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What does it mean for us to pursue the blessings of Christ’s beatitude ("blessed are the peacemakers..") in 21st-century Canada?
One exciting answer to this question comes to us from an unusual source: Bill C-447, a private member’s bill introduced by British Columbia MP Bill Siksay in 2009.
The social justice advocacy organization Avaaz is campaigning to influence chocolate manufacturers, asking them to end trade with Ivory Coast, which reportedly supplies 40% of the world's cocoa. As of this writing, over 111,000 people have signed onto an action request which will be delivered to CEO of Nestlé Paul Bulcke, will co-chair the Davos World Economic Forum, January 26 - 30, 2011.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo lost democratic elections in November, 2010, but clings to power by the force of a loyal military. Pundits and political leaders fear the country could soon spiral into an all-out civil war.
A colleague sent me this story recently. It is a useful reflection to share, especially in light of the Jan. 9, 2011 Tuscon, Arizona shooting spree that killed six and, as of this writing, left congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in critical condition. Whether or not suspect Jared Loughner's actions were driven by heated political rhetoric, the repeated use of violent language has a direct affect on behaviour, says writer Jim Taylor in this Jan. 9, 2011, blog post.
A bomb blast killed 21 worshippers as they emerged from a New Year's Mass in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, on Jan. 1, 2011.
On Jan. 6, AbramOnline reported that Muslim leaders in Egypt were calling on Muslims to attend Christian churches across the country to attend Coptic Christmas Eve Mass to show solidarity and also act as human shields against potential attacks by Islamist militants.
"... Many Egyptian Muslims are rallying around the idea of acting to protect their fellow citizens," wrote reporter Nourhan El-Abbassy.
"The goodwill has been well received by the Coptic Church, and Coptic priests have been expressing their pleasure that Muslims intend to join them at tomorrow’s mass. Some churches have already put up banners welcoming Muslims to their celebration of the birth of Jesus," said the report.
The theme of peace has become ubiquitous with the Christmas Season - even for the non-religious.
For Christians, this is the time of year when Jesus is popularly identified as the Prince of Peace. Yet, much violence throughout history has been committed in the name of the Prince of Peace - and even rationalized by the teachings of Jesus.
What is seldom taught is the context - the reason - why Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace. It's important to remember that Jesus is not the Prince of Peace only at Christmas time, but all year round. For an excellent explanation of the history and context of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, watch this video series by theologian Walter Wink, presented in 2008 at the Princeton Theological Seminary.
'Tis the season to share greetings of peace and goodwill.
Osler Mennonite Church (Saskatchewan) took this seasonal opportunity to advocate for peace by sending Christmas cards to Prime Minister Harper and their local MPs with the message:
"Please live for peace: good will to all."
If you haven't sent Christmas cards yet - or if you have any extras, consider this festive way of sharing your desire to live for peace!
Thank you, Gordon Allaby for sharing this idea!
In most places in Canada, We ban smoking in public places and strive to limit the promotion and availability of tobacco products, and rightly so because smoking is very addictive and destructive. Those who smoke are seduced by the affects of nicotine (it calms, yet stimulates), and they become addicted to the adverse by-product. Smoking is extremely costly, in many ways. It can be said that smokers are victims; they are not bad people.
Militarism - the culture of war and military admiration - is similarily highly addictive and destructive. There is an undeniable allure to military machinery and bravado.
From the crisp uniforms to the grit of combat soldiers, there is an ancient mystique about “fighting men” [and women]. We applaud the soldier’s honour and sacrifice, and for good reason approve of their desire to serve their country. Yet, the addiction, more often than not, causes us to gloss over the countless others who are sacrificing in their public service. Military tools (tanks, jet fighters, etc.) are high tech, and we are impressed by the power they possess, not to mention the bang they make. Moreover, just as Hollywood once glamorized smoking, we too are being seduced into believing the glorified myth that we must fight and kill for our freedom and that our nation’s enemy is a bad guy, worthy of destruction. And, just as nicotine calms and stimulates, militarism calms us with the belief that we are safer if we are militarily powerful, and that sense of power also stimulates us into asserting our will on others–using brute force instead of peaceful alternatives. It should be noted that history teaches us that enhanced military force rarely goes unused.
Similar to tobacco, militarism is addictive and very destructive. It produces its own self-perpetuating culture in a society that is based on the fear of not having enough military. This sensation is similar to the panic in withdrawals. The addiction becomes a preoccupation. It brings all things military into constant public focus and screams that military spending is never enough: more and more is needed, again and again–the cry of the addict. Militarism demands devotion and support, and those who see the consequences and question the destructive patterns are berated as unpatriotic or idealistic extremists. Moreover, like nicotine, militarism is a great deceiver because it is destructive and it lies. Hiram Johnson correctly said, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” The base purpose of the military is war, and war kills and destroys, period. In addition, militarism
On November 11, 2010, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan's Peace and Justice Commission again sponsored a memorial service in downtown Saskatoon. The holistic service took place outdoors in Rotary Peace Park and grieved losses resulting from war. Repentance and a pledge to work for peace through non-violent means were also included. The event was promoted through Mennonite Church Saskatchewan churches, word of mouth and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, an interchurch agency for the promotion of Christian unity on the Canadian prairies. The service was attended by representatives from Mennonite Church Canada's General Board, Area Churches and staff who were in town for Fall Leadership Assembly, along with about 70 other individuals. The City of Saskatoon lit the peace pole flame for the service.
Many Mennonites in Canada are familiar with the red message buttons,"To Remember is To Work for Peace" distributed by Mennonite Central Committee each year around Remembrance Day, Nov. 11. Christians in the United Kingdom have come up with an alternative idea as well; a white poppy. To learn more, see http://www.whitepoppy.org.uk/
Want to find out how you can become "a biblical, prayerful, playful peacemaker"? Check out http://seasonedwithpeace.blogspot.com/ Four passionate-for-peace women are collecting peace-focussed material from devotions to recipes and sharing them in Seasoned with Peace, a series of four seasonal books. Susan Mark Landis, Lisa J. Amstutz, Cynthia Friesen Coyle and Cindy Snider are volunteering their time; any profits from Seasoned with Prayer will be directed toward Mennonite peacemaking projects.