By Kristin Flory
“Pray and resist!” That was the message from Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1976, at the Aug. 1 opening ceremony of the Centennial of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). The centennial celebration was held in Konstanz, Germany, on Aug. 1-3.
IFOR celebrated its “100 years for nonviolence” at this time and place because a conference of Christian pacifists was to be held in Konstanz on the eve of World War I, about a month after the Sarajevo assassination of crown prince Franz-Ferdinand. However, the international participants at the 1914 conference were forced to leave Germany during those early August days and were sent out of Germany by train; IFOR dates its birth to the Cologne train station platform pact between a German pastor and a British Quaker, who vowed, “Whatever happens, nothing is changed between us. We are one in Christ and can never be at war.”
IFOR today is a worldwide multi-faith movement of people who “share a vision of a world where conflicts are resolved through nonviolent means…and justice is sought as a basis for peace.”
The 2014 conference drew 300 participants from 40 countries. Workshops examined questions of nonviolence and justice in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America; nuclear disarmament and weapons exports; looking at the past in post-conflict societies; conscientious objection; military chaplaincy; the UN; and many other topics.
The Church of the Brethren through its Brethren Service office in Geneva, Switzerland, has a long history of cooperation with IFOR. That relationship includes a collaboration to create the European peace and development organization called EIRENE (which means “peace,” in Greek) in 1957, together with the Mennonite Central Committee.
More than 20 Brethren Volunteer Service workers have volunteered in past decades both in the IFOR headquarters in the Netherlands and in the branch office in Minden, Germany.
— Kristin Flory staffs the Brethren Service office in Geneva, Switzerland, and coordinates Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) Europe.