Mennonite Action (https://www.mennoniteaction.org/), a grassroots movement, united more than 800 Mennonites representing 250 congregations across the U.S. and Canada in a mobilizing call for peace, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, on Zoom. The “Call to Action” served as a resounding demand for a ceasefire, an end to the U.S.- and Western-funded occupation of Palestine, and a push for lasting peace. An additional 200 individuals registered to access the recording, amplifying the impact beyond the live audience.
The 90-minute webinar featured insights from a diverse panel of peace activists, a presentation by Mennonite Action coordinators and an invitational action plan.
Taking a stand against injustice
J. Denny Weaver, the first panelist and professor emeritus in the religion department of Bluffton (Ohio) University, explained why this work is important for followers of Jesus. He emphasized the need to present a public alternative to two problematic Christian stances – white Christian nationalism and evangelicals endorsing Israel based on misinterpretations of the book of Revelation.
“Our calling as Christians, as people defined by the life and teaching of Jesus, is to live in ways that continue his mission to make the reign of God visible against injustice,” Weaver said.
Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Tikkun Olam Chavurah, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, explained why this work is equally important for Jews, distinguishing between Judaism and Zionism.
“Together, standing up and speaking out for a full ceasefire, for an end to the killing and to the horrors that are taking place – that’s not an antisemitic act. That is a life giving act .. We’re demanded to speak out, whether we’re members of the Jewish community or members of the Mennonite community,” said Holtzman.
Jonathan Brenneman, a Palestinian Mennonite and one of the authors of Mennonite Church USA’s “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine: A Resolution for Mennonite Church USA (2017),” shared his personal motivation for involvement.
“As I heard my representatives calling for more money, more and more of my tax dollars to go to the genocide of my people, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that all we had built as Mennonites was not fit to meet this moment,” said Brenneman. “As Adam Ramer [coordinator for Mennonite Action] described this Mennonite Action project that he and other younger Mennonites are embarking on, I remember thinking, this is exactly what has been missing!”
Other panelists who underscored the urgency of the situation were: Amy Yoder McGloughlin, pastor of Frazer (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church and volunteer with Community Peacemaker Teams; Kathy Bergen, who works with the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada Palestine-Israel Working Group, Canadian Friends of Sabeel, and Canadian Voices for Palestinian Rights; and Ahmad Abu Monshar, a Palestinian who has served with Community Peacemaker Teams. Mel Yoder Salim of Community Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, moderated the on-screen discussion.
Taking coordinated public action
Mennonite Action coordinators Adam Ramer and Nick Martin outlined the role of the grassroots movement, stressing the importance of Christians being publicly visible and vocal in opposition to the misuse of faith. Ramer is a peace activist who grew up in Madison (Wisconsin) Mennonite Church and has served with several anti-occupation organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, in New York City and Washington, D.C. Martin is a peace activist and member of Community Mennonite Church in Lancaster.
They introduced six guiding principles – people, peace, public, power, prayer and Palestine – and defined the organization’s scope, committed to supporting Mennonites in taking peaceful public action.
“Mennonite Action is prepared to support Mennonites across Canada and the United States to take peaceful public action for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestine,” Ramer said. “Specifically, we are prepared to offer online platforms for widespread coordination across geographies and offer trainings on organizing and mobilization skills. We will release toolkits and action guides to help you along the way. We will coordinate and call for specific actions.”
The coordinators encouraged attendees to engage immediately with the following actions:
- Sign up for scheduled “action hours” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Community members will gather on Zoom while simultaneously contacting their respective elected officials. Sign up here: https://www.mennoniteaction.org/action-hours
- Attend a virtual training, called Peace School, for Mennonites who are ready to take public action together. Peace School is Thursday, Dec. 7th at 8:15 pm EST / 5:15 pm PST. Register here: https://www.mennoniteaction.org/peace-school
- Help organize an event for the Day of Mennonite Action for a Ceasefire. On Tuesday, Dec. 19, Mennonites across the U.S. and Canada are called to hold peaceful demonstrations at their representatives’ offices calling for a ceasefire. Sign up to lead or join an action in your area: https://www.mennoniteaction.org/dec19.
The chat burst to life with message after message from participants pledging to act.
Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MC USA denominational minister of Peace & Justice and a call participant, said, “Joining together with over 800 individuals/groups for a Call to Action is a sign of hope – hope that we can move beyond focusing on the binary of who is right and who is wrong, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of what the future with a comprehensive peace looks like.”
The impact of this mobilizing call is poised to reverberate, with the next Mennonite Action call scheduled for December 12, building on the momentum of a movement that refuses to be silent in the face of injustice. Register here: https://mennoniteaction.org/call.
Written by Camille Dager.