In 2020, MCC celebrates 100 years of relief, development and peace and one way we want to mark this anniversary is by sharing articles and stories from the archives. Calling for change and for a more peaceful and just world has been foundational to MCC’s work for decades. MCC has published articles about economic justice, domestic violence, land claims, military spending, conscientious objection, peace theology, and many more.
This week, to continue our celebrations of International Women’s Day, we want to share excerpts from the 1981 Peace Sections Newsletter called ‘Women as Peacemakers’. A lot has changed in 39 years, but what has remained the same is the fact that many women continue to not only be active, but also continue to be leaders in the work for peace.
The newsletter starts by sharing results of a survey that was conducted on the theme of women and peace. We want to share some of the answers to two of the questions:
Describe your own personal peace pilgrimage. What people and experiences have been influential to you in coming to your own peace stance?
“My biggest encounter with peace/justice came through twenty years of foreign experience. I watched changes from colonialism to self-government and experienced a revolution as well. I found it was absolutely essential that I could give up what seemed mine without bitterness. My commitment to peace was very important in helping me do my best even when I had no rights.
I think that I failed more in dealing with missionary relationships than in dealing with national ones. Too often I used passive violence rather than confronting and working through things. We do not help each other well in this area. I see peace as the core of things and that is how I want to live. That was often not the core of our mission – and now I believe it must be.”
“My Mennonite background taught me the way of peace almost to the point where I am tempted to avoid confrontation when it is better not to – peace at any price. I have in the past ten years or so learned to be more assertive when a matter of justice (my own or another’s) is at issue. Now my struggle is again at the point of asking when that is not appropriate. Always think love – aggressively seeking the other person’s good – must be the key.
“I was an idealistic young person searching for something to believe in and devote my life to. This led me to join the PeaceCorps after graduating from college. As a volunteer in Turkey in the early 1960s, I had a positive experience of another culture, but a negative experience of American liberalism. I decided that man-made ideologies were insufficient to meet the needs of the world and in myself. My quest for meaning led me to a personal religious experience and a commitment to Jesus Christ.
The public events of the Vietnam war and the assassination of Martin Luther King forced me to reconsider my ideals and my Christian faith. This was a difficult process, since those around me seemed to be either secular do-gooders or inattentive Christians. Eventually my husband and I discovered [Sic] the Anabaptist vision of practical Christian living, combining deep religious conviction, faithfulness to the Bible, and outward living of Christian principles. [Sic] To me as a woman the example of Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus has been especially significant both in following the way of peace and in finding a place for her gifts outside the mainstream of the institutional church.”
How are you presently living out your beliefs about peace?
“I am working as an assistant chaplain in the Virginia Women’s Prison, where the issue of peace is ever present – or maybe the lack of it. Violence has not only taken place in the acts that have resulted in imprisonment, but is a constant fact of incarceration. Mental abuse of prisoners being controlled by others and receiving the ‘criminal’ label cannot help but leave lifelong scars. The tension and pressure of officers working in such unnatural holding pens is also violently damaging. Working with a system I disagree so fully with keeps me aware of suffering and also looking for ways I can witness to Jesus’ example of love, caring, accepting and listening.”
“Within the past eight years my concept of what is violence has expanded beyond physical violence to include the violence of poverty leading to malnutrition and illiteracy, violence from the hurts of broken relationships and keeping grudges hidden inside violence inherent in not accepting others and not allowing them to blossom into the unique persons, violence when I use/eat more than my share of the earth’s resources, violence to women who are in fact trapped into a certain role or mold… [Sic]
I believe it is important to pray for leaders of nations regarding political decisions. Many Scriptures suggest that God can change the minds of rulers/nations and this can override military preparations, etc. Then to be consistent, it is important to work for social justice and peace and to live a lifestyle that would make global justice possible.”
Have you thought about your own peace pilgrimage and how you are living out your beliefs?
To read more and to learn from women working for peace at a grassroots level around the world, see these Stories of women peacebuilders.
Note: While some of the postures MCC has taken over the years aren’t positions we may take today, the courage to think critically and speak publicly as a faith-based organization around issues that are easily politicized is something to celebrate as we look forward. May these glimpses into conversations of the past continue to inform our thinking and work into this next phase of relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.