The Peace and Justice Support Network is collaborating with Mennonite Church USA staff, area conferences and peacemakers to create a movement: Mennonites Against Militarism.
The planning stages of this campaign are underway, with more definition of the initiative to be unveiled by this fall.
Mennonites have walked through history on a path that parallels the military road. The refusal to fight in wars has long been a central part of the Anabaptist peace witness.
In attempts to faithfully follow Jesus, Mennonites faced persecution for refusing to participate in World War I.
In World War II, Mennonites and other peace churches obtained government approval for conscientious objectors to do alternative service. Thousands served in humanitarian programs while there was a draft during World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War era and the Vietnam War.
During the past 30 years Mennonites have protested wars in the Middle East.
More recently, however, a collective voice against militarism has dropped to a whisper. A variety of factors has contributed to this silencing, including the perpetual wars waged in response to Sept. 11, 2001.
Resistance to these wars has been difficult to maintain given the length of the conflicts. In addition, the government and media have minimized the horrors of this violence, leaving the reality of war out of the news and far from people’s minds.
To counteract this, planners are hoping to provide fresh pathways in which a new generation of Mennonites and peacemakers can walk together to speak out against militarism. Those who join this movement will receive education about militarism’s scope and tools for resisting it in a time without a military draft.
Mennonites Against Militarism will encourage Mennonites and peacemakers to renew urgency for speaking out against the expanding reach of militarism. When militarism erupts into war, many of God’s children die. Those who live suffer physical, emotional and spiritual injuries.
Even if war is not being openly waged, the associated violence of militarism corrupts other aspects of life and the world in which God calls us to be caretakers.
Militarism’s all-pervasive influence has a devastating effect on the environment and the U.S. economy that often goes unacknowledged. The gravitational pull exerted on the economy by militarism steers many young men and women into armed service, not out of a sense of duty to country but as means to earn a living.
Destruction of human life, the despoiling of the Earth, an unjust and oppressive economy — all are fruits from the poisoned tree of militarism.
Mennonites Against Militarism offers a fresh opportunity for today’s peacemakers to raise a collective voice against the sin of militarism, which corrupts and destroys the goodness of life granted by God.
Jason Boone is coordinating minister of the Peace and Justice Support Network for Mennonite Mission Network.