Bill C-447 an opportunity for Mennonites to promote peace

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Anabaptists throughout history have recognized the centrality of peace, not just as a theological concept, but, more importantly, as a practical expression of their faith. Mennonite history shows us that we have been prepared to uproot our communities and move from country to country because of our belief that we should not take up arms.
 
But what does it mean for us to pursue the blessings of Christ’s beatitude and remain true to our Anabaptist heritage as peacemakers in 21st-century Canada?

One exciting answer to this question comes to us from an unusual source: Bill C-447, a private member’s bill introduced by British Columbia MP Bill Siksay in 2009.

Bill C-447 seeks to establish a Department of Peace with its own minister at the federal level. For now, the specific details of this bill are of less concern than the paradigm shift that the bill proposes, and the potential that our government could take an active role in promoting and fostering conditions for peace domestically as well as internationally.

More surprising than having politicians advocate an initiative for peace is that a piece of legislation that comes so close to the heart of the Mennonite confession has not created a greater interest in our own circles. Are we afraid of the hard work that will be required to produce a fundamental shift in our society, the apathy or the strong interest groups that will resist our call for peace?

 

How do we begin to take on the challenge to be peacemakers that this opportunity presents? While a number of Winnipeg churches have dealt with this bill in their Sunday school classes or church papers, Home Street Mennonite Church youths have conducted research on nonviolence, and representatives from Canadian Mennonite University, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba are planning a public forum around the issue of peace, we need every Mennonite—not just those we perceive as young and idealistic, or educated enough—to engage with this issue.

If Mennonites want to be the followers of the Prince of Peace, we must be prepared to follow an example that led to Calvary. To follow Christ’s wholehearted commitment, we need to see pacifism not as a part of Mennonite history, but as a daily commitment. We must talk about peacemaking not just in church, but at the dinner table; not just with each other, but with our neighbours.

We must prepare for the future by writing to our local newspapers and respective MPs to explain the importance of Bill C-447 from our unique perspective. We may experience their apathy or downright hostility, but none of this should deter us because too much hangs in the balance. Given the example we claim to live by, it’s the least we can do.

- posted on behalf of Gerhard Neufeld, Winnipeg, Man. This letter first appeared in the January 24, 2010 edition of the Canadian Mennonite.