WINNIPEG, Man.— A peace walk in early November, organized by the Ottawa Mennonite Church adult Sunday School class, gave seven-year-old Maariya Toman a better understanding of why her parents support peace through peaceful means.
“It was a good teachable moment” said her mother, Angelina Toman.
The family was among 50 participants joining for scripture reading, prayer and a song at three designated stops—Parliament Hill, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial and Ottawa City Hall.
The prayers and reflections at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were particularly meaningful for Toman.
“That’s why we are talking about peace—to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
This year, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) developed new resources that assist churches like Ottawa Mennonite in taking the message of peace to the streets, including holding public prayer walks.
Many Mennonite churches organized or participated in prayer walks held in conjunction with their annual Peace Sunday worship services in November, said Esther Epp-Tiessen, MCC Canada’s peace program coordinator. These services seek to reflect on Jesus' call to love our enemies, to resist evil non-violently, to pray for peace and to live as people of peace, she said.
Epp-Tiessen said she expects churches will also use this new resource, produced by Matthew Bailey-Dick of MCC Ontario, to organize prayer walks at other times of the year.
For Toman, the act of remembrance provided an opportunity to talk with her daughter about the tragedy of war and explain the significance of MCC’s peace button—a small red pin with the words, “To remember is to work for peace.”
The button was created in 1989 by MCC Ontario as a way of remembering all people affected by war and to advocate for peaceful resolutions to conflict and injustices.
“It is the first time we wore the peace buttons—the peace button reminds us there is an alternative to war,” said Toman.
This year, MCC filled orders for more than 4,500 peace buttons. Most of them were distributed in schools and churches in November.
Jake Buhler from Osler Mennonite Church near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has six peace buttons that he wears during the month of November and at special events throughout the year.
“I like the message on the pin,” he said, explaining he is so committed to sharing this message of peace with others that he placed a professionally-designed highway billboard with the message ‘To remember is to work for peace’ on a busy highway
between Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The sign was placed on land near Osler owned by his brothers.
Buhler, an educator and student of history is also president of the Mennonite Historical Society Saskatchewan. He said his study of war has convinced him that conflict can be resolved without death, injuries, suffering and violence.
“Let’s always look backwards—what happened 20 years before the war?” he asked. “What would have happened if our political policies had been better?”
Non-violent approaches to resolving conflict begin with dialogue and listening, he said. “As long as we are listening to each other there is no violence,” he explained. “Conflict is OK but violence is never OK. There has to be a better solution to resolve conflict than through wars.”
Visit mcccanada.ca/peace for more information about MCC Canada’s peace ministries program.