By Sonja Griffith
Pastor Sonja Griffith, of the First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, KS, spoke at the PeaceWorks Memorial Day rally, Prohibit Nukes, Promote HOPE. Here are excerpts from her talk.
For 30 years, the land was decimated by burning crops, the animals were slaughtered indiscriminately, and families were stripped of their food, their living, their dignity, all their human needs. They called it the Thirty Years War between Germany and France. First one army would come and take everything, then the other army would come and take everything, and that war left its mark on the people of the late 1600s. So it was not a surprise when, as the Church of the Brethren was founded in 1708 in Schwartzenau, Germany, that our church took the words of Jesus seriously, and said that war was wrong. Peace was the gift Jesus had come to bring. The church was to pray for its enemies, and seek oneness with all people.
The Church of the Brethren, alongside the Mennonites and Quakers, has been diligent in promoting peace since that time. Many of our young people have been conscientious objectors, not just refusing to go to war, but also trying to do things that will promote the good of all people, all civilization. Such things as helping in day care facilities, being guinea pigs at National Institutes of Health, working in hospitals (both mental and ordinary), fighting forest fires, creating new hiking trails, building and repairing homes, teaching people in other countries about better methods of farming and raising livestock, and providing for medical needs have been an integral part of our witness.
Now, I commend you, today, for being here at this rally, making your statement that the tools of warfare should be banished from the face of the earth. You are to be cherished for your devotion to the cause of ending the horrors of war! However, I would like, today, to echo the vision of some of my colleagues in the Church of the Brethren. In a recent article in the church magazine, Robert Johansen has suggested an even greater hope—a hope that we can all, with one voice and one heart, work towards. The hope he holds out to us is not just that we keep trying to banish the tools that make wars so horrific. His hope is for a world in which we have no more war at all!
Can we get there? This is a tall order, and it can seem almost impossible. We have too many people who think their legacy must be conquest despite the suffering and horror that accompany it. We have too many people who believe that war and subjugation and killing are just inevitable. We have too many who believe that service to one’s country is only military.
Yet I would suggest, today, that we begin to envision and work toward a world order based on nonviolence, based on making service the watchword of the day for ALL countries and ALL people. I would suggest that the goals of the United Nations be upheld and strengthened into a world of compassion and kindness and gentleness and productivity and song and joy and yes, even love!!! I would suggest a rally to convince ALL people of the utter futility of war and violence. I would suggest a world in which all people have the food, the water, the shelter they need, enough for real life. I would suggest that the mental health of the population be a priority for all of us. I would suggest that we not just “hope” for all these things, but that we speak about them to all who will listen, that we write letters, that we proclaim our allegiance to a way of life that will cause this world to prosper and place its human arms around all people!
Can we do it? Such work will be the most difficult thing we have ever done. If we do not do it, however, who will? Will our wondrous planet just disappear into a changing climate and destruction that never stops?
I leave you with this thought—we are not alone. Other voices have joined us and will continue to join us! We will build the world we hope for, dream about, and for which we pray, one person at a time!! And we shall pray that the day will come when, with radiant faces, we will embrace the world we have wished for!