Peace in Our
Mennonite Church USA
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.
a. 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.
b. 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.
c. 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.
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.
The Mennonite Church General
Assembly approves "Peace in our Time," for study and
discussion in our congregations and conferences.
Adopted by the
Mennonite Church General Assembly, July 30, 1993, Proceedings,
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