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Principles of Peace gain broader recognition

   
 


Peace message billboard sample.

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October 16, 2009
-Deborah Froese

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — What if peace were held as the organizing principle for society? What if non-violent conflict resolution, rather than defence and offence, shaped national and international strategies for peace? What if military “boot camp” for soldiers focussed on intensive training in violence prevention, mediation, and reconciliation instead of physical prowess, aggression and weaponry?

Mennonite Church Canada is taking an active role in promoting a culture of peace, including non-violent conflict resolution, within Canada and abroad. A Private Members Bill tabled in the Canadian House of Commons on Sept. 30, 2009 (Bill C-447) calls for the creation of a Canadian Department of Peace, headed by a Cabinet-level minister. This, in part, results from efforts of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI), a grassroots organization with whom Mennonite Church Canada has partnered in this initiative.

Under the concept of peace as an organizing principle in society, the mission of the Department lists a myriad of actions and principles ranging from non-military peace-making to the development of human potential and the promotion of justice, and the development of a peace-keeping, peace building and peace-making Canadian civil peace service.

Tabled by MP Bill Siksay (Douglas-Burnaby) and seconded by the MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt), Bill C-447 447describes the intended department’s work as that which is “dedicated to peace-building and the study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace.”

“It is a long, long way from being passed in the House of Commons,” says Janet Plenert, Executive Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Christian Witness – though she is encouraged by the bill. “We know from the experience of the Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation bill that such a bill will likely need to be reintroduced multiple times over many years.”

Despite her pragmatic view of Bill C-447’s potential in its current form, Plenert is hopeful that it will initiate ongoing discussions about peace as a viable alternative to war and a fundamental approach to societal behaviour and response. She says that a strong and vocal grassroots movement supporting the principles of the bill will give it more weight and increase the potential for future implementation.

Bill C-447 arrives at a time when Mennonite Church Canada is taking deliberate steps to bring concepts of non-violent peace into the public arena. Over the past year-and-a-half, General Secretary Robert J. Suderman has addressed the Canadian Council of Churches twice on the topic of “Peace in the Public Square” to favourable response. Delegates to Mennonite Church Canada’s Annual Assembly in June 2009 voted to support a proposal of the same name, which encourages congregations across the country to share the message on a larger, more public scale.

In response to that vote, Mennonite Church Alberta is poised to offer messages of peace on billboards and Light Rapid Transit posters beginning in mid-November 2009. Other tools of communication suggested by Mennonite Church Canada include writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, engagement in Remembrance Day activities that communicate peace as a viable alternative to war, and supporting conscientious objection to military taxation (www.consciencecanada.ca).

“If each congregation initiates one act of peace in the public square over the next four years,” says Suderman, “we will have 1,000 acts of peace.”

Additionally, a new Mennonite Church Canada web site to share ideas and news about making biblical peace a reality is under development.

CDPI is a member of the global movement known as Global Alliance for Department of Peace/Ministries for Peace, with citizen groups in 40 countries, including the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, India, Israel and Palestine who are seeking Peace Ministries. In recent years Nepal, Soloman Islands and Costa Rica have established Peace Departments. Mennonite Church Canada and CDPI hope to see Canada, with its rich peacekeeping tradition, follow in their footsteps.

For more information on Peace in the Public Square, search www.mennonitechurch.ca