Sword into Ploughshares: A World without War: 2014 Peace Sunday Packet
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. For this year’s Peace Sunday Packet, we have chosen to reflect on this anniversary in light of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God’s dream for a world where swords become ploughshares — a world without war.
Canada was drawn into the First World War in August 1914 as a colony of the British Empire. Over 600,000 Canadians served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Over 61,000 — one in 10 — were killed. Many thousands more were wounded physically and/ or psychologically. The war remains the bloodiest war in which Canada has ever participated. Indeed, the “war to end all wars” introduced slaughter and carnage on a scale the world had never before witnessed.
According to many people, the war became a defining moment in Canadian history. The “success” of Canadian soldiers on the battlefield — at Vimy Ridge, Ypres, and Passchendaele — ignited a sense of national pride and honour. To this day, historians, politicians, and others insist that the First World War made Canada a nation.
This was also the era when “nations became sacred and religions became nationalized.”Many Canadians regarded enlisting and fighting for their country as part of their Christian duty. Indeed, many Christian ministers urged their young men to sign up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, believing fervently that theirs was a holy war of good against evil and God was on their side. Canadian Mennonites and Brethren in Christ, as members of historic peace churches, saw things differently. They believed that, as followers of Jesus, they were called to love their enemies rather than kill them. Therefore they sought exemption from military service as conscientious objectors. As much as they loved Canada, their allegiance to Christ took priority over allegiance to country. Thankfully, Canada honoured their convictions (See Stories). One hundred years later, our nation commemorates the First World War and the contribution of all those Canadians who fought and died. Mennonites and Brethren in Christ do well to remember and mourn this tragic loss of life. But they also do well to remember all those who died or had their lives devastated by war — allies and enemies alike.
More importantly, on this anniversary, Mennonites and Brethren in Christ do well to remember who we are — members of peace churches, called to love our enemies, to refrain from war and violence, and to build peace. We are called to challenge the idea that war is inevitable or necessary. We are called to incarnate God’s dream — a world of swords turned to ploughshares, a world without war.
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