Johannes Weissingers Trinity Talk vom 18. November

I The Role of the Churches Promoting Peace in the World

Let me start with a preliminary note: A talk is not a sermon or a lecture. A talk is an exchange of questions and answers, of reports and comments. This note is more than an excuse or an apology that I didn’t finish my work. To find a way by talking with each other is connected with the idea or the aim of peace.

Let me start with my introduction to our talk with an exercise to make our mind flexible. I shall talk about the role of the churches promoting peace in the world. What´s a role? I look it up in my dictionary, my help during my stay here. My dictionary told me: A role is a part in a theatre-play which someone has to play. Does „peace” matter for the church like a play in the theatre? Or is peace the core, the essence of the being of the church. The church promotes peace or the church is not a church. Secondly: If you play a role you have to say words another has written for you (.. you have to take actions someone else has thought out.)

You can write the word sounding „role” as roll, too. „Do you want a roll” was the question in the Sharing Kitchen. Is the giving of rolls the way the church promote peace? Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: The church has three duties: 1. The church reminds the government of its tasks. The tasks of a government are to provide justice and peace. (Theological Declaration of Barmen) The adverbs “It fulfills this task by means of threat and exercise of force” is a very controversially discussed point. 2. The church has to help the victims of history. 3. If it is necessary, the church has to stop an insane driver of a car. Or does the roll of the church mean that the church itself is a roll which nurtures the hungry, the church as bread for the world, the church ready to give itself away so that people can live?

In the dictionary I find the word „enroll”. This word is mostly used in a sense concerning recruiting soldiers. The military says about itself that it produce safety and peace. Is it the mission of the church to help the military to do its job? Or is it the mission of the church to help to find a way out in the too narrowly discussed search for peace. The question is not only: Is it the duty or is it allowed to serve in the army, the question is wider: If you want peace prepare peace. The church has to remember the word „Blessed or honored are the peacemakers”, „peace will be the fruit of peace”.

II Themes I only Want to Note

When we planned this talk I remembered the life and work of Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze. He lived from 1885 to 1969. He worked more than 50 years for peace. His efforts remained mainly unsuccessful. He was not supported by his church. Considering a failing history could show us what was necessary and is necessary still. The thesis of Siegmund-Schultze was: Social justice and international peace belong together. You can´t reach one without the other. The churches can support peace and justice only if they are ecumenical orientated and practicing that. Siegmund-Schultze’s life is an illustration of the word “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue.” (Ps.34, 14) He sought to overcome the war as an institution to solve conflicts. Instead of war there should be an international court. And he said nearly 100 years ago: The planet has become a village. (= in a village there is no place for a battlefield and in a village all the inhabitants are dependend on one another. That is our situation: We are all mutually dependent. It´s time for a declaration of interdependence.)

I decided not to talk about his life because it would happen that someone afterwards would say: „Interesting, but he spoke about the past.”

Who am I that I could speak about the role of the church? Let´s hear what the churches itselves said. I recommend you the following document „An ecumenical call to just peace“. This call is declared on the so called ecumenical peace convocation in Kingston Jamaica last year 2011 in May.


But I decided not to quote this document too lengthily, because it would have the result that someone would say: It was too general. My question is: What could we do as churches in Tiffin.

Another theme I decided not to talk about is promoting peace by preaching although you can say that´s the very own, innate mission of the church. And I remember of the song I first heard here in the Trinity Church: „God´s still speaking. Are you listening? God´s still speaking. Have no fear.” In the Seneca Library I bought the book of Al Gore „The assault on reason”. In Chapter One Gore writes about „the Politics of Fear”. The first sentence: „Fear is the most powerful enemy of reason.” It is a very important question: Where are the mental, psychological, spiritual resources to overcome fear as a reason for violence. And if we say: War is an insanity in our times, where are the resources to heal this insanity - and consider: that is an medical term, insanity in the form of persecution mania an in the kind of megalomania. It is a kind of disease to see everyone as an enemy or to think to be entitled or legitimated to kill other people. The Church has a tradition in finding truth and humbleness and reverence.

But I decided only to point to this issue, because it would happen that anyone would say: That´s too theoretical for me. My question is: What´s to do?

That is also the reason I decided not to talk about the political discussion about the so called responsibility to protect or using military force as the last option. Those who agree on the war as the „ultima ratio” legitimate with the following thesis: There are situations in which only military force can protect the right of men against violence. They agree if other say: The right of the stronger must be replaced by the strength of the right. But secretly the result is always the same: You must be the stronger otherwise you can´t protect.

And you must be prepared. This preparation consumes money, intelligence, resources and attention. If really the right of people for example to be entiteled to food, education, health care and so on would be the focus then more money and so on would spend for reaching this aim. I stop these considerations and come to my last chapter.

III Proposals for Projects

I want to propose three projects, encouraged by experiences I had during the last weeks.

In the second week of my stay here I heard the report of two women from Cambodia who had survived the genocide of the Pol Pot Regime. Introducing these guest speakers the professor of politician science - I don´t know her name - remembered of the American bombardment of Cambodia. This bombardment was a part of the Vietnam War. In the Seneca Library I borrowed a book by Henry Kamm, „Cambodia - Report from a Stricken Land”. The Vietnam War was ended by the peace treaty of Paris in 1975. less than three years the end of this war will date back 40 years. 40 years are a period of a symbolic meaning. The walk of the Israeli People through the desert lasted 40 years before they could enter the Promised Land. In Germany has one speech at the 40th Anniversary of the end of World War II ended the silence about World War II. The Church of Westfalia decided in the same year 1985 to take the issue „Reconciliation with the People of the Soviet Union” in the center, into the midst of its work. I myself was involved into the founding of an society to promote an Social Peace Service in the eastern european countries. The German ambassador in Minsk, capital of Belarus, valued the work of the youth volunteer as a fundament for his own work as an ambassador.

Can you imagine to start a similar work in Cambodia at 2015? That´s not far away. Such a start must be prepared. There is a good model. The „village of friendship” is founded by an Vietnam Veteran George Mozi. People who are handicapped born because of the bombardments can find help in this village.

I visited the group of Pax Christi here in Tiffin in the St. Francis settlement. Josie Seltzer, a member of this group, picked me up for a trip to South Bend. We participated in a memorial hour for Joshua Casteel. Joshua served in the US army, at last as an interrogator in the Irakian Prison Abu Ghraib. One muslim Prisoner: How do you as a Christian can legitimate that what you do to me? This question hit Joshua´s conscience. He became a conscientious objector and gave an report of his decision to many people. In Summer this year he died of cancer. The managing editor of the review „The Sign of Peace”, edited by the Catholic Peace Fellowship, reported that they have recently established a hotline for people who need advice concerning the conscientious objection. He is not paid for this work. I think he will be overchallenged. Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze founded in Germany 1957 the Zentralstelle für Recht und Schutz der Kriegsdienstverweigerer aus Gewissensgründen, the central office for the right and the protection of the conscientious objectors. This Office was paid by 27 organisations, mainly by churches.

I want to ask you: Could you imagine that the UCC is one of those organisations which would give support to found such an office in the USA? I will go tomorrow to the national office of the UCC in Cleveland.

I visited a seminar at the Heidelberg University. Professor John Bing read with the students the book „ The End of Influence: What Happens when Other Countries Have America's Money?”. This book was published 2010 by the Berkeley Professor for economic and politics studies Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong. In the newspaper „US Today” I read the article „Protestantism Lost the Majority”. That is a historical and a dangerous situation. We all know the sentence „Frustration makes aggressive”. The USA and Western Europe are in the same or similar situation. The world Council of Churches pointed to the „waning influence of the churches in Europe and North America” (in the final report about the Decade to Overcome Violence 2001 - 2011).

I want to ask you: Could you imagine to think about the question what it matters to lose influence, to become a minority in a society and - maybe - to get importance as a so called Abrahamic minority. (Remember the role of the churches in the former DDR, especially in Leipzig. Many years they gathered for peace prayers with sometimes no more than a handful of participants. But in the end they were the deciding power that a possible massacre didn´t happen.)