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  • Len Rempel

To Remember is to work for Peace

It is November and as I write this, it is the day before Remembrance Day. It seems that as soon as the calendar flips over to this month, all those in public life begin wearing the red poppy. For me this is an unsettling time. I do want to be respectful and I do appreciate (and enjoy) the relative peace that we have in this country but…

I can’t quite get by that “but”

When this time of year comes around (and at other times) I do think about those who served in the war. One of my uncles was in the Canadian military during WWII and my father tried to join but was eventually discharged because of a medical condition. I was born only 15 years after the war ended and I grew up with many WWII movies and TV shows, some serious and others light-hearted. I also had a neighbour who served in the German army. He was part of our church and taught summer Bible school. In that same church I also grew up hearing about Jesus and about love, including Jesus’ call to love our enemies. But…

In my youth, when things were more “black & white” I was less tolerant of those who were part of the military. It was simply wrong and they were wrong for being a part of it. Over the years my belief in “love of enemies” hasn’t lessened but I do think I have become less self-righteous about that view.

About 20 years ago I was asked to preach at a Mennonite church around the time of Remembrance Day and naturally, the theme was peace. I don’t remember the sermon but I think it was a somewhat generic look at peace of various kinds. After the service I was speaking to one man who was a veteran. That conversation made me think and I began to recognize that I was in no position to judge those who made the decision to join the military. I did not live during that time of war and there was no way for me to understand the situation that led to their enlistment.

Today as I watch the news of the war in Gaza and the war in Ukraine and the war in …, I am unsettled. I want peace, I pray for peace and for an end to the suffering for those who have no choice, those who are trapped in a world of war. I am convinced more than ever that war and violence are not the solution and only cause more war and violence and pain. So I continue to pray for peace, to speak about peace, and I try to do that from a position of love and humility not judgement.

I am unsettled but maybe that is what it means to remember. And maybe by remembering, we can work for peace.

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