Mennonite Church, spoke about conflict resolution work in church congregations; Ernst von der Recke gave an introduction to peer mediation in schools; Reinhard Kober shared about his term with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron; and Ana and Otto Raffai from Zagreb discussed the challenges of and prospects for reconciliation work in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.

 

A mosaic of peace church spirituality

Prayer times reflected a lively mosaic of peace church spirituality: a morning prayer time in the style of a silent Quaker meeting was led by a special education teacher and former DMFK office volunteer; evening prayers were led by a Swiss Mennonite couple and members of an agricultural Protestant community in Württemberg.

 

A truly colorful Saturday evening programme brought together young and old for a time of fun and games, poetry, singing and storytelling. Participants shared personal examples of the overcoming of evil with good and ways of dealing with threats and violence in a manner promoting peace.

 

A moving worship service concluded the weekend. In her sermon Ana Raffai gave an interpretation of Romans 12:21. She shared frustrating as well as encouraging experiences in attempting to pass on the methods of nonviolent action. Who knows what evil is? Those who have experienced it. How is evil overcome? Is good simply a tool with which evil can mechanically be overcome? Or is it not an attitude that is lived out daily? A way of life in response to evil, a way of life leading to the overcoming of evil? Human revenge and the call for retaliation cannot not restore what has been destroyed. Yet when we surrender the need for revenge to God, he has the chance to set a different dynamic in motion. He offers all sides life instead of destruction.

 

After the sermon a time of intercession and lament allowed conference participants to bring situations of injustice and violence before God.

Trans: TRM

 

* Presentation available in German from the C&P International Office.

 

 

Globalised Violence - Globalisation of Peace

Church and Peace Francophone regional conference

 

The Church and Peace Francophone regional confer-ence on 25-27 October 2002 brought together about 30 persons at the Abbaye des Dombes in southeastern France where we were hosted by the Communauté du Chemin Neuf. We were happy to see that about a third of the participants were attending a Church and Peace meeting for the first time, in response to the invitation of members of the network.

 

The topic of the conference, “Globalised violence and a globalisation of peace”, fit perfectly into the current global context where terrorism following the events of September 11th motivates us to reflect on the mechanisms of globalisation and to seek paths of peace open to our churches and us as Christians.

 

Christian Mellon, Jesuit and secretary of Justice et Paix France, and Frédéric Rognon, pastor in the French Reformed Church, professor at the Strasbourg Faculty of Theology and member of the Community of the Ark of Lanza del Vasto, guided us in our reflection and helped us to better understand and analyse the effects of globalisation in the contexts in which we live.*

 

Rognon summarized the weekend with the following impressions of the conference:

 

“First of all, it was a gift to be hosted by the Communauté du Chemin Neuf. We heard from the community in their introduction that peacebuilding includes reconciliation between churches, and the fact that we are meeting here in this very place which has seen the efforts of the Dombes group over the past forty years to work for unity among Christians is undoubtedly a sign. We also heard that the Communauté du Chemin Neuf is advancing step by step on a path which may lead someday to their becoming a community of peace. This is cause to give thanks.

 

Christian Mellon’s presentation on globalised violence and terrorism gave us tools to better comprehend what is at stake with globalisation. Four points come to mind: it is possible to master globalisation; one should distinguish between economy and war; speaking to those in power in their own language, taking into account their way of reasoning, is indispensable; and, finally, one ought not underestimate these players’ capacity for positive change. One could have accused the presentation of being overly optimistic, but perhaps it was simply hopeful.

 

During the reflection on biblical texts which relate to a globalisation of peace, we strove to distinguish between “pax” and “shalom” in order to become “shalom” makers. We do not want to be content with simply refraining from returning evil for evil but rather wish to be proactive in our interpretation of the Golden Rule and act in ways which build shalom. We feel the need to reconcile ourselves with our own internal Samaritan and the Samaritans with whom we come into contact. Finally we shared our thoughts on ways of creating fertile ground where shalom can take root and spread.

 

And thus we learned that we form a “mafia for peace” (!), an underground network which bears fruit. This work is not necessarily in the media spotlight but rather consists of building relationships. The expression “a mafia for peace” will undoubtedly come to mind whenever we think of this conference, along with another word which resounded despite the gigantic challenges threatening our work for peace: hope. Stories of hope encouraged us - of the work being done in Rwanda, in Congo, by Attac -, lights of hope in the darkness.

 

We left the conference with some tools to better understand the situation of our planet and with some biblical insights to help us grow, but above all we departed with renewed hope. Hope which gives life to a “mafia for peace”, a “prophetic mafia”, a “mafia of hope”.”

 

Trans: TRM

* The French-language presentations and a bibliography on the topic are available from the Francophone regional office: 5, rue du Mont Verdun; F-69140 Rillieux la Pape; Tel & Fax: +33 (0)4 78 88 87 25; EglisePaix@church-and-peace.org.

 

 

NEWS FROM THE NETWORK

 

• Bocs Foundation seeks support for project in India

Since 1977, the BOCS Foundation has supported the Education Sponsorship Program (ESP) school network in Gujarat, India, which serves 94 schools and 30,000 children. Through the promotion of education for girls and women from poor families, Bocs strives to address the problem of overpopulation, a contri-buting factor to violence and environmental destruction worldwide. Currently, the BOCS Foundation is looking for partner NGOs in Western Europe to help finance the ESP. The Bocs Foundation is a Church and Peace member and forms the Hungarian branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  (IFOR in Action/Winter 2003)

 

• London Mennonite Centre to celebrate 50 years of hospitality, service

Church and Peace member the London Mennonite Centre (LMC) will host visitors from around the world June 7-8 in celebration of 50 years of Christian service and hospitality. LMC was founded in 1953 as a housing ministry for foreign students and evolved into a place of retreat, theological discourse, and a resource center for Anabaptism in Great Britain. Today, the London Mennonite Centre has nine staff working at various aspects of mission, ranging from Christian education in discipleship and Anabaptist tradition to mediation and reconciliation. Contact: Jill Gerig, jgerig@menno.org.uk, or visit the center's web site at www.menno.org.uk (Mennonite Mission Network)

 

• Petition calls for inclusion of nonviolence education in school curriculum

A petition calling for the inclusion of nonviolence education in the school curriculum can be signed at the website of the French coordination group for the United Nations’ decade promoting a culture of nonviolence and peace for the children of the world (2001-2010): www.decennie.org

 

 

RESOURCES

 

• Peace education for children

Recommended by the Centre Mennonite de Brussels (CMB): “Pour une éducation à la non-violence: Activités pour éduquer les 8-12 ans à la paix et à la transformation des conflict” by Jeanne Gerber. Promotes peace education for children and conflict transformation. An indispen-sable resource for parents, educators, social workers and psychologists; includes pedagogical tools for conflict transformation. Published by Editions Chronique Sociale, available from CMB, 112 rue Franklin, B-1000 Bruxelles.

 

• Hospitality

The third resource pamphlet in the series “Lade deine Nachbarn ein” is entitled “Gastfreundschaft aus der Perspektive von Migranten und Migrantinnen”. The German-language pamphlet contains migrants’ stories and experiences relating to hospitality as well as songs, prayers and liturgical elements. The pamphlet is available for 2,55€  from the Ecumenical Centre in Frankfurt: Tel. +49 69 2470270,   ackoec@t-online.de,   www.oekumene-ack.de/lade/

 

• Peace church in the ecumenical movement

New release:  “Friedenskirche in der Ökumene - Mennonitische Wurzeln einer Ethik der Gewaltfreiheit” by Fernando Enns. From the series “Kirchen, Konfessionen, Religionen”, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003.

 

• Peacemaking Day by Day

The Christian community “Brot und Rosen” in Hamburg has produced a German-language version of the book “Peacemaking Day by Day” published by Pax Christi USA. The book is a compilation of reflections, prayers and devotional texts with a foreword by Dorothee Sölle. Church and Peace is co-producer of the second edition. Frieden stiften - jeden Tag can be ordered from the C&P International Office.

 

• “Lanza del Vasto, le pelèrin”

This 65 minute video invites viewers to discover the life and work of Lanza del Vasto, pilgrim of truth and founder of nonviolent communities active in addressing societal problems. The film explores topics such as anti-nuclear campaign work and the Community of the Ark, then and now. Writer and director Louis Campana and film-maker François Verlet also produced the film “Les Colombes de l’Ombre”, a plea for the cause of peace and nonviolence in Israel-Palestine. The videos can be ordered for 25 € each + shipping and handling from Association Shanti, 37 rue de la Concorde, F-11000 Carcassone.

 

• Annotated Peace Resource List

A list of peace-related English-language books, videos, music, websites for all ages. Includes materials for teachers and links to other peace resource lists. peace.mennolink.org/resources/biglist/index.html