Menno Klassen, for example, devoted his whole life to peace and relief efforts.
“After the war I volunteered three and a half years with MCC [Mennonite Central Committee]. During the first 6 months I was in charge of the food collection centre in Winnipeg, from where canned goods were shipped to war sufferers in Europe. We also processed donations of wheat from Mennonite farmers throughout Western Canada, milled it into flour and shipped it to Europe to help relieve hunger there. The next 3 years were spent in agricultural service in the Mennonite colonies in the Paraguayan Chaco. Soon after my return to Canada, I began serving as a member of Manitoba Peace and Social Concerns Committee under MCC.
“Since then, my wife Aggie and I have been deeply involved in a number of other peace, justice, environmental and human rights projects. For our vacation, we have taken educational tours to Jamaica and Haiti, Mexico, El Salvador and Nicaragua, the Mexico/U.S. border where we studied the refugee and migrant labour situation, the Philippines (with MCC), Paraguay and Bolivia. We have learned to understand and identify with these people in their struggle for dignity, economic and social justice and peace.
“After returning home, we found ourselves interceding for them, the free speaking and working for the unfree. On each trip we learned that much of the suffering of the people in the world stems from unjust, self-seeking North American foreign policies. We have been trying to explain this to the Canadian public through slide presentations, letters to editors of various newspapers and to our Members of Parliament. As members of Amnesty International we have written letters and wired complaints to third world governments that violate human rights, urging them to change their inhuman policies.
“After doing this intercessory work for some time, we decided to call our home “The House of Intercession.” The footer on our letterhead features the words of a familiar song: No one is an island, no one stands along. Each one's joy is joy to us, each one's grief is our own. We need one another, so we will defend each one as our sister or brother; each one as our friend.” [ASP, 110-111]
John L. Fretz served four and a half years in forestry camps and other alternative service. He doesn't regret a minute: “If I had to do it over again, I believe I would do the same thing.” Although he would have liked to have chosen another type of alternative service, he knows that “our type of service was probably the best that could be arranged in the short time available to set up the program with the government.” Even though the service wasn't his first choice, it was generally beneficial to Canada and the COs.
“Most of us became more aware of the scriptural teachings on peace and nonresistance, and the importance of love and reconciliation, in the face of violence. As a result of my experience, I wanted to do more positive service, so I spent a two-year term in MCC relief work in France …. Service such as in MCC is a more positive kind of witness." [ASP, 79]
Fretz includes a direct challenge at the end his story: “Perhaps more effort should be made to form an ongoing church-operated peace-corps type of service which would be an alternative to military service.” In many ways, the Mennonites have already done that.