We Call for Peace: Statements on Peace by Canadian Churches and Religious Organizations

Tasneem Jamal

Working Paper 94-3

Table of Contents

The Canadian Council of Churches
The Anglican Church of Canada
The Catholic Church and organizations
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Mennonite conferences and organizations
The Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
The United Church of Canada


By Martin Rumscheidt, Project Ploughshares National Board member

There is no peace to keep,” said the blue-helmeted soldier. Such has been the experience of the United Nations in its nearly 40-year-long effort to find the way to peace. Was Mahatma Gandhi right when he declared that there is no way to peace but that peace is the way?

Churches throughout the world have declared, in concert with the broad peace movement everywhere, that a false and—in the language of religions—idolatrous preoccupation with a narrowly defined security is the obstacle to peace. And the peoples of the world cry: we want peace, not security.

It requires little analysis, and almost no sophistication, to recognize that security has to do with the safeguarding of interests. In the language of the powerful, the pursuit of security is called “peace.” It may be undertaken by collectives, such as NATO and the former Warsaw Pact; by individual nations, such as the United States in relation to Cuba or Nicaragua; or even by a particular segment of a country’s population, as in the former Yugoslavia. In the pursuit of such particularist security, the peace that exists degenerates into security under the impact of violence. And the security promised in exchange for the peace that was becomes like a drug: one assumes greater and greater expense to have it. A high-ranking police official in Pinochet’s Chile once declared—with accurate perception—that security was like love: one can’t have enough of it.

We live in a world where no one—neither the one remaining superpower, nor the weakest of peoples—lives in security. “There is no peace to keep”—indeed! The person capable of peace has been replaced by the armed person. The manufacture and sales of arms confirm this as do the many thousands of people who die every day as a result of armed conflicts and their legacies.

When the churches speak of peace, justice, and integrity of creation, they speak of what Project Ploughshares calls “common security”: the reconciliation of partners in conflict, justice in trade relationships between North and South, and the reduction and elimination of the sense of being under threat, among other factors. In the language of the Bible, “common security” is “abundant life” and prophets and preachers repeatedly call on the peoples to “choose life.” Particularist security has made life unliveable; it is killing even without war.

For more than a decade, Canadian churches have called for disarming where we are, on the side which is neither better nor worse than any other side, but which allows us to act because it is where we are. The churches sought to move our government to relinquish—in concert with NATO, the United States, and others or, if need be, unilaterally—our threatening position and take steps forward. Steps proposed included: effectively controlling exports of arms and weapons components, ending NATO training overflights in Labrador, and setting up a UN arms trade register. The churches called for Canada to take risks rather than to close “the window of vulnerability,” as military planning would seek to do, knowing that without risk of trust there is no peace. The risk is that “the other” may be expected to do the unexpected, to change, to live in peace. Particularist security not only prevents but also prohibits that kind of transcendence of the collective self .

The politics of particularist security are, in other words, a matter of religion. This is because such security also has a god: one whose highest virtue is strength, whose method is violence, and whose promise is “business as usual” in the interests of the powerful. The churches call in this document for conversion: a turning towards liveable life; conflicts to be resolved without weapons, without blood. And the churches call in the very concrete language of the Bible itself. When it calls on people to become converted, it not only speaks of the human heart and mind but also of human technology: it says to beat our swords into ploughshares.

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches and supported by the major Canadian churches, Project Ploughshares presents this collection of Canadian church statements on peace and disarmament. They make a major contribution to a constructive and collective Canadian response to the crisis of the scores of armed conflicts which devastate the life of our world and to the crisis of escalating militarization. The statements raise acute questions of faith and security; if they offer no final or satisfactory answers, they surely call for critical participation in the search for peace.
The Canadian Council of Churches

Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
November 28, 1990

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the ensuing military buildup, and the threat of armed intervention by the United States and supporting states cause us, as Canadian church leaders, to express the following pressing concerns to you and your government. In doing so, we pray that you and your colleagues will be sustained in your search for a peaceful solution to this conflict and that it will be constructively resolved.

War cannot resolve the Gulf Crisis. We call on Canada to work urgently at the United Nations to dissuade the Security Council from authorizing the use of force, either to try to expel Iraq from Kuwait, or to depose Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. We urge Canada to work through the United Nations in support of economic and diplomatic measures toward peace and justice for all people in the Middle East.

A Gulf war could have no beneficial result. The modern high-technology warfare for which the Gulf region has been prepared would result in mass destruction. At a minimum, tens of thousands of lives would be lost; Kuwaiti and Iraqi social and physical infrastructures would be dealt a lethal blow, rendering them unstable and virtually ungovernable; the broad alliance against aggression would rapidly disintegrate; the war would inevitably escalate to include Israel and the entire region; in the wake of war the region would be debilitated and polarized, and the stability of all the states within it would be under greater threat—all to the detriment of the long-term pursuit of justice for all the peoples of the region.

Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. However, the most effective instrument with which to register the unacceptable character of this invasion of Kuwait is economic sanctions. By refusing, in particular, to purchase Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil, the world is denying Iraq the fruits of aggression.

We must acknowledge that economic sanctions, to be effective, will and do entail some degree of human suffering which in this instance, we are convinced, represents the lesser of two evils. The one major exemption to a sanctions package must be food to ensure that the innocent people of Iraq and Kuwait will not simply be starved into submission. The other fundamental assurance which must accompany sanctions is that there will be an openness to negotiate the terms of an Iraqi retreat which avoid war and allow the restoration process to begin. Canadian churches, with the help of sister churches and other groups in the region, are committed to monitoring the effects of sanctions to ensure that the basic dietary and health needs of the people are met.

We commend the Government of Canada for agreeing to immediate debate on this issue in Parliament. This is not the time for ultimata; rather it is the time to search for nonmilitary solutions, even if that means compromise and a less-than-ideal resolution. War will most certainly not produce an ideal solution.

Within the Christian tradition, we are about to enter the season of Advent. It is a time of joyful anticipation of the true peace that was promised us in a humble birth 2,000 years ago in the very region where war now threatens. We pray that you and your family will be strengthened by the peace that is still our promise and hope, even in these threatening times.

Signed by:

Dr. Stuart E. Brown
General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Endorsed by:

Bishop Donald Sjoberg,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Bishop Robert Lebel,
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Michael Peers,
Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

The Right Reverend Walter Farquharson,
Moderator, the United Church of Canada

The Reverend John F. Allan,
Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Canada
Joint communique of the delegation from the Canadian Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches
Beirut, Lebanon
20 January 1991

1. Alarmed at the tragic dimensions of the Gulf War, we join in calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. This war only adds to the suffering in the region and frustrates further the fulfillment of justice on which true peace depends.

2. We join the churches of the Middle East in praying for the victims of this war and those still at risk—civilians and military personnel—and for the authorities of the United Nations and all the states involved, urging them to return to negotiations and to withdraw all their troops, the Iraqis from Kuwait, but also coalition forces from the region.

3. The churches of the Middle East remind us that if a comprehensive and lasting peace is our aim we should not only seek a resolution of the disastrous conflict in the Gulf. It is essential that other fundamental and outstanding issues in the region be addressed vigorously and in a just and credible manner. Otherwise, major insecurities will remain in the aftermath of the ongoing fighting. We therefore join in calling for a process toward an international peace conference on outstanding conflicts including Palestine, Lebanon, and Cyprus.

4. Peace cannot be imposed through war, through superiority in technological weapons of mass annihilation, or through attempts to balance military powers or interests of states. Such approaches will keep the states of the region in a situation of insecurity, and will force them to waste their resources on military preparedness and weapons of still more destruction, instead of the just distribution of resources and investment in the development of the Middle East’s people and societies.

5. At this critical moment in the history of the region, and facing these dark days of war, the solidarity between our respective churches, and the solidarity between the victims of war of whatever nationality, is a moral power against war and a sign of hope for the harmony and peace that is the promise of all the children of Abraham—Muslims, Christians, and Jews—in the region.

6. Our two Councils appeal to the churches of Canada to join in the confident and persistent struggle for peace and to pray that hatred be replaced by love, selfishness by sharing, and war by peace.
Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
February 18, 1991

We write to urge Canada, especially in the light of Iraq’s stated willingness to discuss withdrawal from Kuwait, to call publicly for an immediate ceasefire in the Gulf War. We also urge you to call for the initiation of a process, under the United Nations, to lead to a Middle East conference which, with the primary participation of the states of the area, would seek to settle the range of issues that now render the Middle East so unstable.

For a month now, we have witnessed the relentless bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait. In Kuwait, where Iraq’s brutal invasion had already destroyed the essential social fabric and much of the civilian infrastructure, the devastation is now compounded. In Iraq, a society already carrying the burden of a long and pointless war with Iran, and a people already victimized by a ruthless leadership, the pain is now radically magnified. For both Iraq and Kuwait, recovery will be a painful, generations-long ordeal.

We therefore call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. It is simply the time to stop the carnage. Only then can the world begin again to explore, seriously and humanely, ways of resolving the conflict, restoring sovereignty and self-determination to Kuwait, and restoring Iraq to conformity to international law. The opportunity provided by the Iraqi reference to withdrawal must not be submerged by any coalition effort to press for additional objectives.

There is no justification for Iraq’s attack and wanton destruction of Kuwait. There is no justification for Saddam Hussein’s submitting the people of Iraq and Kuwait to the present pointless horror, but he has persisted. However, Saddam Hussein’s persistence in unconscionable behaviour does not justify the devastating destruction now being administered against innocent victims, the environment, and the entire fabric of Iraqi civil society. Saddam Hussein’s crime against humanity does not permit those who claim allegiance to law and a just order to commit new crimes. It can be said over and over that Saddam made us do it—but the point is that the Coalition forces are doing it. It is Coalition bombs that are now inflicting the pain; it is Coalition forces that are now laying a society to ruin. It must stop.

We are all guilty of duplicity if we dare to claim that a new international order based on respect for the rule of law, the integrity of all states, and for human life, will be built on the charred bodies and smouldering ruins of Iraq and Kuwait. The invasion of Kuwait, its systematic looting, and its ultimate annexation by Iraq represent a heinous crime. The present attacks on Iraq and Kuwait do not redress that crime; they compound it.

We have already criticized the Gulf War on three grounds. First, the present destruction is far out of proportion to the United Nations’ objectives. Second, the Coalition attack  was launched before the peaceful efforts to pressure Iraq to withdraw had been fully exhausted. Third, it seems very likely that the war, whatever its outcome, will have so inflamed Arab and Muslim opinion that the whole area will be less, rather than more, stable as a result.

To stop now would not give Iraq an opportunity to regroup its military forces and threaten a new assault. Prior to January 15, Iraq had five months to group its forces—it is hardly likely that it could, amid the carnage of what remains, muster itself for a potent new military assault that it was unable to manage before the attacks by the Coalition forces.

There is now an urgent need to return to a search for a humane settlement. Those who claim an abiding regard for international law and the integrity of states can surely find the courage to offer a gesture of goodwill and even mercy. Let the world search again for those alternative peace efforts—efforts which were not exhausted before the January 15 deadline. Let the world commit itself to renewed resolve in the search for a solution to the broad range of conflicts that beset the Middle East region. Let the United Nations issue a new deadline—the solemn promise that it will convene an international conference on cooperation and security in the Middle East before the end of 1991.

Iraq must vacate Kuwait now. And if we believe in the rule of law, if we are committed to honouring and implementing the resolutions of the Security Council, the commitment to a Middle East peace conference needs also to come now. The purpose of the United Nations is not to sanction war, but to replace war with negotiation, compromise, and nonmilitary sanctions as the means by which international law is enforced and the international community is ordered.

Please use Canada’s membership in the Coalition to challenge its members to stop the destruction now and to return to the United Nations and its central purpose of pursuing alternatives to war in the settlement of international conflict. Be assured of our prayers and support to that end.
Church leaders’ statement on the conflict in the Former Yugoslavia
April 27, 1993

On 20 August 1992 several of us signed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Mulroney from the Canadian Council of Churches on the tragic situation in the former Yugoslavia. That letter emphasized the need for a negotiated end to the conflict, humanitarian assistance to the victims on all sides, and restraint in the use of armed intervention by the United Nations forces in the region.

Since August, the tragedy has multiplied, the numbers of victims has grown alarmingly, the suffering of the people has reached an unimaginable extent. The moral dilemmas of the conflict, where an arms blockade gives military advantage to one side over others, and where assistance to asylum seekers appears to accommodate the ethnic cleansing  policies we want to oppose, have weakened and confused international efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict, and to bring the fighting to an end.

We therefore feel a responsibility to speak out once again on the situation, with a view to the response of the international community, the Canadian government, and the Canadian churches. We believe that the victims of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia make profound moral claims on states and individuals that include but go beyond appeals for humanitarian assistance. Our eyes have been opened to the horrors that face the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and other parts of the Balkans. We cannot remain silent and inactive, however complex and precipitous the issues may be. When those consumed with hatred and violence are full of passionate intensity, those who are convinced of the need for reconciliation and coexistence in peace cannot lack commitment.


As the conflict in the former Yugoslavia has evolved and spread, the suffering of civilians caught in the fighting has become increasingly brutal. With our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim communities of the region we are repulsed by and condemn the rape of women and girls. In this instance the evidence suggests that Bosnians in particular have been targeted. This crime, suffered by women in other regions during this war, and in so many other wars around the world, cannot be met with indifference.

We urge the United Nations to take immediate action to protect women and children victimized by intentional acts of sexual abuse and violence, and to establish a documentation team in order that perpetrators, of whatever nationality or faith community, may stand trial; the Canadian government to ensure that funds and services for victims of trauma as a result of the conflict are provided, in addition to the assistance already made available; the Canadian churches, together with the Canadian government, to offer asylum to women, their families, and the unwanted children that result from pregnancy due to rape, in numbers that realistically share in the humanitarian burden that this conflict presents.

Human rights

The Fourth Geneva Convention documents the provisions that the international community has agreed are due to civilians in the midst of war, and confirms the responsibility of us all to protect human rights, even in situations of intense and prolonged conflict. We add our voice to those of all faith communities in the region to call for urgent attention to the human rights of internally displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers, prisoners of war and people held in detention camps, and those in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The intense fighting has impaired the ability of religious and non-governmental  organizations to meet the needs of those victimized by the conflict, on all sides. It has also created vast numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons who have little hope of finding work or returning home. Churches in the region have pointed out that any delay in assisting these victims, for fear of collaborating with policies of ethnic cleansing, adds to the death toll among the targeted population. The alternatives offer no easy decision, and yet it is clear that the survival of those who have no choice but to leave must take priority.

We urge the United Nations to coordinate efforts by governments and non-governmental organizations to protect civilians on a non-partisan and non-sectarian basis; the Canadian government to offer leadership in creating effective human rights protection for people caught up in the tragic wars in the former Yugoslavia, and in persuading countries in Europe and North America, including Canada, to open doors to refugees, and to provide funds to those neighbouring countries that have sheltered refugees from the conflicts thus far; the Canadian churches to support refugee sponsorship and assistance programs in Canada, and to support churches in Croatia, Slovenia, and those countries neighbouring the former Yugoslavia in their efforts to meet the needs of refugees arriving daily in their towns and cities without the means to survive, while carrying the scars of war.

Humanitarian response

In the midst of difficult circumstances the United Nations has sought to respond to the humanitarian needs of people in the conflict that has engulfed the former Yugoslavia. It is crucial that such assistance continue as long as the crisis exists. We look with particular sensitivity to the needs of Muslims who have been affected by the fighting in ways that have threatened their existence as a community.

We urge

  • the United Nations, the Canadian government, and the Canadian churches to coordinate efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance on a non-partisan and non-sectarian basis, and thereby to protect and sustain the culture and identity of distinct Balkan communities, with particular sensitivity to the peril facing Muslims in the region.

Political solutions

Protection of civilians, human rights guarantees, and delivery of humanitarian assistance are essential but insufficient to the needs of the people in the former Yugoslavia. They require of us, in addition, the strongest possible political intervention to resolve the conflicts, and to provide for the security needs of the emerging states around whom this confrontation has developed. The peace process must not offer impunity to those who have engaged and promoted this war, particularly those who have promoted attacks on civilians, forced displacements, and interfered with the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies. At the same time, peace requires a negotiated settlement that avoids revenge and restores dialogue among the communities that made up the former Yugoslavia, a peace that is built on a commitment to pluralistic, multi-ethnic societies.

Many voices call for military intervention as the only means to achieve justice and reconciliation—among those are voices of the victims. While we support additional policing action by the United Nations, we cannot support a major military intervention of military combat forces. It is necessary to upgrade efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance, and it is appropriate to use military force to assist in and protect those efforts with minimal military force. However, we also strongly believe that violence is never a solution to human conflict.

We urge

  • the United Nations to pursue vigorously a commitment to peaceful, workable models of conflict resolution;
  • the Canadian government to uphold a commitment to the potential of pluralistic and multi-ethnic societies, so that by promoting a model of civil society that is based on tolerance and interdependence, Canada might strengthen the hands of moderates in the region, and present an alternative to fear, suspicion, and distrust;
  • the Canadian churches to work together to identify concrete alternatives to military intervention in the face of aggression, in order that we may find ways to confront violence and oppression without adding to the toll of victims.

We express these concerns with a deep awareness of the use of religion on all sides to justify repression and military aggression. This must be confronted and condemned in the face of a God who makes no distinctions in the name of justice. We must stand ready to do all we can to help. Yet in the end it is clear that respect for human rights, delivery of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, and the formation of open civil societies in the former Yugoslavia can only come about with an end to the fighting and a resolution of the fundamental roots of the conflict.

Endorsed by:

Most Rev. Bruce McLeod
President, Canadian Council of Churches

Rt Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Rupwate
General Superintendent,
British Methodist Episcopal Church, Conference of Canada

Most Rev. Michael G. Peers
Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

Rev. Robert L. Dees
Moderator, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada

Bishop Hovnan Derderian
Primate, Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church

Most Rev. Marcel Gervais
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bishop Donald W. Sjoberg
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Commissioner Wesley Harris
Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army–Canada and Bermuda

Sotirios, Bishop of Toronto
Head, Greek Orthodox Church in Canada

His Beatitude Wasyly Fedak
Metropolitan Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Rev. Linda Bell
Moderator, Presbyterian Church in Canada

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Stanley McKay
Moderator, United Church of Canada
The Anglican Church of Canada

General Synod 1983


Because we believe that shalom—peace with justice, freedom, and true security for all—is the future God intends for us; because Jesus, crucified and risen, commissioned his disciples saying, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so I send you’; because we accept his commission to bear witness to the hope to which he calls us in the midst of this suffering, fearful, and broken world; and because we recognize that weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological, and chemical—confront us with a new moral challenge; this General Synod join with other churches and with concerned people all over the world in declaring that the development, production, or use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction—such as biological or chemical—is contrary to the will of God and the mind of Christ. We urge the Canadian government to commit Canada to peacemaking and to alignment with other nations pursuing nonviolent methods for the resolution of conflict without the threat to use nuclear weapons.
General Synod 1986

Economic priorities and militarism

In the continuing search for the fullness of life that Christ calls us to seek for all, General Synod urges the Church to examine the economic priorities which are being acted on by their governments and their Church, related on the one hand to military expenditures and, as well, personal patterns of consumption, investment, and savings, and on the other hand to social expenditures; and calls the Church in the next three years to take specific collective and personal initiatives to address the growing needs of the poor and the dispossessed in their own communities, the nation, and the wider world, working to redress the gross imbalance in spending in the present climate of increasing militarism.
National Executive Council
October 1989

White Paper on Defence

Because we are called by the God of love to cherish the earth and seek justice and peace, this General Synod  endorses the Church Leaders’ statement that national defence policies should be based on defensive rather than offensive capabilities, and should be designed to defend without threatening or provoking neighbours or adversaries.

Statement by Archbishop Michael Peers on the outbreak of the Gulf War
January 17, 1991

It is with deep regret that I find our nation is today at war. The event so many of us had hoped could be avoided is now upon us. I grieve and mourn the loss of innocent civilian life in the last 12 hours in the streets and homes of Iraqi cities. I extend my support to the families of Canadian forces’ members waiting anxiously now for news of their loved one’s safety.

I ask all Anglicans, and I join with other Canadian church leaders in asking all Canadians, to pray fervently for a quick end to the fighting, for the resumption of diplomatic initiatives by both Iraqi and United Nations authorities, and for the containment of this conflict within its present limits.

It is beyond dispute that Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, in flagrant violation of international law and with its foul atrocities against the Kuwaiti people, is unacceptable and contemptible. Nevertheless, the decision of the Canadian government to commit our forces to war and the call today from Canadian politicians to close ranks and support the war effort are deeply problematic. There are issues here upon which religious leaders have a duty to comment.

The Christian religion has a tradition of the just war. Normally, there are six tests applied to a conflict to determine whether violence is morally justifiable. They are:

  • last resort after all other attempts to resolve the conflict,
  • right authority in the initiation of hostility,
  • right cause in the purpose of war,
  • proportionality in the use of force,
  • discrimination in the application of force (i.e., protection of non-combatants), and
  • reasonable prospect of success.

The commitment of the United Nations forces to war last night does not, in my view, meet these tests.

  • Military force cannot be said to be the option of last resort. South Africa has been in violation of UN resolutions for 40 years, and Israel for 23 years, yet in these cases sanctions and negotiations are still being pursued.
  • While the commitments of United States, British, and French forces have received the approval of their respective legislative assemblies, the Canadian Parliament has not given approval to the use of Canadian forces in  combat roles.
  • There is widespread public debate about exactly what cause is being pursued in this conflict. Is the cause the liberation of Kuwait? If so, it may be just. But is it a further attempt by western powers, in continuance of a long tradition, to dominate Middle Eastern affairs and to subjugate Arab nations by coercion? The industrialized world, including Canada, has supplied weapons of war to the entire region, including Iraq, for its own political and material benefit. In his speech last night, President Bush failed to mention the one word which this war seems to be about—”oil.” If the cause which is being pursued is the preservation of western lifestyles, then this war is not just.
  • It is too early to judge whether the force that is being used is commensurate with the force that is being opposed. Certainly, the elimination of Iraqi chemical and nuclear capability is to be welcomed—though this would need to be extended to other nations in the region and in the world as well. But if, in view of early signs of minimal air resistance, the strength of Iraqi forces should prove to have been seriously overestimated by UN commanders, this will be a further indication of a lack of moral justification for the attack.
  • Similarly, we have no assurance that there has been protection of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians. The resort to high-level aerial bombardment is a tactic designed to minimize military casualties, not those of non-combatants. The first commitment given by President Bush last night was to the safety of American lives. The total neglect of any mention of the protection of civilians is reprehensible. If the first casualty of war is truth, the early military-controlled news releases of low levels of ground casualties are difficult to believe.
  • A reasonable prospect of success exists only if one’s understanding of success is limited to the battlefield. This conflict has the potential to ignite the entire region in unimaginable devastation, to pit the Muslim world against the West for decades to come, and to unleash waves of violent and racist extremism throughout the world, not least in our own country. We have opened Pandora’s box once again.

I conclude that this war in the Persian Gulf does not meet the tests provided by Christian tradition for a morally justifiable engagement at this stage. The Prime Minister has commented that Canadian participation in combat roles in this conflict is both reasonable and moral. I reject his sentiments and his reasoning.

I call upon him now to show leadership in creating a role for Canada in building a new world order, one which settles disputes through diplomatic, economic, and political means without recourse to the brutalities of war.

I call upon all Canadians of good will to pursue all efforts to bring about peace and the cessation of this destruction.
General Synod 1992

Common security and the  federal budget

This General Synod calls upon the Government of Canada to

  • acknowledge that the common security of all peoples is based upon the just and equitable distribution of wealth and the preservation of the environment rather than on military might;
  • recognize that government spending should reflect this principle;
  • realign budgetary allocations from national defence to the environment and international aid, making provision for annual parliamentary review of progress in this direction.

International arms trade

This General Synod urges the Government of Canada to help eliminate the international arms trade by acting as a model to other nations through the prohibition of the export of military commodities; and that exceptions be made

1) in the case of exports for the purpose of equipping international peacekeeping forces as sanctioned by the United Nations; and

2) in cases where non-lethal surveillance commodities are exported to countries meeting stringent screening tests to avoid exports to unstable regions or countries known to be violators of human rights; and further

3) that, prior to such exceptions, a process of public debate, parliamentary approval, together with the establishment of public reporting and accountability procedures, be concluded.

War as an instrument of public policy

This General Synod calls upon the government to reject war as an instrument of international policy and to restrict the use of military force to

1) non-provocative defensive actions to defend against a military attack on Canada;

2) participation in the minimal amount of force required of a United Nations-sanctioned international peacekeeping force to uphold diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed upon an aggressor nation or nations; and

3) the minimal amount of non-provocative defensive military force required of a United Nations-sanctioned international peacekeeping force to resist continued military attacks by an aggressor nation or nations.
Letter to the Standing Committee on Defence and Veterans Affairs
20 July 1994

We share Project Ploughshares’ discernment of the post-Cold War world as facing not only the military violence of regional wars but the very roots of global insecurity: the structural violence of unjust and desperate social and economic conditions; the failure of many societies to meet basic human needs; widespread denial of human rights and democracy; and a deteriorating natural environment  (Building Peace: New Challenges for Canada’s Foreign and Defence Policies, April 1994 [Project Ploughshares Working Paper 93-4]). It is in these circumstances that we give expression to the prophetic vision of shalom—a world where none would fear and people would build peace—a vision of global common security.

Human rights and the arms trade

The Anglican Church of Canada has long pressed the Canadian government to stop sales of Canadian military commodities to countries known to be human rights violators whose military or police forces might use them against their own populations. The Anglican Church of Canada has, however, made stronger claims. As a worldwide faith community the church hears firsthand about the human and ecological devastation wreaked by modern weapons. Anglicans expressed concern and anger at the diversion of money and resources from social and economic needs (such as education and healthcare) to the military when General Synod, in 1992, called upon the Government of Canada to acknowledge that the common security of all peoples is based upon the just and equitable distribution of wealth and the preservation of the environment rather than military might; recognize that government spending should reflect this principle; and realign budgetary allocations from national defence to the environment and international aid, making provision for annual parliamentary reviews of progress in this direction. We have also indicated our alarm at the burden that huge arms purchases create, especially for Third World countries. This, too, was embodied in a resolution of General Synod 1992:

  • Canada should help eliminate the international arms trade by acting as a model for other nations through prohibition of exports of military commodities, except for two purposes: equipping international peacekeeping forces sanctioned by the United Nations; and providing surveillance commodities, avoiding countries in unstable regions or known to be human rights violators;
  • there should be parliamentary scrutiny of all arms sales for export, through procedures of prior approval and subsequent review, to ensure openness and accountability.

Nuclear disarmament

Along with the worldwide Anglican communion, the Anglican Church of Canada since 1958 has sought an end to the nuclear arms race and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. More than a decade ago General Synod 1983 renounced the development, production, or use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction—such as biological or chemical. Opposition to nuclear weapons lay behind the Anglican Church of Canada’s call since 1982 to end cruise missile testing on Canadian soil. (The recently tested “Stealth” AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile is part of the modernization of the US nuclear capability.) The government must not allow cruise missile tests in Canada.

Since 1983 the Anglican Church of Canada has publicly opposed Canada’s support for the NATO policy of “first use”  of nuclear weapons in response to a conventional weapons attack, and in 1989 it endorsed the Nuclear Weapons Legal Action to seek a court declaration that such support is illegal under both Canadian and international law. The Anglican Church of Canada also endorsed the World Court Project, promoted its Declaration of Conscience to congregations, and joined many peace organizations in urging the government to submit a brief to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), supporting the view that the ICJ should declare use of nuclear weapons by a State during a time of armed conflict a breach of its obligations under international law. Because the ICJ has extended the time limit for states to make such statements to 20 September, we repeat our request as a matter of urgency. Such an ICJ declaration could be a citizen-initiated step to complement achievement of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and of the extension of an improved Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which, among other things, should ensure compliance of the nuclear-armed nations with major nuclear disarmament measures. We endorse the detailed recommendations of steps towards nuclear abolition set out in the Project Ploughshares brief (Building Peace, page 9). We believe abolition is key for the future of humanity.

Canada’s participation in combat

Reflecting the established Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada was the church of God, King, country, and regimental flags. When, in mid-January 1991, our government committed Canadian forces to combat roles against Iraq, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, issued a statement on January 17 condemning Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait but rejecting the Gulf War as morally unjustifiable in light of the six just war criteria. This call to the government to create a role for Canada in building a new world order that would settle disputes through diplomatic, economic, and political means without recourse to the brutalities of war is widely supported in the Anglican Church of Canada. Our analysis noted the indiscriminate devastation that western powers in the first 12 hours of war wreaked upon innocent civilians by high-level aerial bombardment. Archbishop Peers observed that military force had not been the last resort because the United Nations did not pursue the options of sanctions and negotiations, which were employed over long periods in other cases where United Nations resolutions were flouted (South Africa for 40 years, Israel for 23). Pointing out Canada’s complicity, along with that of the industrialized world, in supplying arms to the region and to Iraq itself, the Primate suggested that the conflict might be being pursued militarily for reasons of realpolitik (such as continuance of a long tradition of domination of Middle Eastern affairs and access to oil needed for western lifestyles).

Perceptions of this kind underlay the policy adopted in 1992 by General Synod, which called on the government to “reject war as an instrument of international policy” and to restrict the use of military force to

  • non-provocative defensive actions to defend against a military attack on Canada;
  • participation in the minimal amount of force required of a United Nations-sanctioned international peacekeeping force to uphold diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed upon an aggressor nation or nations; and
  • the minimal amount of non-provocative defensive military force required of a United Nations-sanctioned international peacekeeping force to resist continued military attacks by an aggressor nation or nations.

In moving this resolution the Anglican Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, Bishop Russell Hatton, stated that had such a policy been in place in January 1991 the Canadian government would never have gone to war in the Gulf. Military combat meeting such strict criteria will be infrequent.

Military missions, equipment, and training

We agree with the recommendations of the Project Ploughshares brief (Building Peace, page 11) that Canada should reorient its military forces and training from war-fighting roles to traditional international peacekeeping missions, humanitarian support, and policing operations—all military activities contributing to a political process of peacemaking and conflict resolution.

The Anglican Church has a long history of support for native peoples’ rights. General Synod in 1989, having learned firsthand from Innu leaders of their opposition to NATO low-flying testing and related training out of Goose Bay and of its devastating impact on their culture, officially opposed this military activity and called on the government to stop it. Supporting conversion from militarism, General Synod urged the government to take steps to protect the livelihood of those who would be adversely affected by this cessation. In becoming a signatory to Agenda 21 at the Rio Earth Summit, Canada agreed that “the lands of indigenous peoples and their communities should be protected from activities…that the indigenous people concerned consider to be socially or culturally inappropriate,” which makes termination of this military activity a matter of respect for Canada’s international obligations. We note with dismay the two options advanced in the recently released Environmental Impact Statement—to cut the NATO avoidance measures, or to create a giant training area including more traditional territory of the north shore Quebec Innu and establish a second bombing range northwest of Sheshatshiu in Innu hunting territory. Either option can only be more destructive of the Innu culture and way of life. We therefore urge the government to reconsider the whole question of the use of Goose Bay in light of native rights.

In conclusion, we hope that the advice of Project Ploughshares, the Canadian Council of Churches, and our own church, among others, will find common ground with the government so that Canada will move to a more constructive role in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and support for  human development in poorer nations while promoting more sustainable economic and environmental patterns.
The Catholic Church and organizations

Submission to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence concerning Canada’s preparations for the Second Special Session of the United Nations on Disarmament, 1982

Church role

In the past few years, the repression of human rights by military regimes has become a major pastoral concern for the Catholic Church. In a growing number of countries, the Church has become the major institutional recourse for human rights against the repressive measures of military states. The situations in Central America (i.e., El Salvador, Guatemala) and Poland are primary examples today. The repressive situations in Chile and South Africa also continue to illustrate these concerns. And Pope John Paul II’s trips to Brazil and the Philippines have highlighted other cases where the Church is engaged in a protracted struggle for human rights. For the Canadian Church, these issues have to become a major priority. The Canadian bishops, through their Human Rights Committee, have actively pressed the Canadian government and Canadian corporations to change these economic and/or political transactions with particular military regimes that strengthen the hand of repression in those countries. These initiatives have been enhanced by the work of ecumenical action/research coalitions, notably, the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America and the Task Force on Churches and Corporate Responsibility, along with the public education program of Development and Peace in the Catholic Church.

Military states

The buildup of military regimes, employing repressive technology and weapons to control their own populations, constitutes one of the most recent and tragic consequences of the global arms race. The most recent example is the situation in Poland. While a critical analysis of repression in that country is just beginning, our attention in recent years has been focused on the rise of military states in the Third World. In the last decade, we witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of military states, particularly in Third World countries. In Latin America, for example, some 20 countries are governed by military or authoritarian regimes. In such Third World situations, increasing economic disparities and social injustices give rise to greater unrest for social change, which in turn leads to a military takeover of the government in order to protect the status quo from the people. The military junta concentrates political power in its own hands and assumes control over the legislative body—directly or indirectly. Constitutional guarantees—democracy, free speech, free assembly, trade union rights, and even religious freedom—are often suspended or curtailed. Arbitrary detention, torture of political prisoners, along with murder and assassination of opposition groups become  commonplace. The military junta rationalizes all this in the name of “national security.” In most military states, one of the obvious effects is that the security of the rich and the powerful is protected, while the security of the vast majority, namely the poor, is subject to violation.

Repression trade

The major industrial powers, for the most part, are responsible for supplying the internal “security” hardware required by these military regimes. This hardware may include lethal weapons such as guns, hand grenades, ammunition, and related explosives. It may also involve non-lethal weapons such as prison gear, surveillance systems, armoured cars, torture devices, or riot control equipment. Often, such military assistance includes training of security forces, technical advisors, and intelligence exchanges. This is effectively an international repression trade system. In some countries (e.g., El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea, etc.) it has resulted in the militarization of entire societies in order to wage an internal war against perceived threats from their population. Moreover, this repression trade is growing. The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, for example, reports the president of an arms exporting company as saying: “There are more riots and upheavals than ever before, and thus we’re doing more and more business every year.”

Spheres of influence

The buildup of military regimes and their internal security forces is also related to the strategies of the major industrial powers to maintain political and economic spheres of influence in different regions. For example, the Soviet Union (re. Afghanistan and Poland) and the United States (re. El Salvador and Guatemala) will provide substantial amounts of assistance to maintain military regimes in order to protect their “spheres of influence,” i.e., those regions which are considered part of their “back yard” and which must be guarded against external threats. Large amounts of military and economic aid are funnelled into these satellite countries in order to secure rights for military bases, develop military and political alliances, and gain access to important sources of raw materials and markets. These are modern forms of “military colonialism,” and the people of these colonies generally find themselves subjected to continuous rule by repression.

Canada’s role

Canada, once again, is not exactly an innocent bystander in the buildup of Third World military regimes. Canadian-based corporations, banks, and crown corporations continue to do business with military regimes engaged in gross violations of human rights, thereby legitimizing and strengthening the hands of internal repression in such countries. The sale of Canadian manufactured artillery systems to South Africa also gives cause for real concern. The sales of Canada’s CANDU nuclear energy technology to military regimes in South Korea and Argentina raise similar questions.

While Canada may not be directly involved in supplying arms and technology to military states for purposes of internal repression, questions should be raised about whether arms exports are being used for these ends.


In the first UN Session on Disarmament, insufficient attention was given to the realities of militarization for internal repression. Yet this form of military armament has a greater and more direct impact on the daily lives of people than other forms of militarization. We believe that these issues should be given serious attention at the forthcoming UN Session on Disarmament. Accordingly, we urge the Canadian government to give serious consideration to the following suggestions in preparation for the Second Special Session of the UN on Disarmament:

a) specific steps to assure that the problem of “military armament for the repression of human rights” be a major topic on the agenda of the session;

b) specific proposals for monitoring and controlling the sale of repression technology to military states for use in repressing social unrest, internal dissent, or waging war against large segments of the population;

c) specific legislation in Canada providing a set of human rights criteria which must be satisfactorily met by military states before Canadian crown corporations would be permitted to do business;

d) specific proposals on how Canada will go about requiring government agencies, Canadian-based corporations, and banks to apply human rights criteria in future transactions with military states.
Global justice: global peace

Reflections on Canada’s role in developing a new international order, based on justice and peace

Submitted to the Special Joint Committee on Canada’s International Relations by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), Canadian Religious Conference (CPC), and l’Entraide missionnaire inc. in March 1986

Gospel perspective

As Christians, our perspective is firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his message of justice and peace for the world. The ancient prophets heralded Christ’s entry into human history as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). At the inauguration of his ministry, Jesus announced that he was the message of the prophets come true, “good news to the poor” and “liberty to the oppressed” (Luke 4:16-19). In his sermon on the Mount, he outlined the essential elements required for building the kingdom of justice and peace on earth (Matthew 5:1-12). And, in his account of the last judgment, Jesus made it quite clear that acceptance of him is equated with loving one’s neighbour and seeking justice for the poor, the disinherited, and the  oppressed (Matthew 25:31-46). For it is the just, he said, who shall receive eternal life (Matthew 25:46).

The implications of this Gospel message for the modern world have been outlined by the Church in a series of social teaching documents. A central theme running through these social teachings is the message—opus iustitae pax—that peace demands justice. There can be no lasting peace in the world unless the injustices that divide and exploit peoples are eliminated. As long as poverty and oppression persist in many regions of the world, there are no foundations for a real and lasting peace. As Paul VI declared, “if you want peace, work for justice.” “Development,” he declared, “is the new name for peace.”

The Church’s social teachings have also critiqued the structural injustices and ideological conflicts which undermine the search for true peace in the world today. As John Paul II reminds us, our models of society and systems of international relations—North and South, East and West—are dominated by competition and antagonism in which the strongest prevails. “Political views,” he declares, “contaminated by the lust of power, by ideologies, [and] by defence of one’s own privilege and wealth must be abandoned.” The Cross symbolizes Christ’s unifying power to reconcile North and South, East and West. The Church maintains that the establishment of a new international order based on justice and peace is a moral imperative for the survival of humanity on this planet. To achieve these ends requires conversion to new forms of solidarity within and between nations.

Eighteen months ago, John Paul II addressed many of these themes during his historic visit to Canada. In his pilgrimage across the country, he publicly denounced the public threat of nuclear war and militarism (Ottawa), the “imperialistic monopoly” that makes the South poor and the North rich (Edmonton), and the international market economy that obstructs food production and causes global hunger (Flatrock). At the same time, he outlined some basic principles for building a new economic order (Toronto) and urged Canada to exercise leadership in the cause of international justice and peace (Edmonton, Ottawa).

Global conflicts

The Church has become increasingly aware of new social forces which have intensified conflicts between North and South, East and West in recent years. For example, new forms of capital and technology, coupled with new patterns of ownership and control, generated major structural changes in economic and political systems. As a result, a new international environment has emerged which is characterized by new conflicts and tensions. These realities pose a major challenge for developing a foreign policy based on justice and peace in the world today.

Over the past decade, industrial and financial capital has become organized on an unprecedented geographical scale through the operations of transnational corporations and banks. Today, transnational enterprises can shift their  operations around the globe on almost a momentary basis, taking advantage of profitable investment opportunities, thereby outflanking workers’ demands in various countries. This, in turn, has created new conditions for international competition, as nation-states (and regions within nation-states) compete with one another for investments of transnational capital. At the same time, the introduction of sophisticated computer technology into the processes of industrial production is having far-reaching social consequences. Computerized factories, electronic offices, and mechanized farms are expected to be the wave of the future. Using less and less human labour, the new technologies are likely to have serious social impacts in terms of unemployment, underemployment, and the marginalization of working people.

This new global economic environment has served to heighten North-South tensions. Under new conditions for international competition, the industrialized countries of the North have accelerated the scramble for control of resources, markets, and labour in Third World countries. The social consequences for the poor majority in numerous African, Latin American, and Asian countries have been devastating. In textiles, electronics, and auto-parts, for example, several Third World countries have been designated as pools of low-cost, low-skilled labour (wherein average wage levels are 10 to 20 per cent of those in the more industrialized states). In food production, large agribusiness firms have managed to re-organize food production for export rather than domestic needs and to drive millions of peasants off their land into urban centres, thereby swelling the ranks of the poor and the unemployed. In addition the relentless buildup of military regimes in the South has led to widespread repression of human rights. In the case of Central America and the Philippines, for example, billions of dollars required for food, shelter, education, and healthcare have been spent instead on military forces and equipment to suppress social unrest among peasants, workers, and the poor.

The new global economic realities have also served to heighten East-West tensions. Economic competition, especially for access to strategic resources and new markets, has accelerated between eastern and western bloc countries. It has become clear, for example, that the formerly unchallenged United States economy is now compelled to compete not only with West Germany, Japan, and other western nations but with communist bloc states as well. In order to protect their ideological and competitive positions, both the United States and the Soviet Union have rapidly expanded their political security systems. As a result, we have seen the massive buildup of nuclear arsenals on both sides—the neutron bomb, the SS-18, the MX missile, the SS-20, the cruise missile—which has brought the world perilously close to a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries spend 20 times more of their national income on military arsenals than on development aid  to the Third World.

Nuclear weapons

The Church has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the continuing acceleration and expansion of the nuclear arms race. Nuclear weapons production in both the Soviet Union and the United States appears to have its own built-in technological imperatives. Each new technological breakthrough in weapons research means a further expansion of the nuclear arms race. Moreover, the development of new weapons technology is fuelled by substantial financial resources. In 1986, for example, we are told that weapons research in the US alone is expected to consume $39-billion. Moreover, the US is expected to spend an additional $30-billion on research related to the Strategic Defense Initiative over the next few years.

As a nation-state, Canada has officially rejected the so-called nuclear option. Yet, Canada still participates in the production of nuclear weapon systems. Through the US-Canada Defense Sharing Agreement, Canadian industries are directly involved in the production of component parts for nuclear weapons systems (e.g., the cruise missile system, Trident submarines, and launches for neutron bombs). Canadian scientists and high tech industries are also involved in the production of communications systems and related technologies used in nuclear weapons systems. Many of these projects for nuclear weapons research are funded in part by the federal government under the Defence Industry Production Programs.

We maintain that concerted efforts must be made to reverse the expansion of nuclear weapons production and curtail its built-in technological imperative. As an important step in this direction, Canada should re-activate its proposals for a “strategy of suffocation” which were submitted to the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in 1978. Based on the recognition that it is difficult to find an effective and verifiable way of limiting nuclear weapons research, the “strategy of suffocation” proposes that the place to exercise effective control measures is at the testing stage of nuclear weapons systems.

In order to re-activate this “strategy of suffocation,” we would encourage Canada to pursue more vigorously, through the United Nations, agreements on proposals prohibiting the testing of nuclear warheads, nuclear weapons delivery vehicles, and components for the Strategic Defense Initiative. More concretely, Canada could begin by prohibiting the further testing of nuclear warheads in Canadian waters and the further testing of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles on Canadian soil (e.g., the cruise missile).

Nuclear strategies

The Church has also become increasingly concerned about the ongoing development of nuclear war-fighting capability and strategies. Both the United States and the Soviet Union, through the development of new weapons systems, have moved into more advanced stages with respect  to their capabilities for fighting a nuclear war. Neither of the superpowers has thus far been effectively challenged by any of its allies regarding the escalation of these nuclear war-fighting strategies. As a member of the NATO alliance, Canada’s position on these matters remains ambiguous at best.

For example, Canada has yet to call for a change in NATO policy regarding the first use of nuclear weapons. Today, the development of a nuclear first strike capacity and a nuclear war-fighting capacity is being rationalized in the West as essential for the maintenance of national defence and security objectives. Nuclear weapons, however, are not military weapons in the normal sense of that term. They are means of extermination, not means of defending or holding territory. Thus, nuclear strategies based on the assumption that nuclear weapons can actually be used for military advantage are really an illusion. In a nuclear war, nobody wins.

We maintain that Canada needs to develop an independent policy on these issues if this country hopes to improve East-West relations. To begin, the Canadian government should clarify its own operational understanding of deterrence and identify the types of weapons related to that understanding. Canada could also propose changes in NATO’s nuclear doctrine by calling for a declaration of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. Moreover, Canada should actively oppose the deployment of any nuclear weapon systems designed for first strike and war-fighting purposes.

In addition, Canada should also support efforts in the United Nations to achieve agreements for more effective controls over the spread of nuclear arms on this planet. These measures include: a resolution calling for a freeze on the production and testing of nuclear weapons, the development of an independent satellite surveillance system to monitor arms control agreements on behalf of all nuclear weapons states, and the establishment of demilitarized zones in the common regions of the earth such as the oceans and outer space.

Strategic defence

The Church has recently expressed serious concerns over nuclear defence strategies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative of the United States (i.e., the Star Wars program). As a number of observers have pointed out, the Star Wars program is, despite views to the contrary, a nuclear offensive weapon system. With the Star Wars system in place, the capacity of the US to launch a nuclear first-strike and engage in nuclear war-fighting operations is made credible. At the same time, the Star Wars initiative would undoubtedly lead to an expansion of nuclear arsenals on the Soviet side, thereby greatly accelerating the nuclear arms race.

The US Star Wars program has opened up new questions about Canada’s role and responsibilities in a nuclear age. While Canada has officially declined the US invitation to participate formally in the Star Wars program, Canadian  participation is likely to come in other ways. Canadian high-tech companies are expected to be awarded contracts, perhaps supported by federal grants or incentives. Moreover, there may well be a direct or indirect linkage between the Star Wars program and the rebuilding of the continental defence system in northern Canada. If there is an operational linkage between Star Wars and NORAD, then Canada would become directly implicated in the US nuclear offensive.

We maintain that Canada should resist giving grants or subsidies to Canadian high-tech firms engaged in research or production of component parts for the Star Wars program. Canada should also insist, as a precondition of the renewal of the NORAD agreement, that there will be no operational linkage between the Star Wars program and the continental air defence system in northern Canada.

In this connection, it is important to recognize that Canadian territory is situated in a strategic position between the two superpowers. Canadian territory has already been used for the storage of nuclear weapons (e.g., Comox, BC) the passage and testing of US and Soviet submarines off the west coast (e.g., Nanoose, BC), as well as the testing of nuclear weapon systems (i.e., the cruise missile). In the future, there is likely to be even greater pressure on Canada to make its territory available for strategic defence and related nuclear war-fighting facilities. Canada must make a clear moral choice to resist being further lured into compliance with these nuclear war strategies.

Militarized regions

The Church has also been actively concerned about the increasing militarization of certain countries or regions which are considered strategic, both economically and politically, for the two superpowers and related industrialized nations.

As a result, major regional conflicts mark the global landscape today, the majority of which are located in the Third World. In most cases, gross economic disparities and social injustices have given rise to greater unrest for social change which, in turn, has led to military takeover of governments in order to protect the wealthy elites from the poor majority. The result is often widespread repression of human rights, increasing social conflict, and the eventual outbreak of civil war. Many of these regional conflicts and wars are fuelled by military support from one or more of the industrialized powers.

We maintain that Canada could play an effective peacekeeping role in relation to some of these regional military conflicts. There is a vital need today for third-party intervenors to monitor ceasefires, check on arms flow, and create appropriate conditions for negotiating a just and peaceful settlement to the conflicts. The crisis in Central America today and the problems encountered by the Contadora peace initiative illustrate both the challenges and the difficulties of pursuing such peacekeeping initiatives.

Nevertheless, Canada could have a significant contribution to make based on past experience. Peacekeeping with respect  to regional military conflicts in certain Third World “hot spots” should become a priority for Canada’s armed forces. To perform this role, Canada would have to develop a more independent foreign policy. Canada’s armed forces would also have to be specially trained and properly equipped for such peacekeeping missions.

Arms trade

The Church has also become increasingly aware of how the international arms trade fuels these regional military conflicts. It is estimated that over 70 per cent of the international arms trade now involves Third World countries. Substantial amounts of limited foreign exchange is thus spent on the purchase of arms and related military equipment. Here, military equipment includes both lethal weapons (e.g., guns, hand grenades, ammunition, explosives) and non-lethal weapons (e.g., prison gear, surveillance systems, armoured cars, surveillance aircraft, torture devices, riot control equipment).

Canada has not been an innocent bystander when it comes to the international arms trade. The sale of Canadian manufactured military and police equipment to the Chilean military regime and the use of EDC export permits for the sale of aircraft to the Honduran military regime have been causes of real concern. Similarly, Canadian industries have been involved in sales to the South African government of equipment and technologies that were likely used for military or police operations. Also, the sales of Canada’s CANDU nuclear technology to military regimes in South Korea and Argentina raise serious questions. And, more recently, a Canadian manufacturing subsidiary was directly involved in supplying armoured vehicles for the new US rapid deployment force which is expected to be used for military intervention in areas of regional conflict.

We maintain that Canada should actively promote effective measures to control and reduce the international flow of military arms. In the past, international efforts to limit arms trade in the world have been largely unsuccessful. Nevertheless, open reporting or full disclosure of arms transfers would be a major step towards effective controls. In the United Nations, proposals have been made for the establishment of an Arms Trade Register designed to monitor and disclose information on arms transfers.

It is important, therefore, that Canada actively support the proposal for an Arms Trade Register. In so doing, the Canadian government should call for a public disclosure of all direct and indirect (i.e., via industries in other countries) arms transfers from Canadian industries to Third World countries. At the same time, the Canadian government should take the necessary steps to prohibit the export of military arms or weapon systems that might be used for armed intervention in regional “hot spots” in the Third World.

Military production

Finally, the Church has become deeply concerned about the growing priority that military production and spending has in the world economy, particularly the  economies of industrialized nations. The world’s annual military expenditure has reached well over $600-billion, or, in other words, close to $2-billion a day. Indeed, global military spending accounts for more than the Gross National Product of the continent of Latin America and double that of Africa itself. As a consequence, the resources of the earth are increasingly being mobilized for the “service of death” rather than the “service of life.”

In Canada, military production and spending priorities have been on the rise. In recent years, military spending on the part of the federal government has significantly grown to maintain NATO commitments (e.g., F-18 fighter aircraft) while social spending has steadily declined in Canada, along with development assistance funding for Third World countries. Equally disturbing is the increasing trend to retool Canadian manufacturing industries for the production of military equipment with federal assistance under the Defence Industry Productivity Program. At the same time, there is a clear trend to locate new arms industries and military operations in economically depressed areas as a means of resolving problems of high unemployment (e.g., Cape Breton, Labrador, etc.).

Canada needs to re-examine its military spending and production priorities. For example, Canada’s involvement in the Defence Sharing Agreement with the United States and the federal government’s Defence Industry Productivity Program need to be seriously re-examined in the light of concerns presented above. Otherwise, Canada’s economy will become more and more closely tied to the arms race.

In this context, the federal government should give serious attention to economic strategies for industrial conversion from military production to socially useful forms of production. In Britain, West Germany, and elsewhere, certain labour unions have been directly engaged in transforming arms manufacturing industries into more socially useful forms of production (e.g., public transportation systems). The federal government could benefit from these and related experiences in developing its own economic strategies for Canada.
From Cold War to peacebuilding
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
October 1988

Disarmament Week (October 24-28) is an occasion for the peoples of the world to stimulate and strengthen movements for peace. For believers, especially Christians, it is a time to make a visible commitment to be peacemakers and, in the deep solidarity of the spirit, to work for a world in which justice will flourish and peace abound (cf. Ps. 72:7). The call to be peacemakers does not come from any existing  movement but from Jesus the Christ. The Gospel’s peacemaking mandate calls us to make hard choices and honest judgments about the arms race in general and Canadian defence policy in particular.

As Christians, we need to examine critically the sources of our attitudes regarding Canada’s role in the arms race. Some members of the Christian community find themselves with an attitude of despair or cold indifference. Some may even question the very possibility of living by the Gospel vision and of having that vision transform the political order. Others believe that peace and security can be built on the basis of an evil intention of “mutually assured destruction” (which lies at the heart of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence). And, still others claim that the division of the world into blocs and “spheres of influence” is natural and inevitable.

The Church’s social teaching, however, rejects these claims. A world dominated by the logic of military and economic blocs is, in the words of Pope John Paul II, an evil rooted in “structures of sin.” The exaggerated concern for military security deadens the impulse towards cooperation by all peoples and nations for the common good and for common security. While not proposing a strategy for unilateral disarmament, John Paul II maintains that nuclear deterrence cannot constitute, in a lasting way, a viable base for security and peace.

During Disarmament Week, we encourage all members of the Roman Catholic church in Canada to pray, speak, and act for peace. As believers and as citizens we are called to raise fundamental moral and ethical questions about Canadian defence policies. Indeed, we are called to support policies that reverse the arms race and move Canada into a leadership role in pursuing peace with justice.We encourage members of Christian communities to become active in the peace movement and take the modest steps available to each and every one of us. As we become more informed and concerned about issues of peace, we become a more peaceful people, united with others who share a genuine hope for peace.
Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
January 1991

As citizens of this country and as members of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, spread across the country to promote active international solidarity between the Canadians and Third World peoples, we want to express our total rejection of Canadian participation towards the war effort generated by the Persian Gulf conflict.

In fact, in the current dramatic situation, we are scandalized to see that more effort seems to be devoted to preparing for war than building peace. Without denying the illegality of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the  condemnation it carries, we cannot accept, Mr. Prime Minister, the incoherence of the Canadian policy in this conflict.

Barely one year ago, you congratulated the American government for its warlike intervention in Panama, which it undertook in contempt of all international law. Moreover, External Affairs Minister Joe Clark responded last year to our organization that more time had to be given to economic sanctions in South Africa to effectively fight against apartheid, and this, five years after their institution. Finally, numerous United Nations resolutions condemning the long-standing occupation by Israel of territories wrongfully taken from Syria and the Palestinians have thus far shown the Canadian government to be rather insensitive.

How are we to understand this sudden eagerness in the Gulf? How are we to accept that Canada has joined itself to this escalation of violence which risks drawing the international community into a catastrophe which reason and dialogue could prevent, when sanctions have had little time to prove their effectiveness? We hope, Mr. Prime Minister, that Canada, instead of using its military arsenal, will deploy its diplomatic expertise and draw on its friendly relationship with the United States, not in a servile way, but by inviting them to be wise and tolerant. We equally hope that Canada will aid the United Nations in its true vocation to defend peace, and not authorize war.

What have we offered Iraq other than an ultimatum of war? What have we offered in exchange for the liberation of hostages? What was the counter-proposal presented, following the refusal to hold an International Conference on the Middle East, a conference which would have at least had the advantage of reflecting on the profound causes of the present conflict?

In the course of our 23 years of experience with our Third World partners, we have come to understand that war and militarization are major obstacles to development. In fact, war makes victims even before weapons are used, through the social costs which result, here as in the Third World, with disastrous long-term consequences for these countries. It depletes the resources destined for the construction of a more equitable future for all, and it destroys the environment.

Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you to break the vicious cycle of violence. It is never too late to renounce the madness of war and the naivete of believing that arms are more effective than reason in bringing about a solution to a conflict. Genuine peace is built on justice. And there is no justice in sacrificing human life and the essential resources needed for sustainable development for all.

Looking at our world reveals to us that the poor will again become the victims of war because of the”powerful.” Our preferential option for the poor urges us to work for peace and to denounce any impediment towards this end. It is in this spirit that we address this letter to you. Further, Mr. Prime Minister, please be assured of our support in all  sincere attempts which aim at opening the road to peace.

We pray that the God of Peace and Father of us all inspire you and give you courage to oppose any rationale for war, from wherever it may come, and to build peace.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Resolution concerning pacifism as a way of life (1983)
Adopted by the General Assembly

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has through the years regularly and with increasing frequency supported positions which are consistent with the cause of peace, having made this one of the three priorities of the church at its most recent General Assembly in 1981. The Disciples Peace Fellowship, whose membership includes some persons who affirm pacifism as a way of life, has continued to grow in influence and recognition as an expression of the Christian Church’s concern for a peaceful world.

The history and tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) proscribes any external direction of belief and behaviour by its members, but stresses the individual’s accountability to God, using Scriptures as a guide. Therefore, the General Assembly of the Christian Church affirms the principle of Christian pacifism as one way of life for its members and makes this affirmation, in keeping with its special rules of procedure, “for the consideration of the congregations and members of the Christian Church and, for a Christian witness to the world,” recognizing the right of each individual, using Scripture as a guide, personally to define standards of faith and behaviour.

Resolution concerning priorities for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (1985)
Adopted by the General Assembly

The 1981 Anaheim General Assembly declared that the Christian Church would strive in special ways during the 1982-1985 quadrennium to pursue peace with justice. The biblical imperative of peace, along with the justice that makes it possible, is at the heart of the Christian gospel. Making peace and therefore being among the blessed is a teaching of Jesus that applies in the congregation, in the region, in the nation, in the world. It is inextricably interwoven with hunger and human rights and is linked to a congregation’s life and witness. It means dealing with questions of control of nuclear power, armaments, peacekeeping mechanisms based on the equality and oneness of nations under God, crime, injustice, systemic violence, revolution, freedom, racism, discrimination, and economic inequality. World peace is a prerequisite for any improvement in the living conditions of the world’s people and new redemptive ministries in pursuit of peace is a priority for the church.

In implementing this priority, the General Assembly recommended that the pursuit of peace with justice be at the centre of the mission of the Christian Church and that the church in all its manifestations join in efforts of witness and advocacy on issues of peacemaking and international justice with special attention to the concerns of those who  struggle for freedom, human rights, and social justice.

The Peace with Justice priority has been important for Disciples. The present-day tumultuous, conflict-ridden global situation cries out for the church’s concern. Indeed there has been wide affirmation that the pursuit of peace with justice is a biblically and theologically mandated task of paramount importance to the church. When the numbers of starving people are rising, national antagonisms remain at the tinder-point, and global militarization is increasing, the temptation often is to give in to a sense of helplessness and apathy about the world, to turn inward and care only for oneself.

Peace with Justice has served as a sign of hope in a troubled world— a recognition of God’s promise. It has enabled many Christians to refocus and rediscover the mission of the church. In this regard, while greater impact is always hoped for, Disciples’ responses have been noteworthy.

Responses from regions and congregations indicate widespread involvement in the implementation of the priority in the church’s life.

But peace with justice has not come. So Peace with Justice must remain a priority for all who claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace.

Resolution concerning shalom (1987)
Adopted by the General Assembly

The Church of Jesus Christ is the community of God’s shalom. Shalom people participate in and celebrate God’s activity in history. We declare in word and act the coming reign of God.

The Church of Jesus Christ lives in a vision of shalom, a vision of peace, justice, and harmony between all people and with God. Shalom is given to us by God as gift and as promise: “I will make a covenant of shalom with them. It will be an everlasting covenant…” (Ezekiel 37:26). That promise continually calls us into existence as a community at once at peace within itself and seeking to extend the peace of God to all people.

Shalom is a vision of action, and it demands our commitment to faithful response. The peace which God desires for us all and promises to us becomes reality only through pursuit of justice and righteousness. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be shalom, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:16,17).

The shalom of God is proclaimed in specific historic contexts. In our day and time it becomes real as we confront

  • the crises of American farmers and the problem of world hunger;
  • the continued depletion of our resources by our dependence upon massive armaments;
  • the fear which stalks our lives, and the lives of all God’s children, in a world overcome with terrorism,  injustice, repression, and the threat of violence;
  • the resistance of social structures to universally equitable systems;
  • and the continued marginalization in our society of members of minority races, women, children, the aged, and strangers in our midst.

As people of God we look for the day when God will fully establish the divine reign. In that day all people will sit in peace under their vines and fig trees, and none shall be afraid.

We declare that

  • God is at work building shalom.
  • We are a people of God’s shalom.
  • We hereby identify ourselves as shalom people and reaffirm our commitment to the principles of shalom.

We commit ourselves within the church and within society in general to

1) the elimination of any policy or program which divides nation from nation, system from system, class from class, person from person;

2) the building of systems of equity and justice between estranged persons;

3) the actualization of every person and the establishment of well-being for all people;

4) the sharing and stewardship of the world’s wealth, food, and natural resources;

5) and the building of new political, social, and economic structures which embody justice and make peace available to all.

Resolution concerning economic conversion (1989)
Adopted by the General Assembly

Whereas God wills a world of shalom, of peace and justice, and some claim that the economics of industrialized nations are not viable without large expenditures for armaments, while others insist that conversion to a more peace-oriented economy is possible, the General Assembly encourages congregations to study these competing claims, including proposed federal legislation on economic conversion. The Division of Homeland Ministries, within the limits of staff and resources available, is asked to gather educational resources on economic conversion to be available to congregations on request.

Regarding our response to modern war and military action (1991)
Adopted by the General Assembly

Over the past seven decades, the General Assembly and International Convention of the Christian Church have repeatedly affirmed that pacifism and conscientious objection to war are ethical and religious positions for Christians to hold, declaring that this Church is against war and for peace, consistent with the life and teaching of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The United States and Canada recently resorted to military  force in the Persian Gulf crises and inflicted massive injury, death, destruction, and instability upon another nation. This conflict has shown that future wars can be expected to be fought with increasingly destructive weapons; to have worldwide ecological, social, and economic impact; and to be accompanied by close governmental control of information.

As Christians we are called to show compassion for the suffering of others, to condemn violent solutions to conflicts, and to criticize our governments for inhumane policies, [but] the potential for the rapid mobilization of forces in the future gives little time to men and women to make far-reaching decisions concerning conscientious objection.

The General Assembly of the Christian Church expresses its deep concern with the use of military force to resolve international conflicts and encourages its congregations

1. to lift up God’s vision of shalom in the worship life of the church through scripture, prayer, proclamation, and hymns;

2. to study the theological basis for Christian response to war in our time, including pacifism and conscientious objection to participation in war, and specifically addressing the question of whether any war can now be just;

3. to study and develop an appropriate response to many people’s fascination with violence and militarism, widespread insensitivity to the death and suffering of others, and unquestioning acceptance of information control by governments and media, as evident in the recent Persian Gulf war;

4. to study, develop, and promote alternative ways for responding to international disputes and human needs throughout the world; and

5. to encourage all members of the Christian Church to examine seriously beliefs about war and the human suffering and ecological disaster it causes;

6. before we are faced with another military conflict, to promote the availability of adequate information and counselling for men and women who are considering military service and for those already in the military who may be called to make a conscientious decision concerning participation in war; and to provide moral, spiritual, and public support for such decisions.

Concerning peace and the post-Cold War world (1993)

The General Assembly of the Christian Church reminds all our members that following the Prince of Peace means we need to recognize ourselves and people everywhere as brothers and sisters in God’s global family; urges giving attention to such problems as the worldwide arms trade; nuclear testing and proliferation; environmental contamination and destruction; economic justice; regional conflicts as in Bosnia/Croatia, Somalia, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East; the lack of diplomatic relations with the peoples of Cuba, Vietnam, and Cambodia; and calls  congregations to review efforts on peacemaking which include:

  • strengthening the congregation’s understanding of itself as an agent of peace and justice, forgiveness and mercy, humility and inclusiveness;
  • study of world religions and political realities (local, regional, and international) in order to deepen awareness and sensitivity to the great variety of differences in God’s human community;
  • support for the World Council of Churches which seeks to connect persons from diverse backgrounds and communicate across political and religious barriers;
  • supporting a stronger role for the United Nations and other international organizations where conflicts receive global attention and are negotiated and resolved through creative methods of diplomacy and conflict resolution.

Resolution to end ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1993)

The General Assembly of the Christian Church declares that it will no longer be silent about this matter. We will remember the lessons of history. We condemn all violence. We denounce the doctrine of ethnic cleansing, its use of systematic killing, use of rape and forced pregnancy. We ask that the General Minister and President correspond with the United Nations, asking it to continue to negotiate for peace and to stop the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We will be committed to educating our churches and resolve to pray for justice, peace, and healing.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

A study document on peace (1983)

Statement of peace

(The following statement has been produced through the resources of the ELCIC Committee for Justice and Peace of the Division of Social Service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada)

Our concerns today:

1. Our world situation

While war has always been a threat and a manifestation of the reality of sin and the possibility of nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare has been with us for many years, recent developments have raised the need to clarify again the Christian call for world peace.

Today, war has the possibility of destroying human civilization on an unprecedented scale. Weapons systems are being developed to provide a “first strike” capability, changing the traditional desire for “defence” into plans to initiate a nuclear war. Money spent on weapons is increasing at an alarming rate at a time when poverty and other social problems are increasing. The destructiveness of a war today would not only involve the immediate combatants, but would engulf the entire earth, now and for generations to come.

We live at a time when the fear of war, especially nuclear war, is haunting the lives of many. The existence of this fear is a major pastoral concern. Some are being led into an  ethical relativism, or a loss of faith  in God’s future, because of such fears, feeling that life has no meaning because the future is in doubt.

The ethical and political issues before us have become so great that the church cannot remain silent or apathetic regarding the future of God’s creation and human civilization.

2. Our theological situation

There have been different viewpoints within our church regarding strategies for achieving world peace.

We recognize those who adhere to some form of the ancient Christian tradition of pacifism, attempting to renounce any use of violence to settle human conflicts. This position has been found in Christianity since the earliest centuries and represents a sincere attempt to actualize the teachings of Jesus within a broken world. But some forms of pacifism have difficulty in articulating the need for a legitimate defence, if not of one’s self (for we are never called to defend our own self-interests), then the need to defend one’s neighbour. In light of the possibility of one nation practicing “nuclear blackmail” against another, a unilateral disarmament does not seem realistic in the near future. Yet the nonviolent resolution of conflicts remains a goal for all of us. Most of us have adhered to the “just war theory” (mentioned in the Augsburg Confession, Article 16). The classical just war theory affirms that war is always evil and sinful, but it concedes that on occasion it will be necessary for Christians to participate in war, provided that a number of provisions are met: that the means of conducting the war are appropriate to the end being sought; that greater justice will result fighting the war as opposed to the unjust condition if the war is not fought; that only military targets are attacked and not the civilian population; that the war has been declared by a legitimate authority; that the intention in declaring the war is good; that there is a reasonable chance of success; that all possible moderation be used; and that war is seen as only a last resort when all other attempts at resolution have failed. Martin Luther essentially saw defence, in particular defence of the neighbour, as the only valid grounds for participating in war.

The just war theory provides some important guidelines for today’s world. Many feel that the policy of nuclear “deterrence” has delayed a major confrontation between the superpowers for the past generation. The “just war theory” remains valid for some forms of more conventional warfare.

But we are also aware of problems facing the traditional just war theory in light of today’s technology and military strategies. Many now feel that nuclear warfare should violate the “just war” principles. Current military strategies call for attacking the civilian population, in violation of the just war theory. The attempt to develop weapons that can initiate an attack (“first strike”) on an enemy, such as the Cruise and Pershing II missiles, rather than developing a purely defensive military strategy, is also a violation of traditional Christian just war theory. Nuclear war calls for using levels of force and destruction that far exceed being legitimate means for the end in view. Many of today’s weapons not only inflict immediate destruction, but also will make large portions of the earth uninhabitable for many generations. Thus no war employing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons can meet the criteria for a just war.

The policy of “deterrence” must affirm the intention to use nuclear weapons in order for there to be a deterrence; without the intention there is no deterrence. But even the threat to use nuclear weapons and bring about this kind of destruction, as a policy of deterrence, is morally unacceptable because intentions are not morally neutral.

Thus our traditional approaches to war and peace are in need of reappraisal in light of today’s world. We need to recover again the Bible’s teachings on peace and justice in order to deal with many of the problems and concerns now before us. We need to witness to faith and love even within the difficult choices before us. Regardless of the specific means or tactics employed, we affirm that our common calling is to be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation in this world. We need to explore the Bible to express our common calling even while we have differences in accepting specific strategies for approaching peace through justice and reconciliation.

3. The call to peacemaking and reconciliation

In approaching issues of peace and war, the New Testament clearly calls for Christian discipleship to be the pursuit of reconciliation and peace. We are called to reconcile neighbours with each other, just as Christ has reconciled us to God (John 15:12). We are called to be God’s instruments in achieving peace and justice for others. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Matt. 5:9).

Our calling and vocation as peacemakers begin with the peace of God which is ours when Christ reconciles us with God. “Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). In the Bible, the word “peace” refers to many dimensions of our spiritual life, our life with God, and our life with others. “Peace” means wholeness, health, prosperity, security, well-being (political and spiritual), liberation and freedom, reconciliation with God, reconciliation with our own conscience, submission to the will of God, peace with all people, mutual concord and agreement, deliverance and safety.

This peace transforms our attitude towards life and we seek to witness to the peace and justice we have with God. “We love, because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We seek to be instruments of justice because God has established us in a relationship of righteousness; we seek to be instruments for peace and for our own lives. Thus, while the “peace of God” is different from “world peace,” it is the peace of God that inspires and strengthens us to work for world peace.  “The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make” (Col. 3:15 TEV). Peacemaking is a part of the gospel message of peace and justice and an intrinsic aspect of Christian discipleship.

The Christian experience of peace transcends the immediate limits of the present reality and can be experienced even in the midst of strife; yet it is also present in human history: “seek peace, and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14b). Peace means the reconciliation of people through understanding, truth, justice, and mercy. Christian peacemaking should not be motivated by fear, especially the fear of war; rather, Christian discipleship is motivated by love, God’s love for all people. We seek peace, not simply because we are afraid of war, but because of our love for all of God’s children. Fear is a present reality that we must acknowledge but which we must also overcome. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me” (Ps. 23:4). While fear causes nations to manufacture weapons of destruction and while fear of nuclear holocaust has caused many to oppose the military buildup, as Christians we must preach to all that love casts out fear.

We are called to be good stewards of God’s creation (Gen. 1:28); we are part of God’s plan to redeem the creation from the brokenness of sin (Eph. 1:1-12). But war destroys the creation and therefore is always opposed to God’s will. We oppose the use of military power to resolve political or economic problems when other forms of resolution are possible. We affirm that a nation cannot justly test, develop, produce, or use nuclear, chemical, biological, or other weapons which are designed primarily to inflict civilian casualties and to maximize the destruction of God’s creation. Likewise, we oppose military strategies designed to inflict casualties upon the civilian population.

The gospel message of peace is crucial in healing the creation. Those who recognize God will know the path of peace (Rom. 3:15-17), and peace and reconciliation is intended for all (Isa. 57:18-21). With the threat of nuclear war we must work even more diligently to sustain God’s creation, bringing God’s Word more fervently to all peoples and nations and acting concretely as agents of reconciliation. We hope and pray that Christ will bring about these works through our lives.

4. Christians in a militarized society

The fear of war has been promoted, to some extent, by ways of thinking that encourage the increased militarization of society. In order to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, we are told that it is first necessary to increase their number. We are told that the way to achieve peace is by preparing for war. We are told that “national security” can be achieved by inciting fear and threatening violence. We are told that we must be prepared to destroy the world in order to save the world. Despite the pervasiveness of such positions, we do not necessarily feel more secure today than in past generations. Governments speak a language that calls for world peace, yet we do not  have peace.

For many in our church and society, profits and jobs depend on research and manufacturing related to military weapons. Various social values and systems have brought this about, and we find that our general concern for peace is often compromised by our immediate need for financial security. The great importance of military production to the world’s economy has often been justified by extolling power, might, and violence as values to attain. We are too often conditioned to support the political and economic desires of our own nation, to the detriment of understanding the welfare of other nations. The money spent on war preparations is money not spent on our neighbours who are in need (Matt. 25:3-46). We live in a society that too often encourages preparation for war. We must confront the evil contained in many of the structures of our society, and which has placed all of us in an ethically compromised situation. We are disturbed because we feel that legitimate needs for defence have been exceeded.

Our society tells us to place our trust and security in material things, including military weapons and other things that we possess. Instead, we affirm that the basis of true security is trust in God. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:11); “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Only One in Israel or consult the Lord” (Isa. 31:1).

We know how to prepare for war, but we have neglected to learn how to bring about peace. In preparing for war, we find a false sense of security in military structures and weapons systems which seem for the moment to be more comforting than the uncertainties of preparing for peace. The immediate security attached to weapons of war may seem more comforting than the long-term quest for peace which requires our self-sacrifice, and which requires our nation to trust its perceived “enemies.” Preparing for war can seem to offer security because military experts tell us how to do it, while we think we have a shortage of experts on the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42).

We affirm that only God is ultimate, and we reject the claims for ultimate allegiance made by nations. We dare not give to any nation the allegiance which properly belongs to God. All governments are called to be servants of God and humanity, and are accountable to God’s moral law (Rom. 13:3b-4a); therefore, we encourage all governments to pursue peace more actively, and to reduce the number of military weapons.

We affirm the right of all citizens to dissent from the laws of their government when they find that, in order to obey God, they cannot obey human rulers (Acts 5:29). We support those who, for reasons of conscience, decide that they must avoid military conscription (Matt. 25:52). We promote and encourage all efforts aimed at establishing good will, trust, and justice among the people of the world.

God’s peace brings reconciliation but war always represents sin and human failure, regardless of the outcome (Rom. 3:23). Thus we should never bestow religious approval on the perpetrators or victors of war. The power of God is not measured by human standards of victory (Isa. 55:8-9), for God’s power is expressed through identification with the victims of oppression (1 Cor. 1:26-31), and through the renunciation of power (Phil. 2:5-8). This is the starting point of God’s peace as reconciliation, which is contrary to the nature of war and military victory.

From the perspective of love, we must oppose the secular nationalistic attempt to define certain people as “our enemy.” This label is used to de-humanize other persons, making them objects and therefore dispensable. As Christians, our “enemy” is the fundamental reality of sin, which is present in all people, nations, and social systems. In any war, sinfulness can be found on both sides of the conflict.

5. Peacemaking and the future of the world

We affirm that Christians always have, and always should, live in expectation of Christ’s imminent return. The end time could possibly come through nuclear holocaust or some other means. In witnessing to this reality today, we are called to work more fervently to make this world more pleasing to God, to bring all nations under God’s rule. “We must work the works (of the Father) while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). This is a necessary aspect of our witness of faith to the Creator, and part of our calling to discipleship.

But we are opposed to the “secularized apocalypticism” wherein religious language is used to justify preparations for nuclear war, seeing this as a way of fulfilling the “Battle of Armageddon.” As a variation of the “holy war” or “crusade” theory, a future war is seen as an actual coming military battle to be fought between the present-day nations of the world, and as a final confrontation between the “free world” and communism. Some have been led to the false conclusion that, since Armageddon is inevitable, therefore there is nothing wrong in the production or even the use of nuclear weapons. In this way, today’s secular political order has been given an unwarranted theological blessing.

Instead of such interpretation, we affirm that the end of time must come from God’s authority, not from human authorities. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Even though humanity now has the power to end human life as we know it on earth, humanity does not have the authority to do this. Therefore, to use religious language to support the increase in nuclear weapons is a serious form of blasphemy and idolatry. It confuses the authority of God with human authority.

Such a viewpoint is further based on a misinterpretation of God’s fundamental battle against the forces of evil (Rev. 16:19-21). It identifies God’s battle against the root sources of sin and evil with the cause of specific political and economic systems of today’s world. As Christians, we recognize that good and evil will be found on both sides in any conflict. We deplore any attempt to use religion to portray the actions of any particular nation or social system as receiving divine sanction (Rev. 13:7). God’s own war against the powers of evil does not respect the political boundaries of our nation-states.

God’s hope strengthens us to keep witnessing for world peace (Rom. 5:3-5). Christian hope is not naive optimism; rather it is hope within and in spite of despair, hope that is sensitive to the realities of history while also recognizing that history alone does not limit life’s meaning, value, and possibilities.

The church must re-emphasize that the meaning of one’s life is not based on the works and accomplishments which one may perform in the future (Eph. 2:1-10). Human fears must be confronted with God’s love and hope, for love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). We must continue to persevere in witnessing to the Creator for, although there are wars and rumours of wars, the end has not yet come (Mark 13:7). Thus today we find that there is a need to emphasize the hope we have in God, rather than to emphasize a message of inevitable doom. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Although we know there will be an end to this earth, we will never know the specific future events of human history: the Easter story demonstrates that we can never predict the future that God will create for us, because the resurrection of Christ was a surprising and unexpected event. In the future, peace is just as possible as war.

Whether or not all war can ever be removed from history, our calling as Christians is not to condone but rather to be a light to all nations regarding the paths of peace and justice. We must be daily strengthened in Christian hope to work for an eventual total disarmament of all the weapons of war from every nation on earth. Baptism “signifies that the old Adam in us…should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new person should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous” (Luther’s Small Catechism); “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11b). We cannot accept the secular pessimism that decrees that war is inevitable and therefore we can do nothing to promote peace.

6. The church: a fellowship of reconciliation

The church is called to be a fellowship of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-21), a community of peace, made up of people scattered among the many nations of the world. The church is not defined by the boundaries of nation-states or economic ideologies, but by the person of Jesus Christ, who is the vine joining together many different branches (John 15:1-6; 1 Cor. 12:12-13). The church must demonstrate that the important divisions of the world are not national or ethnic boundaries. Rather, good and evil, justice and  injustice are found both within and transcending every human boundary. In the church, peace is not simply a goal for the future, but can be a present reality.

By recognizing that Christians are branches on a vine that transcends human boundaries, we are aware of the solidarity we have with all of the oppressed, the victims of injustice, and even our “enemies.” “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly….Repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12:14, 16, 17, and also Matt. 6:12).

Wars are not simply fought between “nations”; they are also fought between God’s children, and too often Christians find themselves in nations that are at war with each other. A war against another nation can be a war against members of the body of Christ. We think especially of the 10 million Lutherans living in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and the millions of other Christians living in countries that might be portrayed as our “enemies.” In Christ we share a bond with those people that national, economic, and ideological hostilities must not diminish.

There are many opportunities before us to counter the messages of fear and despair being propagated by those promoting war. We continue to work and witness for peace as an act of faith in God the Creator. Every day we are renewed and reconciled in a relationship of peace with God, through Christ, and this gives us the power and strength to continue the renewal of all relationships in the world. The ultimate victory belongs to God alone. “For God has put all things in subjection under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:27); “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57); “Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).

A social statement on peace and politics (1984)

The following social statement was adopted by delegates to the Twelfth Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in Toronto, Ontario, June 23 to July 5, 1984. The LCA is a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada which was formed in 1986. Social statements of predecessor churches continue to provide official guidance to the ELCIC.

Directions of policy: peacebuilding

Peacekeeping must be seen in the context of peacebuilding. Peacebuilding as a political task refers to the wide range of positive measures nations and peoples may take to expand common interests, facilitate cooperation, generate mutual amity and goodwill, and create a community which transcends geographic borders and national differences. Peacebuilding aims at the establishment of the conditions of justice among people which, in turn, minimize hostility and the likelihood of violent conflict.

Peacebuilding is a constructive enterprise having many aspects. It involves negotiations between nations. A vital role is played, in this context, by nations such as Canada  in offering their good offices for the mediation of conflict and the pursuit of peace. It also involves the willingness of nations to permit increasing opportunity for such non-governmental contacts as cultural and humanitarian exchange, trade, and international travel. It presupposes a sufficient degree of security to permit space and freedom for the development of a variety of common interests not directly related to international politics. Such links, in turn, may contribute to an atmosphere favourable to further constructive policies and actions on the part of governments.

Peacebuilding also involves a growing commitment by government to the support of international institutions and of world law. It is time for the members of the world community, and the nuclear superpowers in particular, to renew their commitment to support and work through international institutions for both the peaceful settlement of disputes and the advancement of human well-being. In addition, the international standards of human rights, to which most nations have subscribed, should be viewed as a challenge to common humanitarian endeavour, and not as weapons to be used in polemical rhetoric.

Regional consultative arrangements which bring together security, economic cooperation, and humanitarian concerns should be encouraged. Such arrangements could facilitate movement from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.

Human rights and economic justice are inextricable parts of peacebuilding and global security. Notwithstanding the predominance of the East-West bipolarity, both peacekeeping and peacebuilding should be seen increasingly as concerns of the entire world community, to be dealt with multinationally, through effective institutions. Global security and welfare, while distinct, are inseparable concerns in which all the world’s people have a direct stake. The nuclear superpowers are morally accountable to the entire family of nations for their leadership in the keeping and building of world peace.

Citizens everywhere have a responsibility to participate actively in the keeping and building of peace. They are called, by virtue of their God-given humanity, to care for creation and for the whole human community, beginning with their immediate family, neighbourhood, and workplace. Peacebuilding requires both the acquisition of knowledge about human affairs and the commitment to the civil, nonviolent, and constructive resolution of human conflict. We in North America must remind ourselves that the security of our cherished institutions of political democracy is not alone a matter of military might, but even more a matter of our willingness to participate in their working effectively for the sake of human justice. Political democracies must demonstrate their commitment to freedom and social justice in both their domestic and their international policies.

Lutheran Christians are called to a vocation of peacemaking. This vocation has had a variety of expressions, from those who choose conscientious objection to those who have served  in the military. The church needs to respect this variety of choices for discipleship. Given the reality of sin, evil, and the brokenness of the world, peacemaking may require the restraining of evil and the use of force to protect the innocent and the vulnerable.
Mennonite conferences and organizations

Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
March 28, 1989

War and military preparations, though undertaken in the name of security, often have the very opposite results: that many people become refugees; that many are deprived of the basics in education, healthcare, housing, and employment; that many live in fear, even of their own governments; and that many die unnecessarily. It is far from the well-being which God wants for all.

The causes of this tragic situation vary from region to region. They may include economic injustice, ethnic and religious differences, inappropriate political institutions, superpower involvement, and particular ideologies. But underneath these factors, in many cases, is a heavy reliance on weapons and an inadequate regard for the well-being and security of others. We cannot expect Canada to address the situation fully but we want to ask your government to do everything possible to help build an international order in which all can live in peace, freedom, and with economic justice.

In proposing actions to pursue this goal, we would like to comment first on the Third World situation. This label covers considerable diversity but certain broad dimensions must be noted. Over 20 million people have died in wars since 1945. Every hour now the world spends $130-million on armaments while 2,000 children die of starvation and disease. The transfer of arms to Third World countries has risen from $5-billion per year early in the 1970s to $35-billion late in the 1980s. Many arms transfers are sales on credit which then add to the already debilitating debt problem. And some of the weapons have a capacity for mass destruction which tend to increase the volatility of situations already filled with tension. Admittedly, there have also been positive developments. And Canada’s record with development aid, peacekeeping work, and other actions is comparatively good. However, in our view, additional steps should be taken.

1. We believe Canada should substantially reduce its military exports. In 1985, Canada’s military exports stood at $1,902-million. Since then they have declined somewhat, largely because the US market has levelled off. However, the search for markets elsewhere continues and it appears that most military products are manufactured and sold like other products, for reasons of economic gain. We recognize that there are some restrictions on the countries to which military products can be sold but according to Project  Ploughshares approximately $300-million goes to Third World countries, either directly or as parts of units assembled elsewhere, and a large number of the recipient countries are serious violators of the human rights of their people. In the Iran-Iraq war both sides used weapons with Canadian-made components. In our view there should be much stronger restrictions so that, minimally, military and military-related products do not go to human rights violators and the end-use of Canadian-made component parts is firmly controlled. Also, information about the sale of such products should be accessible to Parliamentarians and the public. In addition, the commercially inspired dimensions of these activities should be addressed. To manufacture and market instruments of death for reasons of economic gain, be it to create jobs, to improve a trade balance, or to make a profit as a private business, cannot be justified.

2. Also needed are further diplomatic efforts to curb the international flow of arms and to resolve regional conflicts. In light of the recent willingness of the superpowers to reduce their military involvement in certain regional conflicts, as is suggested by developments in Afghanistan, Central America, and Angola, we would ask you to consider calling on them to resume the Conventional Arms Transfer Talks which were broken off in 1979. This could be a step in permanently reducing the international flow of weapons, though the talks should certainly include other suppliers, not just the superpowers. The idea of an international arms transfer register, which the External Affairs Department is studying and which Canada has supported at the United Nations, could also contribute to this end. We are pleased that Canada is continuing its involvement in UN and other international efforts to resolve regional conflicts and to address related issues such as human rights. However, our own work in Indochina, the Horn of Africa, southern Africa, Central America, the Middle East, and other places leads us to appeal for more. The widespread killing, devastation, and injustice must not be allowed to continue.

3. We would also comment on the debt problem, though aid, trade, and other issues relate to the need for economic justice, too. Your government has taken some positive steps on the debt issue and the increased concern in the US and elsewhere is encouraging but the ameliorative actions are still very limited. A recent World Bank report indicated that there is currently an annual net transfer of $43-billion from the poorer countries to the industrialized countries, largely because of the debt problem. The causes of this problem include the drastic decline in the prices of Third World products and the increase in real interest rates between the 1970s, when many of the loans were made, and the 1980s. This increase in real interest rates resulted from certain policies in industrialized countries, including the sharp rise in US military spending. Debtor countries have repaid enormous amounts and efforts to continue paying are  causing a decline in the already low living standards. That this can lead to social unrest was recently illustrated in Venezuela where the government’s response resulted in over 300 deaths. Such a resort to military methods creates a market for military products and represents a cycle of violence which must not be tolerated. We are not making a detailed debt relief proposal but we urge you to work strongly, together with international partners, so that Third World people, instead of supporting the industrialized world, can more fully use their labour and resources to alleviate their own needs.

In the East-West context there have been a number of positive developments including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty signed by the superpowers in December of 1987; their agreement in principle to reduce strategic nuclear weapons; the 1986 Stockholm agreement on confidence-building measures; the recent Vienna agreement on human rights and humanitarian cooperation; and the promising beginning of the negotiations on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. In spite of these and other positive steps, both superpowers are involved in a weapons modernization process, meaning that they are producing weapons which are faster, more accurate, and harder to detect. This increases the weapons’ offensive capacity and makes both superpowers more vulnerable and their relationship less stable. As a result the chances of war are increased. One way of stopping this modernization process would be to ban the testing of nuclear warheads, their delivery systems, and space weapons. We urge your government to press for these three bans.

1. A ban on nuclear warhead testing is part of the Comprehensive Test Ban for which Canada has been pressing since the dawn of the nuclear age. Several partial test bans have been adopted including the 1963 treaty banning atmospheric testing to which Canada’s Howard Green contributed significantly. Also, there have been important temporary testing halts. Further, late in the 1970s a comprehensive ban was “95 per cent negotiated,” according to US negotiator Paul Warnke. However, since then the US has backed away from such a ban even when the USSR, in 1985 and 1986, unilaterally stopped testing for 18 months in the hope that the US would reciprocate. The argument that compliance with a ban could not be verified retains little credibility because of improved verification technology, to which Canada contributed, and because of greater Soviet willingness to allow on-site inspections. It appears that US resistance to a comprehensive ban comes from its pursuit of a new generation of weapons, including the Strategic Defence Initiative. We do not believe that such weapons are needed, by either side, and we urge you to press strongly for a comprehensive nuclear test ban.

2. Also needed is a ban on the flight-testing of the new missiles which are to deliver the warheads. Various new missile systems, both land-based and sea-based, are being developed and all will be flight-tested before they are deployed. Some political leaders in the US have endorsed a  missile flight-testing ban and late in the 1970s it was part of the “strategy of suffocation” advanced by Canadian leaders. Also, it is an area where Canada could take a significant step on its own, by discontinuing the testing of the cruise missiles. In 1982 when the testing began, Canada justified it by referring to NATO’s “two-track” approach. In 1987, when the INF treaty had removed that rationale, the government said it was necessary to keep pressure on the Soviets to take further steps toward disarmament. Then, in February 1989, after the Soviet Union had taken further positive steps, the government nevertheless allowed the testing of the Advanced Cruise Missile. The reason now seemed to relate to the missile’s contribution to the West’s strategic deterrence, which is already of formidable proportions. We urge the government to reconsider this decision. In our view a decision against cruise testing could contribute more to Canada’s oft-stated goal of international stability at greatly reduced levels of armaments.

3. Preventing the weaponization of space is also of urgent importance. Canada has contributed in-depth studies about international laws that relate to space and about the technical feasibility of verifying a ban on space weapons. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) represent partial bans. Unfortunately, these limits are being threatened by the United States with its Strategic Defence Initiative, though the Soviet Union is also implicated. We urge you to continue insisting on a strict interpretation of the ABM treaty and to resist these developments in other ways. It is our understanding that strategic defence systems, far from being strictly defensive, will have significant offensive capacities, both in themselves and in conjunction with earth-based nuclear weapons. As a result, both sides will be more vulnerable and insecure and each will look for more and more counter-measures, creating an endless and extremely costly arms race and a more deeply endangered world. When Mr. Gorbachev spoke at the UN in December 1988, he indicated strong interest in “an all-embracing regime for peaceful work in outer space.” We ask you to urge the superpowers to begin negotiations to this end. A treaty controlling space weapons will be much more difficult to achieve after such weapons are deployed.

4. Regarding the situation in Europe, we recognize that the Warsaw Pact still has enormous weapons stationed there. Nevertheless, we are disappointed by the eagerness of some NATO countries to “compensate” for the reductions resulting from the INF treaty by increasing other western forces. In our view Canada should resist such moves. We would suggest further that Canada side with those NATO allies who want to eliminate or greatly reduce short-range nuclear weapons and that NATO adopt a policy that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. At the new talks on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, we hope Canada will strongly support the efforts to reduce the size of the forces and to restructure  them so that, on both sides, they will be less provocative. We also hope that Canada will not insist on a narrow agenda at these talks. Related to the proposed change in force structure, Canada should urge NATO to move away from “offensive” strategies such as the Follow-On-Force-Attack (FOFA) strategy whereby NATO’s air forces, flying low so as to avoid radar detection, would strike deep in enemy territory, hitting supply lines, troop reinforcements, and command and communications systems.

5. In keeping with this orientation we would also ask for a change in policy regarding the air base at Goose Bay, Labrador. Canada has been encouraging NATO air forces to use the base for training purposes. In 1985, the federal government allocated $93-million to improve the facilities and attract more users. In our view this is wrong. One reason is that nearly all of the flight training is for NATO’s aforementioned FOFA strategy. A second reason is that the activities encroach upon the Innu people in that (a) the low-level flights, of which there were about 7,500 in 1988, many as low as 30 metres, threaten their traditional hunting and fishing way of life; and (b) Innu land, for which there has never been an agreement ceding it to the government, is being used for bombing ranges. We recognize that the government has taken steps to address these issues but in our view they are inadequate. We also recognize that some people in the community favour these military developments because of the expected economic benefits. But these benefits should be provided in better ways. The negative social and moral effects of military bases in Third World settings, built there because of the East-West struggle, do not bode well for Goose Bay.

6. Finally, we want to ask you to reconsider the plans to purchase nuclear-powered submarines. The debate since the plans were announced has raised a number of questions. Could the Arctic surveillance function not be fulfilled with fixed sonar systems? Would having nuclear-powered submarines not weaken Canada’s ability to champion the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Could these highly mobile and sophisticated submarines, when considered alongside the US naval strategy, not be perceived as provocative? Is the view that they are needed to help keep sea lanes open not based on an unrealistic needs assessment? We cannot judge all the details in these matters but we feel strongly that developments in the East-West relationship require a different kind of signal and that human needs both internationally and in Canada call for a different allocation of resources.

Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (MCEC) emergency delegates meeting
Kitchener, Ontario
December 15, 1990

The world appears to be hurtling towards war in the Arabian Gulf. Armies have been assembled, alliances formed, battle plans made, deadlines set, costs and casualties estimated.

In this situation the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada reaffirms its commitment to nonviolence and to active peacemaking. The Word of God teaches us that all wars originate in passion and envy. We believe that the Lord Jesus had forbidden retaliation and revenge. He commands us not to return evil for evil, but to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to overcome evil with good. He said: “…all who take the sword will perish by the sword; therefore put the sword back into its place”; or, as the prophets foretold, beat our swords into ploughshares. We believe that a Christian’s duty is to be subject to the governing authorities, but when demands are made contrary to the Word of God, we must obey God rather than any human authority.

Our vision is a world where relationships between families, communities, ethnic groups, and nations are harmonious and just.

Therefore we commit ourselves

1. to serious study, over the next six months, of the biblical foundations of our peace and justice witness. This will include our preaching and teaching, particularly for our young people and newcomers to our congregations;

2. to regular confession of our own selfishness and ever-increasing appetite for oil and other resources; to serious efforts to document and then consistently and permanently reduce our own personal dependence on oil whenever possible;

3. to recognize and acknowledge our complicity in creating and sustaining unjust structures, some of which have led to the current crisis in the Gulf;

4. to pray daily for world leaders that they will find a peaceful and just resolution of this conflict through a region-wide negotiated settlement of long-standing injustices. To seek to influence our own government’s role as an independent instrument of peace;

5. to reach out in friendship to people of Arab and/or Islamic backgrounds in our communities;

6. to initiate planning our response in the event of war, in such areas as conscientious objection to military service, alternate service, shelter for those objecting to conscription here or elsewhere, “peace” bonds instead of victory bonds, and a ministry to the victims of war and those designated as enemies;

7. to encourage members and congregations, especially those near military installations and arms factories, to provide spiritual and legal assistance to those who seek to change their activities related to war.
Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC) Statement on the Persian Gulf War
January 19, 1991


We, the members of Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC), assembled in our annual meeting in Clearbrook, British Columbia, are adopting this statement with regard to the current Persian Gulf war, in order to express some of our concerns, to identify certain actions we plan to take, and to communicate with our supporting churches.

We are profoundly saddened by the outbreak of this war. For people in the affected areas it must be terrifying. Many will be killed; many will be wounded, maimed, widowed, and orphaned; many families will be uprooted, displaced, and separated; many will become refugees. Canadian Mennonite and Brethren in Christ people know some things about the effects of war, as a result of their history and their international work.

Analytical comments

We recognize that the actions of the Iraqi government against Kuwait and against many Kuwaiti people, which triggered this crisis, are seriously wrong. But we do not believe that this military response will bring peace. The following points should be noted.

a) The deep and legitimate desire of Arab peoples to shape their societal development and to control their resources has long been hampered by outside powers. Britain, France, and the United States, as well as other countries, have given economic and military support to selected Middle East rulers, with the effect that those rulers became less concerned about the well-being of their own people and less accountable to them. A few became enormously wealthy, spending vast sums on armaments, while millions lived in poverty.

b) Many Arab people, though strongly opposed to the Iraqi actions against Kuwait, perceive the current military action by outside powers as a continuation of these historic attempts to control the Middle East. For this and other reasons, this military action may well yield political instability, perhaps political chaos, and a serious resentment against the outsiders involved. These negative effects are likely to continue for many years, making relations between western people and certain peoples in the Middle East more difficult.

c) Canada’s policies toward the Middle East have been comparatively positive in recent decades. Among other things, Canada has given a measure of support for the Palestinians whose situation is a major factor in the Arab resentment against the West. However, we find it most regrettable that our government has now moved beyond the enforcement of economic sanctions and joined the US-led military action, even though the sanctions were having a substantial effect on the Iraqi economy even if not yet on Iraqi policies.

MCCC’s commitments

Though the current situation is extremely tragic, we must try to discern how God would have us respond. This task of discernment is an ongoing process and it can involve all who wish to contribute. For now we commit ourselves to the following.

a) We need to communicate with the Christian minorities in the Middle East region who are likely to become even more vulnerable. Some of these groups have histories and customs different from ours but we profess the same Lord. They have long been hospitable to our MCC presence in the region. A sense of genuine fraternity has developed. We must now deepen our efforts to support them, to listen to them, and to work with them in addressing problems in the region.

b) We need to try to convey to Muslim people that the military action of western powers is not the voice of Christianity, at least not our Christianity. To many Muslims the two may be associated, reviving memories of the medieval crusades and the centuries of ill-will between “the Muslim world” and “the Christian world.” Mennonites, more so than some other Christians, have always held that the church is separate from the state. Indeed, some of the early Mennonites insisted on this distinction precisely at a time when the authorities wanted to recruit people to fight the Muslim Turks. The early Mennonites refused to join the fight or to endorse it as a Christian cause.

c) We need to respond to the wounds of this war. MCC began in 1920 in an effort to provide relief to the victims of war. It has continued to do this throughout its history in many parts of the world. MCC provided relief in the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s and has had a continuous presence there since 1949. MCC responded quickly, in August 1990, when people of many nationalities began to flee from Iraq and Kuwait. MCC will need to do more in the coming months and years.

d) We will also need to speak further to Canadian authorities. We have already done so, particularly in the letters dated September 6, 1990; October 31, 1990; and January 11, 1991. Generally, we want to express our conviction that war is wrong, that this war is likely to deepen many of the problems in the region rather than resolve them, that other methods need to be found and pursued, and that a government’s foreign policy must go beyond the national interest and promote the well-being of all people.

e) We must also do more to address the needs of the Palestinians, directly and in speaking to the Canadian government. The difficult situation in which many Palestinians have lived for over four decades is a major contributor to the problems in the region. We have worked closely with them over this time. Ways must be found to accommodate their need for certain political and geographical means to pursue their legitimate aspirations as a people. This, we believe, could enhance, rather than detract from, protection for the Israeli people whose long history of suffering cannot be forgotten.

A call to our churches

a) We encourage our churches and the individuals in them to continue in prayer. All of us should pray for people on all sides, whether they identify themselves as Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. May our great and merciful God protect them,  comfort them, and help them to make peace and to show mercy to others. We need to pray, too, that God will move the hearts of leaders so that they will become eager to seek peace and well-being for all people. We also need to ask for guidance and understanding for ourselves.

b) We encourage our churches, in settings where this may be appropriate, to build bridges to local people who have roots in the Middle East. Jews, Muslims, and Arabs may now feel apprehensive and alienated, albeit in different ways, in their relations with the larger Canadian society. Some Muslims have withdrawn their children from public schools. We must try to nurture peace and understanding.

c) We encourage our churches to study and reflect on the historic Christian teaching against violence and war. This teaching, often expressed in the form of conscientious objection to military service, has been important throughout Mennonite and Brethren in Christ history. We need to strengthen both our understanding of this teaching and our ability to apply it in all areas of life.

d) We encourage our churches to be generous in their personal and financial support for MCC. The relief activities, made necessary by this war, cannot be carried forward without money and workers. We need both on an ongoing basis.

e) We also encourage our churches, or individuals in them, to write letters to our government, in keeping with the ideas referred to above. MCC offices are willing to provide additional resources and background information.

f) We must also become repentant. We must try to change our heavy dependence on oil which contributes to the policies of our governments toward the Middle East. We must also repent from unchristian attitudes that we may have toward political leaders with whom we disagree.

Concluding comments

We feel inadequate. The killing and destruction are great. Our response is so small. We can fall into despair. But that would not honour God. Other needs close by and far away must not be abandoned. Personal and family life must continue. God remains sovereign. God can bring some good even out of great evil. God does not leave people without hope.
Conference of Mennonites in Canada
89th Annual Session
Saskatoon, SK
July 6-10, 1991

Resolution re: Restriction of weapons production

Canada continues to be a major arms supplier to the world at a time when the need to provide resources for suffering people has never been greater. CMC represents many people in Canada who reject the use of force in resolving conflicts. Be it resolved that we encourage the Government of Canada to restrict the manufacture and sale of weapons, and to direct industrial production of armaments to socially useful programs rather than to production of armaments.
A submission to the Arms Export Subcommittee of Parliament’s Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade by MCCC
April 1, 1992


We are pleased that the subcommittee is formally studying Canada’s arms export policies and that we have this opportunity to present our views. In summary, our view is that arms exports do not contribute to peace and justice and that they should be categorically prohibited, or at least subjected to much stricter conditions.

This view comes from both our religious faith and our service involvement. Our faith has led most people from our churches, for 450 years, to seek conscientious objector status in time of war. Our faith also teaches us that war and violence are wrong and that God wants peace and justice for all. Further, as the international relief and development agency of the Canadian Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches, we continue to have a first-hand involvement with many of the tragic effects of war.

In light of these long-standing concerns we have, on a number of occasions, called on the Canadian government to restrict Canada’s arms exports.

The problem and our recommendations

The current regulations state that the government will “closely control” the export of military goods and technology to (a) countries involved in hostilities or under imminent threat of hostilities; and (b) countries with a persistent record of violating the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population. Thanks to the research of Project Ploughshares it is clear that the phrase “closely control” has little meaning. Substantial percentages of Canadian military goods end up in both categories of countries. We would recommend that the phrase “closely control” be replaced with the term “prohibit” and that repression technology be included in this prohibition.

To implement the regulations that we propose, or even to take the existing ones seriously, requires a review process for determining whether a given country is on a list to which sales are prohibited, or at least closely controlled. We recommend that this review process be public and much more rigorous. A parliamentary committee could be charged with preparing such a list each year. It could consider submissions from Canadian groups as well as information from the United Nations and Amnesty International. Implementing the regulations also requires an “end-use control” system. This is particularly important since many of Canada’s exports are component parts, some of which can be used for either military or nonmilitary purposes. They can be assembled in a second country and sold to a third. We recommend that there be a comprehensive end-use control system to ensure that the basic principles are not violated.

We further recommend that there be a Security Impact Assessment (SIA) before a significant transfer of military goods is approved. The SIA idea would be similar to the environmental impact assessments that are now required before certain projects and activities affecting the environment are approved. Elements of an SIA requirement appeared in Bill C-6, passed by Parliament in 1991. We recommend that these elements be broadened and that the assessment be conducted publicly. Such an exercise would help to make security considerations more central to the decisions and it would allow for public debate about those considerations.

We recommend that all policies and programs designed to promote Canada’s arms industry for its supposed economic benefits be eliminated. The most obvious reason is that of morality. But there are other reasons too. Support for the arms industry is not an effective means of promoting economic development. The last few years provide adequate proof of this. Further, there is a contradiction between promoting the industry for economic reason and restricting its exports for reasons of security and human rights. If the former were removed then the latter could be pursued more seriously.

Further rationale

There are factors which make this a particularly appropriate time for Canada to accept restrictions such as those proposed above.

a) The Prime Minister, after the Gulf War, stated emphatically that the international sale of weapons is a serious problem that should be restricted.

b) Canada’s arms exports are at an historic low. This makes it politically easier to impose restrictions.

c) Canada’s new policy of making development aid conditional on respect for human rights suggests that arms sales should be subject to conditions at least as stringent.

d) Restrictions on the international arms trade would address situations that create refugees and ease the pressure on Canada’s refugee system. One MCC worker recently stated: “Back in the early ‘80s when we lived in Mogadishu [Somalia], I remember the Pan Am 747s landing over our house with military hardware from the US. These in turn have been used in northern Somalia and are now scattered throughout Somalia to make that country ungovernable. Since that time at least 20,000 Somali refugees have come to Canada, overtaxing our refugee assistance programs.”

(e) Canada, by restricting its own arms exports, would be better able to prod other countries to restrict their exports. An unusual international willingness to consider such actions is suggested by the approval of the UN arms transfer register and by the numerous statements of leaders in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Action to restrict the arms trade, alongside actions to resolve regional conflicts and strengthen international institutions, could make the world a safer place.

The strongest rationale for steps to eliminate the arms  trade comes from the victims.

(a) In Lebanon an MCC worker was approached by a mother and a five-year-old son in a refugee camp. The mother asked the MCC worker to look at the arms of her son. The boy had picked up what he thought was a toy and had both hands blown off by a cluster bomblett. That cluster bomb was exported to a “friendly government” and was to be used “for defensive purposes only.”

(b) In Turkey in April 1991, an MCC worker observed the plight of the Kurdish refugees high in the mountains along the Iraq-Turkey border. One old Kurd, staggered from a blow to the head by a Turkish soldier, had blood streaming down his face. He pleaded with the soldier to be allowed to pick up one more bundle of bread which happened to land on Turkish soil from the aircraft which dropped it. The soldier then lifted his gun and fired blindly into the crowd, killing a young boy. Exported arms to Iraq led to the plight of those Kurds. The rifle used by the Turkish soldier was also part of the arms export trade.

(c) In Cambodia an MCC doctor amputated the leg of a young farmer whose foot had been blown off when he stepped on a landmine. Instead of being the breadwinner for his family, he will be a burden. But he is one of many. According to a UN report, 300 Cambodians lose their limbs to landmines each month and an equal number lose their lives. Most of the fighting in Cambodia has stopped but the landmines, estimated to number at least 500,000, will go on maiming and killing for decades to come.


The international arms trade is inhumane and immoral. Most of those who make the weapons live in comfort. Most of the victims are poor; indeed, the majority are civilians. Often they have no choice but to engage in activities where they are in danger of being wounded or killed. This must be stopped. We do not want our tax money to be used to support the arms industry. We want Canada’s arms exports eliminated or at least subjected to much stricter conditions. We encourage members of the subcommittee to recommend such steps to the government and to use other avenues too to make the world a safer place.


The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Peacemaking (1991)

The 1988 General Assembly affirmed the importance of peacemaking. Scripture reminds us that “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”(James 3:18). In his admonition to prospective baptismal candidates, the writer of 1 Peter stated that they “are to turn away from evil and do right; let [them] him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). Far from being naive about the human condition, we realized that it was not sufficient merely to seek peace, but it required a pro-active pursuit of the ever illusory peace as well. With the dramatic thaw in the Cold War, it was hoped that peace would have a real opportunity. A huge peace dividend would mean that we could turn our concerns to the many needs of people around the world. Instead of spending our resources on military hardware and the people who operate it, we could concentrate on eliminating Third World debt, feeding the world’s hungry and assisting moribund eastern European economies as they emerged from Soviet domination.

The conflict in the Persian Gulf, however, cast a massive cloud of doubt over the hope for real peace in our time. The international community, when faced with its first great challenge in the sphere of conflict resolution, returned to its old pattern of warfare. Peacemaking in any other form seemed hardly to be given a chance. The hope for easy transition from a world of armed camps to a paradise of harmony among all peoples of the world evaporated in a moment of time on 15 January 1991.

But the Persian Gulf war was only one of hundreds of wars occurring in the past 45 years since the end of the last major conflict in 1945. It is important for a searching analysis to be made into the causes and conduct of wars in general. But it is far more important to develop a mechanism for turning around the profound drive that humankind has for “warring.” This is where the gospel of peace can bring a new dimension to an age-old problem. And it is in this way that only the Church can contribute a level of understanding that goes far beyond that of professional “conflict” people—people who are concerned primarily with the reasons for, the justification of, and the procedures to be followed in the conduct of wars.

In this connection we note with dismay that a rush is on to re-arm the Middle East after the Persian Gulf war, but we rejoice that Canadian voices are calling for restraint and for outright opposition to such “obscene trade in weapons of mass destruction” (Mary Collins, Canada’s Associate Minister of Defence, March 23, 1991).

It is clear that the making of war is a failure in the human system of discourse. Our general practice is when all else fails in conflict resolution, make war! The gospel message, however, is “to seek peace and pursue it.” The statement is simple and profound, but extremely difficult to follow. There are countless obstacles to seeking and pursuing peace, in any given situation of conflict. The pathways to peace and justice are not well travelled; indeed, they are not even well marked. The Christian gospel has a crucial role to play in marking the way.

The true state of peace is something far more profound than simply the absence of war. The state of peace has a wide spectrum. At one end of the spectrum is the “peaceful” state existing under the “rule of law.” At the other end is the “peaceful” state existing under the “rule of trust and understanding.” Peace under the rule of law frequently fails to satisfy the peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is only a peace established and maintained by the rule of force. The force may be that of an external agency, such as the peace of Rome at the time of Christ during the subjugation of the conquered Jewish people. On the other hand, it may be the force of a local society itself, such as the majority of the people living in the community. This is typically the democratic “peace” with which we are familiar. But even in this situation, the justice of the gospel is not necessarily the order of the day. Majorities typically oppress minorities; occasionally, minorities oppress majorities. Thus, justice is not guaranteed by peace under the rule of law.

Injustices lead to wars, and wars occur at all levels of intensity. Many nations conduct substantial wars while “at peace.” Typically, these are low-intensity combats, but they involve large numbers of people.

Sometimes the people involved are minority groups within a nation; sometimes they are members of neighbouring nations. Typically, they involve security forces, rebels, and guerillas. Frequently, these wars are marked by death squads and “disappearances.”

Peace under the rule of law is a greater expression of justice than is war. However, the ideal state of peace would be one in which peace was clearly enjoyed by all without any rule of force. For this to be obtained would require an enormous shift in human understanding, from the rule of the powerful, either democratically established or otherwise, to a situation in which everyone agrees to live together peacefully. In this state, the military would not be needed, nor would security forces, not even police.

One of the first steps in any peacemaking movement will be to establish a factual foundation from which to work in defining the nature and causes of war and the ideal state of peace. One of the reasons that the attainment of true peace seems so nebulous is that as a society we have conducted very little research and study on the topic. It seems that we are more comfortable researching the causes and conduct of war than of peace. For example, it is estimated that Canada spends about $2-million per year on “war” studies while spending less than $0.2-million on “peace” studies (Project Ploughshares, 25 March 1991).

Again, the challenge to the churches, including the Presbyterian Church in Canada, for making significant progress in the direction of true peacemaking is formidable. The time is right, however, after the Persian Gulf war and during continuing conflicts in Africa, Asia, and Central America involving millions of deaths. Realistic theological assessments must be made for peacemaking on a truly global scale. The failure to attempt such an assessment would be to concede an apparent irrelevancy of the gospel of peace, the very foundation of the life and witness of the Church of Jesus Christ.

A small committee such as International Affairs cannot accomplish so important a task on its own. A process of consultation and study by many committees of the Church would be required. As direction for this study program, the Committee would suggest the following as crucial issues to deal with:

1. the relationship between a Reformed theology of the nature of humanity and the Church’s hope for peace and justice;

2. the relationship between the global dream of a new world order and the Church’s hope for the kingdom of God, and the implications for the Church of the new world order philosophy;

3. the stance of the Church in a society that may violate the ethics of the kingdom of God, giving special attention to the issue of patriotism/nationalism and the believer;

4. the relationship between the international rule of law and the goal of global harmony and peace, in particular the validity of the use of force; and

5. the position of the Presbyterian Church in Canada with respect to the “just war,” and a general consideration of the relevance, if any, of this theory for our time.

In conclusion, we are called upon to follow and be faithful to Jesus Christ. Few understood the depths of difficulty implied in his statement “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Hear the challenge of Edward Long Jr.: “Perhaps peacemaking cannot be successful in any nation at the present time. Perhaps Christians will have to disassociate themselves from their societies in order to make a witness of last resort against a culture that contradicts so much they believe is right. But if any hope of transformation, any significant possibility of the redemption of the world is to be kept alive, then it will be important to seek a peace with justice with every resource at our command, and with a love which does not lead the world to ruin in the destructiveness of its own folly.”

In the name of the Prince of Peace (1991)

The International Affairs Committee met for its regular meeting, January 24-25, in the context of a major war taking place in the Persian Gulf, a war in which Canada is participating. The committee recognizes that within our Church there are a host of conflicting feelings and opinions about this war, Canada’s involvement in it, and the response demanded of Christians committed to following the Prince of Peace. Many people feel helpless to do anything on behalf of peace. Many are genuinely struggling with their feelings and attitudes, and many are hurting, frustrated, and even despairing.

The Committee shares all of these struggles and offers this statement of “What We Believe” and “What We Can Do” in the spirit of hope in our Lord, Jesus Christ. We do not claim to have all the answers, but we hope what we have done will be useful in our common struggle to be faithful to the biblical vision of shalom.

What we believe

1. We believe that “Christ, the Prince of Peace, calls his followers to seek peace in the world” (Living Faith 8.5.1).

2. We believe that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was an intolerable and brutal act of aggression that could not go unchallenged.

3. We believe that international sanctions, strictly enforced, were an appropriate response, but were not given enough time to be effective.

4. We believe that war was an inappropriate response and inconsistent with the gospel call to peacemaking. We affirm that “War cannot resolve the Gulf crises” (CCC letter to Prime Minister dated November 28, 1990 endorsed by the Moderator of the 116th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada).

5. We believe there are countless victims of this war: children, women, men, both civilian and military, who are not “collateral damage” but human beings created in the image of God.

6. We believe the earth itself is a victim of this war; its fragile ecology is threatened with irreparable damage.

7. We believe that Canada should turn away from its combative participation in this war, and return to its role as peacekeeper by

a) “using its resources for purposes of humanitarian relief, healing, and alleviation of suffering, both during and after the current hostilities;

b) using all of its diplomatic resources to work for an early end to the war; and

c) increasing its efforts to bring about implementation of UN resolutions calling for an international peace conference on the Middle East and a solution to the Palestinian question (Resolution of Presbytery of Pickering, January 22, 1991).

8. We believe we are called to respond to the appeal from our brothers and sisters of the Middle East Council of Churches “to join in the confident and persistent struggle for peace and to pray that hatred be replaced by love, selfishness by sharing, and war by peace.”

What we can do

1. We can pray, confessing our failure to speak and act with courage for peace in the region, and praying unceasingly for the victims on all sides of this war, for all leaders responsible for critical decisions, and for an early end to the war.

2. We can light a candle at our dining table or in our living room window this night and every night until this war ends, as a symbol of our yearning and hope for peace in the name of the Prince of Peace, and invite our neighbours to join us.

3. We can seek out families of Middle East background in our communities, invite them for livingroom conversations, and share their concerns.

4. We can stand in clear opposition to any expressions of racism against Canadians of Middle East background, whether Muslims, Jews, or Christians.

5. We can support and comfort any in our communities who have a family member serving with Canadian forces in the Gulf.

6. We can help our children to deal with the realities of this war by including them in family conversations and exploring with them the biblical vision of shalom and the hope we have in Christ (Micah 4:1-4; Heb. 12:14; Mt. 5:9; Mt. 26:52; Ps. 46:8-9; Ps. 120:6-7; James 3:18; Is. 9:5-6).

7. We can urge our Members of Parliament to work for an immediate end to this war.

8. We can initiate or participate in local ecumenical peace and prayer vigils in which the candles of hope burn brightly.
Peacemaking: we must start somewhere…
Study paper, 1992

Peace and the reign of God

The gospel of peace cannot be restricted to matters of personal devotion to God or relationships within the community of believers. The drama of war and peace is also played out on the world stage: in halls of justice, legislative assemblies, corporation boardrooms, and wherever vicious global competition drives the race for economic and political power. Jesus’ peace mission reached its climax before the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, and the early church was compelled to confront the power structures of Jewish and Roman society. As a witness to God’s reign the Church must address the well-organized roots of violence, deal with the world powers-that-be that bear a special responsibility for all aspects of social justice, and seek out the men and women of good will who are working for the cause of peace and need well organized support.

The experience of the United Nations is instructive. While contending superpowers and their client states have been held in futile deadlock, peacekeeping forces have worked to bring stability to strife-torn areas, often with Canadian involvement. While pacification at gunpoint is no solution (as the Korean war revealed), peacekeeping is clearly better, but still only contains conflict without ending it (as the war in Cyprus revealed). Peacemaking through negotiated political settlements (now being pursued in Cambodia) is obviously better still but is nevertheless limited to addressing the symptoms of disorder while the disease rages on, since the basic structural sources of conflict remain unchanged (as the Middle East peace talks make abundantly clear).

A more effective approach, however, appears in the fundamental claims of non-governmental organizations operating around the world. Their common thrust is that peace can never be achieved without first achieving justice. If there is justice for the underprivileged, the poor, the oppressed, the dispossessed, and the forgotten of God’s people, then there will be peace. Otherwise, strife and wars will continue.

It is in this context that genuine peacebuilding or peacemaking will occur, enabling people to build systems of sustainable development, health and education, and above all, to have a voice as full partners in the process.

Thus, a remarkable convergence is beginning to appear between the thrust of secular agencies and the witness of faith communities—including the Presbyterian Church in Canada:

  • the horrors of totalitarianism and total war brought men and women of all faiths and no specific faith together for survival and mutual help;
  • the crumbling of imperial structures gave multitudes a new voice and new opportunities, including Third World churches;
  • the World Council of Churches and Vatican II have brought about a major reduction in inter-church confrontation, and Christians now work together on a wide variety of social justice and peacemaking activities (e.g., the Canadian Coalition, Ten Days for World Development);
  • “just war” advocacy has declined, and peacemaking concerns have gained ground (with some tragic exceptions) in many parts of the world church—including the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to which our church belongs, the Canadian Council of Churches, and a wide variety of ecumenical groups. Still, what do we say to those weary of decades or centuries of oppression who say that they must use violence to overcome the greater violence of their oppressors?

The Presbyterian Church in Canada has given much prayerful consideration to the theology of peacemaking in all its aspects, through a wide variety of boards and committees. Much of the content of the Declaration of Faith concerning Church and Nation, part of our subordinate standards, comes to grips with this theme, as do relevant sections of Living Faith (e.g., the sections on love, justice, and world peace). Such statements certainly do not rest content with the “just and mournful war” position, but seek to guide the Church to more resolute action and a more confident faith in the God of peace.
120th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada
June 1994

Can war be just?

In the twentieth century, churches continue to justify war against opposing nations, with terrible results. For example, in the Falkland War, the church leadership in Argentina and Great Britain both believed that their side had the just arguments concerning the sovereignty of the islands. The influence of nationalistic perspectives was a strong factor in the dissonant proclamation. The Body of Christ was divided. Christians fought and killed one another.

The practice of humans sanctioning a holy war is dangerous. It is too easy for arrogance and propaganda to influence our judgement about whether God “wants” us to wage this war. It is too tempting to believe that if we win, then we are on the side that is right. At the same time, “we know that nations have fought in self-defence and that war, at times, may be unavoidable” (Living Faith, 8.5.2).

A more judicial means of determining whether a war could be sanctioned is to look at conflict by the standards of the just war theory. It was first formulated by Augustine [who] agreed with the earliest Christian theologians that Christians should not defend themselves against violence. He did, however, argue for the rightness of violence to defend  the innocent against evil. Many theologians have continued to reflect on the just war theory. Even with some differences in modern versions, there is consensus on the essential points:

1. The war must have a just cause.

2. It must be waged by a legitimate authority.

3. It must be formally declared.

4. It must be fought with a peaceful intention.

5. It must be a last resort.

6. There must be a reasonable hope of success.

7. The means used must be proportional to the end sought.

In addition, there are three considerations for the conduct of war:

1. Noncombatants must be given immunity.

2. Prisoners must be treated humanely.

3. International treaties and conventions must be honoured.

This theory of just war assumes a premise of reluctance towards entering into conflict. It assumes a deep desire for resolution and a lasting peace. It also assumes that ordinary citizens of “the enemy” should not be killed, and that those whom we fight against should still be thought of as human beings.

In the 1990s, violent conflict is a brutal fact. War affects all of the society where it is being waged. The criteria of “non-combatant immunity” is shattered by the reality that from 1700 to 1945, 50 per cent of those killed in war have been civilians. Walter Wink points out that the proportion of civilian deaths jumped to 74 per cent in the 1980s, and in the 1990s appears to be close to 90 per cent. The sheer numbers of humans killed in war in the twentieth century are  also alarming, especially in comparison with the past:

1500s – 1,600,000 killed

1600s – 6,100,000

1700s – 7,000,000

1800s – 19,400,000

1900s – 107,800,000 +

(Project Ploughshares, 1993).

It is hard to imagine that in the twentieth century at least 53.9 million civilians have been killed in war. This slaughter of people shows some of the horror of war, at which our advanced war technology has allowed us to excel. “The tragic evil that comes with war, the slaughter of men, women, and children must rouse us to work for peace” (Living Faith, 8.5.2).

We do not live in a perfect world, but in one where human fallibility leads to injustice and conflict. It is incumbent on us to support defenders against aggressor states when all attempts at peacekeeping fail. However, we do so in sorrow, acknowledging the fallenness of creation. This means that the Church cannot participate in the justification of human warfare as good and holy. Nor can Augustine’s teaching be used to justify war where “collateral damage” is a code word for children, women, and men being killed, injured, and sentenced to years of poverty, disability, and disease. God does not glorify our wars, nor allow us freely to take joy  and satisfaction from defeating our enemy. The loss to our world of human and natural resources is too great. Consider the loss which comes from destroying a society’s ability to transport and communicate, from defoliating farms and forests, and from burning oil fields. All these destroy the well-being of our descendants!

Working toward peace

The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Declaration of Faith Concerning Church and Nation of 1955 is based on the conviction that the sovereign Creator is establishing God’s reign in heaven and earth (1.1). This Declaration proclaims the hope of Christ “coming again for the healing of the nations and the perfecting of the church” (12.2). In the task of evangelism, the Church “promotes righteousness and peace” (8.6). God calls Christians to work for a just, peaceful society in the here and now. This means both recognizing the reality of human conflict and demonstrating the effectiveness of nonviolent action.

In Canada, as in many other countries, there are both armed forces and police. The Declaration affirms this practice. “He [Christ] commissions the civil authorities with the right and duty of using force under law against internal disorder and external aggression” (3.2) (cf. Rom. 13:3-4).

The threat by those who use force for selfish gains is real. The police seek to curb and limit the activities of those who gain wealth and power by illegal means. Canadian armed forces, under the United Nations flag, have been peacekeepers in critical areas where conflict can be an explosive force. They have interposed themselves in areas like Cyprus, Somalia, the Middle East, and the former Yugoslavia in the hope of enabling peace talks to succeed.

One of the dangers a nation faces is equating the perceived national interest with what is right. This occurred in Canada, for example, when the state escalated the 1991 protest at Oka into an armed conflict between Canadian soldiers and Aboriginal peoples. The position of the state was that the national interest required a strong response to a perceived threat to the state’s authority.

In the “Statement on National Unity” (1978), our Church declares

…the Christian faith…places on majority groups in society the responsibility of honouring the linguistic, cultural, and religious rights of the minorities in their midst. Indeed, the bias in the New Testament is specifically toward those who make up the disadvantaged of whatever nature.

It is our task as Christians to analyze who benefits from certain actions of the state. Far too often it is the majority group. Minorities are not treated equitably and are prevented from taking their rightful places in society. Justice “protests against everything that destroys human dignity” (Living Faith, 8.4.3). Christians who are members of the majority group are called to constant self-examination lest majority opinions become substitutes for the imperatives of the gospel.


The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Religious Society of Friends makes its decisions in a spirit of waiting for God’s direction. Minutes are approved when the gathered group is in unity; no votes are taken.

Report of interest group on the peace tax and military taxes of Yearly Meeting employees
Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM) minutes, 1987

As expressed by John Woolman in 1763, “to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives.”

Right stewardship of the possessions entrusted to us compels us to resist the conscription of these resources to fund preparations for war.

In acting in this light, we may be led along different paths—some to reduce their income and expenditures, some to legal or political action, some to other forms of action. Committees for clearness and care are important as Friends seek to act out of a deep spiritual centre.

Our calling to work for peace on earth and goodwill between people motivates, yet goes beyond, efforts at individual faithfulness. We seek not only personal rights, but the sovereignty of God.

Minute on White Paper on Defence
CYM minutes, 1987

The allocation of such a large proportion of Canada’s resources to a course of action which will increase human suffering in a world so greatly in need of healing is tragic.

Canada’s engagement in further re-armament undermines our credibility as a peacemaker.

We urge the Canadian government instead to resume our 40-year-old commitment to the UN, with its procedures for conflict resolution, for instance, through the Security Council.

We firmly believe that our security does not depend on outward weapons to threaten others. Instead it lies in respect for all people, in justice and in fair dealing and in the guidance of the Spirit. These are the preconditions for peace.

Letter to Finance Minister Michael Wilson
CYM minutes, 1988
(Based on a report of the ad hoc committee concerning CYM employees who are conscientious objectors)

Dear Michael Wilson:

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have maintained their peace testimony for more than three centuries and continue to work for peace, refusing military service.

We are grateful that Canadian governments have granted our members exemption from military service, approving alternate service of a nonviolent nature instead.

However, we are concerned that part of our taxes is used for military purposes. Some of our financial resources are conscripted, against our will, to prepare for war. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains guarantees for freedom of conscience and religion; and we urge the government to pass legislation, in the spirit of the Charter, allowing citizens to direct that the portion of their taxes now used for military purposes be redirected to peaceful uses. This legislation should also extend to taxes withheld from employees’ salaries so that employers could designate taxes of employees, who had made a suitable declaration, for peaceful uses only. We would not be asking to pay lower taxes than other citizens, but only to ensure that our taxes would not go to support wars, or preparation of wars.

We are aware of the many efforts of the Canadian government to work for peace by supporting the United Nations, by providing aid to lesser developed countries, by providing peacekeeping forces in many troubled areas of the world, and by supporting the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security and other programs. The creation of a special fund for peaceful purposes, from the portion of individual taxes normally directed to military use, could enable the Canadian Government to enhance its work for peace and to promote true security for all nations of the world.

Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
CYM minutes, 1989

The Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) adds its voice to those opposing the establishment of a NATO base at Goose Bay, Labrador, which is part of Nitassinan, homeland of the Innu.

As an historic peace church Friends know that security does not rest with military might, with low-level flight practice, or with weapons, whether nuclear or non-nuclear. Our experience is that security rests on justice, love, and mercy. Justice calls us to an equitable sharing of the world’s resources so that the basic needs of all humans are met in ways that sustain rather than degrade the environment of our fragile globe. Justice calls for a respect of human diversity, human rights, and the corporate expression of community life. Justice demands that the scarce resources of our world be used to respond to human need, not to militarism with its development of ever more destructive weapons systems. This is one face of our opposition to the development of a NATO base in Nitassinan.

We also hear and respect the witness of the Innu, whose land, Nitassinan, even now is being used, without their consent, for low-level test flights. It is this land upon which it is proposed that a NATO base be built. We know that no treaty exists between the Canadian government and the  Innu. We respect the responsibility of the Innu to protect their land which is such an integral part of their way of life, and to refuse to negotiate until this violation of their land ceases. They serve as a model for all those in other lands who struggle for justice, a struggle so often affirmed by Canadians, including your government.

We hear, too, the pain of non-natives living in Goose Bay who have come to depend on military activities to support themselves and their families. While being opposed to this military activity we respect the needs of these people and recognize that we and our government have a responsibility to ensure that ways exist that will allow them to live with dignity and comfort. We urge that ways be found, in consultation with the Innu, who pre-date European settlement in this area by thousands of years, to find economic activity that respects the land and supports all the people to live without needing military activity.

We call on our government to end the militarization of Nitassinan, including rejection of a NATO base there, and to enter into negotiations in good faith with the Innu. We hear from the Innu their desire to be included in the diversity that is Canada without having to give up who they are or their affinity to their land. We call for a relationship with the Innu that requires Canada to undertake joint nurture of the land and all that dwells on it. Any development activity that takes place in Nitassinan must wait until this relationship has been established and affirmed by all.

Letter to the Canadian Government
CYM minutes, 1990

For almost 350 years, the Religious Society of Friends has consistently affirmed the sanctity of human life and we believe that there is never a justification for taking human life. We have therefore refused to condone or participate in any war. This conscientious objection to the use of military force as a means of resolving differences of opinion has led to imprisonment and fines for Friends in many countries in the past. Today, most civilized countries, like Canada, recognize conscientious objection to service in the armed forces.

Since we are totally opposed to war, we also object to being required to contribute to military expenditures via our taxes….Our desire is not to avoid paying our fair share of the tax burden, but rather that all of our tax payments go to nonmilitary parts of the Federal budget such as social programs, the environment, and education.

Minute on Alberta Lubicon
CYM minutes, 1993

We, the members of Canadian Friends Service Committee, wish to affirm our continued commitment to justice for the Lubicon of Alberta.

Five years ago, in 1988, Friends stood in solidarity with the Lubicon at the nonviolent blockade in defence of their land. In spite of the many events since then, the reality of the situation is even worse now. The governments have yet to  negotiate in good faith and continue to use both overt and covert tactics to obstruct just resolution of the claim. The recent independent Commission of Review, which made sensible and just recommendations for resolving the dispute, has been ignored by both levels of government, who also refused to participate.

Clearcutting of Lubicon land is expected to begin again this fall. If this occurs, Friends need to be prepared to express our solidarity with the Lubicon again. We must demand that our governments negotiate fairly and deal in good faith with the people who so long have been denied justice, while our society continues to devastate their land and benefit from their resources.

As we stand in solidarity, we must recognize that there may be physical violence, either by police or by the people who are reacting to the systemic violence of the non-aboriginal society. Nevertheless we need to be present as witnesses and as nonviolent participants to help resolve this with justice.

We ask Friends to hold in the Light all the people involved in this difficult situation.

Introduction and recommendations from “Alternatives to Military Peacekeeping,”
CYM submission to the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee Reviewing Canadian Foreign Policy, 1994

The Religious Society of Friends is inspired by a desire to live, as the early British Quaker George Fox wrote in 1651, “in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars.” In a declaration to Charles II in 1661, Friends stated:

We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.

For more than three centuries Friends have sought in both personal and political life a response to violence which does not perpetuate further violence. This experience leads us to two conclusions. First, what is morally wrong becomes in time practically dysfunctional. Second, justice is imperative if conflicts are to be resolved.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Yearly Meeting, does not support the use of military force even for peacekeeping, the implementation of humanitarian aid, or policing. We believe that the use of military force is wrong and does not solve the problem.

We recommend that the Canadian Government

1. redirect its military contribution to the United Nations to provide greater support for and consultation with  Canadian and international voluntary organizations; and to establish and adequately fund a justice and social tension information documentation resource centre in Canada;

2. end Canadian participation in the manufacture, testing, and trade of arms;

3. increase efforts in international diplomacy and mediation;

4. continue to participate in and provide training for United Nations civil police actions; and

5. develop the capacity for nonviolent conflict resolution at all levels of international society.

Report of the ad hoc committee on War Tax Concerns (1994)

Canadian Yearly Meeting has had a deep concern for many years about the untenable position it is in when it is forced to be a collector of military taxes from employees who are themselves conscientious objectors to military taxation. At yearly meeting sessions in August 1993 it was agreed that Canadian Yearly Meeting and Canadian Friends Service Committee would try to deposit the military taxes of those employees requesting it into the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account (DSRA) as a way of redirecting taxes away from military uses. It was an imperfect solution as it failed to achieve positive redirection to peaceful purposes. However, as the DSRA is segregated from military spending because it is only spent on debt servicing, we believed it was a step in the right direction. We hoped that it was an administrative solution that the government would accept.

Since January, Canadian Yearly Meeting has been following the procedure prescribed by Representative Meeting in November 1993, with respect to the military portion of the taxes of its General Secretary. Since April, Canadian Friends Service Committee has been doing the same on behalf of one of its staff. Most of these cheques were returned; one was deposited into the DSRA and credited as a donation, despite explicit directions about it being an income tax deposit. We have had repeated correspondence with Paul Martin, Minister of Finance, over this issue.

On June 15, 1994 Ursula Franklin, Vivien Abbott, and Don Woodside travelled to Ottawa to meet with staff of Paul Martin, in order to clarify the issues regarding the DSRA. We learned that it is impossible to place a personal income tax deposit in the DSRA. To do so would require a legislative amendment, and the arguments previously used against a peace tax bill, i.e., “floodgates,” and government’s prerogative to determine spending, were advanced against an amendment of the DSRA act. Paul Martin in a letter has also said he would not favour an amendment.

We also learned that while the DSRA is indeed a special purpose fund, spent only on deficit reduction, it shares this function with the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), into which all the rest of the revenues and taxes are deposited. Thus a dollar directed to the DSRA and spent on deficit reduction means that a dollar less can be spent on deficit  reduction from the CRF. The result is that no real redirection can be accomplished.

We recommend that Canadian Yearly Meeting stop trying to deposit in the DSRA. We believe that Canadian Yearly Meeting should continue to refuse to act as a tax collector of military taxes from employees who are themselves conscientious objectors to military taxation. The only currently available way to do this is to place such taxes in the Peace Tax Fund operated by Conscience Canada.

We recommend that Canadian Yearly Meeting and Canadian Friends Service Committee immediately begin to deposit the military portion of taxes of employees requesting it into the Peace Tax Fund, and so inform the Minister of Finance.

We ask Representative Meeting to consider the option of establishing a separate Canadian Yearly Meeting trust fund for its employees.

The three persons named above and Ed Abbott met with an intern in Svend Robinson’s office to discuss a private member’s bill he is drafting. It is a reworking of the Ray Funk bill, following the example of the US Peace Tax Bill, directing funding to existing government agencies, to be taken from a list drawn up by a voluntary committee drawn from concerned organizations.

We recommend that Canadian Yearly Meeting support the development of a peace tax bill that redirects military taxes to life-affirming purposes.

We approve the recommendation that Canadian Yearly Meeting stop trying to deposit taxes in the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account.

We agree on the following procedures:

1. Employees who wish to participate in the redirection of their military taxes are advised to seek clearness within their monthly meetings or, if not a Friend, to establish a clearness process in consultation with their personnel committee.

2. Employees who wish to participate will need to submit their request in writing to their employer.

3. At the employee’s request, Canadian Yearly Meeting and its committees will deposit the military portion of the employee’s monthly tax being withheld in a suitable trust account. These deposits will be reported to the government on a monthly and annual basis.

4. If Revenue Canada collects the redirected taxes from the employee directly, then Canadian Yearly Meeting and its committees will expedite the return of the deposits in the trust fund to the employee if requested to do so. If Revenue Canada collects from Canadian Yearly Meeting, then Canadian Yearly Meeting and its committees will recover the deposits.

5. If Revenue Canada brings a financial penalty or legal action against any representative, trustee, officer, or employee of Canadian Yearly Meeting or its committees consequent to participating in implementing this decision, Canadian Yearly Meeting will take responsibility for the penalty or legal costs. We approve that Canadian Yearly  Meeting and its committees immediately begin to deposit the military portion of taxes of employees requesting it into the Peace Tax Fund of Conscience Canada and so inform the federal Ministers of Finance and Revenue.

We ask Representative Meeting to investigate establishing a separate Yearly Meeting trust fund for the employees of Canadian Yearly Meeting and its committees for the deposit of these funds and do so if appropriate.


The United Church of Canada

Conscientious objection to war and tax redirection
31st General Council, 1986
Sudbury, Ontario

Whereas the Charter of the United Nations declares that “…everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion…”(article 18);

whereas the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the UN Charter obliges states to “…take the necessary steps to adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant…”(article 2.2);

whereas the right to conscientious objection to war is a component of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in order that people who are conscientious objectors to war on religious or humanist grounds may be able to practise their beliefs;

whereas the development of nuclear first-strike capability eliminates the distinction between “war” and “preparation for war”;

whereas the government of Canada has ratified the Charter and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thus committing itself to be bound by them under international law;

whereas the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms declares that “…Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion…”(Section 2);

whereas Canada’s involvement in international security arrangements, resting on the nuclear strategies of the United States, requires the use of public funds for purposes inconsistent with Canada’s declared foreign policy objectives;

whereas the taxation system within Canada requires the majority of citizens to help fund this security system, regardless of their personal conscience;

whereas the current taxation regulations in Canada require all courts of the church with paid staff to act as collectors of the portion of Canadian taxes that support Canadian participation in the global arms race;

whereas the current taxation regulations require employers to deny the right of freedom of conscience to those employees who are conscientious objectors to war:

therefore be it resolved that the 31st General Council

1. affirm the right of freedom of thought, conscience, and religions including the right of conscientious objection to war; and

2. request the Secretary of the Division of Finance, in consultation with the Division of Mission in Canada, to

a) press the federal government to adopt legislation that will give effect to the expression of the right of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion to all Canadian citizens through establishment of a legal Peace Tax Fund to which citizens would have the legal option of redirecting the portion of their taxes that would go into the production of and trade in offensive military goods and repression technology; and

b) press the federal government for a change in tax legislation to allow employers to extend to their employees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion through tax redirection at point of payment; and

3. forward notice of this action to the appropriate bodies of other churches which would appreciate this encouragement for their struggle to implement the fight to conscientious objection to war in their own countries.

Alternate defence policy for Canada
32nd General Council, 1988
Victoria, British Columbia

Be it resolved that the 32nd General Council remind the government of Canada of the United Church of Canada’s stand on the Defence Policy of Canada.

1. Nuclear weapons have no place in national defence policies. It is a perversion of language and morality to claim to “defend” or to “protect” with weapons that are capable only of mass destruction. Canada must, as must all other countries, urgently pursue national security and defence policies without reliance on nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction. Alternatives to nuclear defence must be explored at the same time as we work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—indeed it is the former that helps to make the latter feasible.

2. Canadian security relies ultimately, not on Canada’s ability to defend itself militarily, but on an international order that recognizes and respects Canadian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Given the nature of modern military technology, and given Canada’s vast territory and relatively small population, there is no possibility of Canada militarily repelling a determined invader. Instead, Canada depends upon the continued development of a world order in which national boundaries are respected. It follows from this that Canada’s primary “defence” responsibility is to make whatever contributions it can to the development and preservation of a just international order that recognizes and respects the integrity of Canada and other countries.

3. The international order on which the security of Canadians and others depends is threatened militarily beyond Canada’s borders and Canada has a responsibility to respond constructively to such threats.

4. Canadian territory should not be made available to any other country for the purpose of attacking or threatening to attack a third country. This principle imposes two basic obligations on Canada. First, if Canada is going to tell its neighbours that there is nothing in Canadian territory that is a threat to them, then it has to know what is going on in Canadian territory. This means that Canada is obligated to develop a capacity to patrol and minimally control Canadian territory. Second, this principle means also that Canada can no longer play host to various US installations and activities that are part of the US nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union (e.g., this raises obvious questions about NORAD, cruise and other testing, and communications facilities).

5. National defence policies should be based on defensive rather than offensive capabilities and should be designed to defend without threatening or provoking one’s neighbours/adversaries. A major impediment to disarmament is that national defence forces tend to rely, not on the ability to defend themselves against attack but on the ability to counterattack if attacked. This means that both sides confront each other with an array of threatening weapons. There is little hope for arms reduction in such circumstances. If, on the other hand, defence forces were designed in such a way that they had a clear and observable capacity to defend their territory if attacked, but at the same time did not have the kind of weapons necessary to launch a counterattack, both sides would feel much less threatened and would be more likely to consider arms reduction.

The approach counselled by “common security” principles also has major implications for the way in which Canada arranges its military production and for Canadian responsibility toward the current international arms trade. A twofold policy principle flows from this.

6. There are only two purposes for which the production of military equipment is a legitimate undertaking:

a) military production is required to produce those military commodities which are required by states in order to maintain national security forces that are consistent with and required for carrying out national responsibilities within a collective security framework;

b) military production is also required to provide multinational collective security forces with the equipment necessary for them to carry out responsibilities authorized by the international community.

Statement of faith on peace in a nuclear age
Adopted by the 33rd General Council of the United Church of Canada, August 1990


We live in a world rich in resources and diversity. In this world we are dependent on each other and the environment. This world is threatened.

We live in a world of violence.

There is growing disparity between rich and poor.

There is a power disparity between women and men, between Native and non-Native, and between the marginalized and the privileged.

People are treated as expendable commodities.

Military spending robs the poor and wastes resources. War and nuclear weapons are constant threats to survival. Human activity is destroying the global environment.

We live in a world of fear.

We fear for the future of our children and our children’s children. We sense despair of youth caused by the continuing arms race.

We fear the violence that maintains the systems of domination and oppression.

We experience a world of mistrust, lovelessness, and lack of community.

We also live with signs of hope:

  • in the spirit-filled lives of peacemakers;
  • in the covenant community, living and speaking God’s love;
  • in other communities sharing similar aims.

We are encouraged by the witness of the poor and all new voices for peace. We see hope in the willingness to continue the struggle.

Biblical and theological foundations

We believe the Scriptures witness to the creation of the world by God who intends that creation reflect the fundamental harmony we have come to call shalom. The shalom community is one of wholeness, peacefulness, harmony, and justice for all creation.

God made us in God’s image, to live in covenant with the creator and all other creatures. Compassionate and just, God renews the covenant in faithful love again and again.

We lament that the creation is lost in fear and conflict. God calls us to be peacemakers, to heal a world in brokenness. God calls us to be co-creators, to weave a world in wholeness. We are not alone, God is with us.

We believe God’s nature and intention break into our world in Jesus of Nazareth, who both embraces our humanity and proclaims the redemption of our brokenness.

Jesus is central to our understanding of peace: reconciling, forgiving, and manifesting human life with fullness. Jesus frees us from oppression, fear, and conflict.

We remember Jesus’ teaching, to love our enemies, to care for “the least of my sisters and brothers,” to pray, and to forgive. We remember Jesus’ understanding of his ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has  anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour (Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus called to account the powerful of the day and lived a new relationship with the powerless and the poor. We remember, particularly, his willingness to die in unconditional love for those who rejected him. Jesus calls us to be sisters and brothers.

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you—a peace the world cannot give—this is my gift to you (John 14:26-27).

We believe the Scriptures witness to the ongoing work of the Spirit who urges and empowers us to be peacemakers in the image of the Prince of Peace, and to work faithfully, using our many and varied gifts. The Spirit is gentle and kind, compassionate and caring, searching and acting; calling us to be open to the whole human family; to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God. Sustaining and nurturing, the Spirit guides and directs if we listen. As the transforming power of God’s love and justice, the Spirit works through us to effect change in the world.

We are called to be the Body of Christ, to bring forth shalom in the global community, where all are neighbours, loved by God. As stewards and gardeners, we are called to care for others and embrace power that enables. And, together with the Spirit, we are to work towards the healing and reconciliation of the world.

God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4).


We confess that we are part of a world culture that has broken God’s covenant.

  • We allow the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons at great social cost.
  • We abuse the environment and overuse the Earth’s resources.
  • We, in our greed, permit the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the crippling burden of world debt. We tolerate mass starvation, homelessness, and other misery.
  • We stereotype other political systems, races, cultures, and religions.
  • We, as citizens, abdicate our responsibilities to others.

We confess that as Canadians we share in this brokenness:

  • Our treatment of Native peoples is intolerable.
  • Our refugee policy is unjust.
  • Our economy depends, in some measure, on the manufacture of arms and their sale, even to developing  countries and repressive regimes.
  • Our contributions to foreign aid are being reduced and our social services are being eroded.
  • Our social attitudes and our condonation of personal and family violence have reinforced an ethic of domination which allows for hierarchies, authoritarianism, and the undue use of force to maintain order.

We confess as people of the United Church of Canada Church of Canada of Canada that:

  • We often lose the vision of shalom, despairing and allowing fear to motivate or paralyze us.
  • We tolerate a theology which reflects the dominant culture of our time.
  • We are not always willing to act respectfully toward children or to be in loving community with them.
  • We continue to exercise “power over” others—even within the church.
  • We are frequently unwilling to truly listen to those whose views differ from our own.
  • We fail to rely on the grace of God through prayer.


We the church are called to grow in faith, seeking a truer vision of God: shalom. In partnership with God and creation and the power of the Holy Spirit we act out God’s peacemaking call in worship, reflection, education, and action. In the shalom community we relate with trust, risking vulnerability; we are called to love our enemies.

We the church commit ourselves to the shalom community, living by the strengths and insights of those we have made powerless, such as the poor, children, women, and Native people.

We the church commit ourselves to stand boldly against the powers and principalities of war, militarization, violence, injustice, greed, ignorance, world debt, and exploitation of people and resources.

We denounce false beliefs and myths. We name the evils and sins of the church, our culture, and the present powers and principalities that govern our lives.

We commit ourselves personally and corporately to a simpler life. We commit ourselves to work towards a world in which wealth and resources are shared equitably.

We commit ourselves to economic conversion: reducing and transforming the arms industry and eliminating its profit motive; standing in solidarity with those who would lose jobs; protecting the rights of persons to reject participation in war or war preparation. We commit ourselves to common security and the adoption of non-threatening policies of defence.

We commit ourselves to learn and to teach our children nonviolent conflict resolution skills.

We the church, commit ourselves to peacemaking.
Issues statement on the Gulf War
January 17, 1991

The United Church of Canada has issued the following statement by the Moderator, the Right Reverend Dr.  Walter Farquharson, following the outbreak of war in the Persian Gulf:

We deplore the bombing of Baghdad and the claim that it was a success. It is, in fact, a tragic failure, even as the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi forces was a failure.

We refuse to let our leaders divide us (or allow us to be divided) into a world of enemies and allies. We believe all people are one in God. When Iraqis and Kuwaitis bleed, we all bleed.

We reject the claims of our leaders that there were no alternatives. We remain committed to the principles of a just world order and to the United Nations, but in light of modern warfare and the technological changes in weaponry, we are convinced that ultimately world order is only effectively pursued by nonmilitary means.

Human beings are capable of creating terrible weapons and of wreaking unthinkable destruction. They are also capable of resolving their conflicts, reconciling with enemies, and healing wounds. They must take responsibility for the good or evil effects of their actions.

In the wake of these terrible events, we implore the leaders of all countries to draw back from inflicting even greater destruction on the people of the Gulf region and from placing our own relatives serving in the Gulf in greater danger.

Just as justice and community are not best served in family or neighbourhood by the use of force and counterforce, so too in the family of nations, resorting to megawar or to acts of terrorism cannot serve the cause of justice, peace, and order.

We commit ourselves before God to the dreadful but sacred task of laying on healing hands for all who have been wounded in these terrible events. We have no other choice because we believe God’s intention for all of us is the lowering of every clenched fist and the healing of every wounded nation.
Beyond military force: seeking peace after the Cold War
35th General Council
August, 1994

Canada, like many countries caught in the transition from the Cold War, needs to define a new defence policy—one that rejects war as an option, pursues disarmament, controls the spread of all weapons, and promotes war prevention through conflict resolution and just development. Otherwise Canadians will continue to be under pressure to contribute people and scarce funds to UN peacekeeping operations where there is no peace to keep. This request would make unreasonable demands on members of the Canadian forces and would put further pressures on Canada’s contributions to building the conditions of peace.

Citizen diplomacy—a vocation for the healing of the nations

Instead of bombing Mogadishu or Bosnia and recruiting more people to serve as “Blue Helmets,” the world needs to add citizen diplomacy and conflict resolution  specialists to its efforts for peace. During the Cold War, professional diplomacy focused primarily on international peace talks at the highest level. Organizations like the church helped build the conditions for peace through development projects, human rights work, and public witness for justice. This work is still crucial, but more is needed to mitigate social conflicts between people in a single state.

The missing link has been a peacebuilding process and war prevention by middle-range leaders, such as people involved in ethnic, religious, humanitarian, cultural, educational, labour, and academic organizations and sectors. The middle range has proved crucial to deepening a society’s ability to resolve conflicts with justice, to address the psychological and social aspects of conflict, and to communicate between grassroots peacebuilding efforts and the high-level negotiations.

The healing of nations and of peoples will take the contributions of many kinds of organizations in addition to those with political and military mandates. This need offers the church both a challenge and an extraordinary opportunity for service to God and humanity. Peace can only occur when people disarm their hearts, sit down with their “enemies,” and address the psychological, social, political, and economic issues that lead them to take up arms in the first place. The healing process takes persistence. It also requires the careful reweaving of badly shredded social fabrics.

The desperate need of millions of God’s people requires a new approach to building peace. Mennonites and others with long experience in this kind of work say we need to use the resources that we have, plus our international networks, in a comprehensive approach to citizen diplomacy. That means we can’t leave it to Canadian soldiers, diplomats, and workers in development organizations alone. At the same time, we can not expect to leave it to individual members of the church to sign up for peace service on our behalf. The challenge for those of us who witness great human suffering is to put our institutions to the task of building peace. That challenge will require attention to

  • structural issues (e.g., how we integrate our contributions to emergency relief, development, and conflict resolution),
  • conflict dynamics (understanding the stages of conflict and the roles that need to be played by people and institutions in resolving conflict),
  • relationships (dealing with the psycho-social issues that unleash hatred, not just the presenting issue),
  • resources (drawing on the peace resources in the middle of the war zone and supporting them in the hard times),
  • coordination (moving beyond the occasional appeal to governments, projects here and there to developing peacebuilding capacities equal to the needs of our neighbours).

The United Church has some institutional experience in this kind of work in places like South Africa, South Korea, and Central America. It also has among its members many people who have served in their youth with historic peace churches like the Mennonites or Quakers. In recent years, the church has received requests for more sustained service from churches that have only recently been able to make a public witness for justice and peace in the new democracies of eastern Europe, the former USSR, and ex-Yugoslavia. Churches such as the United Church can lend important resources to support that ministry through hard times:

we are detached from the situation, yet we have a commitment to all God’s people grounded in faith;

  • we have resources—financial and human—that many churches lack;
  • we can offer persistence which makes us hard to turn away;
  • we have a tradition of being open to change, to inclusion, to dialogue for understanding and conciliation, and to involvement of lay people with skills for such ministry;
  • we can offer support to people who are marginalized in their own societies—women, minorities, people seeking self-government;
  • we have a tradition of working in common cause with social movements, without forgetting that we are an institution;
  • we have a political system that allows us to pursue the end of exports of weapons that endanger so many of our colleagues;
  • we are perceived by many who are marginalized to have no interest but justice because we are an institution in a country that usually prefers to talk rather than shoot.

The United Church also has members who regularly offer themselves for such work. At the moment it lacks programs that would help its members equip themselves and provide their skills as “citizen diplomats” where they are needed most.

Theological and ethical perspectives on war and citizen diplomacy

The theological and ethical basis for this kind of work has been described by General Councils since church union. In the first General Council after World War II, people declared their view that security could only come from dealing with human suffering and the hatred generated by war, and halting the flow of arms.

Today, we still derive our understanding of security from a vision of peace informed by the biblical idea of shalom—the ancient recognition that peace is not simply the absence of war, but a sustainable state of well-being and of harmony among people and with nature. That vision of peace is also grounded in Jesus’ way of nonviolence and the Gospels’ testimony that true human community is rooted in voluntary and generous care of each for the other.

A holistic approach to security for people and nature asserts the indivisibility of development, environment, human rights, democracy, and peace. Within the Christian tradition, we understand that “peace, justice, and the integrity of creation” are all essential elements of a sustainable society. Security is also mutual. It can not be wrested from adversaries; instead it is advanced when we seek the security of our adversary.

The foundation and inspiration of our work in peacebuilding is the reconciling and renewing life, death, and resurrection of Christ and Christ’s moral teaching. The witness of Christ demonstrates that all people draw life from a single source and are members of one global community. Christ’s teaching demands that evil in human society be overcome with good and that justice and peace be built by means of love and nonviolent action.

Our starting point in deciding how we contribute to true security is what is actually going on in the world, where we find ourselves in relationship with God and with humanity and nature. What God calls us to is a costly unity—a koinonia—with humanity in which the interests of our neighbours become our interests. As Jesus pointed out in telling his story about the good Samaritan, we are accountable to victims with whom we are in relationship. Discipleship of Christ means we are to be for those who stand before us before they come and ask us.

Therefore we can not offer a once-and-for-all decision about our response to war in our world; we will find ourselves in a process of moral discernment and decision-making over and over again. In the practice of discernment, we need to ensure that we are not asking victims to submit to abuse or suicide by our indifference, paralysis, or rigid clinging to principle.

In the current public debate, we are acutely aware that many people caught in war zones have become so desperate that they call for “humanitarian intervention” to secure a ceasefire by bombing or similar means. We can not support that approach at this time for two reasons. First, we have no evidence that military solutions brought about by outsiders will achieve a ceasefire in the kinds of wars underway today. There is much evidence that it will only suppress conflicts for a time and, in some cases, provide the opportunity for each side to regroup for a deadlier battle when the peacekeepers leave.

Second, we can not support humanitarian intervention by deadly military means because the alternative has not yet been tried. When war breaks out, the priority is to find political and diplomatic means to end it—not military means. For civil wars, that is especially true. The lessons of the last 20 years demonstrate that the work of weaving the peacebuilding fabric in each country can not be left to governments and armies alone. Organizations with institutional and informal networks in many countries—the church among them—need to bring their resources to the support of the peace community in war zones before they call  on the UN to bomb an area to make peace.


Whereas God calls us to join in a costly unity with God, with humanity, and with nature;

whereas we have become witnesses to the intense suffering of thousands of people since the end of the Cold War as civil wars have replaced wars between states, especially in the two-thirds world;

whereas the failures of existing political and military efforts by the UN and others have stimulated calls for “humanitarian intervention,” meaning the use of deadly military force (such as bombing) to secure a ceasefire;

whereas we are convinced that civil wars can only be resolved by dealing with the root causes of the conflicts between the warring parties and that outside military intervention only drives the conflicts underground;

whereas the international community—governmental, non-governmental, and religious—has not yet tried to build a comprehensive, cooperative, and persistent approach to peacebuilding and war prevention in the hot spots of our world;

whereas the fundamental resources for peace lie in the peace constituency in the war zones;

whereas the church has been challenged to offer its support to efforts of “citizen diplomacy” in order to prevent war and to remove the psycho-social supports for war-fighting in conflict zones;

therefore be it resolved that the 35th General Council of the United Church of Canada

1. call upon the Government of Canada to move toward rejection of war as an instrument of policy and adoption of a policy of non-aggression, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding; such a policy would require:

  • dismantling the capacity for waging war (controlling the arms trade, ending subsidies for weapons exporters, developing economic conversion strategies, cutting defence budgets);
  • disarmament (banning nuclear weapons, eliminating existing stockpiles, and reducing the need for military alliances);
  • restructuring military forces and redefining their mandates to enable them to make the most effective contribution to peacekeeping operations;
  • provision of training and retraining whereby military and nonmilitary personnel from Canada and other United Nations member nations can be expressly trained in methods specific to peacekeeping and peacebuilding;
  • acknowledging the important role played by traditional UN peacekeeping in policing ceasefires in order to contain civil conflicts and to give diplomacy a chance to work;
  • challenging other UN member nations to support to the fullest extent possible the peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts of the United Nations;
  • preventing the undermining of this contribution  and of its nonmilitary resources (such as the UN High Commission for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent) and seeking new nonmilitary instruments in the UN, where necessary;
  • limiting the number of future conflict situations into which it sends peacekeepers and insofar as possible to develop clear and achievable objectives in such future conflicts as Canada agrees to be involved in;
  • preventive peacebuilding, the fundamental orientation of Canada’s contribution to peace and security in the new world order;
  • providing financial and civilian (governmental and non-governmental) resources to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding, ensuring that at a minimum such resources should be equivalent to savings effected by any limits placed on Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping;
  • demonstrating an openness to the aspirations of people marginalized within their societies in its diplomatic and war prevention work.

2. make its own contribution to resolving the kinds of wars emerging in the post-Cold War period by:

  • reaffirming the church’s traditional support of war prevention through peacebuilding and reconciliation; withholding theological and ethical legitimacy from the use of war as an instrument of policy; and affirming the principle of building the peace community through the work of individuals, grassroots organizations, civil institutions, and national and international political leadership;
  • affirming its willingness to cooperate in an alliance of non-governmental, governmental, and inter-governmental efforts for preventive peacebuilding and civilian involvement in humanitarian assistance to civilians caught in civil wars;
  • encouraging the Division of Mission in Canada, in consultation with the Division of World Outreach, to equip the United Church of Canada in response to requests to make a direct contribution as an institution to citizen diplomacy for peace—or “second-track” diplomacy—in conflict situations, especially where religion plays a significant role.


Project Ploughshares Working Papers are published to contribute to public awareness and debate of issues of disarmament and development. The views expressed and proposals made in these papers should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the official policy of Project Ploughshares.


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