The Decision to Become a CO

The decision to become a CO was not an easy one. It was not something that most people did because they were afraid of going to war. It took a personal belief in pacifism to motivate a man to make that decision. Vernon K. Toews describes his own experience before he made the decision.

“My first memory of the experience goes back to the initial communication from the military authorities, inviting me to report for my medical examination. This document had a rather traumatic effect on me, and produced a prolonged period of soul-searching. We had been raised in the Mennonite faith, with the emphasis on non-resistance, that article of faith that sets the Mennonite churches apart from its sister churches. Was I going to be a conscientious objector because of tradition, or was it a matter of personal conviction?

 

“I could not reconcile Christ's gospel of love with the philosophy of animosity, hatred and brutality as it reveals itself on the field of battled. Why was I to take a life when I could not bestow a life? Was the cause of humanity greater than the cause of Christ? He had not deemed His cause worthy of bloodshed. He had commanded Peter to sheathe his sword when the latter tried to defend His cause.”

“I have dwelt at some length on this subject to demonstrate that many young men of the time (I am sure there were many like myself) did not take the question of being a CO lightly. It caused many of us to come to terms with life, with the ultimate realities of existence, and possibly most important of all, with our relationship to God.” [Vernon K. Toews, “A CO in World War II” in Klippenstein ed, Mennonite Memories: Settling in Western Canada , 272-281]