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Sacrifice - Introduction

What would you do if people treated you badly because of what you believed in? What if you were put in prison, or if police officers barged into your home to do a surprise inspection? This may not ever happen to you, but it has happened to other people.


It is important to remember and study the past. It isn't only so you can do well on a history test at school. It is important to study history in order to learn lessons about yourself and your country. The philosopher George Santayana put it this way: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In other words, if you do not learn from the mistakes other people have made, you will be more likely to make the same mistakes yourself.

But history is more than a series of mistakes. It is also a story of courage, faith, and endurance. These can teach you just as much as mistakes can.

In 2004, the youngest conscientious objector from the Second World War will be 75 years old. As time passes, and as the number of living COs decreases, it becomes easier and easier to forget the past. That's why it's important to remember, and learn from, their stories.

In this section, you will learn about how Mennonites and other COs suffered for their beliefs. Imprisonment, church burnings, and surprise inspections are all part of the CO story. You can learn both from the persecution and from how the COs responded.

Anne Baerg, wife of a CO, puts the situation of COs into perspective.:

“Although we did not have the uncertainties and anxieties of the men in the military, we did have stress and burdens. However, we had the prayers and love of our friends, family and church. We certainly went through many lonely days, but none of our men were “missing in action.” We were spared such hardships and have many reasons to be thankful.” [ASP, 35-36]

Mennonites respect life and freedom and seek to live in peaceful existence with God's creation. While we acknowledge the sincerity of those who serve in the military, we believe in the power of truth, justice, and love rather than in the power of war. We respect those who answered the call to arms during the Second World War. We also deeply appreciate that Mennonites were able to respond in ways that reflected our convictions. We believe that the story of conscientious objectors is an important part of history.

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