EMU archivist reflects on ‘Voices of Peace’ exhibit and the sacrifice of conscientious objectors

Eastern Mennonite University archivist Simone Horst reviews the “Voices of Conscience: Peace Witness in the Great War” exhibit, which closes Nov. 17 at the Sadie Hartzler Library

It has been forty-five years since the elimination of the draft in the United States. More than two generations of Mennonite men and women have grown up without the threat of having their convictions put through the test through conscription and conscientious objection. Lloy Kniss, a WWI-era CO, stated in his 1971 pamphlet “I Couldn’t Fight: the Story of a CO in World War I” that he “believe[s] our church needs to learn again to suffer for the faith when it becomes necessary.” 

Though written in 1971, these are timely words for those of us in the Mennonite church today who have grown accustomed to the comfort and privilege gained through assimilation and prosperity these past forty years. Remembering the sacrifice of those in the past, as well as critically examining our complicity in our country’s glorification of war and the military industrial complex, is important to deepen the understanding of Anabaptist pacifism, its roots, and its implications today.

Read more of her review at the Anabaptist Historians website.

Developed by the Kauffman Museum in North Newton, Kansas, the exhibit is on a seven-states tour. Several guest speakers provided lectures during its six-week stay at the Sadie Hartzler Library:

  • [CANCELLED] Anne Yoder, archivist at Swarthmore College’s Peace Collection, speaks at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15,  in Martin Chapel about WWI conscientious objectors in their own words. Read about Anne’s digital collections work in an EMU news article.
  • Phil Kniss ’82, MDiv ’95, senior pastor at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, shared the story of his grandfather Lloy Kniss, who was drafted and ordered to train at Camp Greenleaf in Georgia.
  • Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communication at Goshen College and author of Pacifists in Chains: The persecution of Hutterites during the Great War (Johns Hopkins, 2013), spoke about four Hutterites imprisoned at Alcatraz”

Join the Discussion on “EMU archivist reflects on ‘Voices of Peace’ exhibit and the sacrifice of conscientious objectors

  1. One of the heros in my life was my father-in-law, Nevin Bender who also served as a conscientious objector during WWI. He had similar experiences to Kniss and became a prominent Mennonite minister in the mid 1900s. I learned to know him and then fell in love with his son, who I married, Titus Bender.

    Ann Bender

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