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Fund for Nonregistrants, 1983
Jesus taught his disciples, "Blessed are the peacemakers.
. . . You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and
hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies. . . ."
On another occasion Jesus suggested that those who live by the
sword will likewise die by the sword. His clear expectation was
that those who follow him would lay down arms.
The Mennonite church has taught the way of peace since its beginning
458 years ago. Conrad Grebel taught, "True believing Christians.
. . use neither worldly sword nor war, for among them killing
is done away with altogether."
The Mennonite Church has reaffirmed this position many times
in this century. During the 1940s young Mennonite men were faced
with registration for the draft and most registered as conscientious
objectors and entered Civilian Public Service, an alternative
to military service. Similar issues and options existed in the
1950s and 1960s. In addition, during the Vietnam War a number
of young men came to believe that cooperation with the military
system to the point of registration created a problem of conscience
The Mennonite Church supports its young people who register as
conscientious objectors. It also supports those who cannot register
for reasons of conscience. A statement adopted by the Mennonite
General Conference in 1969 at Turner, Ore., reads in part, "We
recognize the validity of non-cooperation as a legitimate witness
and pledge the offices of our brotherhood to minister to young
men in any eventuality they incur in costly discipleship."
The 1979 Mennonite Church General Assembly at Waterloo, Ont.,
reaffirmed support of noncooperators along with those who choose
to register as conscientious objectors.
The current registration was initiated by President Carter in
1980 as a response to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet
Union. At present there is no way for a conscientious objector
who registers to indicate his opposition to military service.
In the case of a draft all registrants called will be classified
lA and receive an order to report for induction into military
service. Only then does the government provide the possibility
of a claim for conscientious objection.
Most young men in the Mennonite
Church have chosen to register and have written on the forms
their conscientious objection, even though this is not recognized
by the government offices and computers in any way.
Others believe that to register is a violation of their Christian
conscience, and that to register, especially under present circumstances,
is to participate in sending a threatening message to nations
regarded by the United States government as enemies. One such
person writes: In January 1981 I was required to register for
the draft. For reasons of conscience and religious conviction
I refused. Primary among those reasons was the commitment I felt
to pattern my life after the life and teachings of Jesus. My
understanding of this life and these teachings have led me to
hold sacrificial love for neighbors and enemy, reconciliation,
service, and nonviolence as Ideals for my own life...
As I considered registering with vocal and written protest. I
realized I could never register with protest sufficient for the
horrors confronting us. I resolved to take advantage of the opportunity
nonregistration would give me to do whatever I could to speak
and add my tiny voice to those already crying for peace, for
alternatives to military solutions, for a halt to the arms race,
and for the embracement of love and reconciliation as the overriding
goal in our relationships with one another.
College students are most severely impacted by the decision not
to register. On June 29, 1983. the U.S. Supreme Court allowed
a law denying federal assistance to nonregistrant students to
take effect on July 1, 1983. The Supreme Court will decide this
fall whether it will hear a case challenging the law.
Most men at our Mennonite colleges have registered. It is estimated
that perhaps 35 students at our schools have chosen not to register,
and it may be assumed that several Mennonite students at other
schools have also taken this position.
The amount of money necessary to replace the lost federal grants
and loans for nonregistrant students is estimated to be approximately
$75,000 for the 1983-84 academic year. Similar amounts may be
needed in future years unless the Supreme Court strikes down
the law as it currently stands.
The intent of the Mennonite Church to stand with young people
who choose not to register for reasons of Christian conscience
is clear in both the Turner (1969) and Waterloo (1979) statements.
It is apparent that one part of their discipleship is the loss
of student aid funds by those who for reasons of conscience have
chosen not to register.
The Mennonite Church General Board is directing the Mennonite
Board of Congregational Ministries to establish on behalf of
the Mennonite Church a Student Aid Fund for Nonregistrants. The
Mennonite Board of Education is prepared to provide staff assistance.
It is the goal of this action to replace aid funds lost by male
Students eligible to participate are nonregistrants at Mennonite
schools and nonregistrant Mennonite students at other schools
who have taken this position by reason of Christian calIing and
commitment. No money can be guaranteed until the amount available
is known. Available funds will be distributed to eligible students
in November 1983.
The first opportunity to contribute to the Student Aid Fund for
Nonregistrants will be given to the home congregation of the
particular student. The student will be expected to be an integral
part of the communication process with his congregation.
Second, Mennonite Mutual Aid is being asked to loan monies to
be used as replacement money for loans not available from the
federal government or as guaranteed student loans from commercial
banks. An application is being submitted for fraternal funds
to cover the difference between commercial interest rates expected
by Mennonite Mutual Aid and rates charged by banks for government-guaranteed
Third, all congregations will be invited to share in this fund.
A letter will be sent to each congregation encouraging prayer
for persons facing registration and requesting contributions
to the Student Aid Fund for Nonregistrants.
It is the privilege of the church to share the burdens of those
who suffer for reasons of conscience. Those who face difficult
decisions concerning registration have looked and are continuing
to look to the church for guidance and support. It is appropriate
that the entire church stand by those who decide to register
and by those who are nonregistrants as together they seek to
be faithful to the cause of Christ.
Approved by the Seventh Mennonite Church General Assembly, August
1-7, 1983, Lehigh University, Bethleham, Pennsylvania, Proceedings,
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