I chose my blog name very deliberately. I want to be a person of peace; an active peace-maker. As such, Remembrance Day is a day that makes me uncomfortable. Please don’t misunderstand me. I mean no disrespect for soldiers past or present. I mean no disrespect for their families. My husband comes from a military family – his dad was a Navy pilot. He died more than 10 years ago and I still miss him. I loved him deeply. I love my mother-in-law who also served as a military nurse. I know them as people of service and dedication to family, community and country.
My Mennonite family comes from a different place. My mom was born in Paraguay – her parents’ families fled the Ukraine in the wake of the Russian revolution. Although mom knew poverty, she never knew war. My dad did. He fled Russia during WW2 – fled with what was left of his family after his dad and two older brothers were taken to serve with the Russian army. He, his mother and siblings arrived in Germany where, at 14, he was promptly drafted into the Hitlerjugend. Because he has a Jewish name – Aron – he was forced to change it. He was given “Gerhard” which is what it still says on his documents. To his family, he is still “Oant”- the Low German pronunciation of Aron. He spent two years separated from his family… surviving. He doesn’t talk about that time very much at all; but he is a man who has spent his whole life trying, unsuccessfully, to make himself numb to it.
So this is my given and my chosen heritage. What am I to remember on this day, set aside for remembrance? I think all my parents would say that war is evil. I believe that there are no winners in war, no matter how many battles are fought and “won”. But it is not enough for me to say that I will never participate in war, that I do not believe we should ever go to war. As a peace-maker, my remembrance must also be active. I wear a button like the one pictured above. It captures my convictions accurately. I believe that if we want to truly honour all victims of war – soldiers, civilians and their families, the dead and the survivors – we must be people of peace in every single facet of our lives. That is a very tall order, I know; and I fail at it regularly but I cannot do other than hold to this conviction: to remember is to work for peace.
This reading was spoken in my church this morning. I share it with you as my prayer on this day.
Sisters, brothers, friends. On this Peace Sunday we remember who we are, who we propose to be.
We are children of God’s peace. We believe peace is to be imagined in our times, in God’s name, by Jesus’ example, in hope of his truth.
We believe the beatitudes are not just a pretty metaphor, we believe that with God’s direction and protection we can actually work for peace.
We take this job description seriously: this blessing and being blessed. We value the poor in spirit, the humble the meek.
We comfort the mourning and find comfort with each other and with God.
We choose to be peacemakers, in the big things and in the little, we choose not to be bullies, not to put others down so that we can look good.
We choose to be friends – not to use violence against others even if we think they deserve it, even in our cars and on our Facebook comments. We choose to do this every day, over and over again.
We are game for the hard work of disagreement, of not walking away on first instinct, of looking for reconciliation, of regarding others through the eyes of God’s love.
When facing indignation, we have imagination for transformation. We know this is misunderstood and terribly misinterpreted by those who believe that we are naïve, that war is necessary and ordinary.
Yet we persist in living out the realm of God. Sisters, brothers, friends: we are people of God’s peace.
(Remembering who we are, adapted from a reading by Michele Rae Rizoli)