“Putin has cured me of my pacifism”
Ethical Issues Confronting Mennonites in Light of the Russian War against Ukraine
Keywords:Mennonites, pacifism, Ukraine, war, peace, obedience
This article discusses the ways in which the recent experience of war has forced Ukrainian Christians, especially Mennonites, to address questions which had long remained unanswered about what it means to follow the peaceful Way of Jesus in the midst of a cruel and barbaric war. In order to locate the discussion within an appropriate historical and theological framework, I begin with a background sketch of the history of the Mennonite movement in Ukraine, before offering some rudimentary biblical and theological reflections on the nature of war. The focus then moves to a consideration of urgent ethical questions confronting the global anabaptist community in this new age of authoritarianism and nationalism into which the world now seems to be transitioning. As nationalist-populist movements continue to gain support throughout the world, the intensity and frequency of wars between nation states seems likely to increase. I believe that the global anabaptist community needs to be morally, intellectually and spiritually equipped to offer a distinctive gospel-centred contribution to peace and justice in this new era of violence and enmity. Although I maintain that anabaptists should retain their historic commitment to peace-making and reconciliation at the core of their identity as followers of Christ, I also believe that the traditional anabaptist position of absolute pacifism is becoming increasingly questionable. My main argument is, accordingly, that this traditional position stands in need of nuance and refinement, if the global anabaptist movement is to remain faithful to its fundamental calling to obedience to the teachings of Christ. I will support this argument with illustrations drawn from anabaptist history and theology, the witness of Scripture and the lived experience of Ukrainian Mennonites who find themselves living through a devastating war.