12 Mar - Dutch Mennonites voice views on war and peace

News Service
March 12, 2010

Dutch Mennonites voice views on war and peace

Strasbourg, France – Dutch Mennonites are expressing their views against participation in war in a variety of ways.

“The board of ADS (Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit) is convinced that it is the task of the church to witness about the peace of Christ and not to give the government arguments to prolong involvement in any war,” said Henk Stenvers, Mennonite World Conference General Council delegate from The Netherlands.

Stenvers was part of a delegation of the Dutch Council of Churches that spoke with government representatives in 2007 when the government was contemplating prolonging the Dutch presence in Afghanistan. The government did decide to prolong its mission, but only until 2010.

In 2009, the government faced pressure to extend the mission further. Before the delegation could plan how to challenge the government to keep its promise to end the mission in 2010, the government fell and an interim government was put in place.

The ADS board also decided to suspend its membership in IKV Pax Christi, (Church Peace Council) after its director published an article in support of prolonging Dutch involvement in the war in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. The board feels the stance of this organization implies agreement with the concept of “just war.”

“We Mennonites are convinced that war never brings peace,” said Stenvers. Before proposing to the conference to end its membership in IKV, the ADS board will meet with the IKV board.

Leaders of the Dutch Mennonite Church also sent a letter to Mennonite Church USA in December 2009, expressing their concern about President Barack Obama's call for the U.S. military's escalation of troops in Afghanistan.

“The [U.S.] decision felt so contrary to President Obama's stance during the election campaign.... The letter was meant as a sign of solidarity with the search for peace of the MC USA,” said Stenvers.

“We send you this letter to share with you our deep and sincere concern about this decision,” the Dutch leaders wrote. “We feel convinced that many of you deplore the useless and dangerous continuation as much as we do and believe that Christ shows different ways of ending conflict.” The letter acknowledged pressure on the Dutch to continue their military presence in Afghanistan.

Ed Diller, MC USA moderator, responded with a letter of appreciation, saying, “Along with you, Mennonite Church USA is deeply concerned about military build-up in Afghanistan.” Diller included resources MC USA made available to conferences and congregations as well as a copy of an advertisement churches could place in their local newspapers. Diller asked the Dutch Mennonites to “pray that we may be bold in proclaiming Christ as the Prince of Peace.”

Dutch Mennonites have tended to express their views through ecumenical organizations but it is difficult to have their voice heard. Stenvers says he thinks Dutch Mennonites could follow the example of MC USA in encouraging congregations to speak out and be more active in expressing the opinion of its church leaders to the government.

Dutch Mennonites have also launched a Dutch branch of Christian Peacemaker Teams. A few months ago a Dutch brother joined CPT in Palestine and he will soon go to Iraq.

Could there be more cooperation on speaking out to governments on peace issues at a global level? Stenvers wonders, suggesting it be a task for the MWC General Council Peace Commission.

- Ferne Burkhardt
MWC News Editor

Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.