Three Of Niagara’s Historic ‘Peace Churches’ Honor Conscientious Objectors To War

Submitted by Jonathan Seiling and Don Alexander

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION TO WAR AS EXPERIENCED DURING THE HOSTILITIES OF 1812 – 1814.

THREE HISTORIC PEACE CHURCHES WILL DEDICATE PLAQUES , RESPECTING THEIR MEMBERS’  CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION TO WAR , ON A DEDICATION TOUR OF THE SITES IN THE NIAGARA PENINSULA, SUNDAY , JUNE 10, 2012.

 Many of the early settlers in the Niagara Peninsula were attracted to the area by assurances of the colonial Government of Upper Canada that conscientious objection to war would be respected.

Niagara historian Jonathan Seiling poses next to the historical marker installed at The First Mennonite Church in Vineland, with the graves of the early peace church pioneers in the background.

Plaques that honour this part of the early history of Canada will be dedicated during a tour of three sites in the Niagara Peninsula, Sunday June10, 2012.

The three Peace Churches; Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Quaker, were assured by the Militia Act that they could –as a matter of conscience– practice their peaceful ways.

A tour of the three sites begins at 2pm June 10 at Bertie Brethren in Christ Church near Stevensville (north-west of Fort Erie, Ontario).  A gathering will then be held at 3:30 pm at a Quaker plaque at the Peace Park corner in Rennie Park , Port Dalhousie  (St. Catharines, Ontario ).  The three-site tour concludes in Vineland at 4:45 at the First Mennonite Church.

The text of the plaques provides an understanding of the underpinnings of conscientious objection to war as an ongoing part of the Canadian experience.  It is hoped the touring and visits to the sites of the three Peace Church markers will become a lasting testimony to Peace for visitors and residents in the area.

The wording of the plaques provides further understandings of this founding story of Canada.

REFERENCE: Google Map of three sites at  http://g.co/maps/wehzd

Website of Three Peace Churches activities and background at http://mcco.ca/warpeace-1812 

Details of tour route Sunday Afternoon June 10  PDF attached. 

TEXT AND LOCATION ADDRESS OF THREE HISTORIC PEACE CHURCHES PLAQUES, NIAGARA REGION

MENNONITE PLAQUE at the First Mennonite Church, King Street (Reg. Hwy 81), Vineland.

TEXT: During the War of 1812 the Mennonite congregation meeting on this site included members who followed their conscience and refused to serve in the military. Other Mennonite settlements in Niagara, Rainham, Markham and Waterloo faced the same issue at that time. As members of a historic peace church, Mennonites believe that Jesus taught and lived love of enemies, and that following his example does not allow taking up arms. In 1793 the government of Upper Canada had recognized the right of Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ to be Conscientious Objectors to war; the War of 1812 was the first testing ground of this right .     The Prince of Peace is Jesus Christ…

True Christians do not know vengeance. They are the children of peace. Their hearts overflow with peace. Their mouths speak peace, and they walk in the way of peace.    – Menno Simons, Reply to False Accusations, 1552

QUAKER PLAQUE at the Peace Garden at Rennie Park, Lakeport Rd, Port Dalhousie (St Catharines) and Port Colborne Museum and Archives, 280 King Street, Port Colborne

TEXT: Since 1660 Quakers have been guided by their Peace Testimony to reject  war and practise nonviolence.  In 1793 the government of Upper Canada recognized the right of Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren in Christ to conscientious objection.  During the war of 1812 many Quakers refused to serve in the armed forces or provide material support.          “A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it…Let us then try what Love will do.”  William Penn, 1693

BRETHREN IN CHRIST (TUNKER) PLAQUE at the Bertie Church Cemetery,  4942 Church Road  Stevensville.

TEXT: To honour the memory of the pioneer Brethren in Christ (Tunker) Anabaptist believers, we establish this marker.  Seeking land grants and exemption from military service, from 1788 onwards, they came to Upper Canada: Niagara, York and Waterloo.  Because of loyalty to their faith, they courageously objected to military service in the War of 1812-14, based on conscience and scripture.  In lieu of service, they paid a militia tax.  This non-resistant stance demonstrated their desire to live as part of the Kingdom of God.  Brethren in Christ now, as then, commit themselves to the non-violent resolution of conflict.

Jonathan Seiling is the Chairperson of the 1812 Bicentennial Peace Committee and a research fellow affiliated with Brock University and the University of Toronto.

Don Alexander is a St. Catharines resident, a long-time peace activist, former Niagara regional councillor and a member of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, a provincial agency responsible for responsible stewardship of escarpment lands.

(Niagara At Large invites our readers to share their views on this post below. Keep the discussion going.)

2 responses to “Three Of Niagara’s Historic ‘Peace Churches’ Honor Conscientious Objectors To War

  1. Gail Benjafield

    I like this very much. The Harper gov. has taken the celebrations of the War of 1812 and made a mockery of them. Bombast, nothing more. This is a quiet, respectful view of pioneers who oppose war. Thanks for posting this.

    Gail B

    Like

  2. The scriptures say”Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, Taxes etc, but render unto God what is God’s” early Christians were none violent and peaceful., the Anabaptists left Switzerland and Southern Germany to not serve in their kings armies, they were basically impressed into service.so going overseas seemed the only solution.,my wifes paternal ancestors even though their background were Mennonite served in the Revolutionary war and also joined the army at the end of the War of 1812, their lineage is listed in the Daughters of the American Revolution.and the History of Mennonite Family’s translated from German.

    Like

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