“War is hell,” said Ted Studebaker, who knew this firsthand. A conscientious objector raised in the Church of the Brethren, he volunteered to go to Vietnam as an agriculturalist and peacemaker. He was killed there 51 years ago this month.
While the church helped form Studebaker, his response to war in turn helped shape the church. In him, Brethren saw a Christ-filled peacemaker who chose to suffer with the victims of violence.
Years later, the church still perseveres in its witness to the power of nonviolence in a world riven by war. With deep concern about today’s war being waged against Ukraine, the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board has called for concerted prayer and action for peacebuilding:
“While some have claimed that the events of the past weeks in Ukraine show that the machinery of war is necessary for security, we assert that the serious and sustained struggle for peace is the lesson to be learned.”
In its call, the board cited the church’s 1991 statement on peacemaking: “We believe that living in Christ Jesus, who is our peace, means more than advocating for peace; it means embodying God’s peace, living God’s real presence in and for all peoples and all creation. Peacemakers are Christ’s living and resurrected body at work in the world today.”
That is a powerful word for this Easter season.
Ted Studebaker’s personal sacrifice for peace inspired countless people, including a former university classmate who wrote about him last year. In an article in his local paper, Joel Freedman described the impact his friend had on his life, and his continued presence over these past 50 years. He repeated a prayer of Ted’s, which began:
“Keep us ill at ease and restless, God, as long as we can see need in the world.“
Here’s my prayer for our day:
O God of peace: Would that we knew the things that make for peace. Keep us discomforted by the warring madness of this world and its tyrants. Open our hearts to those who are forced to flee their homeland, whatever country that might be. Fill us with the compassion of Jesus, who wept over his people. Amen.
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.