And No One Shall Make Them Afraid

A Mennonite Statement and Study on Violence

 

I.  Introduction

            Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  However, violence, the threat of violence, and the fear of violence permeate life in North America, often robbing us of this abundant life.  Violence is also pervasive in our world.  Perpetrated by individuals, groups, social systems, and governments, it leaves countless victims around the globe.

                As Mennonites in Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico, we have been affected by this violence.  While we affirm a commitment to peace and nonviolence, we have frequently tolerated and even benefited from some forms of violence.  We have wrongly accepted, at least in part, what theologian Walter Wink has called the “myth of redemptive violence,” the belief that good ends can come from violent means, and that some violence is necessary to solve problems, to ensure security, and to make peace.

                The scope of this statement, while broad in some respects, is limited in several ways.  The terms violent and violence refer only to violence perpetrated by human beings, human institutions, and human social structures, which harms human beings.  The statement makes no attempt to address acts of God or human violence that harms animals or other parts of God’s creation.  While these are important issues, they are beyond the scope of this statement.

                For the purpose of this statement, violence is defined as the human exercise of physical, emotional, social, or technological power which results in injury or harm to oneself or others.  The perpetrators of violence often exploit an imbalance of power to dominate, control, or use others.  The various kinds of violence form a continuum.  At one end are acts of physical violence, rape, incest, and sexual abuse, which result in serous psychological damage, severe bodily injury, and/or death.  At the other end are acts of intimidation, threats, and emotional and verbal abuse, which result in fear and the destruction of personhood. 

Any form of human violence, wherever it might appear on the continuum, is an expression of evil.  Violence was present in the first human family.  Since then, the spirits of revenge, greed, and domination, along with unresolved anger, have multiplied violence many times.  Violence alienates us from God and from each other, and the fear of violence is a prison in which our very souls shrivel.

All violence is fundamentally incompatible with the reign of Jesus Christ in God’s kingdom of love.  Therefore, as followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we must directly confront the reality of violence in and around us.  Jesus calls us not to resist evil with violence and to forgive rather than to seek revenge.  We want to find ways to reject all forms of violence in our relationships and endeavors, and to increase our efforts to live out the nonviolent way of Jesus.

This statement seeks to name the violence in ourselves, our church, and our society.  It identifies way sin which the church is responding to this violence and suggests additional ways for us to respond as peacemakers and children of God.

 

II.  Biblical and Theological Foundations

                One of the most basic issues of the Bible is how one deals with evil, and with violence in particular.  In Spite of some Old Testament Scriptures where certain kinds of violence were used, the basic direction of both the Old and New Testaments is toward peacemaking, which includes nonretaliation, reconciliation, and mutuality.

                God’s intention for a peaceful world has been present since creation.  Genesis 1 describes the creation of humankind, male and female, in God’s own image.  Both the woman and the man were blessed and given the command to fill the earth and subdue it.  Both were given dominion over the rest of creation, but neither was given dominion over the other.  This peaceful creation was marred by sin.  The rule of man over woman is one of the consequences of sin (Gen. 3:16).  This pattern of domination continues with Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and with Lamech’s song of revenge (Gen. 4).  Then “the earth was filled with violence.”  This is one of the reasons given for the great flood in the time of Noah (Gen. 6:11).

                One of the purposes of the Law (Torah) was to restrain violence and to provide penalties for violent behavior (including murder, rape, assault, and theft) within Israelite society.  In the Prophets and Writings, violence is associated with man kinds of sin, including human bloodshed (Hab 2:8), kidnapping (Hab. 1:9), injustice and unrighteousness (Isa. 59:6), planning evil things and stirring up wars (Ps. 140:1-2), wars of ruler against ruler (Jer. 51:46), eviction of people from their land (Ezek. 45:9), and robbery (Amos 3:10).  For Isaiah, violence is the opposite of peace, justice, salvation, and the praise of God (Isa. 59:6-8; 60:17-18).  According to the Old Testament, the source of violence is not only the human heart, but the “gods,” the spiritual powers that act contrary to the ways of the true God (Ps. 58:1-2).

                War, as an act of mass violence of one nation against another although sometimes sanctioned in the Old Testament, is restricted by God to old-fashioned weaponry (Isa. 31:1), to small armies (Judg. 7), and to dependence on God for victory (Judg. 7:2; Ps. 20:6-7).  The books of the Law, as well as the later Prophets, hold up as the ideal battle the crossing of the sea in the Exodus, when God fought for Israel, and Israel had no weapons (Exod. 14:13-14).

                The Psalms, as well as other passages, expect that God will save people not only from the sins they commit, but also from violence committed against them (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:48; 140:1).  One of the ways that God will take care of the violent and the wicked is to let their own violence turn back upon themselves (Ps. 7:16; 37:12-15; Prov. 21:7).  God also brings salvation through surprising acts of deliverance: making a way through the Red Sea, or routing the enemy with floods and swarms of hornets (Exod. 14-15; Judg. 5:21; Josh. 24:12).

                The Prophets look forward to the day when violence will be no more, when even the wolf, lion, and lamb will be at peace with one another (Isa. 65:25).  In the age to come, people will trust in God alone and “no one shall make them afraid” (Zeph. 3:12-13).

                In the New Testament, Jesus suffers violence, but does not commit violence.  Although Jesus at times chose to avoid suffering (Luke 4:28-30), he accepted suffering when his hour had come.  Jesus told his followers not to use violence to prevent him from being arrested (Matt. 26:52; John 18:36), thus rejecting the use of violence for self-defense.  He suffered crucifixion, but god overcame the violence by raising Jesus from the dead.

                Jesus taught his disciples not only to avoid committing violence, but actively to love their enemies (Matt. 5:43ff.); not only to avoid murder or insult, but to be reconciled with the brother or sister (Matt. 5:21ff.); not only to avoid adultery or rape, but to refrain from looking on each other with lust (Matt. 5:27ff.).  Instead, Jesus’ followers are to respond to enemies with surprising acts of mercy and nonviolence – going the second mile, for example (Matt. 5:38-42).

                As Jesus had forewarned them, the early disciples experienced persecution, imprisonment, banishment, beating, and execution.  The apostle Paul was an intended victim of mob violence (Acts 21:35-36).  Far from complaining about his imprisonment, Paul rejoiced no matter what his situation and considered that he and others like him were completing the sufferings of Christ, participating in Christ (Col. 1:24).  Paul assumed that believers would no longer participate in such sin as murder and strife (Rom. 1:29-31).  The general prohibitions against violence also appear in the qualifications for a bishop (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7).  The writings of the early church reinforce Jesus’ teaching against retaliation and violence: “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9); “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19, 21).  In the early centuries of the church, these teachings applied not only to personal morality; they informed those Christians who refused to participate in the army and its organized violence.

                The examples of Jesus and the early church can give us guidance in not intending violence against others.  Likewise, they show us how to deal with others’ violence against us.  We believe the following about violence and suffering:

1.  God’s wrath sometimes allows sin to boomerang against the sinner, but God’s central attribute is love.  God may turn suffering to our good or use it to teach us, but God does not desire that anyone suffer.  In Jesus’ healing ministry, he worked actively to relieve suffering.  The powers of violence are active in the world and, in this age, sometimes thwart God’s will.  Only in the age to come, when Christ’s victory over the powers (by means of the “sword of his mouth,” that is, the Word) is apparent to all, will violence be completely overcome.

2.  No violence committed against us, or those we love, justifies our committing violence in return.  When we are sinned against, we become more vulnerable to the temptation to sin in return.  But violence does not overcome violence; it only turns us also into violent people.  There is no way to peace and nonviolence, except through peaceful, nonviolent means.

3.  No suffering, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Cor. 4:8-10).  God, whose own Son suffered and was killed, is with all those who suffer and call on God for help and comfort.  No violent act committed against us can remove us from relationship with God.  God’s invitation “Do not be afraid” echoes through the Old and New Testaments.  God helps us overcome our fears when we put ourselves completely into the hands of a loving God.

4.  The process of forgiveness is the way to get through suffering.  Forgiveness, in contrast to reconciliation, does not require the perpetrator’s repentance.  Instead, forgiveness is a process we go through in the power of the Holy Spirit to release and to begin loving the offender or enemy rather than harboring anger.  Forgiveness is a choice not to become what we hate.

5.  When we choose the way of loving enemies, rather than violence, we are becoming transformed into the image of Christ, who is the image of God.  Romans 5:10 affirms that the character of God is one of love for us; even when we were God’s enemies, Christ died for us.  And Matthew 5:38-48 explains that it is precisely when we are loving enemies that we are acting as God acts.  Our love may also open the way for God to transform enemies and situations of violence.

Thus, Christians are not to commit acts of violence nor to respond violently to enemies. Beyond this, Christians are called to be channels of God’s peace and to help reconcile others who are committing violence against each other.  Christ calls us not only to be gentle or nonviolent, but to be peacemakers, active workers for peace, inviting others to turn to Christ’s way of love (Matt. 5:5, 9).

We affirm, with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, that “violence is not the will of God.  We witness against all forms of violence, including war among nations, hostility among races and classes, abuse of children and women, violence between men and women, abortion, and capital punishment.”[1]

 

III. Violence and Our Life Experiences

                Violence is pervasive in many areas of life.  In the following sections, violence and the church’s response to it will be explored in five ever-widening circles of life experience, from individual to global.  Each section includes calls for specific action.  Even though no one person or congregation will be able to do all these things at one time, we must remember that silence and inaction can perpetuate violence.  We call the church to consider prayerfully how it will respond.

 

                A.  Violence Against Oneself.  Jesus invites each person to enjoy wholeness.  Resources to foster wholeness are available through the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and the church.  However, instead of accepting this gift from God, we often commit violence against ourselves.

                Suicide and attempted suicide are the ultimate violence against the self, but suicide leaves many other victims – family, friends, even whole congregations.  Understandings gained from our mental health ministries are leading us into greater openness and helpfulness in these tragedies.  As we practice compassionate care and listening, we can displace secrecy, fear, and condemnation, and we can provide safe places to grieve, talk, and struggle with difficult questions.

                Another form of violence against self is violence for “kicks” – reckless risk-taking to prove oneself, demand respect, or achieve a high.  Such recklessness can be manifested in many ways.

                An additional, more subtle form of violence against self, abortion, not only ends the life of the unborn but violates the woman who has chosen it, or who has had this decision forced upon her.  She will very likely feel she has lost a part of herself and will need to grieve the irreversible decision she has made.  This can be a life-wrenching experience for the woman, sometimes for the father of the unborn, and others close to them.

                There are numerous other forms of violence against the self, including substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-mutilation.  Not all of these forms can be addressed here.

                Self-destructive patterns often develop without any awareness of the harmful consequences to self and others.  Such behaviors may result from individualism and selfish choices, from fear or unresolved anger, or from other interacting factors such as mental illness, trauma, major losses, or inadequate economic, emotional, or spiritual support.  Often the self-destructive person has been the victim of another’s violence.  Part of the enslaving nature of evil is the cyclical pattern of violence in which victims become violators- becoming what they hate, and sometimes hating themselves, too.

                In response to violence against oneself, we call the church to:

-          Counsel, nurture, and lead people away from behaving violently against themselves.

-          Build each other up with affirmation, encouragement, and prayer.

-          Help people learn to process anger and rage in healthy ways

-          Become better informed about depression, its early symptoms, and evaluation of suicide risk factors.

-          Encourage people to choose constructive, life-enhancing behavior rather than self-destructive behavior and harmful addictions.

-          Respond with compassion to all those hurt by abortion, seeking to help them in their journey of healing.

-          Be instruments of God’s grace for forgiveness and healing, acknowledging that violence against the self, while contrary to the will of God, is also within the range of God’s redemptive work.

-          Uphold the value of, and cherish, every human life.

 

B.      Violence in Close Relationships.  As humans, we need close relationships.  In our families

and friendships, we love and care for one another, nurture children, and experience God’s love.  Yet, in these close relationships, many people experience intense personal violence.

                Violence in close relationships takes many forms.  It can be physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological.  Most commonly it is perpetrated by men against women and children.  However, some women also use violence against their partners and/or their children, some juveniles abuse their parents, and some adults abuse elderly parents.

                Research reveals that spousal abuse occurs in more than one quarter of marriages in the United States and Canada, and that almost all of the victims are women.[2]  Research also reveals that the incidence of family violence may be as high in Mennonite homes as in the general population.[3]  We confess that, while we affirm a commitment to peace and nonviolence, many of us have allowed violence in our homes and in our churches.

                Child abuse continues to be widespread.  Through abortion, many children become victims before birth.  In Canada and the United States, abortion results in over one million deaths each year.[4]  Violence against children takes many forms, including physical abuse, incest and other types of sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, threats and verbal abuse, and neglect and abandonment.  Numerous studies show that rates of child abuse are alarmingly high.  Those who work with survivors of childhood abuse testify that the same seems to be true in the church.

                We acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary and appropriate physically to restrain children in order to protect them or others and/or to discipline them.  Such restraint should always use the least amount of physical force possible and should be done to ensure safety, never to instill fear or to harm the child.

                Physical and sexual violence in dating relationships among teens and young adults is also widespread.  Statistics show that rape and attempted rape are major problems in this age group.  Most of this sexual violence, as well as physical violence, is perpetrated on dates or by persons known to the victim.

                Sexual misconduct by pastors, church leaders, and counselors also violates close, trusting relationships.  This form of violence is present in the Mennonite church and may be more prevalent than we want to admit.            

                At the heart of nearly all violence in close relationships is the desire to control or use another person.  This violence exploits some perceived or actual imbalance of power in the relationship, whereby the person with more power seeks to dominate the person with less power.  The attempt to control may begin with verbal and emotional abuse such as put-downs and name calling.  If these tactics do not work, some people resort to physical or sexual violence.  As painful as this relationship may be, many are reluctant to leave an abusive relationship because they fear economic consequences and other factors.

                According to the video Broken Vows,[5] churches have been slow to respond helpfully to violence in close relationships.  Some victims of abuse have not been listened to or believed by their congregations.  Sometimes victims have not received the support needed to leave an abusive situation and to seek healing.  Sometimes victims have been blamed by well-meaning church leaders and told to go back to the abuser and be more submissive.  Some congregations are beginning to respond more helpfully to victims.  Yet, we have a long way to go in responding to both victim and abuser.

                We affirm the congregations and church agencies that have begun to respond.  The Women’s Concerns Office of Mennonite Central Committee ahs provided educational materials, workshops, and a support network for survivors of abuse.  Some area conferences have held workshops or appointed special committees to respond to abuse.  Two consultations for Mennonite leaders called “Men Working To End Violence Against Women” helped participants begin to better understand the dynamics of power and control in close relationships, and called men to a new level of accountability and nonviolence.

                Victims and perpetrators of violence in close relationships are not just someone else, somewhere else.  When any congregations meets for worship, undoubtedly victims, survivors, and perpetrators of abuse are present.  We need to start with honest self-reflection and a careful review of our own relationships, so that healing and change can begin with us and flow through us to a hurting world.

                In response to violence in close relationships, we call the church to:

-          Move beyond denial and disbelief, break the silence that surrounds domestic and professional abuse, and proclaim that the gospel of peace and nonviolence applies to close relationships.

-          Make the church a safe place for victims and survivors of abuse so that they may speak up and receive care and healing.

-          Promote and support compassionate and realistic alternatives to abortion.

-          Learn the special dynamics of power and control that are at work in violence within close relationships

-          Recognize that the safety of the victim- whether adult or child- is the first priority, and that providing safety often requires a period of separation.

-          Recognize that individual counseling rather than counseling the couple together is essential for the safety, transformation, and healing of the domestic abuse victim.

-          Work redemptively in calling perpetrators to be accountable for their actions, to stop their violent behavior, and to submit to God in their own transformation and healing within the church.

-          Reexamine our understandings of church and home leadership in light of Jesus’ teaching and example, and reject any patterns based on injustice.

-          Face more honestly the reality of male privilege in society, and find ways to counter the violent and destructive aspects of our children’s socialization.

-          Study carefully and teach creative, nonviolent ways to discipline our children.

 

C.      Violence in Leisure.  Violence has long been part of leisure and entertainment, since the time

of the first tragic dramas and publicly-staged fist fights.  Modern society presents violence as entertainment through a bewildering variety of media, including books, magazines, comic books, movies, television, arcade games, video tapes, electronic games, personal computer games, music lyrics, and the Internet.

                Dinner parties feature murder mysteries.  Electronic games lead players to rape, eviscerate, and decapitate the enemy.  Action hero toys and war game theaters cater to would-be warriors.  Toys of violence give children practice in the actions and attitudes of violence.  Professional sports often glorify violence and encourage winning at all costs.

                News reports of violent acts have increased, despite declining rates of violent crime in North America.  It appears that some editors have decided, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

                Violent content in entertainment has increased and become more explicit in the past decade.  When violence is linked to sex in the entertainment media, it contributes to sexual violence and distorted ideas about sexuality and sexual pleasure.  Studies suggest that violence in the media teaches children and adults to behave more violently, become desensitized to the harmful consequences of violence, and become more fearful of being attacked.[6]

                Popular culture also perpetuates the myth that violence brings the victory of order over chaos, and that, if a “bad guy” commits violence against others, an indestructible “good guy” must use violence to vanquish such an irreformable “bad guy” and restore peace- until the next installment.

                Jesus taught people to love their enemies, not exterminate them.  Just as we guard ourselves and our loved ones against other dangers so, too, we must guard against the violence so prevalent in leisure today.

                In response to violence in leisure, we call the church to:

-          Advocate for and help create more choices in entertainment that are not based on violence.

-          Model cooperation, acceptance of differences, and nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts in our own lives.

-          Refrain from leisure activities that make a game of violence, or minimize the harmful consequences of violence.

-          Speak out against the “violence for profit” ethic that drives many of our leisure industries.

-          Screen our children’s toys, games, television viewing, and play for violent content and intent.

-          Work to reduce violence in community and professional sports, and refuse to participate in such violence ourselves.

-          Watch newscasts with our children and teach them to be sensitive to other’s pain.

-          Raise awareness to the desensitizing effects of using violent entertainment themes.

 

D.      Violence in Public Life.  Violence in public life is tightly woven into the social fabric of

North American society.  Canada and the United States were established and much of their wealth obtained by the violent oppression and genocide of native peoples, the oppressive violence of slavery, and the exploitation of certain immigrant groups, women, and children for hard labor.

                We confess that we have benefited from these atrocities.  Much of the land that brought wealth to Mennonite families and congregations was available to our forebears because of this violence.  Many of us, especially Mennonites of European background, have benefited and continue to benefit from white privilege, and from the economic and structural violence in society.  Racism and other forms of deeply entrenched institutional injustice do violence to many in society, and continue to perpetuate and sanction the use of violence by one person or group against others.

                Individualism and deteriorating family and social ties have been major factors in the recent growth of violence in North American public life.  Many people no longer have the family and community connections that once served to control public violence.

                Fear of violent attacks has grown.  Many people, especially women, are afraid to go out alone at night.  Public parks, streets, and parking facilities are perceived as dangerous, particularly after dark.  Even church people are tempted to buy weapons for self-protection.

                Weapons manufacturers advertise fingerprint-resistant handguns.  The growth of gangs with ever more lethal weapons, illegal drug traffic, militia groups, bombings, and drive-by shootings has led to a demand for larger police forces, harsher penalties for crimes (including the death penalty), and more prisons.

                Structures, systems, and institutions themselves are violent when they contribute to an atmosphere in which economic classes and ethnic groups are pitted against one another, and in which the antidote to violence is assumed to be more violence.  High school youth are lured into expanded military cadet training that promotes violence as a solution to problems.

                Violence does not overcome violence.  As an alternative society within the broader society, the church can proclaim and demonstrate a different way.  We can provide healing and hope by what we practice within the church, our workplaces, and neighborhoods.  We can teach and demonstrate that biblical justice comes through peaceful means.

                Many programs of healing and hope already exist within Mennonite circles and can serve as models for additional programs: victim-offender reconciliation programs, restorative justice programs, mediation networks, peace centers, prison ministries, peer mediation in schools, communication with legislators, and peace education programs.  In addition, many congregations and individuals have created communities of love and accountability that counteract the violence in the surrounding society.

                In response to violence in public life, we call the church at all levels to:

-          Demonstrate a community of love and accountability within the church, call people into that community, and work to build community in neighborhoods and cities.

-          Work and pray in ways that confront the powers that promote institutional violence, racism, sexism, prejudice, and poverty.

-          Create and support programs of restorative justice, rather than punitive retribution, so that both offenders and victims can receive justice.

-          Establish friendships with people in prisons, demonstrating that no one, no matter what crime he or she has committed, is beyond the love of Christ.

-          Work to abolish capital punishment, wherever it has become law.

-          Advocate laws for greater restriction of the manufacture and possession of guns whose primary purpose is to kill or threaten human beings.

-          Teach and practice nonviolent conflict interventions and dispute mediation as third parties when others are involved in, or tempted to, violence.

-          Use the 1995 statement “Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love” as a guide to dealing with conflict in the church.

-          Teach the skills that enable people who are personally threatened with violence to act nonviolently, relying on love and creative responses rather than responding out of fear or using weapons for personal protection.

-          Develop programs within the church to train people in the spiritual disciplines of peace, nonviolence, forgiveness, loving enemies, and building relationships in the face of differences.

 

E.       Global Violence.  Violence is also hurting the global community.  Major armed conflicts

continue to 40 countries.  World military spending remains at U.S. $750 billion per year.  Twenty-three thousand active nuclear weapons are still deployed, and 20 nations possess or are attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  One hundred million land mines have been sown around the world, and more are sown than removed each year.  Over half the weapons sold to the Third World now come from the United States and Canada.[7]  The threat of military violence continues to be used to manipulate and control other countries, and to enable wealthy countries to enlarge and protect their wealth at the expense of the world’s poor.  This vast economic and public policy commitment to violence presents a model of violent behavior that is imitated at all societal levels.

                This armed violence is the result of nationalism, nations’ unrestrained pursuit of self-interest, and the structural violence present in the world economic system.  Ninety percent of the victims of this violence today are civilians, those who are weakest and least responsibly for the economic disparity and the wars they must endure.  Those who survive the violence are often disabled or made homeless or destitute by war.  In nations no longer able to meet their citizens’ basic needs, the resulting civil violence does lasting damage.

                The victims of global violence are our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.  We affirm, as in previous statements,[8] that our first loyalty is to Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, rather than to any earthly nation.  We affirm our common humanity under God and our responsibility to care for the whole human family in the name of Jesus Christ.

                In response to global violence, we call the church to:

-          Restrain our own material desires and ambitions, and promote a fairer distribution of the world’s resources, in order to reduce inequity, hunger, and hurt, which feed violence. 

-          Identify the causal connections between socially-approved military and economic violence, and socially-disapproved personal and domestic violence.

-          Finance and pray for the work of our church agencies in promoting international justice, economic and personal well-being, respect for human rights, and participation in decision making.

-          Call on legislators to reduce military spending and arms sales, and to promote global justice.

-          Expand and publicize the range of nonviolent alternatives to conflict offered through our conciliation and mediation programs, and through direct interventions by Christian peacemakers.

-          Be steadfast in our refusal to participate in, train for, pay for, or directly profit from the use of military violence.

 

IV.  Conclusion

The statement “Vision: Healing and Hope” calls us to “grow as communities of grace, joy, and

peace so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”  Therefore, we commit ourselves to build church communities that demonstrate a peaceful alternative to violence in all areas of our life together – communities that can serve as channels of God’s healing and hope to a world angry and frightened by violence.    

                As members of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church, with God’s help, we commit ourselves, our congregations, and our church agencies to be communities of nonviolence, demonstrating and proclaiming the peaceful life to which Jesus Christ calls us.  We commit ourselves to teach nonviolence and peacemaking, both within the church and beyond it.  We choose to confront, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the powers, structures, institutions, and spirits of violence that tend to shape human behavior.  We pledge our love, both to violence victims and to violence perpetrators.  We will encourage laws, public institutions, and policies that work to reduce violence.  We commit ourselves to renounce the use of violence and urge others to pledge the same.

               

                For I will leave in the midst of you

                       A people humble and lowly.

                They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD-

                       The remnant of Israel;

                They shall do no wrong

                       And utter no lies,

                Nor shall a deceitful tongue

                       Be found in their mouths.

                Then they will pasture and lie down,

                       And no one shall make them afraid (Zeph. 3:12-13).

 

Prepared by the Joint Committee on Violence, appointed by the Mennonite Church General Board and the General Board of the General Conference Mennonite Church:

                Lois Barrett, Wichita, Kansas

                Florence Duley, Edmonton, Alberta

                Doug Pritchard, Toronto, Ontario

                Roger Steffy, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

 

Adopted in principle by the delegates at the General Conference Mennonite Church Special Session in Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 8, 1997, and by the delegates at the Mennonite Church Assembly in Orlando, Florida, August 2, 1997.

 

Approved, as revised, by the General Boards on November 22, 1997, in Denver, Colorado.

 

 



[1] Article 22, “Peace, Justice, and Nonresistance,” p. 82 (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1995).

[2] “What Every Congregation Needs To Know About Domestic Violence” (Seattle: Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, 1994).

[3] Isaac Block, Assault on God’s Image: Domestic Abuse.  Winnipeg: Windflower Communications, 1992.

[4] According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Health Canada.

[5] Broken Vows: Religious Perspectives on Domestic Violence (Seattle, Wash.: Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, 1994).

[6] Reported in the video Beyond the News: TV Violence and Your Child (Harrisonburg, Va.: Mennonite Media Ministries, 1996).

[7] Project Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report (Waterloo, Ontario: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, 1996); Ruth L. Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures (Washington, D.C.: World Priorities, 1996).

[8] “Peace and the Christian Witness,” Mennonite Church, 1961; “A Christian Declaration on the Way of Peace,” General Conference Mennonite Church,” 1971; “Justice and the Christian Witness,” Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, 1983; “A Commitment to Christ’s Way of Peace,” Mennonite Central Committee, 1993; and “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective,” General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church, 1995.