In this historic year of seeking racial justice, some see parallels to the Civil Rights drama of 60 years ago. At that time, the performance of the white Mennonite community was qualified, to put it mildly. Many saw the effort to extend the American dream to the Black community as a Communist plot to distract from post-World War II prosperity.
I served during this period as director of Mennonite Central Committee programs in North America. We had a Voluntary Service unit in Atlanta with some volunteers assigned to Martin Luther King Jr.’s office. We had a modest VS presence in the Mississippi Delta, then a Civil Rights battleground. To address the issue of race in the inner city, MCC also initiated a program in Cincinnati that developed into a church. All of this stretched the constituency and threatened to disrupt funding. Seeking a balance between boldly addressing injustice and not threatening constituency support, we yielded too much to the latter. I regret that we were so cautious.
Will history repeat itself? Will Mennonites sit this one out or, worse, fall in line with secular political forces marching to other agendas? Or will we find our voice, grounded in the scriptural call for justice?
Edgar Stoesz, Akron, Pa.