Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Martyr's Mirror

I have to admit that the last couple of days have been hard. I was extremely homesick on Friday, but then had a fantastic day in Antwerp on Saturday. I was there first for my art class field trip, visiting different museums, then to Kathleen's house (my resident director) for dinner and the night. I loved being back in the room where I stayed when I first came to Belgium. It was a little like coming home. We had a huge delicious dinner of pumpkin curry soup, rabbit, baked pears, tator-tot like things, and cake dessert. Krissy also came along, which was great to have some time to hang out with her and the guys.
On Sunday, after a huge breakfast, we headed in a van to the west of Belgium where we first went to World War I trenches. After the trenches, we went to a cemetery of World War I soldiers, a bunker, then finally a museum in Ypres, one of the main cities attacked in WWI. We also attended a ceremony honoring the fallen soldiers that has occurred everyday since WWI ended with the exception of WWII. The realities of the war were just so terrible. One reporter/artist of WWI wrote, "I have seen the most frightful nightmare of a country more conceived by Dante or Poe than by nature, unspeakable, utterly indescribable... Evil and the incarnate fiend alone can be master of this war, and no glimmer of God's hand is seen anywhere."
I don't know if I have just been trained to hate war, but the whole day was really hard for me to take and I am still upset over it. I think the worst part of the experience was at the end of the museum when they mentioned that since 1918, there has not been one day without an armed conflict somewhere on the planet, and the number of wars keeps increasing. And our country still glorifies war and the soldiers fighting for "our freedom." It makes me so mad and often I just lose all hope in humanity.
To make matters more depressing, yesterday I began my research on Anabaptists in Belgium and read of all the people who were killed in this country in the 1500s. There used to be thousands of Mennonites here, but were persecuted so badly, that the ones who didn't die fled to Holland. Many of the stories are recorded in The Martyr's Mirror. For those who don't know, The Martyr's Mirror is a HUGE book filled with stories of Anabaptists who were persecuted for their faith. It used to be that every Mennonite household had a copy and the stories would be shared often.
I think it is sad that we have stopped this tradition because although the stories are gruesome, they showed what it meant to truly live what you believe, despite suffering. The stories are our heritage and still can have so much meaning today. Ypres has a ceremony everyday honoring soldiers and in the US, celebrations honoring soldiers are not uncommon. As pacifists, I believe we need to also honor those who have suffered for Christ. We need to know these stories and share them with our kids so they know that war is not the only way.
Even though I have been quite down lately, I try to think of the positive and the work that is being done for peace in the world. I listened and talked to a worker from the United Nations yesterday and the work the UN is doing in the Central African Republic. Although the country is a mess, I found hope that programs are in place to try to solve the conflict and problems happening in that area of the world. And I have been listening to the song "One Day" by Matisyahu which expresses quite accurately, what I have been feeling.

"Sometimes I lay under the moon and thank God I'm breathing. Then I pray don't take me soon cause I am here for a reason. Sometimes in my tears I drown, but I never let it get me down. So when negativity surrounds, I know some day it'll all turn around because all my life I've been waiting for, I've been praying for, for the people to say that we don't wanna fight no more, there'll be no more wars and our children will play... one day. It's not about win or lose cause we all lose when they feed on the souls of the innocent blood drenched pavement. Keep on moving through the waters raging. In this maze you can lose your way, it might drive you crazy, but don't let it faze you no way. One day this all will change. Treat people the same, stop the violence, down with the hate. One day we'll all be free and proud to be under the same sun singing songs of freedom like. All my life I've been waiting for, I've been praying for, for the people to say that we don't wanna fight no more, there'll be no more wars and our children will play. One day."

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