Over 800 people from 250 congregations across Canada and the U.S. met online Nov. 28 to talk about ways to respond together to the war in Gaza and Palestine.
The meeting was organized by Mennonite Action, a new group seeking to mobilize Mennonites and Anabaptists across North America to use creative nonviolent actions to demand a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to the occupation of Palestine.
Moderator Melody Yoder Salim of Lancaster, Pa., began the meeting by saying many Mennonites have become involved in protesting the war between Israel and Hamas since Oct. 7.
But so far, she said, there haven’t been any coordinated or unified actions bringing together members of Anabaptist congregations.
“What would it look like if Mennonites were to take action publicly as Mennonites?” she asked.
Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Philadelphia expressed her gratitude for so many showing up for the meeting, adding they would be joining with members of the Jewish community who also feel “compelled to do this work.”
“Every person is sacred, created in the image of God,” she said, adding that Jewish law “obligates me to speak out when seeing someone hurting another.”
In “standing up and speaking up for a cease-fire and an end to the killing and the horrors taking place . . . it is an act that is life giving, necessary, celebrating that all of life is sacred.”
Jonathan Brenneman, coordinator of Mennonite Church USA’s Israel/Palestine Partners in Peacemaking, noted Mennonite involvement in the region goes back to 1949 when Mennonite Central Committee provided aid to Palestinians displaced when the state of Israel was created.
Saying he was proud of what Mennonites have done in the Middle East over the decades, including when MC USA passed a resolution about seeking peace in Israel and Palestine, he also felt “we didn’t meet this moment.”
While Mennonites recognized the suffering of people in Palestine, “I didn’t see them mobilizing to stop their elected representatives from supporting the violence,” he stated.
For Adam Ramer, a member of the group coordinating Mennonite Action, that was “exactly what was missing . . . how can we bring our peace witness to this unique and horrifying moment?”
Ramer, who grew up in Madison Mennonite Church in Wisconsin and now lives in New York City, resigned recently as political director for U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., after Khanna declined to support a resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Ramer issued an invitation meeting participants to sign up for days of action in December against the war and occupation.
The goal, he said, was not to act “for the sake of taking action,” but “because we can have an impact.”
Politicians hear voices from faith communities, he said, since they “upend the stereotypical image of a protestor. . . . As a person who received these calls, I know they work.”
The meeting ended with an invitation to participate in a day of action on Dec. 5, when Mennonites across North America will call their elected representatives to ask them to support calls for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, and again on Dec. 19 when they will be encouraged to hold in-person actions at elected officials’ local offices.
Ramer and fellow Mennonite Action coordinator Nick Martin of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster stressed the importance of Christians being publicly visible in opposition to the misuse of faith. They introduced six guiding principles — people, peace, public, power, prayer and Palestine — and defined the organization’s scope in supporting Mennonites taking peaceful public action.
“Just imagine how powerful it will be to see images of us taking action across the U.S. and Canada,” Ramer said, adding Mennonite Action will provide resources and support to individuals and congregations.
“Specifically, we are prepared to offer online platforms for widespread coordination across geographies and offer trainings on organizing and mobilization skills,” he said. “We will release toolkits and action guides to help you along the way.”
By the end of the meeting, 328 people had signed up through mennoniteaction.org to call their representatives and 218 had signed up for the day of action.
Camille Dager of Mennonite Church USA contributed to this report.