Peace Shall Destroy Many, Found Poem

April 23, 2024 | Web Opinion
Mick Friesen |

In chapter 12 of Rudy Wiebe's 1962 novel Peace Shall Destroy Many, the young protagonist, Thom Wiens, is reading a letter from Joseph Dueck, a schoolteacher who has left the community to serve in the medical corps in World War II. Joseph is struggling with understanding the concepts of peace and struggling with how to be faithful in a world of hypocrisy. The following reading is a found poem…Wiebe’s words in the voice of the character Joseph Dueck, but with my editing, selection and arrangement.


As for Peace – where do the teaching and life of Christ

              come in?

in our glorious opportunities to die

for our country?

what a travesty!

other churches – bound by rigid tradition

as our Mennonite church is so bound – insist on

force to end a war

and we – we hold to peace at all cost


those other positions must be

contrary to Christ, yes?

              (but is ours better?)

how great and glib are God’s children

claiming blessed status as peacemakers

for if we don’t know it…how can we make it?


is it enough to hold once’s peace in silence?

to say, ‘if all goes smoothly and i cannot be blamed’

then there is peace?

if we are blessed with good crops and avoid wars,

then there is peace?


a peace that permits us to

squabble and malign our neighbour

or neglect that neighbour entirely


and what of the angels singing…

              “Peace on Earth” while

babies are killed – because another

baby was born


explain that Peace!


what did Christ mean?

surely not the peace we

too often aim at:

              one to be gained by ignoring

              the issues raised


no, he could not have meant

something so static

not some outward quiet and comfort

nor some sham, slothful peace


rather a mighty inner river

that carries all outward circumstances before it

as if  they were driftwood


an inward peace in no way

affected by outward war

but quietly overcomes it

on life’s real battlefields:


              the soul of me

              the soul of you

              the soul of all humanity


Mick Friesen teaches high school English in Altona, Manitoba.  


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