What does it mean to be people of peace in these times? It is challenging to watch people directly impacted by war in Ukraine and many other places like Colombia, Syria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Amid the devastation of war, how do we respond in a way that reflects Anabaptist values?
At MCC, our vision is to see communities in right relationship with God, one another and creation. This is a call to peace and active nonviolence based on our faith. Christian peacemaking starts with the belief that God has made peace with us through the gift of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Peacemaking is a response to Jesus’s gift of grace and peace. We all continue to sin. All of us are complicit in systems of violence and oppression. We constantly fall short in proclaiming and living out Christ’s peace. God’s grace, however, empowers us to follow Christ as active peacemakers in a spirit of humility. (You can read more about our peace position in our publication, “Pursuing Peace: The Essence of Mennonite Central Committee.”)
For MCC, peace is more than a wish, it’s our work. We do this by partnering with grassroots and faith-based organizations and churches that actively work for peace and nonviolence, and with your support. We witness the power of people coming together with hope to respond to impossible situations and ensure the human dignity of all. We walk alongside communities in processes of conflict transformation and reconciliation. We experience the spaces of creativity and imagination that are opened when violence is not seen as an option.
From these relationships, we have learned that peacemakers have many tools they can use to create positive change. Gathering together in prayer and worship is a powerful response. Diplomacy, dialogue, disarmament, development, conflict resolution, peace education, active nonviolence and strategic peacebuilding are only a few other nonviolent approaches available to prevent war and to work for peace during war. A refusal to be enemies is a powerful way to reduce the harm of violence and build positive peace.
One way we engage in peacebuilding at MCC is through conversations with our governments. In response to the conflict in Ukraine, we ask the Canadian and United States governments to continue considering approaches that do not rely on military intervention or military support. We ask our governments to be global leaders in promoting the use of nonviolent tools such as diplomacy, disarmament, dialogue, the use of international law and support for grassroots peacemakers. We caution against the selling and providing of weapons or direct participation in military missions. We believe nonviolent leadership for peaceful resolution is a way that our countries can make a positive difference.
A focus on trauma healing and assistance to meet basic needs will continue to be urgently needed. We ask our governments to provide support for the most vulnerable, including Russians who are also deeply impacted by this conflict. We encourage careful deliberation around the possible unintended negative consequences of broad sanctions.
Christ invites us to step into the pain and suffering of others. The skills and tools we take into these encounters and learn along the way include: the ability to listen with care and patience, to mediate and resolve conflicts, to analyze political and historical realities, to seek out voices unheard, to support community-based actions, to be courageous allies, to imagine and create options and alternatives and to embody hope. We invite you to join us as we walk this path, together with all those impacted by wars and conflict.
Rick Cober Bauman
Executive Director, MCC Canada
Ann Graber Hershberger
Executive Director, MCC U.S.