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Fall 2014 · Vol. 43 No. 2 · pp. 270–272 

Book Review

Just Peace: Ecumenical, Intercultural, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

ed. Fernando Enns and Annette Mosher. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013. 216 pages.

Reviewed by Zac Klassen

Growing out of a conference hosted by the Amsterdam Mennonite Seminary in June 2011, Just Peace is a collection of papers exploring the relationship between justice and peace through a variety of perspectives. Editors Fernando Enns and Annette Mosher, both of Vrije Universiteit (Free University) Amsterdam, have arranged the contributions of thirteen individuals into three sections.

In the first section, a theology of Just Peace is developed that is mindful of the universal and the particular dimensions of human experience. Fernando Enns appeals to the biblical concept of shalom as the “orienting force” of the vocation of “just peace” that leads people to participate in the universal “process of freeing human beings from fear and want, of overcoming enmity . . . and of establishing conditions for just relationships.” For Jürgen Moltmann, “just peace” theology describes the universal human vocation to recognize and respond to God’s eternal love by loving all of life, in spite of living in a culture that operates under the “terror of death.”

Eduardus Van der Borght’s paper argues against granting the particular too much credence in developing a theology of Just Peace. Nationalistic {271} and ethnic violence must be addressed by the ecumenical church by attending to the way churches contribute to violence through “identity profiling.” By developing a theology of catholicity, local churches can avoid identifying ecclesial identity with nationality or ethnicity. Katya Tolstaya, however, reflects in her paper on the importance of thinking theologically in light of the particular context of church theology. She parallels the dehumanizing effects of life in the Gulag with the theological concept of theosis (the attainment of God’s likeness in the human) in the Russian Orthodox Church. She argues that inasmuch as theosis is described abstractly as a way to transcend the particularities of human existence, it could be complicit in dehumanizing efforts, especially when it refuses “confrontation with the reality of one’s own past and guilt.”

In the second section, Mient Jan Faber’s paper explores the role of “Responsible Outsiders” in war, showing how it is often third parties, with nationalistic interests, that prevent new possibilities for peace. Where tragedy strikes, complicit third parties often create lies that uphold their image as virtuous. This lie only furthers attitudes that restrict peace and justice along national lines, ignoring the call to solidarity with others. Mattijs van de Port’s paper shows how the function of the lie, or “fantasy,” anthropologically speaking, is not only a political tactic but also a way that societies maintain their social cohesion, especially societies that have experienced wartime violence themselves. Where war unmasks the fantasy of social cohesion, post-war societies need “to forget” and yet face “the impossibility to forget.” As a result, often a new fiction is created in society by projecting life’s absurdities onto other social groups (Albanians, Gypsies). Annette Mosher’s paper argues that spaces of peace, however, require that we “really recognize the concrete other.” Only in that recognition can we see that in the incarnation of Christ God has affirmed our humanness. Recognizing the other happens through active solidarity with “the other.” This active solidarity is the modus operandi of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which are described in Maarten van der Werf’s paper.

In the third section, Andrés Pacheco-Lozano takes up Enns’s emphasis on shalom to advocate for “just peace” as an ethic that is mindful of matters of land distribution. Violence is not only wielding a gun, it is also supporting the status quo. Similarly, Hans de Wit shows how the status quo is often supported through a violent hermeneutics of the biblical text. Reading should be “a service to the other,” such that even the process of discerning meaning is “redistributed.” Striking a different cord, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s paper advocates for the value of truth commissions and their potential for realizing forgiveness between victim and perpetrator as an alternative to prosecutorial justice. Barb Toews addresses some of the tensions with the restorative justice approach, namely that in any {272} given case justice may be subordinated to the goal of peace. Toews ultimately argues that with proper balancing of the requirements for achieving justice and peace, a restorative model is plausible. Toews’s essay is a nice precursor to Donald Kraybill’s account of the West Nickel Mines Amish school shootings and the forgiveness offered by the Amish community to the perpetrator’s family as it concretely exemplified the restorative model.

The strengths of Just Peace contribute to a minor weakness of the book. As a diverse collection of contemporary discussions around justice and peacemaking it provides individual essays that will appeal to professionals and lay leaders alike. At the same time, this diversity does at times make it less appealing as a larger unit. Regardless, I highly recommend it.

Zac Klassen is a Master of Theological Studies student at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario.

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