Friends for Life

The Canadian Legion has 1600 branches across Canada. It is open to those who have served in the military. The Legion is a place for veterans to meet, socialize, and reminisce. Conscientious objectors do not have a similar organization, but many have kept in touch through formal and informal reunions. George T. Wiebe kept an autograph book when he was a CO. Other COs would write their names, birthdays, a short poem so that George would be able to remember them. Friendship like this was the foundation for many reunions. A complete list of COs is not available however this web site has a listing of known COs.  Some lists of individual camps at a specific time are available. Many COs developed close bonds. They even made their own special words that only COs knew!

 Ed Bearinger enjoyed the friends he made and appreciated they were of the same mind (agreed on the CO position).

Ben Bergen writes that he has gone to a number of CO reunions, including one celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of the BC Forestry Service.  

“In summer of 1982 we had a CO reunion in St. Jacobs, Ontario, near Kitchener, and another one four years later in Elmira, Ontario, with people attending from as far away as BC. The reunions were spiritually uplifting.” [ASM, 55-58] 

The reunions have become family affairs. Henry Sawatzky, a CO at Clear Lake, writes that “our wives look forward to the reunions just as much as we do.” [ASM, 7-11]

John C. Klassen reminds us, though, that the COs reunite to remember a serious time in their lives. Reunions are fun because the COs can share memories and swap photos, but more importantly they remind the COs of their faith and the original reasons for being a CO.

“In October 1982 all COs were invited and given an opportunity. A reunion was planned and organized. More than 300 men and women met in the Winkler Bible College for a day of spiritual enrichment, reminiscing, and renewing and enlarging our circle of friendship or acquaintances. Above all, we were rededicated in our convictions and beliefs. To confirm this point, a free-will offering throughout the day, brought in donations in excess of $5000 for the Mennonite Central Committee (Canada) Food Bank. It was agreed almost unanimously that this indicated our deep love and concern for our Neighbour (Matthew 5:42-48), in that this fund would help alleviate pain and suffering from starvation, as opposed to war, which means destruction, hurt, and death.” [ASM, 23-29]

Half a lifetime after the end of the war, these COs continued to make sacrifices for the sake of justice and mercy.