Two letters renounce violence

“Renounce violence and love our enemies.” This is part of being a peacemaker in Mennonite World Conference’s Shared Convictions.

Living out that conviction, 13 September 2019, 13 Anabaptist churches in the USA signed a letter to the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. The letter requested that men and women not be universally obligated to military service, that provisions for conscientious objectors remain, and cautioned against military influence in schools and disproportionate recruitment among low income communities and communities of colour.

Citing Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5, the letter says: “As conscientious objectors, we believe Jesus commands reverence for each human life since every person is made in the image of God…. Our opposition to war is not cowardice but an expression of Christ’s forgiving love as shown on the cross.”

The joint letter came out of a consultation hosted by Mennonite Central Committee U.S. 4 June 2019 in Akron, Pa., USA.

The letter’s signers (MWC member churches marked with asterisk)

  • Beachy Amish
  • Brethren Church
  • Brethren in Christ U.S.*
  • Bruderhof
  • Church of the Brethren
  • CMC (Conservative Mennonite Conference)*
  • Evana Network
  • LMC – a fellowship of Anabaptist churches*
  • Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
  • Mennonite Church USA*
  • Mennonite Mission Network
  • Old Order Amish
  • Old Order Mennonites

The U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches sent a separate letter based on concerns arising from their Confession of Faith.

Love for enemies

An MWC donor recently enclosed a “Letter from Vietnam to American Christians” by American mission workers in Vietnam in 1967, a voice from the past for the situation today.

Citing serious offenses against social justice, human life and the Christian faith resulting from USA military intervention in that country, the members of the Committee of Concern on Vietnam asked for “true consideration for the interests and needs of the Vietnamese majority; a change of heart which will…accept the consequences of past failures and mistakes…; a change of policy and tactics which will show them that our primary concern is for their own well-being, self-respect and independence; a tolerant spirit which would not force others to line up with us…; a fresh demonstration of our confession that in Christ there is no East or West.”

Tran Quang Thien Phuoc says, “I appreciate that they suggest we should take the interests of the Vietnamese majority (including displaced people, the farmers and all the have-nots) as the top priority.” The young leader from the MWC member church in Vietnam served as IVEP intern in the MCC UN office in Washington (2017–2018).

He is grateful for Mennonite witness that avoided violence in mission tactics as well. “Mennonites who came and lived among the Vietnamese people… have forged a friendship that lasts. The Vietnam Mennonite Church exist today thanks partly to them,” he says.

—Mennonite World Conference release