Nov. 11 reminds Mennonites of commitment to non-violence

On the night before Remembrance Day, it’s a tradition in Tim Schumaker’s house to tell his children the story of their ancestor

“I would say, ‘Here’s another way to sacrifice; this is how we respond to enemies,’” he said.

And Schumaker then tells the story of a Mennonite American Revolution soldier, led by a deep conviction of faith, who refuses to fight. Tried and convicted by a military court, he is executed for holding onto his principles of peace and non-violence.

An advocate for peace and justice, Schumaker has served with the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada (MCC) for more than 16 years. He also works at his wife’s small grocery store in East York.

Historically, the Mennonites in Canada have refused to participate in the wars as conscientious objectors. Mennonites are a denomination of the Christian faith that believes in non-violence and peace building.

“One of the core teachings of Jesus is love your enemies,” he said. “As Christians we believe that we follow Jesus’ teachings in (our) daily life; we’re a non-violent people who refuse to go to war.”

For Schumaker, Remembrance Day is always one of mixed feelings. His family has been Mennonite for more than 400 years. It’s why, in addition to wearing a poppy, he also wears a small red button that reads: “to remember is to work for peace.” He added that wearing the button is not to diminish the sacrifice of those who have served, but rather a way to engage others in what remembering means to him.

For 25 years, the MCC has been distributing these peace buttons as a way to start a conversation about what Remembrance Day means for those committed to peace and non-violence.

“What we want to say is (that) to truly remember the sacrifice of our veterans means that we will work for peace,” Schumaker said.