We celebrated our Peace Sunday. Two of our members spoke, one a veteran from Germany and the other a veteran from Canada — both now worshiping together as brothers. Some of our families have been profoundly touched and even violated by war.
Ike told of being in Canada’s medical core as a conscientious objector to killing. Even though he was not yet 20, he enlisted as a medic, serving most of his term in Montreal, working with and listening to severely wounded soldiers share their painful stories and emotional stresses. Ike concluded by giving thanks that he now lives a life of peace.
Helmut told his story, noting that God was his protector. War criminals are the soldiers on the losing side and war heroes are the soldiers on the winning side. Both are told that they are ‘defending their home country’, both are taught to kill, both obey orders. Helmut either had to join the German military forces or be shot; alternate service was not an option in Germany at that time. He summarized his experiences on the front by recounting the day he was stationed 20 kms east of his home village, assigned to defend it from the anticipated Russian assault in February, 1945. From his fox hole, he saw Russian tanks and several helmeted Russian soldiers. He knew he was supposed to kill rather than run (he was but 18), yet he also knew it was wrong to kill. He suddenly realized that the two Russian soldiers within his gun’s range were also made in God’s image. He instinctively realized that a mere handful of lightly-armed soldiers could not take on tanks, that killing two men would not change the war, so he made the decision to retreat, as trained. He now gives thanks that he did not kill anyone and that he therefore does not have to live with those memories and guilt. As Christians, we know we are challenged by scripture to love our enemies, yet powerful governments still declare war. Sometimes it seems that all we can do is pray for peace, pray that governments stop engaging in wars. [JEK]