Refusing to fight in wars has long been a part of the Anabaptist peace witness. But in the United States, in an era of near-constant war without a military draft, this resistance has faded. A new resource, Mennonites Against Militarism, seeks to reinvigorate a collective voice for peace.
Mennonites Against Militarism is a project of the Peace and Justice Support Network in collaboration with Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Central Committee.
“After so many years of so-called endless war that began in the aftermath of 9/11, much of our country and even our church has grown accustomed to the exaggerated influence militarism exerts,” said Jason Boone, coordinating minister of PJSN for Mennonite Mission Network.
Titus Peachey, former director of peace education at MCC and a member of the Mennonites Against Militarism reference group, said militarism “permeates politics, economics, academic institutions, the entertainment industry, the media, national celebrations and religion, creating a mutually reinforcing web of interests that profits from fear.”
The purpose of Mennonites Against Militarism, Peachey said, is to inform potential peacemakers about the corrosive ways militarism influences daily life.
“We are a small denomination, but our peace witness against militarism is known around the world,” said Sue Park-Hur, MC USA denominational minister for transformative peacemaking. “We hope that this campaign will help to deepen our conversation as a church on the damaging impacts of militarism that intersect with our theology, economy and the environment — locally and around the world. And, in the process, we can rediscover our calling and our work as Mennonites.”
Mennonites Against Militarism wants to clarify that being against militarism does not mean being against people who serve in the military. It stands against the structures and systems that harm those who serve as well.
Mennonites Against Militarism includes a reference group that has been working since early this year to develop resources. Members are:
Jason Boone, coordinating minister of PJSN
Jessica Buller, peace education coordinator, MCC
Kathy Neufeld Dunn, associate conference minister, Western District Conference of MC USA
Hyun Hur, co-founder, ReconciliAsian
Cyneatha Millsaps, executive director, Mennonite Women USA
Elbert Newton, Pasadena, Calif.
Sue Park-Hur, MC USA denominational minister for transformative peacemaking and co-founder of ReconciliAsian
Titus Peachey, Lancaster, Pa.
Clara Weybright, Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions
Members of the reference group cite personal reasons for resisting militarism. Millsaps said: “I have seen too many people of color who served in the military during Vietnam, Desert Storm and now Afghanistan and Pakistan who returned home mentally and emotionally damaged.”
She said people in power talk about how honorable it is to serve, but often those who serve come home to poverty, divorce, anger and violence, with no honor to be found.
Neufeld Dunn said: “The level of fear in our culture [caused by militarism] requires new ways of imagining being neighbors and citizens and even brothers and sisters in Christ together. That is what Mennonites Against Militarism is about — finding new ways to spread the word and love of Christ through education and resistance to militarism.”
Beginning this month, organizers encourage people to look for Mennonites Against Militarism resources on social media and through webinars and other educational opportunities.