Readers write: February 27, 2023 issue

February 22, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 4
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Complexities of pacifism
Below are four responses to “Conscientious” (Jan. 30), which critiqued the Canadian government purchase of fighter jets.

Horrors in Ukraine
If countries do not stand up to dictators like Putin, Hitler, Mussolini and Napoleon, we would not have the freedoms we enjoy now.

Yes, we need the pacifists as well to promote peace, but what about the Mennonites in Ukraine dealing directly with the horrors of war? They need assistance with food, shelter and a safe place to live.

I think of my fiancée Olga, her mother Marie and her son fighting against the Russians. They need God’s peace and his love to survive, too. Prayer is an integral part of their survival.
—Greg Gerstenberger (Facebook comment)

How to make peace
Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) got its start as a response to Ron Sider’s challenging question: What would happen if 10,000 people were willing to place themselves between parties in conflict? I was a member of CPT for a number of years, serving in Canada and the U.S., and I doubt we ever even got close to 1 percent of Sider’s goal.

As for military peacekeeping, it almost sounds like an oxymoron. Canadian military personnel served in Korea as part of a peacekeeping effort in the 1950s. Many Canadian soldiers wore the blue berets in Cyprus, where they placed themselves between the two groups who seemed hell-bent on chasing each other off the island. Yes, the Canadians had guns and they protected themselves when necessary. But they avoided choosing sides.

That’s the rub—where do we find the willpower to stand, nonjudgmentally, between aggressors? Can we ask that of our military? Do we even need a military?

That last question is like asking if we need police in our communities. Of course we do because there are some “bad actors” out there.

So where does my rambling get us? Probably back at the beginning, with each of us struggling to figure out our own response to a very difficult question.
—John Finlay (online comment)

What if it were us?
As someone who was born and lived in a country that was attacked and bombarded by a Second World War despot—in some ways similar to Ukraine now—I have one question to ask: What would be the response of those whose comments were sought for the “Conscientious” article, as well as Mennonites at large, if it was not Ukraine being so criminally and horribly attacked, but we ourselves—our families and loved ones here in Canada? 
—Michael Newark, Wellesley, Ont. (online comment)

Economic benefits of planes
Officially, the Canadian government is buying the 88 F35 fighter jets for “defence.” However, the government also expects some benefits.

According to Public Services and Procurement Canada, this purchase will contribute more than $425 million to Canada’s gross domestic product annually, and close to 3,300 jobs annually. In other words, it is also a way of subsidizing our aviation industry.

I suspect these facts are a large part of the motive.
—J.G. (Jim) Suderman, Winnipeg


Article ‘wildly off-base’
From a position of privilege, existential urgency is often a luxury of abstraction. To refer to issues of social justice—which are matters of survival for some—as “boring” (“To set a soul aflame,” Jan. 30) reflects a startling disconnect.

In fairness, the neo-liberalism adopted by so many progressive churches of privilege often lacks the depth and nuance necessary to explore these realities beyond ideological concepts.

I have spent decades deeply engaged in communities of people living on the margins of society, of power and of the church. Their suffering is measurable on a clinical level, for which therapy has been a rarely accessible, yet desperately needed, salvation. And when God has been the weapon used to exact that suffering, the language of “sin, judgment, guilt . . . repentance, punishment, suffering, crucifixion, deliverance, salvation . . .” must be adapted.

I am not saying that there is not a conversation to be had. Rather, I am saying the diagnosis presented [in the article] is wildly off-base and will only perpetuate harm to the most vulnerable.

Instead, go to the margins, the communities of faith that were forged in the suffering of “social issues,” to the people whose identities were literally criminalized and demonized by church and state alike. You will find the fierce and fiery faith you are looking for.

But beware. The fire will cost you.
—Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Winnipeg (Little Flowers Community)

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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