Mennonites and Catholics seek to cooperate on peacemaking
After a five-year series of dialogue meetings between representatives of Mennonite World Conference and the Vaticanís Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Mennonite leaders have endorsed several joint initiatives with the Catholic Church.
A major goal is to start shared peacemaking efforts. If the Catholic Church is receptive to the idea, Anabaptists and Catholics will put forward "a concrete plan of action for a specific situation of conflict that would demonstrate the existence of viable and practical alternatives to military action."
Preferably, said the last general council of MWC meeting in March 2006, this would happen in a place where violence affects both Anabaptists and Catholics, such as Congo or Colombia.
Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is a global community of Christian churches who trace their beginning to the 16th-century Radical Reformation in Europe, particularly to the Anabaptist movement. Today, close to 1,300,000 believers belong to this faith family; at least 60 percent are African, Asian, or Latin American.
MWC represents 95 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national churches from 51 countries on six continents. They are especially known for their commitment to nonviolence, discipleship, Christian community and a refusal of the ëstate churchí model.
In 2007, Mennonite World Conference will organize a delegation to visit Rome, at the invitation of the Pontifical Council. Meanwhile, in 2008 and 2009, MWC and the Pontifical Council propose organizing two consultations "in regions of the world where Mennonites and Catholics encounter each other in significant and perhaps problematic ways."
The 100-member General Council functions in two other forms, as a Peace Council and a Faith and Life Council. During Peace Council sessions, members discussed how to strengthen their churches' peace witness and beliefs.
Peter Stucky from strife-torn Colombia persuaded the world Mennonite body to make their churches "sanctuaries of peace, [which] . . . impacts our message, our space and our people", to follow "the way of nonviolence as a non-negotiable value" and to "stand against the taking of all human life."
"Fear is a serious obstacle to developing a culture of peace", the MWC Peace Council listening committee observed. In some countries, peacemakers fear for their physical safety. In other countries, "we may fear what other people think of us."
The comment is particularly apt in the light of surprising hostility from some quarters towards the work Mennonite-supported Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, following the freeing of Norman Kember, Jim Loney and Harmeet Sooden after four months captivity, and the tragic murder of Tom Fox.
Delegates approved designating the Sunday closest to 21 September as Peace Sunday, to be observed in MWC member churches. Churches that already observe Peace Sunday on a different day are encouraged to continue that observance.
The date was selected because it is the United Nations' World Day of Peace. It is also marked by many member churches (Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox) of the World Council of Churches.
MWC exists to be a global community of faith in the Anabaptist-tradition, to facilitate community between Anabaptist-related churches worldwide, and to relate to other Christian world communions and organizations. The Catholic Church has its special peace day on the second Sunday in January.
Mennonite World Conference also re-elected Larry Miller as its executive secretary for a further period through to 2012.