Monday, 7 May 2012

Bicentennial Opposes Our Pacifist History

The May 4, 2012 story 'Bicentennial events decried as "affront" to pacifist roots' in The Globe and Mail caught my eye. A photo showed Arnold Neufeldt-Fast who represented Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren in Christ churches when he spoke to the town council in Stouffville.

Stouffville is a town north of Toronto where a group of people who belong to the traditional peace churches were in town asking their Conservative Member of Parliament Paul Calandra to tone down a June event scheduled as a celebration to the bicentennial of the war of 1812 between Canada and the USA. They say that it doesn't accurately reflect the history of the town, which was founded by Mennonites who conscientiously objected to war.

'It's an affront to a truthful telling of that history,' said Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, a Mennonite ordained minister and associate academic dean of Tyndale Seminary.

Part of what swayed the pacifists to move from the US to Canada was the Militia Act, which allowed people of conscience who could prove they belonged to peace churches to be exempt from war if they paid a tax.

This legal precedent later allowed 7,500 Russian dissident Spirit-Wrestlers / Doukhobors in 1899 to come to Canada as CO's and settle in what is now Saskatchewan. Their exile in Russia was precipitated at the end of June 1895 when these people held a mass demonstration of arms burning and decreed that killing is wrong, that government has no business in contributing to mass slaughter called war, and that peace and love is the way to a wholesome life.

Here, then, is an opportunity for Canadian Doukhobors to join with their traditional peace groups in an effort to stop the militarization of the country and instead return to the peace-keeping roots of conscientious citizens who see a different vision from that of the current Conservative government headed by Stephen Harper. It is a time to remind Canadians that war is not the answer.

The present Conservative government is spending some $130 million celebrating the 1812 war with parades, displays, and reinnactments of the battles in an attempt to raise the profile of military history at a time when the government is increasing military spending. Its political agenda also includes (as columnist Jeffrey Simpson recently wrote): 'medals commemorating the Queen and yet another royal visit, this one offering Canadians (or at least the handful of them who will care) the emotional surge of seeing their future king and queen: Charles and Camilla'.

Doukhobors (now some 50,000 in Canada) will be holding their 65th Annual Doukhobor Youth Festival in Castlegar, British Columbia on May 19th to 20th. No doubt the peace message will be read before an expected audience of over 1,000 people. This will be time for people of conscience to join hands and with one voice call for nonkilling peace.

Let's remember 'we need to give hope and a future for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.' Let this be a message to Canadian Parliamentarians to return to a sane domestic and foreign policy where might is no longer right, where love and nonkilling is the path for Canadians and their neighbours around the world.

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