News and Views, Summer 2002
- Eyewitness reports from Israel and Palestine
- AGM: new members welcomed
- Unarmed peacemaking
- Suffering, memory and reconciliation
- Peace - the natural effect of trade?
And more ...
Daring to appear absurd
In the Gospel of Matthew, in chapter 17, the disciples ask Jesus why they were not able to heal a young boy tortured by a demon. Jesus responds bluntly that they lack faith and that this kind of evil can only be eradicated through prayer and fasting.
At a time when the situation in Israel and Palestine continues to deteriorate and the threat of a military campaign by the United States against Iraq is becoming more and more real, a number of members in the Church and Peace network in different parts of Europe have reacted by turning to this teaching of Jesus and spending several days in fasting and prayer for peace in the Middle East and in the world...
Such a respond may easily appear absurd given the enormity of the problem.
Readers of this issue of the newsletter might also be entitled to question the effectiveness of the activities reported about on the following pages: the number of people who participated in the peace pilgrimage in Israel and Palestine - mentioned already in the Spring 2002 issue of News and Views - was indeed very modest; very modest as well the trip of two Quakers to Israel and Palestine several days before the pilgrimage; and what could 40 demonstrators really accomplish at the large international arms fair Eurosatory? Seeking the path of reconciliation that wrestles with and goes beyond the necessary remembrance of suffering; peacemaking without weapons - this too is not the stuff of opinion polls, nor that which impresses people with its effectiveness.
Yet we need to recognize that the roots of the crisis our world is experiencing at the moment are of a spiritual nature, and this is why our response must also be of a spiritual nature. Men and women of faith are called today to “listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” and to respond, however modestly, in ways in which the Spirit leads. Certainly a visit to those caught in the stranglehold of war or a protest against the commerce of death is a modest gesture. And reporters certainly will not rush to interview those committed to fasting and prayer. All of these actions are an expression of a minority way of thinking, but they are neither absurd nor insignificant. We cannot measure their effect in the same way we can measure the destructive effect of a bomb. These actions are steps and signposts on the path of nonviolent resistance to evil. They are an expression of faith.
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
Walking with Peacemakers in Israel and Palestine
From a report by Margrit Kruber-Arnold
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the challenge of Christian peace witness in this context was the focal point during the opening session of the Church and Peace 2002 Annual General Meeting (AGM). Christian Renoux, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)/France (MIR France) executive secretary, shared about his experiences as a member of the April 8-15 ecumenical peace pilgrimage to the region organized jointly by Pax Christi International, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and Church and Peace (see News and Views, Spring 2002). Here Church and Peace individual member Margrit Kruber-Arnold summarizes Renoux’s report and feedback from members present at the AGM.
IFOR honorary president Hildegard Goss-Mayr initiated the peace pilgrimage project in response to an official invitation which Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Msgr. Michel Sabbah extended during a visit to peace groups in Israel and Palestine in August 2001. Concerned about the increasing marginalization of the nonviolent peace movement due to the intensifying spiral of violence, and the dwindling number of people courageous enough to travel to Israel, the organizers planned the pilgrimage as a sign of solidarity with all groups in the region working to protect human rights and overcome violence by peaceful means.
Shortly before the group’s departure, pilgrimage organizers reduced the number of participants from 30 to 5 after several larger delegations were turned back at the Tel Aviv airport by Israeli authorities. Sr. Minke de Vries, Hildegard Goss-Mayr and Christian Renoux, from Church and Peace corporate members Communauté de Grandchamp, IFOR and FOR/France respectively, took part as well as Fr. Paul Lansu (Pax Christi International) and Clemens Ronnefeldt (FOR/Germany).
The delegation’s dialogue partners included:
• Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Pax Christi International president
• Jeremy Milgrom, spokesman for Rabbis for Human Rights Israel
• Representatives of the Commission for Justice and Peace, Jerusalem
• Open House Center in Ramle near Tel Aviv
• Israeli Coalition against House Demolition, Jerusalem
• Representatives of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, including Women in Black
• Checkpoint Watch
• Peace Now/Schalom Achshav
• Representatives of both conflict resolution and reconciliation centers in Bethlehem: Palestinian Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation and Wi’am Center
• The Arab Educational Institute
• Caritas Jerusalem
• Library on Wheels
• Yesh Gwul (“There is a limit!”)
• Gush Shalom
Despite the tense situation in the region, delegates proceeded with the pilgrimage as planned. Only the visits to Galilee (Tiberias, Nazareth) and Bethlehem had to be canceled; however pilgrimage participants attempted to get as close as possible to the checkpoints and were able from Tantur to speak by telephone with those trapped inside. Renoux described the situation in his initial trip report: “The checkpoint was closed and a deathly silence reigned over the small city broken only by the sound of machine gun fire while an airship keeping watch on the besieged Church of the Nativity floated surreally through the sky.”
Renoux reported that the Israeli dialogue partners appeared tired, discouraged and at times despairing but that they continue to work for peace and reconciliation though as they themselves stated such work is extremely difficult during times of war. They were and continue to be grateful for visits, even from small delegations, and have high hopes of help from outside the country.
In their analysis of the situation the Israeli peace groups remarked that in the past the Israeli peace movement relied too much on Barak and did not put enough pressure on the government, for example through demonstrations, and that now they attempt to take a much clearer position, e.g. distancing themselves from Peres. Following its near extinction after the Oslo accords, the peace movement has revitalized, and there are new signs of hope: a new alliance of Israeli peace groups campaigning for two states with one (divided) capital. New peace groups have been formed which call for a stop to settlements and a withdrawal of troops. Some advocate sanctions against Israel. Some reservists are refusing to serve in the occupied territories, and women’s movements are getting involved. Despite outward difficulties a Palestinian group and Peace Now organized a nonviolent demonstration together.
Contacts with the Palestinian dialogue partners made clear current conditions and effects of life under the occupation: the decades-long occupation is maintained at the checkpoints by relatively young soldiers (20-30 years old); the population is cut off from the outside world and even from neighboring villages; the people are trapped in their houses, despairing and exhausted; some Israeli soldiers have plundered homes and businesses; the electricity has been shut off in some areas because there is no money to pay electric bills. Due to the communcation breakdown, contacts between nonviolence groups are difficult to maintain. A general climate of mistrust reigns, even towards the Israeli peace groups.
The dialogue partners - both Israeli and Palestinian - emphasized the importance of outside intervention and noted the following:
• Help from outside the region and support for local peacemaking efforts are needed to resolve the conflict.
• Many groups feel that intervention by UN peacekeeping troops may be necessary. An arms embargo and economic sanctions may also be unavoidable.
• Europe has an important role to play in counteracting the influence of the United States; Europeans should cooperate to a greater degree and intervene.
Following Renoux’s report C&P general secretary Marie-Noëlle von der Recke asked for reactions from the floor including suggestions of how the peace pilgrimage project might be continued in the future.
Ernst von der Recke, Laurentiuskonvent member and one of the original 30 delegates, told about the parallel fasting and prayer meeting held in Germany during the week of the pilgrimage and how this helped him to take a clear position without taking sides. He suggested C&P members consider committing themselves to times of fasting and prayer.
Bruno Bauchet, C&P chairperson, referred to a similar situation in Poland in 1982 and the importance of the presence of people from outside the country/region for the population there. He urged that members continue to work at building relationships with groups on-location and visit these groups even when the results of such visits are not readily apparent.
Markus Baum, German Methodist Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Group representative, warned those from outside the region against giving rash advice or making snap judgments. Instead the task of those from outside is to suffer with those who suffer, cry with those who cry and pray with those who pray and in this way to advocate for people in the region.
Pascal Keller, Centre Mennonite de Bruxelles representative, remarked that theological reflection could make an important contribution in dealing with the question of religious nationalism and suggested the C&P theology working group as a suitable tool.
The evening closed with a time of silence and a slide series showing places the peace pilgrims visited. Discussion and reflection on the topic continued throughout the weekend. AGM participants had the opportunity to learn more about work being done in the region by nonviolence groups through the film “Les colombes de l’ombre”. During the Sunday worship service C&P members present approved an appeal calling for prayer, times of fasting and support for peace service volunteers and organizations.
(See Middle East prayer and fasting appeal, News and Views Spring 2002 supplement, or contact the C&P International Office at the address given on page 2 for a copy. The appeal can also be viewed at the C&P Web site www.church-peace.ini.hu)
For more information:
www.rhr.israel.net - Rabbis for Human Rights
www.openhouse.org.il - The Open House Center
www.icahd.org - Israeli Coalition against House Demolition
www.coalitionofwomen4peace.org - Coalition of Women for a Just Peace
www.peacenow.org - Peace Now/Schalom Achshav
www.mideastweb.org/ccrr - Palestinian Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation
www.planet.edu/~alaslah - Wi’am Center
aei.tripod.com/aeicenter - The Arab Educational Institute
www.towardshumanity.org/towards/library.html - Library on Wheels
www.yesh-gvul.org - Yesh Gwul
www.gush-shalom.org - Gush Shalom
www.prairienet.org/cpt - Christian Peacemaker Teams
www.paxchristi.net - Pax Christi International
www.ifor.org - International Fellowship of Reconciliation
www.afsc.org/ispal/stmt/zaru.htm - “A Testimony of Suffering and Hope” by J. Zaru
“Hear What the Spirit Is Saying to the Churches!”
Church and Peace Annual General Meeting 2002
Encouraged by the words of a Mennonite World Conference Assembly hymn, Church and Peace delegates strove to discern the Spirit’s leading while attending to association business during the 2002 annual general meeting (AGM). Membership applications, personnel matters and financial concerns formed the core of the agenda for this year’s members’ gathering held at the Centre Alain de Boismenu in Miribel, France.
Expansion of the network
The 43 C&P members present or represented by proxy approved five applications for individual membership and one transfer of membership. Welcomed as new members were:
• Dutch Mennonite lay pastor Henk Akkerman from Utrecht, a member of the founding generation of C&P. Henk is a member of the Dutch Mennonite Peace Group (DVG) and active in environmental and refugee work administration.
• Swiss Mennonites Charles-André and Thérèse Broglie from Sonceboz. Charles-André and Thérèse are co-leaders of the Brügg Mennonite Church and are active in SMFK (Swiss Mennonite Peace Committee). Charles-André is a member of Mir romand (Francophone branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Switzerland). Both work in the field of education.
• German Protestant Margrit Kruber-Arnold from Wetzlar. Margrit accompanied general secretary Marie-Noëlle von der Recke on her trip to the Balkans in March 2002.
• Dutch Mennonite pastor Anne-Marie Visser from Amsterdam. Anne-Marie is an active DVG member and a Benedictine oblate (Egmond Abbey).
• German Quaker Mike Zipser from Kehl. Mike is a conscientious objector and former DMFK (German Mennonite Peace Committee) and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker.
In addition the AGM approved the transfer of membership from the Centre Alain de Boismenu, which will be closed in July, to its representatives Louis and Bernadette Joly.
Personnel challenges and transitions
Delegates devoted a significant amount of time to personnel matters. The Administrative Committee and International Office reports underlined the burden placed on staff by the continuing lack of a Germanic worker to maintain contacts in the region and assume office management tasks such as financial and personnel administration. Negotiations with the Rhineland Protestant Church resulted in the approval of financing for a “special ministries” pastor but no suitable candidates have been found. Further possibilities are to be explored including options with other German regional Protestant churches.
During her report for the Francophone region, coordinator Sylvie Gudin Poupaert announced her resignation effective end May. Work in the region has developed to the point that she is not able to manage coordination tasks with a halftime position. Sylvie indicated her desire to remain in contact with C&P. On behalf of Francophone members in particular Quaker Libby Perkins expressed gratitude for Sylvie’s work and involvement over the past 6 years as coordinator. Chair Bruno Bauchet and co-workers Marie-Noëlle von der Recke and Terri Miller presented Sylvie with a pitcher and towel as symbols of her time of service with C&P.
Bernadette and Louis Joly of the Centre Alain de Boismenu were named interim coordinators for the Francophone region. They will handle coordination tasks through October with a particular focus on planning the Francophone regional conference.
News from the network
Reports from the regions and the International Office mentioned a variety of networking efforts including preparations for regional conferences to be held in 2002, peace and nonviolence education work, visits, participation in meetings and seminars and regular correspondence. In addition several members and guests spoke about their activities or gave an update on their community. For a copy of any of the AGM reports or the minutes of the meeting, please contact the International Office.
In other business delegates:
• reviewed the positive financial report for 2001 and voted to release the Administrative Committee from liability. Treasurer Klaus Tschentscher credited C&P's financial survival in 2001 to grants received for the meetings in Elspeet and an overall increase in donations.
• approved the budget for 2002 which chair Bruno Bauchet called “an appeal to members to help find funds”.
• noted with regret a letter from the Communauté de Caulmont canceling their membership. Due to the small size of the community they are not able to remain as active members in the C&P network.
• moved to continue discussion concerning a proposal that C&P become a member of Eirene.
• suggested members use a peace declaration text introduced by Quaker Gordon Matthews as a working document and a tool for peace witness.
Church and Peace 2003 international conference
Planning is underway for Church and Peace’s next international conference! The meeting will be held on Thursday through Sunday, May 1-4, 2003, in Osijek, Croatia, and will focus on the call in Romans 14:19 to “pursue the things that make for peace”. The aim of the ecumenical conference is to empower Christian groups and individuals from across Europe in their witness for peace. The program will focus on the vision of a diverse Church committed to its peacemaking vocation.
Through its choice of Osijek as the conference location, C&P hopes to initiate new contacts and strengthen existing ones in southeastern Europe, building on the Balkans seminar and “Repairer of the Breach” international meeting held in 2001 in Elspeet in the Netherlands. Partners in Osijek include the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights and the Evangelical Theological Faculty. A more detailed program will be available later in the year.
Interview with with Clemens Ronnefeldt, Fellowship of Reconciliation/Germany
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke: Clemens, you took part in the pilgrimage in Israel and Palestine organized by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi International and Church and Peace. To what extent was the trip a “pilgrimage”?
Clemens Ronnefeldt: In the months before the trip many of us fasted each Friday in order to prepare ourselves spiritually and physically for the pilgrimage. Originally thirty people were to take part; because larger peace groups were being denied entry to the country, the decision was made to reduce the group to five people from five different countries. Some of the delegates who were not able to participate met at the Imshausen Community in Germany for several days to fast and pray. Those of us who traveled to Israel felt the support and solidarity of many people in different parts of the world.
In Israel we were accompanied by Dr. Wilhelm Bruners, a priest from the Aachen diocese and a knowledgeable and sensitive guide. Dr. Bruners took us to meet the peace groups as well as to see sites of biblical importance such as the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, and the Mount of Olives. There he emphasized how important it was for Jesus, as apocalyptic Messiah, to bring God’s message of salvation for all people and not only the Jews. Dr. Bruners read the story of Lazarus where a middle-aged man is raised from the dead by Jesus. The linen bands in which Lazarus was wrapped are a symbol of entanglement with death; Lazarus must free himself from these bond(age)s in order to be restored to life. These and similar images spoke to me during our time there, particularly because of their relevance to the current situation between Palestinians and Jews, also between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
M-N. von der Recke: Could you say something about the position of the churches in the region in regards to the conflict in the Middle East? What are relationships like between the churches?
C. Ronnefeldt: I was shocked by our visit to the Church of the Holy Grave on the second day of the pilgrimage: different Christian churches use this church as a memorial to Jesus’ death and resurrection; each church has its own space connected to the rooms used by the other churches. But because the church leaders have not been able to agree on who should be responsible for the key to the church, a King Solomon-like solution was arrived at already centuries ago: a Muslim family is entrusted with the key and loans it out to the different church leaders.
With this in mind the churches’ actions in the Middle East conflict are nothing short of a miracle. Church leaders have met together numerous times and released statements of consequence. Bishops set out together on the road from Jerusalem and Bethlehem to call for an end to the siege of the Church of the Nativity. They were stopped, though, at the Israeli checkpoint and literally left out in the cold.
The fact that Michel Sabbah was the first Palestinian to be named Latin patriarch of Jerusalem presents a particular challenge for relations between the Vatican and Israel. Several years ago Michel Sabbah was elected president of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi, which also presents a challenge for Pax Christi.
M-N. von der Recke: In appeals from Christian leaders a call to nonviolence can be discerned. Is this impression correct?
C. Ronnefeldt: Our discussions, with Michel Sabbath for example, confirmed this impression. Key demands are a two-state solution with Jerusalem as joint capital; an end to the occupation; a stop to Jewish settlements; and a just resolution of the refugee issue. If UN resolutions, which for more than 35 years have specified withdrawal of troops from the occupied territories, would be implemented and the Palestinian side could finally see a ray of hope, then the suicide bombings would stop. A solution can only be reached through a path of nonviolent negotiation; suicide bombings and shootings of Jewish settlers as well as the Israeli army’s war are dead ends which cannot lead to a resolution of the conflict.
M-N. von der Recke: Can you give some examples of how Christians in the region are involved in working for peace?
C. Ronnefeldt: Caritas in Jerusalem arranges humanitarian aid for the cities and villages in the occupied territories. Often the truck drivers put their lives at risk to deliver the aid, and thus pastors accompany them in order to provide a certain measure of security.
Elias Chacour, Palestinian and priest in the Greek-Catholic Church, has been working for several decades for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. For example, following a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv about 300 to 350 students at the school where he is director gave blood for Israelis injured in the bombing.
A good friend, who directed a children’s home in conjunction with Christian Peace Service in Switzerland and who is a member of Women in Black, joined the women’s group “Checkpoint Watch”. These women are observers at different military checkpoints and inform all Knesset members and various international human rights organizations of any human rights violations. Since they began their work, violence at the checkpoints under surveillance has decreased.
M-N. von der Recke: What about involvement of churches from outside the region? What are the reactions to the World Council of Churches’ accompaniment initiative?
C. Ronnefeldt: We heard very positive feedback about the work of Mennonites and Quakers who run summer camps in the United States which bring together Israeli and Palestinian youth. Friendships from these camps have proved to be very important as the conflict has escalated.
The WCC accompaniment program, which is to send international observers to Israel and Palestine beginning this summer for periods of three to twelve months, has been welcomed. Many peace groups on both sides of the conflict pin their hopes on international involvement in resolution of the conflict and in particular on increased involvement by Europeans.
M-N. von der Recke: Was the pilgrimage also a spiritual experience for you?
C. Ronnefeldt: Yes, definitely. Each day began with a time of meditation and worship in our rooms at the Austrian hospice in the Via Dolorosa. Often words and thoughts from these times of meditation resurfaced for me throughout the day. Being at places where Jesus taught about nonviolence, love for one’s enemy and the kingdom of God moved me deeply in light of the events in Jenin or Jerusalem where on the next to last day of our stay a woman blew herself up in the Jewish market and killed numerous Israelis. I know of no better guideline for resolving the conflict than the Sermon on the Mount.
I was very moved by our meetings with people such as Jeremy Milgrom from the group Rabbis for Human Rights who is an advocate for Bedouins and Palestinians whose land is confiscated in the expansion of Jewish settlements. I was also very impressed by our meeting with Jeff Harper from the Israeli Coalition against House Demolition whose Israeli and Palestinian members rebuild Palestinian houses destroyed by bulldozers for roads to Jewish settlements.
With their center “Open House” in Ramle near Tel Aviv, the Jewish couple Dalia and Yehezkel Landau and their Palestinian friend and Anglican priest Michel Fanous have created a meeting place for Christians, Jews and Muslims where they can express their suffering, pain and despair, have people stand with them in solidarity and find an empathetic ear. Both Israelis and Palestinians are in need of such places of inner healing and reconciliation.
Despite all the incomprehensible suffering which I observed and experienced during the trip, I returned home strengthened in spirit by our meetings with people such as these.
From a trip report by Gordon Matthews
In mid-March former Church and Peace executive secretary Gordon Matthews spent two weeks together with Swiss Quaker Hans Schuppli (former Jochgruppenhaus co-director) visiting Christians and Christian institutions in Israel and Palestine. Here Gordon reports about some of the people and places they encountered during their trip.
A particular aim of our trip was to visit the “living stones”, the Palestinian Christians who live amongst the historic sites of the “Holy Land”. The first stop on our journey was the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin in Gallilee northeast of Haifa. These institutions include schools and a college for Arabs living within Israel. Elias Chacour’s book “Blood Brothers” illustrates how he has built up these educational institutions from almost nothing. Chacour sees education as the key to creating a more just and peaceful future for Palestinians.
From Ibillin we went to Haifa, where we spent a couple of days in the House of Grace, which is now run by Kamil Shehade’s widow, Agnes. The House of Grace is a house of hospitality, especially for ex-prisoners - Muslims, Christians and Jews - who have nowhere else to go. The House of Grace employs five people including a legal adviser and a social worker and is formally under the auspices of the Melkite/Greek Catholic Church though it is a largely independent project. It is one of the few non-Jewish organisations whose work is recognised and valued by the (Jewish) city government.
We spent just a little more than a day in Bethlehem at the Bethlehem Bible College at a time when the town was occupied by the Israeli military. At the top of the road there was a tank. Across the road there is a refugee camp. On the other side of the Bible College we looked out towards the neighbouring town of Beit Jala and the Jewish hilltop settlement of Gilo. Palestinian snipers in Beit Jala have frequently provoked retribution in the form of shelling from Gilo. We often heard shooting, but the scariest moment for us came as we were leaving Bethlehem. Shooting and the shouted instructions of a soldier in the tank persuaded us to turn back and to get a taxi instead of walking to the checkpoint. So we got some sense of what it can be like to live under occupation.
Our next destination was Ramallah, but we were turned away at the checkpoint at Qalandiya along with everyone else; only a TV crew was allowed through. The Israeli troops had withdrawn from Ramallah only the day before. Two days later we tried again and this time were waved through without delay by a friendly Israeli soldier. In Ramallah we stayed at the Evangelical (Anglican) Home and School, which is run by a former volunteer from Switzerland, Vreni Wittwer. The 560 pupils in the school are 75% Christian and 25% Moslem. Life in a city which is often either under occupation or subject to bombardment takes its toll on the children, many of whom have behavioural problems or at least have difficulty concentrating.
Colin South, the director of the Friends Schools in Ramallah, showed us round the two schools. A couple of pupils showed us bullet holes in one of the school gates. The pupils are mainly Moslem. Many pupils go on to university, either at Bir Zeit (near Ramallah) or in Europe or America. Colin South is concerned that the schools should also serve the community as a whole. I was particularly impressed by an ambitious project to establish a botanical garden with a café and visitors’ centre on land belonging to the schools.
Before returning home we spent another night in Jerusalem. I took the opportunity to visit the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, which serves a network of Palestinian Christians who are working for peace and justice by nonviolent means. Palestinians in both Israel and the Occupied Territories work especially with women and youth with the aim of empowering people. The centre’s five-page “Jerusalem Sabeel Document” containing “Principles for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel” is well worth reading (see their Web site www.sabeel.org). Also, there is a network of Friends of Sabeel in several European countries.
After this trip I am convinced that the vast majority of Palestinians want only to be allowed to live at peace in their own homeland. Their chances of doing that are sabotaged by every suicide bombing which inevitably provokes merciless retribution from the Israeli military. We may feel that there is little that we can do, but I do believe that we should begin by praying for a just peace in Israel/Palestine and that ways will then open to us as to how we can support both Israelis and Palestinians who are working for peace and justice.
Suffering, Memory and Reconciliation
Janna F. Postma
Though a Mennonite seminary, the Bienenberg has expanded to become a forum for peace churches and peace church-oriented groups and communities. For this reason it was quite natural that many Church and Peace members were among the 75 participants from different churches across Europe who gathered at the Bienenberg on 7-9 June 2002 for a symposium with Dr. Miroslav Volf on the topic of suffering, memory and reconciliation.
Guests from Germany, Bosnia, Serbia and Rwanda spoke about their struggles to not lose hope and to love their enemies in situations of violence and injustice. Sharing their stories were Eckbert Driedger, a Mennonite who 57 years ago had to flee Poland; Ivo Markovic, a Franciscan from the Serbian republic in Bosnia; and Jasmina Tosic and Marijana Ajzenkol from Serbia. Joséphine Ntithinyuzwa from Rwanda, currently living in Alsace, was to have participated as well but was treated quite roughly at the Swiss border and sent back to France for not having the right papers. Sylvie Gudin Poupaert spoke on her behalf. Worship was interwoven with the reports and served to form a bond among the participants. As the feeling of unity grew, many of those present requested a Communion service.
The central question for the weekend was: “How do we deal with memories of evil suffered and perpetrated?” Volf opened exploration of the topic by sharing about his experiences when he refused to bear arms during his time of service in the Croatian army. There was no war going on, but he was still subjected to emotional abuse and kept under close surveillance. Volf taught theology and ethics from 1979 to 1991 at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Osijek, Croatia. In 1991 he followed a call to go to California and since 1998 has taught theology at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. In sharing his own experiences with us, Volf made clear how existential the question of evil is.
The question of memory in the current era
In society today there is cultural agreement with regards to the necessity of remembering horrendous evil; the Holocaust has played a major role in shaping this attitude. The “cultural prophet” Elie Wiesel was probably the strongest proponent of the need to not forget. The trend towards fast-paced lifestyles and short memories appears to underline the need for remembering. Memory is also important in determining our identity: we describe who we are by the stories we tell about ourselves. In this way memory enriches our lives because it recalls our past joys and suffering. What is most important about memory is that it at the very least gives victims of injustice a voice and in many cases can further justice, and that it guards against a repetition of the past.
Four rules of remembering
It becomes clear, however, that memory can also be used as a weapon. The shield can quickly turn into a sword. Therefore we need to seek helpful and reconciling ways in which we can go about remembering. Here Volf suggests four rules:
• Remember as truthfully as possible.
• Remember so as to shape and heal your identity.
• Remember so as to learn from the past. Memory helps us to understand and manage the present. (However, this is where the act of remembering can be abused, for example the way in which Milosevic and his followers were able to get Serbs to equate today’s Croats with yesterday’s Croats, in so far as they collaborated with the Nazis. And this is not the only example of how yesterday’s victims became today’s wrongdoers.)
• Remember in a redeeming way.
A biblical framework for redemptive memory
Redemptive memory takes place through the retelling of the Exodus story. The story is told, ritual is performed again through the Passover Seder and integral to the rite is the commandment to remember: Remember that you were an alien and a slave and let this determine how you treat other people! Remember the enemy as well who crushed the weak and show them no mercy! Remember that God was involved in your liberation and remember what God has done.
For those of us who follow Jesus the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a further ritual of remembrance. Jesus lived and died not only for his friends but for his enemies as well. God raised him from the dead and vindicated him. When we break bread and drink the cup, we are a part of his kingdom. In remembering Christ’s death in solidarity with all who suffer and for all humanity, we are called to liberate the oppressed and love our enemies. Jesus’ followers anticipate the reconciled community of former enemies, the ultimate redemption of humanity.
Wrestling with forgetting
But how does Volf attempt to make the connection between the end times, the reconciled community and dealing with evil today? Under no circumstances does he want to condone the idea that one may now simply “forgive and forget”. These two words can scarcely be associated in the same way today as previously. Volf looks to various authors such as Dante, Nietzsche, Freud and Kierkegaard for insights on forgetting; in this way he attempts to identify positive uses of forgetting, or nonremembrance.
Forgiveness, judgment, reconciliation
Volf summarizes Kierkegaard’s thought: love hides a multitude of sins but the act of forgiveness itself must be forgotten as well by both the forgiven one and the forgiver, so that they can continue to hold their heads high. But what about justice? Even if “mercy before law” has conquered evil, one still has to pass through the gateway to reconciliation: the Last Judgment. This is a social event; it happens not simply to the key actors but also to people indirectly involved. Only when all evil has been revealed, all sinners have been judged and all victims have experienced justice can all people embrace each other and enter the new world and meet God face to face.
Redemption of people rather than redemption of their experiences
Volf criticizes the current notion of redemption that our whole life, our whole past, must be integrated into a meaningful unity. He says that this is not possible and refers to oral testimonies from Holocaust survivors. Experiences such as the Holocaust stubbornly refuse to be integrated into a larger narrative of meaningful life. Redemption from such horror is only conceivable through redemption of people, not through redemption of their experiences or giving meaning to events remembered.
The cross, resurrection, redemption and victory
And so Volf comes to Luther’s understanding of redemption: Out of love Jesus dares to descend into hell in order to save all people! Not all suffering is meaningless; suffering taken upon oneself for the sake of others is meaningful. But even this is not a hard and fast rule. The question of the eternalness of the cross is also raised: the resurrected one only bears the marks of the crucifixion as long as his redeeming work is necessary. Death is swallowed up in victory...but when will this occur? Muttering can be heard among the symposium participants: “Isn’t this just pure speculation? How are we to find a way to persevere, to live out in the here and now the love for the enemy that we heard about in the testimonies earlier?”
Choosing a world of love rather than memory
At the end of his last presentation Volf comes back to the human capacity to forget. But is it not immoral to forget? In reply Volf asks: should we remember all misdeeds, including our own, which could appear negligible when compared to the most serious criminal acts? Would justice be served then? We can imagine a new world in which each person remembers his or her own misdeeds and those of others. This world would certainly not be the world of happiness which is preordained for us by God. Rather non-remembrance is grace.
In his conclusion Volf dares to contradict Elie Wiesel. Volf quotes Wiesel’s well-known prayer from 1995: “Oh, they [the survivors] do not forgive the killers and their accomplices, nor should they. Nor should you, Master of the Universe. (...) As long as a spark of the flames of Auschwitz and Treblinka glows in their memory, so long will my joy be incomplete.”1
Volf, however, argues: “To keep faith with the victims, Wiesel has chosen memory over heaven. I think we should chose heaven over memory, a world of love populated by reconciled victims and perpetrators.”
1. “A Prayer for the Days of Awe”, New York Times. 10 February 1997
Regional conference at Shallowford House
Gerald Drewett & Anne Marshall
About 40 people gathered in the countryside of the English Midlands on 14-16 June 2002 for a conference entitled “Peacemaking, Armed only with God’s Love”. The Church and Peace Britain & Ireland Committee organized the meeting jointly with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, a member of Church and Peace.
The weekend began with a theological introduction on Friday evening by John Johansen-Berg, International Director of the Community for Reconciliation near Birmingham. Johansen-Berg traced the biblical basis of the Judean commitment to peace and linked this to some current conflict situations such as Rwanda and Israel/ Palestine.
Saturday sessions focused on practical involvement for peace. David Cockburn talked of his work as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron. In a subsequent talkshop Cockburn dealt with how CPT members had to cope with accusations of anti-Semitism on account of working for justice for Palestinians.
Further examples of unarmed peacework were given by Catholic minister Martin Newell who spoke about his Plough-shares 2000 action in decommissioning a vehicle carrying nuclear warheads and Tony Kempster who presented the publication War Prevention Works, 50 stories of people resolving conflict. Participants also had the opportunity to hear about a study by Peaceworkers UK on setting up a civilian peace service in the United Kingdom.
In conclusion participants spoke about the work each one is involved in and shared concerns and requests. All in all it was a very challenging weekend with wonderful fellowship and Anglican, Quaker and ecumenical worship.
Peace - the natural effect of trade?
Commentary on Eurosatory by Benoît Huygue for CANVA
Montesquieu wrote: “Peace is the natural effect of trade.”1 A rather optimistic reflection already in that day and one which today does not take into account the arms trade. But today as in the past the discrete and busy arms traders do not want too much publicity, and in this way they are able to make people forget to take them into account.
Nevertheless exist they do as is illustrated by Eurosatory, a trade fair after the fashion of agricultural exhibitions, and the largest market of death in Europe. During this exhibition every other year, juicy contracts are negotiated far away from prying eyes. The most recent Eurosatory took place in Villepinte, France, on 17-21 June 2002: 800 exhibits, 95 official delegations. It is a known fact that the five countries which make up the United Nations (In)Security Council are responsible for 80% of all arms sales worldwide. Ethical considerations do not carry much weight when financial profit is at stake.
Our western democracies, zombie-like and amnesiac, arm dictatorships. When a terrorist attack kills ten French in Pakistan, it comes out in passing that they were working to construct a submarine for a military regime possessing nuclear weapons. France armed Iraq in the 1980s only to sorely rue this later. What are the next bloody future(s) the henchmen trod towards on the red carpets of this Euro-satory?
We were forty in the face of this Goliath. Not a large number, but sometimes only a grain of sand is needed to jam the wheels of the machine. And the most-feared enemy of arms traders - nocturnal creatures that they are - is the light shed on their commerce. Thus we distributed fliers in Paris to inform passersby, many of whom were enraged to learn of what was being plotted without their knowledge.
However, our public-spiritedness as active and concerned citizens was not to the liking of the forces of order. Transported through Paris in a French state security force vehicle with wailing siren, our day ended with a visit to the police station for an identity check. The law was put in service to the law of profit - profit in this case being profit at any price since there can be no doubt that the arms sales of today produce the massacres of tomorrow. If you sow arms, you will harvest war. In the silence of muffled fairs, civilized and amiable human beings continue their trade in arms, but their smiles are those of profiteers of wars to come.
“Being unable to make what is just strong, we have made what is strong just.”2
Members of the coalition “Lâche ton arme”, comprised of CANVA (coordination group for nonviolent action by the Community of the Ark of Lanza del Vasto), French and European Quakers, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Réseaux Espérance, held demonstrations during two days of the Eurosatory arms fair.
1. Montesquieu, Charles de. The Spirit of Laws, Book XX: “Of Laws in Relation to Commerce, Considered in its Nature and Distinctions”, Chapter 2: “Of the Spirit of Commerce”.
2. Pascal, Blaise. Thoughts, Section V: “Justice and the Reason of Effects”, 298.
News from the Network
• C&P theology working group meets
The Church and Peace theology working group met for the second time on June 6-7 at the Bienenberg in Switzerland. Seven people took part in the meeting which was devoted to redefinition of the group’s working methods, delegation of tasks within the group and theological reflection on theses formulated by Dietrich Fischinger on terrorism and the question of loving the enemy in this context. The next meeting will be held at the Thomashof retreat center on 17-18 October directly preceding the C&P Germanic regional conference. Persons interested in participating regularly in this group - German is the current working language - are asked to contact the C&P International Office.
• New C&P Francophone coordinators
Louis and Bernadette Joly have been named interim coordinators for the C&P Francophone region. They will manage regional tasks through the end of October 2002. New Francophone office address: 5, rue du Mont Verdun; F-69140 Rillieux la Pape; Tel/Fax: +33 4 78 88 87 25; Email: [email protected]
• C&P regional conferences
Germanic: “Overcoming Evil with Good - Methods and Models of Conflict Transformation”, 18-20 October 2002 at Thomashof near Karlsruhe, Germany. Contact C&P International Office.
Francophone: “Globalized Violence and Globalization of Peace”, 25-27 October 2002, Abbaye des Dombes, Communauté du Chemin Neuf near Lyons, France. Contact Louis Joly (see address above).
• War Resisters League honors Christian Peacemaker Teams
On June 7, 2002, the War Resisters League presented its 40th Annual Peace Award to Christian Peacemaker Teams for its violence-reduction work around the world. The War Resisters League applauded CPT’s boldness and commitment in “going in peace where others move with armed guards” and in risking to live love rather than just speaking about it. Longtime anti-war activist David McReynolds held up the compassion that CPT has shown to both Israelis and Palestinians in their work in the West Bank as especially noteworthy. CPTnet
• International Day of Peace Vigil
An international group of lay persons and organizations representing a wide variety of religious and spiritual tradi-tions is urging participation in a vigil in conjunction with the United Nations’ designated International Day of Peace on September 21. The objec-tive of the International Day of Peace Vigil is “to encourage the observation of a world-wide, 24-hour vigil for peace and nonviolence on the International Day of Peace in every house of worship and place of spiritual practice by all religious and spiritually based groups and individuals. The vigil is meant to demonstrate the power of prayer and other spiritual observations in promoting peace and preventing violent conflict. For more information, visit www.idpvigil.com. On Earth Peace, Peace Witness Action List
• New FWCC-EMES executive secretary
C&P member the Europe and Middle East Section of Friends World Committee for Consultation has a new executive secretary. Bronwyn Harwood (Britain Yearly Meeting-BYM) took over the position from Tony Fitt in mid-April. She has been a member of the Religious Society of Friends since 1989, was on the BYM Quaker Social Responsibility and Education Committee (now Quaker Peace and Social Witness) and is a founding member of Quaker Voluntary Action. She can be reached at 1 Cluny Terrace, Edinburgh EH10 4SW, UK, Tel: +44 (0)131 447 6569, Email: [email protected]
• LMC appoints new director
Canadian Mennonite Vic Thiessen has been appointed director of C&P member the London Mennonite Centre (LMC). He will replace Mark and Mary Thiessen Nation. Vic and his wife Kathy are former Mennonite Central Committee volunteers and have experience in various areas including mediation, advocacy and work with at-risk families. Thiessens will join the LMC in August.
• MCC Europe director named DOV coordinator
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Europe director Hansulrich Gerber has been named coordinator for the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Plans are for Gerber, a Mennonite pastor from Switzerland, to begin his work with the WCC at the end of September. Gerber has served with MCC Europe for 10 years.
• FOR/France publication focuses on hope in Israel-Palestine
“Israéliens et Palestiniens, frères de paix”, the most recent number in Fellowship of Reconciliation/France’s publication series Cahier de la Reconciliation, features voices of peace from Israel and Palestine. The French-language pamphlet covers a variety of topics - the recent peace pilgrimage to the region, the ambi-guity of the Oslo peace agreements, nonviolence movements in the region, the question of land, “refuseniks”, the role of Christians - and contains meditation texts. Contact MIR France, 68, rue de Babylone, F-75007 Paris, Tel: +33 1 47 53 84 05, Email: [email protected]