As Mennonite Students of Theology, we reflected and discerned together on the topic of (Neo-) Nationalisms and Populism during our yearly meeting.
We recognize our call to witness to God’s peace and justice in the midst of our different contexts and relationships. Inspired by this call, we see with deep concern the neo-nationalism and populism movements that are rising globally: we see how political parties in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany and other countries in Europe are framing narratives of xenophobia, nationalistic identities, and exclusivity; similar voices of discrimination and racism are also emerging in Canada, Paraguay and Colombia (countries of our origins). We recognize that we have not always lived up to our calling, at times even being tempted ourselves to buy into some of those ethnic/nationalistic narratives or by simply failing to confront them. It is important to remember the effects of our nationalistic pasts, as well as the strength of our individual voices expressed collectively in the name of a worldview that celebrates diversity, the respect for the other – based on our peace church identity.
Historically, Mennonite traditions have placed great emphasis on separation of church and state. Mennonites have held each other accountable as sisters and brothers in faith - upholding the aim of being a “church without spot or wrinkle”. In some Mennonite contexts, insular living has been upheld as the best solution for living a faithful life in a world with many social, environmental, and political problems. However, many Mennonite communities in Europe have also increasingly adopted a view that faith leads to actions and behaviors (or inactions) that are inherently political. Seeking not to engage is indeed making a political statement as well; and of course, how we engage politically is communicating something.
We recognize that one form of acting is to exercise the right of voting; others are creating spaces in their congregation for critically discussing nationalism and other narratives of exclusion, strengthening our Christian call to witness to peace and justice through our liturgies and prayers, engaging actively with our church ministries and organizations that are dealing with these topics. As believers we feel asked to seek the ‘welfare of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7). This calls us to contribute to building a sister- and brotherhood of all humans. The Pauline image of the one body with different parts (1 Corinth 12) needing each other is inspiring here. We are not aiming at being separate from “the others”, but rather becoming a communion of justice and peace in Europe. Therefore, we consider it of high importance to participate in the upcoming elections of the European Parliament.
We do not feel that the Church should take side for one specific political party, rather we do urge everyone to vote following their personal and communal values. For us, this is the perspective of Christian faith, shaped by our Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition. Each voice counts in an election, and our engagement in peaceful social engagement and conflict transformation, and community aid are important contributions. And voting is one way to express some of these views in the democratic public sphere.