In the summer of 1984, Ron Sider warned the Mennonite World Conference in Strasbourg, France, that the following decades could be the bloodiest the world had seen. He also warned Mennonites and other pacifists against a pacifism that condoned war if pacifists didn't have to fight. If Jesus taught a nonviolent approach to reconciliation, he said, pacifists ought to show the world what that was likeeven if it meant dying "by the thousands."
After the rescue of three Christian Peacemaker Teams workers from their kidnappers, Sider talked to Christianity Today about his original vision for CPT.
Ron Sider is president and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action and professor of theology and culture at Palmer Theological Seminary.
You said that Mennonites and another historic pacifist churches suffered from an "isolationist pacifism." What did you mean by that?
We withdraw into our own communities and basically let the world go to hell in a handbasket rather than say that we think Jesus has taught us some things about peacemaking that we want to share with the world. I was urging the second route. My ancestors go back to the 16th century Swiss Alps. I have a deep appreciation for why we withdrew. We were getting killed by the thousands.
But that has led to a tendency to withdraw rather than say Jesus is Lord of all, and we want to invite everybody to follow him.
So you proposed a peacemaking force. What did you hope they would do?
I basically said if we Mennonites think we have an alternative in peacemaking, then we'd better put ourselves on the line. We'd better go into the midst of difficult, dangerous situations and try to stand between warring parties and understand both sides and try to help them hear each other. The Mennonite ...