Flash mob for peace

Mennonites gather on Remembrance Day with the help of Facebook

November 23, 2011 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent
Winnipeg, Man.

“Freedom is coming. . . . Justice is coming, oh yes I know.”

While many people in the area and across Canada congregated to watch cannons being fired and soldiers marching, more than a hundred people gathered in Winnipeg to sing for peace on Remembrance Day.

On Nov. 11, a day that is normally set aside to remember war veterans and soldiers in Canada’s armed forces, participants gathered in a flash mob to sing “Freedom is Coming,” hand out Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) “To remember is to work for peace” buttons and pamphlets, and unveil a banner with the same slogan at the Forks Market.

Organizer, Steve Plenert, the coordinator of MCC Manitoba’s peace program, publicized the event through Facebook, drawing many young people to the flash mob, especially students and alumni from Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

One such participant was Jodi Plenert, 22, who is a CMU student and a member of Langley Mennonite Fellowship, B.C. She decided to attend in order to focus more on the peace aspect of Remembrance Day. Jodi believes that the flash mob attracted so many people because of the way it was advertised. “Word of mouth only goes so far,” she said. “With Facebook, we can invite all of our friends to attend the event.”

Andre Forget, who attends St. Margaret Anglican Church, Winnipeg, and is an alumnus of CMU, heard about the flash mob on Facebook. “Most of us organize our lives largely on computers,” he said. “Facebook reminds you of the [events you are planning on attending].”

Even though Steve only invited about 200 of his Facebook friends, those who were invited passed on the invitation to their Facebook friends, and about a thousand people were invited to the flash mob. Three hundred people directly engaged with the invitation, saying that they would attend, maybe attend or not attend.

Megan Klassen-Wiebe of Charleswood Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, has participated in protests and demonstrations in the past, including a march for climate change this summer that was also advertised on Facebook. Because she wasn’t sure how to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies, she decided that the flash mob seemed like a perfect fit. “It’s public, alternative and something that gets people talking,” Klassen-Wiebe said.

Charleswood Mennonite Church had an announcement in its bulletin regarding the flash mob and several members of the congregation participated.

Steve is pleased with the number of young people who attended the demonstration. “It points to how social movements are impacted by social media,” he said. “This event is evidence of that. It shows [young people] don’t just stay on their computers and on Facebook, but they come out to events that matter.”

But it wasn’t only young people who attended the event. Some families came, including a few who work for Mennonite Church Canada, and some seniors as well.

People from MCC’s International Visitor Exchange Program participated in the event, as well as people from out of town.

Canadian Mennonite conducted a Facebook poll on what people were wearing for Remembrance Day: 18 said the traditional poppy, six said the MCC peace button, and one said both the poppy and the button. No one chose the white peace poppy as an option.

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