Yesterday’s Action for a Ceasefire

It’s 11am on Tuesday and the CMC fellowship hall is coming to life.  Carpools, caravans, and solo drivers from as far north as Bluffton/Pandora and as far south as Cincinnati are converging in Columbus to hold a service of prayer, singing, and testimonies outside Senator Sherrod Brown’s office downtown.  We will deliver a letter signed by Mennonites from across Ohio urging him to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and Israel.  Our church is a gathering point before heading out together, about 60 of us from eight congregations.  We’re part of 1700+ Mennonites in 41 separate public actions across the US throughout the day, organized through Mennonite Action.    It’s the largest Christian witness to date calling for a ceasefire.  The Dispatch picked up the story, with pictures, HERE.  

(Photo by Joel Miller)

We have a plan, but we’re also improvising.  Once we’ve reconvened in front of the federal building at 200 N. High we pass out Voices Together hymnals and sing VT 797 “We Are People Of God’s Peace,” a text based on the words of Menno Simons.  About 15 of us then enter the lobby, asking to speak with a staffer for Brown, knowing we won’t all be allowed to go through security.  There’s some tension with the guards, but they agree to alert a staffer, who comes down and agrees to come outside to meet with the entire group and hear us read the letter.  It’s what we were hoping, but not expecting. 

She greets the group and I read the full page letter into the portable sound system.  It begins:

We are Mennonites from across Ohio asking you to stand with us and publicly call for a permanent ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. A ceasefire is the first step toward ending the devastation in Gaza and promoting a lasting peace for all Israelis and Palestinians. Our call is rooted in values that compel us to follow Jesus Christ’s model of active peacemaking.

It’s cold, near freezing, but she generously agrees to stay with us to hear the three prepared testimonies.  CMCer Mary Yoder talks about her time in the West Bank witnessing Palestinian hardships and atrocities committed by Israeli settlers.  Lydia Brenneman, a Palestinian Mennonite from Lima, speaks about family members and friends killed in Gaza.  CMCer Jim Leonard makes connections with the nonviolent teachings of Jesus.  Throughout the time, participants share a scarf, a coat, and a pie with the staffer, who agrees to take the message to Senator Brown.  After she leaves we sing and pray and return home. 

(Photo by Sarah Werner)

A smaller group of us head over to Rep. Joyce Beatty’s office to deliver a similar letter.  This time we’re inside a heated atrium, with Joel Call reading the letter to the staffer and several guards.

Those last two words from the opening paragraph of the letter are lingering with me: active peacemaking.  An action like this is one form that takes.  I’m thinking there are a thousand more forms it could take, many of them interpersonal.  I’m thinking that in a time of escalating violence, it’s time to escalate active peacemaking.  Let’s make some New Year’s resolutions to work at Menno’s charge to be people of God’s peace, and let’s share stories about it.