GOSHEN, Ind. – As people strolled the streets of Goshen for the city’s First Friday community festivities in August, they were met with startling images of cluster bombs and their victims.
The 16-panel cluster bomb exhibit features photos and stories from Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon about the destruction caused by these munitions, even many years after a war ends. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) created the exhibit.
Although it was an unusual part of Goshen’s “monthly block party,” organizers Evelyn Kreider and Ethel Umble, of College Mennonite Church and Seniors for Peace, felt compelled to join with MCC in its quest to have cluster bombs banned.
“The use of cluster bombs in the Vietnam War was horrendous,” said Kreider. “They keep on dying there. They keep on losing arms and legs because the cluster bombs are embedded in the soil. The killing continues.”
With their display table in front of the Ten Thousand Villages stores on Main Street, Kreider and Umble had a prime location. “Our goal was to encourage legislation – to get people to write to their Congresspeople to support laws to ban cluster bombs,” said Kreider.
More than 140 people signed postcards, provided by MCC, to send to their U.S. senators urging them to co-sponsor the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act. In addition, 260 postcards were signed at College Mennonite Church, plus more at other Goshen churches.
MCC is working towards the passage of treaties banning the use of land mines and cluster munitions. One way of raising awareness is through the “Daily Terror” cluster bomb display.
Eleven churches and organizations in MCC’s Great Lakes region used the cluster bomb display from August to October to educate and promote advocacy about this deadly issue.
Cluster munitions continue to kill long after a war ends because these weapons do not always explode on impact as designed. In places like Laos, even 35 years after the bombing ended, 300 villagers are injured or killed by these weapons each year.
In Bluffton, Ohio, First Mennonite Church used the display as the focal point of a weekend of activities centered on cluster bomb education. Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director of MCC’s Washington D.C. office, gave a sermon about witnessing to government and led a question and answer session about cluster bombs. The children’s time focused on the issue, too, and the informational DVD “From Harm to Hope: Standing with Cluster Bomb Survivors” showed personal stories of people whose lives have been affected by cluster bombs.
“We had a great weekend,” said Steve Yoder, pastor of First Mennonite. “The picture display helped put everything together and gave people an opportunity to respond to a justice issue and witness to our government. Many people signed the postcards and sent them to the two Ohio senators.”
At the Mennonite Church of Normal in Normal, Ill., where they also used the display, the congregation took the postcard campaign a step further by hand-delivering their signed postcards to local government offices.
Meredith Schroeer, one of the organizers at the church, is encouraged by the work MCC is doing and hopes others will recognize the need for legislation banning the use of cluster munitions. “Mines and cluster bombs pose such a terrible danger after the hostility,” she said, “and their continuing presence means that the hostilities haven’t really ended.”
For more information about the photo exhibit or to learn more about MCC’s work to ban cluster bombs, visit clusterbombs.mcc.org