What should we do?
I have watched with great interest the flight of Russian soldiers from Russia and Ukraine following Russian president Vladimir Putin’s conscription of men into the Russian army.
How reminiscent of what many American men did during the Vietnam War. Many of us were conscientious objectors, and we were afforded the path of alternative service in lieu of military service. And there were others who fled the United States and came to Canada, only later to be granted pardons for what was considered an illegal act.
But what about the hundreds of thousands of Russian men and soldiers who are fleeing the Russian regime today? Should we help them in whatever ways we can? Should we offer asylum or initiate monetary and logistical support?
This brings up the dilemma that, from time to time, has faced Mennonite men whenever conscription into the armed forces has confronted us. What should we do?
—Ken Reddig, Pinawa, Man.
‘On the vanguard of a growing movement’
Re: “Canadian Mennonite online event will explore Indigenous-settler reconciliation,” Sept. 19, page 14.
Thank you for the online discussion exploring Indigenous-settler reconciliation with Niigaan, Doyle and Allegra. While it had the ring of preaching to the choir, Niigaan put it into perspective. Few Mennonites are knowledgeable about the issue. Many have failed to internalize the issues involved enough to take concrete action.
I would add that not all Indigenous people are ready to engage in reconciliation with the settler population as well. The trauma, suspicion and psychological pain are still too raw to trust any overtures from settlers towards reconciliation. Niigaan encouraged those who have done the hard and risky work needed to create the conditions for reconciliation, saying they are on the vanguard of a growing movement.
As I listened to how Indigenous people are recovering their culture and identity, it occurred to me that Mennonites’ starting point for reconciliation is reconciling their settler privilege with their Anabaptist beliefs. This is a painful journey of self-examination, repentance and embrace of the practice demanded of people of the Jesus way, as essential for genuine Indigenous-settler reconciliation to grow from symbolic acts, such as land acknowledgements, to solidarity with Indigenous people experiencing cultural, social and economic revitalization that benefits all of society.
We take responsibility for the privileges we received as participants in Canada’s colonial project and immerse ourselves in God’s love and his particular concern for those who were born into the unjust circumstances of settler colonialism.
By listening to Indigenous voices, we become richer as we discover the face, body and spirit of the Creator and embrace our kinship with all of creation.
—Johann Funk (online comment)
I agree with Niigaan Sinclair that not enough or few (including myself) are as knowledgeable as we need to be regarding Indigenous settler issues. I mostly agree with Johann Funk's premise that "Mennonite's starting point for reconciliation is reconciling their settler privilege with their Anabaptist belief." I think that the reconciliation which needs to happen for Mennonites is one between a loving and just God, and a wayward people. Generally the word "apostasy" is used in reference to such a broken relationship. Mennonites have chosen the pursuit of empire over the justice requirements of their God, at the expense of Indigenous peoples. The relationship of Mennonites, Yahweh, and Indigenous peoples in Canada is a triad, a three-legged stool which cannot stand without any one component.
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