Every time Remembrance Day comes around, I find myself having internal conversations about what I, as a Mennonite, should be doing. I realize that not all Mennonites are pacifists and not all pacifists are Mennonites, but in the last decade I’ve been convicted of the call of Jesus that leads me to radical non-violence.
But how might a people of peace observe Remembrance Day? How can we remember without glorifying war? Should we be wearing poppies? Is it disrespectful to instead wear buttons that read, “To remember is to work for peace”? How might I reconcile my family history, seeing as I am now a citizen of a country that my Opa fought against?
Last year, I wrote a piece about why we do well to remember, even as pacifists. This year, I offer a prayer of lament and remembrance, asking God, the true giver of peace, to transform us and our world more and more into the likeness of His kingdom.
May the peace of Christ be with you.
As you hovered over the face of the waters, you spoke creation into being.
Out of the chaos of the unformed Earth, you brought forth life.
Not through war, violence, or carnage, but by the breath of your Spirit, we are here.
You gave us your son, Jesus, who demonstrated peace when He welcomed the outcast,
calmed the raging storm, washed the disciples’ feet, told Peter to put away the sword,
and when He went unto His death, refusing to fight while forgiving those who killed Him.
We confess that we are so far from your call to peace.
We have not loved as you have loved.
We have not prayed for our persecutors.
We have not turned the other cheek.
We have not forgiven as you have forgiven us.
We have not maintained the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We are sorry for the ways in which we have chosen to glorify ourselves instead of you.
We confess the many ways we have been complicit in the acts of violence in our world.
Forgive us for the times we have coveted power to dominate, exploit, and colonize.
As we look throughout our history, we see and know the atrocities of war.
As much as we wish wars never happened, they did and still do.
War brings with it a demonization for the other,
a hatred and division that justifies killing,
and destruction that takes generations to heal.
May we never forget what war does to your world,
to your people, your nations, your Earth.
We remember those who worked, fought, and died in war.
We grieve the immense suffering war brought to broken families and nations.
We lament the millions of innocent people who were murdered
because they were undesirable to the powers that be.
We declare that it should have never been, that it was not your plan.
We need you.
We are living in such a polarized time.
We are pressured to pick sides and to see the other as less than human.
We are told about the necessity or war, justifying killing for the sake of peace.
We are being convinced that we are number one, putting ourselves first.
We need you.
Transform our hearts and our minds to see your love in the midst of chaos and hatred.
Give us the courage to stand up for the casualties of our armed conflicts.
Give us the wisdom to know how to respond with non-violence.
Give us the grace to see our enemies as your creation too.
We need you.
Only through you do we find true peace.
We put our trust in you to do your work in this world.
We offer ourselves to you, to be used for your peace.
We rely on you to transform us into people who follow the way of Jesus.
We need you.
Do in this world what we can only hope or imagine.
Bring your kingdom, for your honour and glory,
as we look forward to the coming of Jesus
in whom we have everlasting and resurrected life.