PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Freedoms We Enjoy by peaceprobe
June 10, 2007, 10:44 am
Filed under: Peacemaker spirit, To those who disagree


Gene, I read your message on Cindy Sheehan. If it would not be for these individuals in the military and also law enforcement, you and Cindy would not have the freedoms you enjoy.

– A. Dale Welty 

Dear Dale,

For at least 10 years I have received regular messages from you firmly staking out a position critical of the work for peace that people like me engage in. I understand that you disagree with what we believe about how peace and security will come. Sometimes I suspect that you would prefer that people like me would just go away and lacking that, be quiet. The fact that you take the time to communicate to us indicates to me that you have not given up on us completely.

I know that I could allow myself to be pulled into a lengthy discussion with you about who is right. But, that might not get us any further now than it has for the many years you have been trying to correct my thinking and action. You know very well that my faith convictions have led me to active nonviolence and that those convictions are rooted in the Gospel of enemy loving. You are also smart enough to recognize that those of us who have freely chosen this path are sometimes inconsistent and maybe even wrong in the way we apply our convictions. But we are learning from our errors and our convictions have even grown deeper.

On the surface there is not much that you and I agree about regarding the use of force and Americas wars. You believe that the only way to achieve security is to use force. I understand that. You probably understand even better than I do how destructive military and police force can be. You believe it is necessary. I believe we can do better and that history including our contemporary world teaches us the possibility of the use of nonviolent power for transformation of people’s hearts and society.

The freedoms that I enjoy came about because groups of people organized themselves to speak, pray, worship, and agitate and they didn’t stop because military, police, or intelligence forces told them to stop. Some gave their lives. Others went to jail or sacrificed careers. There is a price for this way of life which is amazingly similar to the hard price that is paid by soldiers.

On my trips to Baghdad I had occasion to meet many soldiers in my efforts to speak with senior officials about Iraqi detainees and the general human rights situation. In probably 80% of those random and scheduled meetings with soldiers I explained our point of view for the work. I then described the specifics of a case of a disappeared Iraqi or shared our learning from the general trends of human rights that we had experienced with Iraqis. You may be surprised to learn how often soldiers and officers who knew first hand the complexity of the situation would warmly welcome our work. It was not unusual for us to be asked how they could join in such work. We always replied that the work required that the gun be put away for good and that expectations of discipline also required in military work is a characteristic we admire and attempt to integrate in our work too.

Often we concluded the conversation by simply saying that we have one very important commitment already in common. We are prepared not only to organize ourselves for peacemaking but we are prepared to accept the consequences even if the outcome is death. Far more often than you might believe, these encounters closed with a warm handshake or even a hug because we acknowledged the danger and vulnerability of our work.

So Dale, I doubt that this letter or others written by me or colleagues will change your mind immediately. But I do know that we live in a world where the paradigms do change, that someday we may be allies for a specific cause. I am confident that my faith stand is firm and that part of that firmness is an openness to flashes of new light.

Thank you for reminding me of your perspective on freedom. As you know freedoms for peoples of this earth is not yet complete. I believe that we can look into the hearts of humankind and see the hope for an order of reconciled peace that neither you nor I have the imagination to comprehend yet. I hope that we both have the eyes to see the light when it appears.


Gene Stoltzfus


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