At a time when we keenly feel the fractures in our society and when division and polarization have descended into violence, the people of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. pray not only for a peaceful transition of government, but for peace and reconciliation in our communities, especially those communities that are experiencing increased violence.
As followers of the Prince of Peace, we decry the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Further, we denounce the behavior of those in positions of leadership and power who recklessly stoke fear and hatred, who tolerate or encourage a white supremacist ideology and who knowingly spread misinformation in order to inflame and provoke.
We also confess that too often we have been silent in word and deed and have fallen short in our quest to be faithful disciples of Jesus and follow his example to stand in solidarity with the oppressed.
We pray for the audacity to be seeds of peace in this time. We pray for strength to resist the temptation to meet hate with hate. Such dehumanization only feeds a cycle of hatred and violence. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned,
“To meet hate with retaliatory hate would do nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force.” (From Stride Toward Glory: The Montgomery Story)
The ministry of Jesus was one of extravagant love while confronting systems of injustice and transforming hearts and minds to an upside-down kingdom (Luke 4). We must join Christ’s work of radically refusing to accept the sinful structures around us, structures embodied by Christian nationalism and white supremacy. At the same time, we are called to be peacemakers, reflecting Christ’s ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-20).
Reconciliation is difficult and can prove challenging in our homes, workplaces and churches when casual conversations turn into heated arguments over politics or measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
As a practical way to embody Christ’s work of justice and of peacebuilding, MCC encourages prayerful engagement through
- Dialogue: engage conversations across difference. This spring, MCC will release “Peaceful practices,” an adult Sunday School or small group curriculum designed to help individuals and congregations reflect on and practice how they engage with interpersonal conflict. Throughout the study, the reader will be introduced to (or refamiliarized with) tools that help them dialogue effectively.
- Study: dig into the Biblical text to discover ways in which Christ challenged systems of injustice. Also coming from MCC – “Embracing beloved community,” a study of the ways God calls the church to embrace diversity. This radical realization of the Kingdom happens through equitable and just relationships across races and ethnicities. This curriculum is especially geared to predominantly white audiences who are relatively new to conversations on racism.
- Solidarity: stand with those who are most vulnerable to the harmful practices, policies, systems and structures of violence. See "5 ways to support your neighbor" from Mennonite Mission Network.
Last October, in partnership with its supporting denominations, MCC U.S. invited Anabaptist churches to:
- Restate our primary commitment to God above earthly kingdoms.
- Follow Jesus, practicing reconciliation, humility, nonviolence, unity and peace.
- Ask for the Spirit’s guidance in our interactions within our families, churches, society and world.
Today, we renew this call. We commit to working with churches and individuals who work for justice and engage in the ministry of reconciliation. We pray for peace in 2021. And we are assured of God’s compassion and leading on the road ahead.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
– Psalm 46:1-5 (NRSV)
Ann Graber Hershberger, MCC U.S. executive director
Tammy Alexander, MCC U.S. National Advocacy and Program director
Jes Stoltzfus Buller, MCC U.S. peace education coordinator
- Dialogue: Having better conversations on divisive issues (“Advocacy for justice, peace and human dignity,” MCC Canada)
- Polarization: Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC) Beacon: Us and Them and Recapturing Holiness as People of God | National Association of Evangelicals: For the health of the nation | Mennonite Church USA calls for bold peacemaking
- Violence on the Capitol: USMB Statement | MC USA Response