Mennonites have a long-standing history of meeting violence with non-resistance. At various times, like in the 1870s when, faced with the threatened loss of military exemption in Russia, more than 7,000 Mennonites immigrated to Canada, Mennonites held to this position and responded by seeking a new homeland. At other times, they responded by performing alternative service or becoming conscientious objectors during wartime, by taking up arms or joining the military as soldiers, and by joining the military in non-combatant capacities. Their relationships with governments and the surrounding cultures have been tested and tried on this topic. Their relationships with each other, as seen in some of the tensions that existed between the “Kanadier” Mennonites of the 1870s and the “Russländer” who migrated to Canada in the 1920s, or the Mennonite community’s response to returning Mennonite veterans after the Second World War, have also been severely tested over the ways Mennonites have chosen to respond to violence. “Mennonites at War” will explore a number of themes including martyrdom in the Reformation; violence and migration; alternative service and conscientious objection; military service (either as soldiers or non-combatants); and the stories of Mennonite women during times of violence and war.
The exhibit will have its grand opening at the Premiere and Fundraiser happening July 10th. The exhibit will be open to the public as soon as visitors are allowed to the museum and will run until November 14th.