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Spring 1998 · Vol. 27 No. 1 · pp. 14–19 

Peacemakers in All Situations: A Meditation on Love and Nonresistance

Kazuhiro Enomoto

Every summer Japan commemorates its experience of World War II. The atomic bombs blasted Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Shortly after the bombings the emperor Hirohito announced to the nation through radio that Japan had surrendered to the Allies. Since then the memory of the war has never been erased from the minds of millions of the Japanese people. As a Japanese citizen I welcome the expression of Article 13 in the Draft Revision of the MB Confession of Faith which unequivocally defines the role of Christians in our world of violence. Having lived in the United States for about four years I have occasionally been puzzled by some aspects of American Christianity. Sometimes I get the impression that to be a Christian in America is to be a patriot and a loyal supporter of the U.S. military.

Both Japanese and American societies are in need of Christian peacemakers who are willing to promote peace and justice at the risk of suffering.


Last year I visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the first time. In both cities I saw groups of school children visiting the sites of the atomic bombings. In Hiroshima they were singing a song for peace in front of a statue. In Nagasaki I saw some children looking intently at horrible pictures of the victims and the ruined city. Today Japan is seemingly a peace-loving nation and laments concerning what took place in the year 1945. However, while it is one thing to emphasize all the tragic {15} experiences Japan had to go through, it is totally another to come to terms with the suffering Japan inflicted upon China, Korea and other Asian nations. While the United States and Japan have never forgotten Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, the pain of other Asian civilians is not remembered as it deserves to be. 1

Human beings tend to have selective memories which are often subjective in nature. Moreover, politics, culture, and the media shape our worldview which is often irrational and prejudiced. In that respect many Christians are no better than non-Christians. Many German Christians supported the Nazi government which produced the Jewish Holocaust. Quite a few Christians of other nations also embraced anti-Semitism. In America the attack on Pearl Harbor led many Americans, Christian and non-Christian, to launch discriminatory actions against a minority group (who were also U.S. citizens) whom they called “Japs.” 2

Meanwhile in Japan a handful of conscientious people protested the policy of the imperial government despite the constant threat of torture and death, whereas Japanese Christians were largely silent and in general support of the war which was fought in the name of the emperor. 3 Absence of discernment and unwillingness to repent are causing generation after generation to repeat these mistakes.


In light of all this we may ask ourselves, Does Christian faith have anything to do with peace and justice in this world? What does it mean to witness in a world of violence and prejudice? Is the message of the gospel powerful enough to change the way we view the things we experience in the world?

In my view, Article 13 of the Mennonite Brethren Confession answers those questions. In our world of violence and prejudice Christians are to be “peacemakers in all situations.” In many cases that will call us to act in a radically different way from our society. Promoting justice in our society can result in our persecution from the world which is filled with rage and hatred.

I invite the reader to imagine what would have happened if he or she as a white American had defended publicly and outrightly the cause of the Japanese Americans when national hatred against the “Japs” was at its peak. On a similar note, we have been told of some heroic stories of those who sought justice for African-Americans during segregation. Many of those conscientious people received insults, ridicule and even death threats. I do not think it is difficult for us to imagine a situation in which promoting justice makes one the object of persecution. Under {16} such circumstances would we be able to remain true to our confession of faith and be willing to be “peacemakers in all situations?”


Historically, Anabaptists understood very well that doing right could bring them suffering. Still, in their obedience to the Word of God they chose to do good and suffer rather than to compromise their beliefs. When persecuted they practiced nonresistance. Mennonites today cherish the legacy of Dirk Willems who stretched out his hands to his drowning pursuer. 4 He saved the life of his persecutor, but lost his life in doing so. He is one of many examples from which we can learn the principle of love and nonresistance.

In contrast, our society values the principle of self-defense. How many of us would have rather rejoiced at the demise of our enemy had we been in a similar situation? How can such a story of a martyr be understood in a nation like America where an ordinary citizen can legally possess a gun to defend him—or herself?

It has been pointed out that the Mennonite peace position has been weakened in this century in America:

Many Mennonite Brethren in both Canada and the U.S. adopted a dispensationalist eschatology. In the U.S. this often came through militant and patriotic fundamentalist groups. The nonresistant principles of Mennonite Brethren individuals attending these fundamentalist schools were severely tested and often weakened. 5

The weakened Mennonite peace position which resulted affected not only the character of the church but also its overseas mission. At the heart of Mennonite overseas mission was evangelism which was held distinct from social justice. 6

In that regard Mennonite Brethren and other Mennonites seemed to be alike when they entered Japan after the end of World War II. James Juhnke records the words of some Japanese who came to appreciate the Mennonite peace position but regretted the lack of that emphasis in the work of the Mennonite missionaries:

“If the Mennonites had clearly articulated their peace position,” says Gan Sakakibara, “they could have won the Japanese people to their way.” As it was, the Mennonites allowed the moment of greatest receptivity to pass without clearly formulating and projecting the evangelical Mennonite peace witness in a way that would link up with Japanese postwar needs and aspirations. Hiroshi Yanada, {17} member of the Kobe Garage Group, put it this way: “Practically everything I know about Anabaptism I learned not from the missionaries but from Japanese study. If the missionaries know a good thing, they should not hide it.” 7

Can Mennonites in America today share their invaluable heritage of the peace position with the people of other nations? Does their confession of faith adequately and truthfully reflect their thoughts and conduct? The Confession states that “[we seek] to be peacemakers in all situations” (Article 13). Are we really determined to be peacemakers “in all situations” and ready to suffer, if necessary, for doing good? I believe that this question needs to be answered not only by those who are in North America but also by Mennonites around the world. I also believe that such a conviction makes a profound witness to a world which is filled with violent atrocities.


Unfortunately, the Mennonite Brethren Confession has placed the peace position (Article 13) and the Mission of the Church (Article 7) separately, as if the two are not related. In Article 7 a presentation of witness at the risk of suffering is absent. In contrast another Mennonite group incorporates the theme of suffering into its confession with regard to the church and its mission: “Even at the risk of suffering and death, the love of Christ compels faithful witnesses to testify for their Savior.” 8

It seems fair to say that Christians in North America experience little or no threat of persecution. Consequently, Christian witness in North America does not seem to anticipate any suffering. As such the Mennonite Brethren Confession may reflect a North American society which is politically stable and economically prosperous. If we are concerned with our safety and comfortable living, we might as well stay out of other people’s problems. But what is Christian witness without a concept of justice and peace? As I pointed out earlier, promoting justice can possibly cause suffering even in North America and such a notion needs to be taken seriously. 9

I conclude this essay with an invitation for the Mennonite Brethren of North America to read Article 7 and Article 13 collaterally. I believe that the legacy of Anabaptism will be undermined if justice, peace, and the risk of suffering are removed from the mission of the church. I hope that North American Mennonites will develop a holistic approach in their mission so that the people around the world may hear their message of peace and come to know Christ the Savior who is also called {18} “Prince of Peace.” 10 Both Japanese and American societies are in need of Christian peacemakers who have a keen awareness of history and contemporary issues and are willing to promote peace and justice at the risk of suffering.


  1. Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997). Chang not only uncovers the crimes of Japan during the war, but also reveals the contemporary problem in Japan. There exists a nationalistic movement which attempts to undermine the intensity of Japan’s atrocities in Asia. Her book has made me realize that Japan has not yet repented of its past.
  2. William K. Hosokawa, Nisei: The Quiet Americans (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado, 1992).
  3. James D. G. Dunn and Alan M. Suggate, The Justice of God: A Fresh Look at the Old Doctrine of Justification by Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 66; Kosuke Koyama, Mount Fuji and Mount Sinai: A Critique of Idols (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1985), 17-24.
  4. Cornelius J. Dyck, ed., An Introduction to Mennonite History, 3d ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1993), 110-11.
  5. Abe Dueck, “North American Mennonite Brethren and Issues of War, Peace and Nonresistance,” in Bridging Troubled Waters: Mennonite Brethren at Mid-Century, ed. Paul Toews (Winnpeg, MB: Kindred, 1995), 17.
  6. In my judgment, dispensationalism has significantly influenced the Mennonite Brethren in Japan due largely to the MB missionaries from North America around 1950 and on. With regard to dispensationalism and the Mennonite Brethren, see J. A. Toews, A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church: Pilgrims and Pioneers, ed. A. J. Klassen (Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature, 1975), 377-79.
  7. James C. Juhnke, A People of Mission: A History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Missions (Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1979), 121. Although Juhnke writes with regard to the General Conference Mennonite Church, as far as the Mennonite peace position is concerned, it is my understanding that the Mennonite Brethren likewise did not emphasize it in their missionary work in Japan.
  8. The General Board of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church General Board, Article 10: “The Church {19} in Mission,” in Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1995), 43.
  9. See Chapter 10, “New Conscription and the New Forms of Peace Theology,” in Paul Toews’ Mennonites in American Society, 1930-1970: Modernity and the Persistence of Religious Community (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1996). On the topic of “Mennonites and the Civil-Rights Movement” (255-61), Toews writes of Mennonite Voluntary Service: “In many parts of the South, the informal defense of segregation became ever more vigilant following the 1954 Supreme Court decision. VSers known for their friendship with African-Americans became objects of public scorn, were denied services, and even received threats” (259).
  10. Isa. 9:6.
Born and raised in Japan, Kazuhiro Enomoto has just completed four years of study at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California. He and his wife Lois are leaving for Japan where Kazuhiro will assume the directorship of the Tokyo Anabaptist Center.

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