i’m angry. the time for mourning and weeping is past.

By Carol Reimer. Carol is an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg, International Development and English Departments. Her perspective has been formed through her work with at-risk child care in Winnipeg, Canada, community urban farming in Havana, Cuba and debt-reduction programming in Cape Town, South Africa.

The truth is that my heart has been repeatedly broken for people around the world. Through study and travel I have learned about and seen injustice, oppression and unimaginable cruelty. I’ve wept and despaired and asked why. I’ve cast blame and sought solutions, and have solved nothing. The time for thinking and grieving is past.

Ezekiel was given a time of grief when God tells him, “Therefore groan, son of man!  Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief” (Ezekiel 21:6). It is important to allow ourselves time to grieve – to acknowledge people that have suffered and to share in their pain. We bind ourselves to each other when we share in, not only the joys and successes, but the heartache and pain. If we find ourselves completely at a loss to effect any change, at the very least we can stand in solidarity with our neighbours and grieve with them.

Grief also wounds our hearts to action. We cannot allow emotion to remain emotion. It must become active compassion. Tears are evidence of hearts touched, but if that’s as far as it goes, we remain useless to the people we weep for. Many of us have the luxury of deciding whether or not to stand and fight. We are not forced by circumstance to beat back injustice and protect the broken and vulnerable. Tears may come, but at the same time we need to pick up our weapons and prepare to do battle. We need to step out into action and work to make sure that there is no further cause to grieve.

In the past, heartbreak for what’s happened and what continues to happen around me has left me motionless, staring at the wall in my bedroom. Helpless and depressed.  That feeling has festered and now I’m angry. I’m angry at what has been allowed to happen, at the audacity of evil people and the arrogance of lazy people. I’m angry at hearts that are callous and immobile. People that are self seeking and comfortable. I’m angry at myself for not doing more, but frustrated because I don’t know what to do.
Continue reading ‘i’m angry. the time for mourning and weeping is past.’


today’s slave trade

By Carol Reimer. Carol is an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg, International Development and English Departments. Her perspective has been formed through her work with at-risk child care in Winnipeg, Canada, community urban farming in Havana, Cuba and debt-reduction programming in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Slavery was abolished 150 years ago, right? While it is true that slavery is illegal almost everywhere on earth, the fact is that there are more slaves today than there ever were…”

– Robert Alan (American Author) From Love146.org

Ages ago – before I knew better – I actually envied those that lived during times that gave them the opportunity to fight gross social injustice. People were a part of the abolition movement, actively fought against Aparthied, marched for civil rights, etc. It all sounded so glamorous and like a huge honour to be able to stand on the right side of history. I thought, if I was just given the chance, I too would stand up against the norms of the day and do what was right. Meanwhile, not only do we continue to look bleak poverty in the face every day, not only do we continue to live in a country whose policies form systemic racism, but a massive slave trade is alive and thriving.

Human trafficking and sex slavery isn’t something that most of us encounter, unless we go out of our way to find it. It’s something that is easily ignored and not dealt with. It’s a nasty reality and it offers no simple solution. However, the scope of this problem is such that it cannot be ignored. According to the A21 Campaign, there are 1.39 million people globally in sex slavery, and the vast majority of these are women and children. It’s a lucrative business. Sex slavery exists not only abroad, but in our own back yards. It’s there if we’re willing to see it.
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when justice is not a word because it is air, and we breathe it….

By Kristine Zylstra-Moore. Kristine is the Program Coordinator of FortWhyte Farms. There, she works with marginalized youth to build skills in sustainable urban farming. She and her husband, Peter live in central Winnipeg with their cat, Emma and their half-dozen chickens.

I have to confess. I carry inside myself a certain longing despair. Somewhere between grade school and university graduation I learned too much about our world and its gross injustices. And to top it all off I managed to marry someone who can only be described as obsessed with the pursuit of ever more revelation of how the powerful have and continue to take every advantage and, for lack of more precise language, screw over the rest of the world.

He does this, I know because he has hope that we can change it. He believes that it is only by knowing the truth that we can work to set ourselves and our brothers and sisters free. Mostly I believe this too and I do have hope… it’s just a butterfly kind of hope, the sort that takes your breath away for a moment of two… until it flies away and I’m left facing the cold hard facts.

I recently encountered the poem from which I’ve titled this post and honestly I cried. It’s difficult to explain, but these words crawled inside me and made themselves a home, a home that displaced some of the familiar despair.

I wanted to share the entire poem. It is written by Barbara Kingsolver and dedicated to the Nicaraguans killed by the Contras in the 1980’s. I find it incredible how the words speak so clearly to both that particular context and a much broader one. I am uncertain how well-known the details are of what occurred between Nicaragua and the United States so I’ve included a brief explanation and a link to a lengthier one at the end.

Continue reading ‘when justice is not a word because it is air, and we breathe it….’


international year of biodiversity

By Karin Zylstra Sawatzky

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity!

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Of the 47,677 known species in the world, 17,291 are facing the threat of extinction. About 70% of plants, 21% of mammals, 12% of birds, 37% of freshwater fish, 30% of amphibians, 28% of reptiles, and 35% of invertebrates are currently endangered (IUCN).

With Canada’s vast landscape comprising “almost 20% of the world’s wilderness, 20% of its freshwater, 24% of its wetlands and 10% of its forests,” Canada has a significant role to play in the conservation of biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity).

According to the Species at Risk Public Registry of Canada, there is concern for species of whales, hawks, orchids, wolves, owls, mosses, bears, seals, caribou, and many, many more. While some species loss has been determined to be naturally occurring by the scientific community, there is also consensus that the rate of extinction we are experiencing has been accelerated by human activity. Continue reading ‘international year of biodiversity’


fasting for justice

MCC and KAIROS have produced resources for lent this year on mining and carbon fasts. Both offer the opportunity to engage global issues and reflect on personal choices.

MCC’s guide is through their Mining Justice campaign. The weekly themes are: Gold, Precious Metals & Gems, Oil & Gas, Hydro-Electricity, Coltan, Impacts on Food and Water, and Where to from here? The guide is available on the MCC website.

KAIROS’ Re-Energize campaign has released a Carbon Fast guide. The weekly topics are: Electricity, Heat, Travel, Waste, Shopping, Water and Food. The guide is downloadable on KAIROS’ website.

The following is a reflection from Esther Epp-Tiessen on her choice to remove her wedding ring as a mining fast:

“Francisco Machado is a Honduran Mennonite pastor. Since about 2000 he has led a movement to reform mining practices in his country. In 2008 he fled Honduras because of death threats uttered against him for his work. He was a guest speaker at several MCC annual meetings in the fall of 2009 in connection with the launch of our Mining Justice campaign.

“At the MCC Manitoba annual meeting, one delegate noticed that Machado, though married, wore no wedding ring. Machado responded with the question, “Why do we need gold rings when they cause so much suffering?” Later that evening, the MCC offering plate was found to contain the typical offering of cash and cheques – as well as two gold rings.
Continue reading ‘fasting for justice’


how’d they vote

By Karin Zylstra Sawatzky

As a Canadian concerned with peaceful living – environmental sustainability, social equity, alternatives to militarization – I like to keep track of how my Member of Parliament is representing my views in Ottawa.

www.howdtheyvote.ca is a non-partisan website that compiles information about Canadian Parliament. You can see how your MP has voted on the bills important to you, or see where your MP ranks in absences, bills brought forward and words spoken in Parliament.

Of course, there won’t be anything exciting happening for the next couple months…. So, you can use this to see how your MP has done for the past year.

If you would like to let your MP know that you are checking up on them, you can follow the Parliamentary Contact Info link on their howdtheyvote profile.

Here are some items that I have been interested in:
C-300 Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
C-393 Drugs for International Humanitarian Purposes
C-304 Affordable and Accessible Housing
C-311 Climate Change Accountability Act
C-291 Refugee Appeals
C-447 Department of Peace Act

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“god in the gun sights”

By Esther Epp-Tiessen

On January 21, the Globe and Mail published an articled called “God in the gun sights.” The article described how some machines guns used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with New Testament biblical texts. For example, some guns display 2 Cor 4:6, while others John 8:12.

As a Christian committed to peace and nonviolence, I find it almost impossible to comprehend how the military establishment can use the Christian faith to bless their wars. I find it abhorrent that the Christian church through history has willingly supported certain wars. Yet to have scripture texts emblazoned on weapons that are used to threaten and kill, takes this audacity to a whole new level.

It is as wrong for a Christian soldier to use scripture to support war-fighting, as it is a Muslim to do so to support suicide bombing and terrorism.

New Testament scripture is pretty clear that Jesus Christ lived, taught and died the way of peace and nonviolence. He taught his followers to do the same, encouraging them to love their enemies and do good to those who hated and harmed them. Sadly, much the Christian church has lost sight of this most central and fundamental teaching. Were the church to embrace Jesus’ way of peace, the world would no doubt be a more peaceful place.

While the Globe and Mail does not have “God in the gun sightson their website, you can read an article about the story from the Washington Post: “Bible references on U.S. gun sights?.”

Editor’s note: For an update on this story, please see this article from the BBC: “US firm to remove Biblical references on gun sights.”


canada’s rising military budget

By Karin Zylstra Sawatzky

A recent report from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) details some surprising trends in Canadian military spending and policy.

While many Canadians view our military to be on a laughably low-budget, Canada’s military spending ranks 6th of the 28 NATO countries – “trailing only the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, all of which have much larger populations and economies.”1

Our military budget is currently the highest it has been since WWII – $21.185 billion.2 (Compare this to 2007 Canadian Official Development Assistance – $4.08 billion.3)

And our government plans to commit more funds – by increasing military spending by 0.6%  every year from 2008 to 2028 (percentage adjusted for inflation).4 Total spending during this 20-year plan will be about $13,000 per Canadian – around $415-440 billion!5

The CCPA report draws attention to military spending in Afghanistan. The Department of National Defense has estimated the cost of Afghanistan operations from 2001 at $6.3 billion.6 However, through the calculations of Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page – the CCPA report brings the estimation up to $12-15 billion!7

There is also the matter of the dwindling reputation of Canada as a peacekeeper. With only an average of $9.2 million over the past eight years and 55 soldiers currently committed to UN peacekeeping missions, Canada’s shift away from UN peacekeeping appears solidified.8

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advent prayer for peace in afghanistan

The following is a prayer for peace written by Carol Penner. You can read more prayers on Carol’s blog.

As we wait for the anniversary of your birth, Lord Jesus,
we are waiting for peace in Afghanistan.
We have created a war that goes on and on;
military operations come and go,
bombs get dropped or planted,
hospitals fill up and empty,
graveyards in Afghanistan and around the world
are visited by those who mourn.
And we have not found peace.
Saviour, where is your relief?
We need your strength and consolation.
We need release from fear and sin.
We require a rest from war. Continue reading ‘advent prayer for peace in afghanistan’



By Karin Zylstra Sawatzky
Photos by Matthew Zylstra Sawatzky

A landscape of tin-roofed homes, narrow alleyways and potholed mud roads sprawls from the centre of Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka. This is Kanyama and Chibolya: Two slum neighbourhoods merged after years of population growth and urban migration. The area, home to almost 50,000 people, has been characterized by crime, little access to government services, poor heath standards and high unemployment. It is also a refuge for poor and desperate families fleeing violence or instability in countries bordering Zambia.

Here, youth face many hardships – an overloaded school system, strained families, distressed peers and the feeling of limited possibilities. Many students have been abused or neglected by guardians or teachers; others have found themselves caught in rivalries because of nationality-based divides in their community.

This is where I met Issa Sadi Ebombola and his band of child-peacemakers. The group is slowly infiltrating their schools and communities with open ears, understanding and conflict-resolution strategies.

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Continue reading ‘child-peacemakers’

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