wars

Fear and Learning in Kabul

Image courtesy Kathy Kelly
Image courtesy Kathy Kelly

Essentially, when Voices members go to Kabul, our “work” is to listen to and learn from our hosts and take back their stories of war to the relatively peaceful lands whose actions had brought that war down upon them. Before we'd even departed, the news from Afghanistan was already quite grim. Several dozen people were dead in fighting between armed groups. There was a Kabul hotel attack on international businessmen the week before. We earnestly wrote our friends with a last-minute offer to stay away, in hopes that we wouldn't make them targets of the violence. “Please come,” our friends wrote us. So we're here.

 

This Veterans Day, Work for Peace

Elena Dijour / Shutterstock.com
Elena Dijour / Shutterstock.com

In the wake of the latest escalation of the U.S. “war on terror,” it’s time to remember the origin of Veterans Day. In 1926, Congress officially recognized the commemoration of Armistice Day on Nov. 11 with the exhortation, “the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Armistice Day commemorated the day when World War I hostilities ceased, and had been celebrated informally since 1919 as a day to work for peace.

The Questions We Don’t Ask on Memorial Day

Flags placed at gravestones on Memorial Day, Sheila Fitzgerald /Shutterstock.com
Flags placed at gravestones on Memorial Day, Sheila Fitzgerald / Shutterstock.com

Monday was Memorial Day, full of family trips and events, lots of picnics and barbecues with friends and neighbors, and a national day off from school and work. For us it was the Northwest Little League All Star game here at Friendship Field in Washington D.C., a family tradition for many years. My wife Joy, the Commissioner, organized the game day, including a wonderful picnic on a glorious baseball day for players, parents, relatives, and many fans – with 300 hotdogs!

It was also a day to remember all the people who have died in America’s wars. For the families of those war victims and so many of their fellow veterans it was a day of remembering and mourning. In the quiet moments of listening to the national anthem while looking at the American flag, our little baseball crowd with hats off might have been thinking about the meaning of the national holiday. But right afterward it was “Play Ball.”

On Memorial Days I always end up listening to the many stories from the families who lost their most beloved ones and from the veterans whose eyes still tear up when they recall their dearest buddies lost on battlefields far away.

Not The Weapons But What They Defend

United States Marine Corps War Memorial,  Paul MacKenzie / Shutterstock.com
United States Marine Corps War Memorial, Paul MacKenzie / Shutterstock.com

I wish that we, as a people, would speak better words to those who have served in our wars. I fear that we do them, and ourselves, a disservice when we call them all heroes without letting them decide which deeds were heroic and which should be left unspoken. When we call everyone who wears a uniform a hero, we diminish heroism everywhere. 

I don’t mean we should refrain from thanking those who serve. If anything, we should thank them far more than we do, and our thanks should not just be in words. Our thanks should be sincere and long-lasting, and expressed in things like the best military hospitals we can afford, the best education we can provide, and our best efforts to ensure that their generation will be the last to endure what they have endured. Even if those ideals prove to be unattainable, we should not let that stop us from trying to attain them. As the Talmud says, “It is not your job to finish the work, but you are not free to walk away from it.” 

From the Archives: Fall 1972

IT CAME TO pass in the summer of ’72 that many young people gathered in Dallas for Explo, a week of training for Christian witness sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. ... And among those present in Dallas were some messengers of peace—some post-Americans calling themselves the People’s Christian Coalition, and a few sons of Menno sent by the Mennonite Central Committee, who had also come to witness for their Lord.

The messengers of peace set up their booths along with many others and distributed their literature. And many people came by. Some looked and smiled; some looked and frowned. Some said “right on” and “we need that” in response to posters saying “blessed are the peacemakers” and “swords into plowshares”; but others said “praise the Lord, God will take care of wars, all we need is to win people to Christ.”  ...

And some of the messengers of peace made signs saying “Stop the war in Jesus’ name” and “The 300 persons killed by American bombs today will not be won in this generation” and “Choose this day—make disciples or make bombs, love your enemies or kill your enemies.” And they walked among the people with their signs.

And some people said, “Amen” and others were offended, saying, “Why bring peripheral issues to Explo? We are here to witness to the Lord.”

Peter Ediger was pastor of Arvada (Colo.) Mennonite Church when this article appeared in The Post-American, the predecessor to Sojourners.

Image: Witness illustration, Sam72 / Shutterstock.com

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