Working with veterans to promote non-violent peace building

Non-violent peace builders may shy away from forming relationships with veterans or those who serve in the military. Presumably, one would have little in common with those who believe in the use of military force - a point of view so directly opposite.

But associate editor Anna Groff of The Mennonite points out that this need not be so. Her story offers vignettes of numerous individuals who provide care to war veterans through the USA's Veteran Health Administration (VA) hospitals.She writes that "Each day about 18 veterans commit suicide. About one-quarter of returning veterans meet criteria for a mental health disorder. Many face unemployment, divorce, substance abuse and more."

Groff quotes Andrea Wetherald, 24, who works at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and attends Pittsburgh Mennonite Church. Wetherald says, “The best thing Mennonites can do is look through the stereotypes and see an individual — as cliché as it may sound,” she says.

See the full story [on page 44 of this PDF] for vignettes of others who find their VA work rewarding.

Arms Trade

The Canadian Council of Churches has sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper seeking a deeper committment to end the global arms trade.

The Council, which claims to represent 80% od Christians in Canada, is calling on the Prime Minister to "do its utmost to ensure negotiations at the UN Diplomatic Conference in July [2012]" by:

  • Issuing a prime-ministerial statement emphasizing Canadian support for a strong Arms Trade Treaty and indicating that Canada will not accept treaty text that inadequately responds to the humanitarian costs of irresponsible arms transfers;
  • Instructing  Minister Baird to take up the invitation to attend the high level segment during the first days of the Diplomatic Conference;
  • Instructing the Canadian delegation to the Diplomatic Conference to actively engage and support other states seeking a comprehensive and effective Arms Trade Treaty.

What is just peacemaking?

Waterloo, Ont.,  was the setting for a gathering of Canadian church leaders to consider the challenge of just peacemaking.

The Project Ploughshares web site states, "The two standard ethical paradigms for the ethics of peace and war are pacifism and just war theory. They both intend to prevent some wars or all wars. But they don’t focus our attention on how to prevent wars; they focus on debating whether war is justified or not. Recognizing a practical stalemate between the arguments for pacifism and just war, the theory of just peacemaking seeks to define and implement practices that prevent violent conflict and create peace."

Papers from various church leaders documenting the outcome of the meeting can be found here.

U.S. Selective Service expands alternatives for conscientious objectors

The web site of the U.S. Army reveals that it has signed the first agreement for selective service in the USA in 25 years.

The story says that "... as long as there's been Americans fighting in wars, there have been those who do not object to the idea of serving their country, but do object to the idea of directly killing another human being or being involved in that act. These conscientious objectors are not cowards, said Selective Service Director Lawrence G. Romo, but are simply opposed to the idea of taking another person's life."

Stanley Green, executive director of the Mennonite Mission Network is pictured signing the agreement.with Selective Service Director Lawrence G. Romo.

Peace begins at home in Saskatchewan

Mennonites in Saskatchewan are encouraging people to deepen their relationships with Canada's indigenous people in that province.

Mennonite Church Saskatchewan's Peace and Justice Committee sponsored a roadside sign near the town of Osler inviting passers-by to attend a Truth and Reconciliation event in Saskatoon. The sign is one of two in the rural area surrounding Saskatoon.

Mennonites in Saskatchewan invite drivers to TRC



Provincial/Federal feud over long gun registry in Canada

A May 8, 2012 CBC news report describes Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as “… lashing out at provincial officials who he says are collecting unauthorized information on long-gun buyers, threatening to use legislation to make them stop.”

But Chris Wyatt, Ontario’s chief firearms officer, said the ledgers aren't new. "Ledgers existed for decades before the long-gun registry," Wyatt told the CBC. "It's in the interests of public safety to ensure that firearms aren't being sold to criminals or persons who are prohibited from having firearms."

The ledgers record identifying details about the gun sold, as well as the name and firearms licence number of the purchaser – but leaves blank a space in the column previously reserved to record the registration certificate number from the federal firearms registry.

The Canadian government has ended the long gun registry and has ordered the data collected to be destroyed. The long gun registry was introduced in parliament in 1993.

Why can’t we skip the part where we shoot each other?

George Jonas, journalist and commentator who frequently writes on the Middle East and counter-terrorism, asks why, if most wars end in neither total victory of defeat, can we not just “skip the part where we shoot each other?”

In a May 9, 2012, National Post column, Jonas documents the following typical steps in conflict: war, armistice, peace conference, and negotiated settlement. Why not “make your last move your first move?” he asks.

Husband of 9/11 victim seeks to spare plotters lives

According to a May 14, 2012 story in the New York Post, Blake Allison wants to spare the alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks that killed his wife.

Allison, a 62 year-old wine company executive, is a long-time critic of capital punishment, and is quoted as saying, “We can’t kill our way to a peaceful tomorrow.”

He states that this does not mean those responsible should not be held to account for their crimes, only that they should not be killed. “Just because I was hurt very badly and personally, does not, in my mind, give me the go-ahead to take a life,” he said.

His opposition to capital punishment is based on his Episcopalian faith, he said. “When Martin Luther was being asked to recant by the hierarchy of the Roman church for all his Protestant actions, he said, ‘Here I stand. I can’t do otherwise.’

“That’s the way I feel. First and foremost, I don’t think it’s right to take a life. It’s grounded in my religious faith. The New Testament is very clear about this.”

Earth Day the Church Way: Consumption Sabbath

Christians in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, were invited to confess and repent of their consumptive habits on Earth Sunday, April 22, 2012.

Hundreds of people processed through the city's downtown, aided by a police escort to keep marchers safe. Hundreds more were picked up along the 3.4 km route, meeting at a tent erected in Memorial Park, across from the provincial legislative buildings, for a worship service. In a video, lead marchers bore a golden oil drum on their shoulders as they walked - a symbol of confession as well as complicity in the fossil fuel economy.

The service - presented in the old style of a revival tent meeting - gave worshippers the opportunity to repent of their consumptive habits and sign pledge cards promising an envirnoment friendly action, such as commuting to work by bicycle or riding public transit. A robed Consumption Sabbath Choir led the faithful in rousing, traditional gospel songs. Shouts of "Halleleujha," "Amen," and "Preach it!" could be heard from worshippers throughout the service.

The event, sponsored by Charleswood Mennonite Church and Geez Magazine, also involved numerous other congregations.

"Waging Peace" documentary gets attention of CTV

Mennonites and Muslims kneel to praye together, says a report from Canadian national news broadcaster, CTV in its Feb. 15, 2012, Local Hero news report.

Says CTV's blurb, "The local Mennonite community is trying to bridge a gap by opening its arms to local Muslims, and it has all been captured in a documentary."  The related video link appears top right sidebar labeled "CTV News Video" via the link above.

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