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Conscientious Objectors in Prison

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John Goossen was a teacher when the war started. He did not believe that violence was right and he told this to the judge at his CO hearing. That statement of faith ended his teaching career. The judge removed his teaching permit and sentenced him to prison.


“It was on December 1 when we had the court case in Morden, and I had to say good-bye that morning to my children and my pupils in Bergfeld. I loved my students very, very much. They were so dear to my heart, I have a whole box of letters that they sent me; and so I thought, what will I say to my students; I did not know when I was coming back, so I said to them that morning, I said “Let not your hearts be troubled; we believe in God, believe also in me.” And that was the last time that I was a public school teacher.”


“I was sentenced to Headingly for 12 months, and I tell you things were hard. Especially when in Morden, when the police… said I should be six feet under the ground. And you know it is something to be handcuffed. And I remember spending my first night in prison with three other people in Morden, and then we were brought to Winnipeg, and then to be handcuffed, taken to prison. I just want to tell you that experience as a radical was very, very hard.”


“I served in Headingly, and later on in Brandon, and one thing I want to say is this, that I got to know my Bible, and to study it there in prison, is something. Not only that, but I had to change from the German to the English. There are many, many blessed times that we had in prison, where the Lord was so near to us, and he had helped us. I also want to tell you that it is very hard to stand at three or four o'clock in the morning by the bars, and to examine your life, and all the thoughts that come, Lord, how it is.”


“But I want to put in a plug for our government. I love our government, I love Canada, and you know, when I think of how well our government treated us, it is just tremendous. I want to tell you, in Brandon, those of you who went to camp; some of those people said, “Look, my son is a the front line, and here they are sending these people to a holiday resort!” And there is the alternative; and so I just want to tell you that, as far as my stance is concerned, as with Florence Nightingale that said, “True patriotism is to live for our country,” you know, and that is what I want to do, and also for my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thank you for letting me share this with you.” [ASM, 154-155]


With teaching no longer an option, Goossen became a minister in the Mennonite church. Those twelve months had not broken his spirit. Goossen turned a negative experience into a positive one by refusing to compromise his faith.


Goossen spent a year in prison even though he had not committed a crime. Sam Martin served even longer.

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