Interviewing guests for more than 100 episodes of Mennonite Church Canada’s radio podcast, Church Matters, has blessed me with the opportunity to learn and grow from the stories of others.
Anostocio (a pseudonym), a Mennonite pastor, teacher and Colombian refugee, described the painful picture of life in Colombia: hungry children, victims of warfare with lost limbs, rebel threats on his own life and family because of his peacebuilding work. “I never know when I leave home, will I make it back?” he said. Anostocio has since settled in Canada permanently with his wife and family.
Anya Alipova shared how nonviolent peacebuilding attracted her to a small, local Mennonite congregation in Ukraine. She described the 2004 Orange Revolution with civil disobedience, sit-ins and general strikes, prophetic in light of Ukraine’s current troubles.
Gordon Toombs, a United Church member, was determined to follow Jesus as a nonviolent peacemaker. When the Canadian government conscripted him for the Second World War, he was promised that he could declare himself a conscientious objector (CO) and serve as a medic. When that promise was broken, Toombs was forced to take up arms. He felt he had betrayed his beliefs and kept his failed CO declaration a secret for 60 years.
Piet Meiring, a Dutch Reformed pastor and author of 30 books, served with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Our conversation revealed the parallels between the story of indigenous South Africans and indigenous people living in Canada.
Gordon Allaby, a dual Canadian/American citizen, experienced the challenges of applying for CO status while living in the United States during the Vietnam War. He put his belief in pacifism to work here in Canada and shared many inspirational examples of proclaiming Osler Mennonite Church, the congregation he then pastored, as a peace church. During the annual summer fair parade, members played kazoos and wore T-shirts naming themselves the For Peace Marching Band.
Conflict in the church is not uncommon. In one of my favourite episodes, “I was at church when a fight broke out . . . ,” David Pankratz and Lois Edmund offered sage advice on how to respond when it happens. At the time, Pankratz was director of the Institute for Community Peacebuilding at Canadian Mennonite University and Edmund served as assistant professor of conflict resolution studies at Menno Simons College and a consulting clinical psychologist.
My eyes were opened to the complexities between settler and host peoples through interviews with indigenous leaders in Canada, including Ovid Mercredi, a national spokesperson for Treaties 1 to 11, who drew parallels between the treaties God makes with humanity in the Old Testament and the treaties Canada’s government made with First Nations people.
Each one of my Church Matters guests has made me a more faithful follower of Jesus, and for that I am deeply grateful.
Dan Dyck is Mennonite Church Canada’s director of Church Engagement-Communications.