By Iris de León-Hartshorn, director of Transformative Peacemaking, on behalf of Mennonite Church USA Executive Board Staff.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:27-31
Our Anabaptist faith, grounded in God’s word, has been our guide for 500 years. The image of Dirk Willems extending his hand to his enemy in mortal danger knowing it might cost him his own life has served as a beacon for how we are to respond to our enemies.
Earlier today the U.S. dropped the “mother of all bombs” in eastern Afghanistan at 7:32 p.m. local time. In a 2003 review of the weapon, the pentagon states, “It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use.” We are devastated.
Our hearts and prayers go out to those we have been told are our enemies, because they too are children of God. They too have families and loved ones whose hearts are breaking – who care for those who were killed, wounded or in any way affected by this act of destruction.
We as a church lament that our country operates within a paradigm that violence can produce peace. We as a nation continue to practice violence against our enemies. We confess our own complicity in how we too support such actions with the use of our tax dollars and in our daily interactions when we do not extend our hands to our enemies. We ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness.
This Holy Week, we encourage you to pray for peace across the globe and to practice peace in your communities. May we uphold our belief that God is Love – and that Love for our enemies is the way to peace.