God at work in the World
“In this resolution we are not taking sides between Israel and Palestine,” said Palmer Becker at Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2016. “We support the need for a safe place to live for both Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. We grieve whenever there is loss of life, whether that is Palestinian or Israeli.”
The resolution supporting justice for Palestinian and Israeli people was moved by Byron Rempel-Burkholder in response to a request from Palestinian Christians, and seconded by Becker.
Since Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report in 2015, denominations and congregations across the country have wrestled with how to respond in authentic and appropriate ways. One such response was an ecumenical conference held recently at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon.
Among many aboriginal people the eagle feather communicates respect, humility, courage and wisdom. Several years ago, I received an eagle feather as a sign of appreciation for my ministry at the prison in Saskatoon. I was honoured but troubled because the feather did not feel like it belonged to me. I brought my concerns to Harry Lafond of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and executive director of the Saskatchewan Office of the Treaty Commissioner. He explained, “You are the carrier of the feather. One day you will meet the feather’s owner and you will give it to him.”
Elaine Hofer and Paul Waldner are members of Green Acres Colony, near Wawanesa, Man. Their Hutterite colony, along with Enes and Fata Muheljic from Wawanesa, worked with Mennonite Central Committee Canada to sponsor a family from Syria. Hofer writes in her journal about the day they met Reyad Alhamoud, Najwa Hussein Al Mohamad and their two children at the Winnipeg airport on Feb. 18.
Last February I wrote an article that elicited more response than anything I have written for this publication. The piece originated when a reader challenged my acceptance of the climate change narrative. I worked past my initial impulse—which was condescending and dismissive—and studied the sources he provided. In the resulting article, I didn’t bash him or his sources; I tried to understand them.
For anyone who lives in Elmira and needs a ladder to clean out his eavestroughs or get a Frisbee off her roof, call Bruce Weber.
Zion Mennonite Fellowship, in an effort to increase its visibility in the town of Elmira and improve the sense of community and neighbourliness in the community, came up with the idea of an object-lending program. Congregants have lots of items that they don’t use every day, so it was decided to lend them out to others as a service to local residents.
On Sept. 2, 2015, the heartbreaking picture of Alan Kurdi’s body on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea was a wake-up call to the world.
The three-year-old’s death was a tragic reminder of the desperate choices made daily by some Syrians as they flee conflict in their country. Like the Kurdi family, they risk piling into unsafe boats piloted by smugglers, in an attempt to find a safe haven.
Alan, his brother and mother, didn’t make it to safety.
On September 2, 2015, the heartbreaking picture of Alan Kurdi’s body on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea was a wake-up call to the world concerning the plight of refugees. In the nine months between September of last year and the end of June 2016, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada assisted in the arrival of almost 1100 refugees.
For decades, Colombia has been known for violence, narcotics and instability. But now it is within sight of an historic peace agreement that César García—the Colombian who heads Mennonite World Conference, which is based in the country—says mirrors notions of restorative justice valued by many Anabaptists.
After nearly four years of talks, the Colombian government and its main guerrilla adversary, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, reached a peace agreement on Aug. 24, 2016.
“It’s really cool to see white people here today,” said Cheyenne Fineday. The first nation teenager was speaking at the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6 on Aug. 23, 2016. Held at Stoney Knoll, 76 kilometres north of Saskatoon, the celebration included both indigenous and settler peoples.
Raising awareness and funds for the ongoing demands of the global refugee crisis was the goal of a “ration meal” lunch hosted by Canadian Foodgrains Bank at Sam’s Place in Winnipeg on June 20, 2016, to honour World Refugee Day.
Ahmad Khattab, a former refugee from Syria who is now settled in Winnipeg, was a keynote speaker at the event. His sharing centred mostly around his previous work in Syria as an English teacher, his hope of working in his own field again some day, and his excitement for the progress his family has made since coming to Canada.
Take almost 200 mostly Mennonite peacebuilders from around the world, bring them together for four days in June 2016, at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, liberally mix in keynote speakers, 30-plus workshops, warm sunshine, a concert and original play on conscientious objectors, and you have the making of a fabulous four days of building peace in the world—a world where there is none, or where it is in too-short supply, or where there is peace but it can be grown bigger—all nonviolently but passionately, and with painful honesty and humility.
The way Ross Shantz remembers it, his father Ward contacted his buddies from the Second World War conscientious objector camp at Montreal River and they began the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale in 1967.
It is more complicated than that, though, as these buddies and their spouses came from many different Mennonite and Anabaptist groups, including Brethren in Christ, the “Swiss” Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, “Amish” Western Ontario Mennonites, and the “Russian” United Mennonite Conference of Ontario.
The auction began. Among the crowds in Coaldale for the annual Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta Relief Sale on June 10 and 11, stood two Syrian men whose families had recently been assisted by MCC and sponsored by Mennonite churches to resettle in Canada. To their surprise, a loaf of bread was auctioned off for $200!
“America is again ablaze with partisan divisiveness.” That’s how I started an article during the presidential campaign of 2012. But the days of Barack Obama battling Mitt Romney seem pedestrian compared to the current convergence of reality TV and reality.
Colourful paper cranes folded neatly over words of prayer. Bowls of floating candles melting together as one. A smudging ceremony rich with prayer that took five times as long as organizers thought it would because so many people took part.
These elements brought symbolic meaning to a March 20, 2016, service of lament and prayer at Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. The service was held to show solidarity with Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Cross Lake, Man., and mourn the suicide deaths of six members of that first nation community since Dec. 12, 2015.
“Don’t get too used to this kind of event,” said Rick Cober Bauman, executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario, to gales of warm laughter as he welcomed around 500 participants to the organization’s “first-ever signature event,” a four-course dinner at the St. George Banquet Hall in Waterloo on March 30. In spite of the splendour and glitz of the evening, he was at pains to note that MCC still wants to feel at home at ham and scalloped potato dinners in church basements.