Canadian Mennonite
Volume 11, No. 21
October 29, 2007


Peace is Jesus’ way

Tim Miller Dyck


Tim Miller Dyck

In this issue, we’re featuring two stories from Christians living out the understanding that when Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, he meant for his followers to really do that. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven,’” Jesus said in Matthew 5.

We are now living in a country and at a time where that peace witness is so needed. In Afghanistan, Canada is now conducting its first military combat mission since the Korean War. “Afghanistan is not, nor has it ever been, a traditional peacekeeping mission. . . . Negotiation is not an option with groups such as the Taliban nor al-Qaeda, who are not interested in the kind of peace that the Afghan people seek,” says the Dept. of National Defence.

In Canada, we are now seeing again repeated images of caskets coming home on television newscasts. Seventy-one Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan since 2002. Many more come home maimed. Figures on Afghan deaths aren’t as precisely monitored, but a report released a year ago by the Joint Co-ordinating and Monitoring Board (composed of the Afghan government, Canada and other involved foreign governments, and the UN) estimated more than 3,700 people had been killed in about the first 10 months of 2006, including an estimated 1,000 civilians.

Besides physical injuries, mental health injuries among those asked to harm and kill in the name of their country are sharply up. According to a CBC report on the psychological problems that result from military service, the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Winnipeg has seen military referrals nearly double in 2007 over last year. Nearly all seeking help have recently returned from Afghanistan.

MaryLou Driedger wrote a powerful letter published in the Sept. 3 issue, in which she reported what a Canadian soldier returning from Afghanistan said to her Grade 11 English class. “Our guest said there was absolutely nothing glamorous about the war. ‘It’s hell and I don’t want to go back,’ he told my students,” she wrote.

In my last two editorials, I’ve been writing about the way Christians acted to bring about the end of the legal slave trade in Britain 200 years ago. Their concern was not just for slaves, but also for the spirits of those involved in any part of the industry. “I know of no method of getting money, not even that of robbing for it upon the highway, which has so direct a tendency to . . . rob the heart of every gentle and humane disposition, and to harden it, like steel,” wrote former slave ship captain John Newton.

I heard Christian Peacemaker Teams co-director Doug Pritchard speak a few months ago on war. “Yes, there are still walls going up in Israel/Palestine . . . and at the U.S./Mexican border. Atrocities still happened in Rwanda and in Congo. War still came to Afghanistan and to Iraq,” he said. “But more and more people are seeing that these wars are a failure, that they cannot bring peace, that violence only begets violence and that another way is needed.

“I believe that it is possible that in another 100 years war will be outlawed. . . . [W]e celebrate the 200th anniversary of the British parliament outlawing the slave trade. There is no longer any legal or moral basis for one human being owning another human being. It has become unthinkable. The same can come true of war. More and more Christians see there is no such thing as a just war. It is a heresy,” he concluded.

Jesus commands us to love our enemies not just because it is what he did or it is what he wants us to do. It’s also the healthiest option for our spirits, whether we are Christian or not. Sin tears at us. It damages our ability to be whole people. We are all made in God’s image. Our highest and best calling is to love God with everything we are and do. It is no surprise that doing differently does deep damage to us and our communities.

This was recognized by Christians before it was seen by others in the case of slavery. It is something our church has long recognized about war. May God work in our world so that war will come to be seen as slavery is seen: as an abomination against God and all human beings.

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