Mennonite pastor Jürg Bräker stopped at Messenger Fountain [Läuferbrunnen] in his home city of Bern, Switzerland. He wet his hands in the flowing spout, and declared, “This water turned blood-red on the day Hans Haslibacher was beheaded in 1571.”
Today, Amish still sing from the Ausbund [hymnal] about Haslibacher, the last Anabaptist executed in Bern.
Haslibacher had foretold that his severed head would laugh when it fell from the executioner’s sword: “The sun will, like my blood, be red,… the town well likewise blood will shed.”
All three predictions came to pass.
I am not certain I believe all details of that story, but the symbolism rings true: when there is war or corrupt government, messengers of hope sometimes die. The light of truth turns dim, and waters that should give life turn red with blood.
I am grateful for the courageous witness of our 16th-century forebears. We should honour them, but then get on with the day-to-day task of laying down our lives in living sacrifice for others in the name of Jesus.
Anabaptists today can collaborate with Christians of other traditions to include peacemaking as part of inviting others to know and follow our Lord.
While in Switzerland, I represented Mennonite World Conference at World Council of Churches (WCC) meetings. In that global body representing 500 million Christians, Mennonite Fernando Enns has been a messenger of hope as a leader in the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.
“At the end of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2011) initiated by Historic Peace Churches within the WCC, we had built up a consensus on the understanding of Just Peace within the WCC,” says Enns. “The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace builds on this consensus, adding the spiritual dimension to the churches’ engagement in peace with justice. As we walk together within the ecumenical family, we realize how important it is that Just Peace is rooted in our Christian confession of faith, in our prayers, in our spiritual lives. It is much more than a political strategy.
“The pilgrimage metaphor teaches us that unless Just Peace becomes an identity marker of our discipleship, our witness – as individuals, local communities, and a global Christian family – will hardly be credible.”
This project helps Christians of many traditions follow Jesus toward “just peace” in the world.
—J. Nelson Kraybill, MWC president (2015–2021), lives in Indiana, USA.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier October 2018.