WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
People of all faiths gathered for a Remembrance service dedicated to peace.
EDMONTON — After an interdenominational prayer service, held on the evening of Remembrance Day, an elderly woman approached Werner DeJong, senior pastor at Holyrood Mennonite Church.
The woman was in tears. She told him that her grandfather was killed and her grandmother, at age 68, was raped during the war. Those circumstances led her to a pacifist, anti-war belief.
On Remembrance Day, we are asked to remember our soldiers, and those who selflessly sacrificed themselves in the war.
DeJong, worship leader at the prayer service, told the WCR that the service goes beyond that and "enters into a broader kind of remembering. The theme for the event is remembering all victims of war.
"One thing we really want to do is let people who may feel a little uncomfortable with traditional Remembrance Day services have a different way of remembering."
Christians of many denominations gathered to remember, reflect and pray for peace in the world. The prayer service was held Nov. 11 at the 137-year-old McDougall United Church.
Buttons given out at the service read: "To remember is to work for peace." A three-minute video, I Remember, was shown, which included music and images intended to inspire remembrance of war victims.
An estimated 130 people participated in last year's inaugural event, and at least that many at this year's. The event aimed at uniting people of all backgrounds in their common desire for peace.
"Today we are engaged in sending an explicit welcome to people of many ethnicities, cultures and nationalities, people who come from different faith traditions, people of all sexual orientations, and people on the social and economic margins of society," said Larry Derkach.
Afterwards, participants gathered downtown for a public prayer walk for peace. Participants lit candles on the steps of city hall.
"The organizers believe that God calls us to nonviolent conflict resolutions, so that's also one of our motivating forces. Jesus has called us to nonviolence, to be active in making peace but through nonviolent means," said DeJong.
Participants made three stops along the walk before returning to the church. The first was outside of the Stanley A. Milner Library, at a statue of Gandhi, a man synonymous with peace and nonviolence.
From the library, participants proceeded to Canada Place where they prayed for policymakers. The final stop was at the war memorial on Jasper Avenue, where visitors earlier in the day had deposited poppies and red roses in remembrance of dead soldiers.
"The biblical word for peace is 'shalom,' and that means well-being in every single area," said DeJong. "There is no shalom unless the hungry are fed and there are no more wars. Unless there's justice, there's no peace. Peacemakers feed the hungry, they care for justice, and they advocate for nonviolence and an end to war."
Organizer of the event was Scott Key, a Mennonite who is an education professor at The King's University College.
"Images of war could lead us to despair. They could lead us to hopelessness, and to meekly say, 'I can't do anything about war, about death, about destruction.' Yet Jesus has called each of us to be peacemakers," said Key.
The hard road that leads to peace has practical steps along the way. Since Jesus wants everybody to take a stand for peace, said Key, we begin by remembering and by praying, but that's merely the beginning. The prayer service and prayer walk are also important steps on the arduous journey towards peacemaking.
Key gave three practical suggestions on how to spread Jesus' message to love God and each other.
"The first is to tell our neighbours and our government to bring our troops home. The second is to tell our government 'no' to the F-35 fighter-bomber," said Key.
The F-35 Lightning II is a stealth fighter aircraft scheduled to go into service in 2011. The fighter plane is offensive, with a 25-millimetre gun, air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, plus a variety of bombs including, for American planes, the B-61 nuclear bomb.
"The third is to tell our government to honour those who have been victims of war. That includes the veterans who have not received proper treatment and all other war victims," said Key.
The Mennonite Central Committee sponsored the prayer service and walk.