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NEWSLETER: United Church works for Peace through Justice

Anonymous — November 1984

Those of you who read the first issue of the UCPN newsletter in October’s Peace Calendar will recall that I briefly discussed the objectives of peacemaking efforts within the United Church of Canada. I also promised to continue that discussion in. November by looking at some theological perspectives behind these objectives. The following excerpt from the October newsletter will provide a lead-in to this month’s discussion:

“The objective of peacemaking efforts within the United Church of Canada might best be described as “Disarm and Develop,” or “Peace through Justice” as the World Council of Churches so aptly put it during its 1983 Assembly in Vancouver. This goal of “Disarm and Develop” is based upon the 1981 United Nations’ Study on Disarmament and Development. The conclusion of that study states: ‘The arms race and underdevelopment are not two problems. They are one. They will be solved together or neither will ever be solved….

I have selected two Biblical texts to highlight some of the theological influences behind United Church peace efforts. In the Old Testament, the book of Micah, chapter 4, verse 3 reads: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

In the New Testament, the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 34-40 read: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, o blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick arid you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’” .

The reading in Micah talks about converting our missiles into socially useful goods — plowshares and pruning hooks or better farming and medical equipment and transportation systems, for example. Many Christians within the United Church of Canada and throughout the world consider a dangerously escalating arms race (and a world that studies war for more than it ever studies peace) to be in total contradiction with this message in Micah.

The text from Matthew speaks to us about reaching out to the poor and suffering of this world. It also says, it seems to me, that when we do this, we serve God. It speaks to me of a Christ who lives in each and every one of us. Doesn’t this also mean, however, that when we fail the poor, we fail Christ? Again, many Christians see our rising military expenditures as violation of this message from Matthew. At present, as you know, we spend the majority of our world’s resources on “defence”. How does this help us to serve the two-thirds of our world’s people who, right at this very moment, live in poverty-stricken conditions?

The UN Study on Disarmament and Development explains that our mounting crises in the developing world are being further aggravated by the fact that countries which need tools or products that will help them develop their own economies are instead being sold millions of dollars worth of weapons. According to the report, this situation will continue to worsen as our global economy becomes increasingly based upon weapons production and sales — sales which benefit the producers and managers, buyers and sellers, here and in developing countries, and provide this small group with exceedingly high profits in hard times. These sales, in turn, cause further social unrest when military “needs” are met at the expense of basic human needs and, hence, the requests for more weapons to keep the masses quiet. Such a cycle provides great economic gain for an elite minority but it is deadly for the majority of people. Such a scenario leads to what the World Council of Churches calls the alternative approach of “Peace Through Justice”. The WCC statement affirms the belief that we will only truly have peace when we learn how to equitably share our world’s resources.

United Church members have also been moved by our own United Church Manifesto on Nuclear Disarmament approved by our General Council Executive in 1982. The following is a short excerpt from that statement:

“Because we confess Jesus Christ, the crucified one, and we are a people of the cross… Therefore, we name and reject the false god, of national security, national or racial superiority, economies based on the production of arms and a false peace which depends on terror and not on justice and we will see instead the fullness of God’s Shalom with justice, freedom and wholeness of life for all peoples,”

We, in the United Church of Canada, worship a just, a loving and a compassionate God. It seems, therefore, that we must seek a peace that is built upon justice, love and compassion. The above passage from Matthew focuses our attention on the poor and suffering of this world. This, I believe, calls us to take a long hard look at the cause of war in today’s society. As respected Quaker and longtime peace activist Ursula Franklin states: “The tools of war, however horrible, are not the roots of war.”

What is the cause of war today? While we are asked to believe that it is some communist conspiracy, is it not more likely rooted in the fact that 10%

of the world’s people eat up 60% of the earth’s resources and that the other 90% of our brothers and sisters around the globe are not too happy with what’s left over for them? Christian theologian William Sloane Coffin says that “revolts are caused by revolting conditions.” Indeed, as the above statistic indicates, most of the members of our human family are living in revolting conditions.

In closing, I believe that members of the United Church of Canada are becoming increasingly involved in peacemaking efforts because, as Christians, we affirm that our earth’s security rests not in armaments but in the justice of equitable human relationships nourished by cooperation and love.

A PRAYER FOR THOUGHT: Oh God of Compassion. May we turn our many stockpiles of swords into ploughshares and may we do it for the hungry, the thirsty, the estranged, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned of our world. And may we know; that when we do this for the least of these, we do it for you.

PLEASE NOTE: United Church Peace Network’s new address and phone — United Church Peace Network, Bathurst Street United Church, 736 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2R4. (416) xxx-xxxx.

Please see the Events Calendar for listing of November United Church Peace Activities.

Please send me information for December newsletter by November 15.
Joanne Clarke, Peace Coordinator