Iraq is experiencing renewed conflicts since rebels have taken control over Mosul, the country’s second largest city, and are now heading for Baghdad. Civilians are dying and suffering and we are probably witnessing the start of a new humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. As we all know, Iraq has experienced the horrors of war in over a decade, and the Western invasion obviously hasn’t created stability and peace but on the contrary, it has increased conflict and instability. But the rulers of this world are simple-minded and violent, so don’t get surprised if political and military leaders will argue once again for more war in Iraq as a response to the problem with war in Iraq.
We Christians belong to another Kingdom though and it’s our responsibility to love our enemies and speak life and hope into violent and hateful hearts. This is the goal of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT were created when Ron Sider spoke in the 1984 World Mennonite Conference about the need of active Christian pacifists that not just refuse to use violence but actually establishes peace through active non-violence. He said:
Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die. Proudly, courageously, they gave their lives. Again and again, they sacrificed bright futures to the tragic illusion that one more righteous crusade would bring peace in their time. For their loved ones, for justice, and for peace, they have laid down their lives by the millions.
Why do we pacifists think that our way — Jesus’ way — to peace will be less costly? Unless we Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant what we said. We did, of course, in earlier times. In previous centuries, we died for our convictions. But today we have grown soft and comfortable. We cling to our affluence and our respectability.
Unless comfortable North American and European Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are prepared to risk injury and death in nonviolent opposition to the injustice our societies foster and assist in Central America, the Philippines, and South Africa, we dare never whisper another word about pacifism to our sisters and brothers in those desperate lands. Unless we are ready to die developing new nonviolent attempts to reduce international conflict, we should confess that we never really meant the cross was an alternative to the sword. Unless the majority of our people in nuclear nations are ready as congregations to risk social disapproval and government harassment in a clear ringing call to live without nuclear weapons, we should sadly acknowledge that we have betrayed our peacemaking heritage. Making peace is as costly as waging war. Unless we are prepared to pay the cost of peacemaking, we have no right to claim the label or preach the message.
This was a very challenging and uncomfortable message to say the least, but many realized that he had a point – what would happen if pacifist peacemakers showed the same commitment and sacrifice that violent soldiers are showing in order to obey their governments. We have a massive problem when Christians who love God, peace and people aren’t ready to die for what they believe in while thousands of Germans were ready to die for nazism and hatred during the second world war. When the participants at the Mennonite World Conference heard Sider’s speech, they realized that something has to be done, and thus they created Christian Peacemaker Teams.
And guess what? CPT has a team in northern Iraq, close to the epicenter of the current conflict. Needless to say, they really need our prayers and support. Pray that God will protect them and the people they are working with, that they will build peace, justice and tolerance, and that more will join them and/or be inspired by their example. And please give a generous gift to them. Thank you!