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Quaccheri cristiani ecumenici per fare il bene

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Marginal Mennonite Society

On this date in 1538 (Oct. 31st), #Hutterite leader Onophrius Griesinger was burned at the stake in #Brixen, Italy.

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30.10.2016 – Quito, Ecuador Tony Robinson

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Historic vote at the UN means nuclear weapons will be illegal in 2017
(Image by International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons http://www.icanw.org)

Last week something historic happened at the United Nations.

Despite enormous pressure from the United States, 123 nations, all with equal standing at the UN General Assembly, voted to start a process in 2017 to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons.  Why isn’t this news circulating like wildfire?  Why aren’t there parties on the street?

Well, one reason is that no one takes the threat to humanity from nuclear weapons seriously any more.  And when we say “no one” what we mean is the mainstream media, which gives the subject almost zero space in their newspapers, radio stations, websites and TV stations.  And so “no one” in this case means the media moguls who are in league with the banks, the politicians and the military-industrial complex to keep the status quo going for as long as possible, regardless of the consequences to humanity, because these people are only capable of thinking about how much money they can make in the present and maybe a few years into the future.

Another reason (actually an extension of the first reason) is that most people would surely think that nuclear weapons are already illegal.  If chemical and biological weapons are illegal, if landmines and cluster bombs are illegal, surely nuclear weapons, being several orders of magnitude more destructive, were outlawed years ago?  Didn’t the world eliminate nuclear weapons when the Berlin Wall came down?

Well, actually, no.  Despite Gorbachev’s offer to Reagan to eradicate nuclear weapons, it never happened, although there were reductions in the number of bombs through various treaties.  Today the USA and Russia have around 14,000 bombs (depending on whose estimates you believe), which is a lot less than the 80,000 at the height of the cold war, but still a huge number when you understand that 100 bombs dropped on cities would lead to a nuclear winter that would eliminate 25% of the world’s population, who knows how many other species, and essentially lead any survivors to most likely take the more preferable course of action of committing suicide.

But regardless of the media silence and the lack of street parties, history was made and in a most extraordinary way.

Ever since the end of the 2010 NPT review conference – the 5-yearly conference that reviews progress of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to see how disarmament is developing and to recommend further steps – a few governments and civil society have been refocusing the debate regarding disarmament away from the alleged “security concerns” of the P5 and onto “humanitarian concerns”: the fact that a nuclear war will wipe human beings, and probably all forms of life – except perhaps a few short-lifespan insects and bacteria – from the face of the earth.

In other words, according to this new strategy, regardless of security concerns, if a nuclear war breaks out, we all lose.  Einstein famously said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  However, it seems, with the new knowledge available thanks to advances in climate science, that Einstein may have been over-optimistic: there won’t be a World War IV – ever.

The NPT was a grand bargain: you guys without nuclear weapons will never get them, you guys with nuclear weapons will give them up and all of us will have the right to develop nuclear energy.  It was a great idea at the time (1968) because no one fully understood the dangers of nuclear energy, something that only really hit human consciousness with the accidents at Three Mile Island and the subsequent disasters at Chernobyl and, more recently, Fukushima.

The problem with the grand bargain was that it has not been fulfilled 47 years later and countries without nuclear weapons are fed up of being held hostage by the nuclear-armed states to the threat of huge nuclear violence.  And it doesn’t matter that the P5 say that they are “responsible” countries; their security doctrines allow for the use of these weapons and like a bank-robber brandishing a gun around, it doesn’t matter if there are bullets in it or not, the fact that he or she has one in their hand constitutes use.

The process of getting this resolution approved has been tough.  Despite the supposed equality of member states at the UN, there are clearly some states that are more equal than others.  The P5 have a veto at the Security Council and economic differences are such that developed countries are capable of manipulating developing countries.

However, to everyone’s delight in the civil-society anti-nuclear movement and among those 57 governments who sponsored the resolution, very few countries submitted to the pressure and 123 countries voted to start negotiations next year.

And the position of the nuclear weapons states and those who exist under a so-called “nuclear umbrella” defence agreement has never been more divided.  Of the 9 countries with nuclear weapons, five (The USA, The UK, France, Russia and Israel) voted against the resolution, three (China, India and Pakistan) abstained and one (North Korea) voted for the resolution.

Of the nuclear umbrella states, the Netherlands were forced to abstain as a result of an increasingly effective civil society campaign in the Dutch parliament, also abstaining were Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

Japan voted against a ban: something that constantly leaves observers astounded given that it is the only country with first-hand knowledge of what it means to have a bomb dropped on their cities.

At the end of the vote, countries used their usual speeches to support their positions.  Some countries said that they fear that the new process will undermine the NPT, despite the fact that supporting countries have expressed time and time again that this resolution will do nothing but strengthen article VI of the NPT.  Others say the new process is divisive, being happy to stick with the status quo in which nothing has moved in disarmament talks in 47 years:  The Test-Ban Treaty has not come into force, the Fissile Material treaty has not been written, the USA has withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and we are still waiting for talks about a zone free of all weapons of mass-destruction in the Middle East.  On top of this ALL nuclear weapons states are drawing up plans for, or are in the process of, modernising their arsenals, at an astronomical cost to the global economy and the world’s poor.

The new treaty will certainly not put one nuclear weapon out of use on the day it’s ratified, but it will make them effectively illegal in the eyes of international courts and multinational corporations and banks who will not want the general public to know that they are involved with something illegal and so the treaty will ratchet up the pressure to divest.  Civil society campaigns to stigmatise nuclear weapons will be hugely boosted and no politician will ever be able to say that the NPT gives their country the legal right to keep nuclear weapons: and ultimately this is why the United States (and their friends) were so anxious to avoid this resolution being brought to the General Assembly.

And this is why its approval is so historic.  Those who have for decades accused other states of being “irresponsible” and “pariah” nations will now find themselves on the receiving end of those accusations and for a very good reason.

Senator Richard Burr, Sex talk, and Sex TortureNorth Carolina Senator Richard Burr initially denounced Donald trump’s talk of groping and sexually assaulting women. NBC News quoted Burr tweeting that Trump’s statements were “inappropriate and completely unacceptable.”That’s good, and he was right. But Sen. Burr’s tweet left me feeling surprised and unsatisfied.Surprised because it was so quick.But…

via Senator Richard Burr, Sex talk, and Sex Torture — A Friendly Letter

Love, Power, and Sacrifice

October 27, 2016 by Micael Grenholm

Editor’s Note: Posts on the Voices blog are penned almost exclusively by members of the Bruderhof worldwide. So today’s guest post by Micael Grenholm is rare and significant. After reading our blog for some time, Micael felt moved to share with our audience his thoughts on following Christ and living in community.


Micael Grenholm

Micael Grenholm

The Bruderhof has always intrigued and inspired me since it takes community of goods very seriously. Ever since I read the book of Acts for the first time as a young Christian I’ve known that the apostolic vision of having everything in common is right for today. My longing for community made me seek out and then join a movement both similar to yet different from the Bruderhof – the Jesus Fellowship Church, also known as the Jesus Army.

“Love, power, and sacrifice” is the motto of this UK church that has practiced intentional community for over forty years. These three words not only summarize the heart of the Jesus Fellowship, but also represent key aspects of community life in general. Even if the practical details of our lives differ, the world needs more communities like Jesus Army and the Bruderhof, and we’d do well to support each other and focus on our commonalities and connections.

Community is founded in God’s nature; the loving relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is our ultimate template for fellowship here in earth. We love because he loved us first. If a community isn’t based on genuine love between brothers and sisters it will always fail. It is love that establishes the commitment, trust, and loyalty that are completely necessary for community to survive.

It is love that establishes common purses so that nobody is rich and nobody is poor. It is love that creates a deep fellowship of friends that includes married couples and those committed to living single for Jesus. It is love that bonds different ages, races, and classes together into faithful brotherhood. While being far from perfect, my experience is that the Jesus Army has this love.

two women talking

If love is what nurtures and sustains community, power is what ignited and started it all. In the late 1960s a Baptist chapel in the small English town of Bugbrooke was hit with charismatic revival fires. People were healed, saved, and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Hundreds filled the little chapel, which soon became known as the Jesus Fellowship. Several attendees spontaneously started intentional communities, which were quickly approved and endorsed by pastor Noel Stanton. In his Bible teaching he pointed to the fact that the spiritual outpouring in the book of Acts led to community of goods.

When God’s power is manifest among us, we recognize more clearly that he is in charge and that we are dependent on him. When I first visited the Jesus Army in 2010, I was baptized in the Spirit at one of their tent meetings. I recognized then that the ethics and values of this movement which I applauded had divine approval.

But community is not only loving and powerful – it is costly. Anyone who has lived in community for some time can testify to the sacrifice it involves. The level of each relationship is measured by how much give and take are going on, and community means close relationships whether you want it or not. It’s often equally wonderful as it is painful.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). I don’t think martyrdom is the only application of that passage; even when not literally dying for one another, community members experience the committing of our lives to mutual vulnerability and interdependence. Besides, our calling to equality and simplicity means that we have to sacrifice a lot of what the world has to offer in terms of careers, wealth, and “freedom.”

Love, power, and sacrifice are cornerstones of our identity, and I believe that they will inevitably characterize any healthy community, whether it’s the Jesus Army, the Bruderhof, or any other attempt to follow Christ communally. They are all present in the ministry of Jesus, and they are all part of the apostolic teaching in the New Testament letters. Let us pray that God will increase this trio in our lives and relationships even further.


Originally from Sweden, Micael Grenholm calls himself a “charismactivist.” He currently works in the United Kingdom with the Jesus Army, doing a training year at Holy Treasure, Kettering. He blogs at Holy Spirit Activism and produces content for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.

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Mennonite Matriarchal Movement

Happy birthday, Elizabeth Rous Comstock (Oct. 30, 1815 – Aug. 3, 1891)! #Quaker minister. #Pacifist. #Abolitionist. Advocate for women’s rights. Worker on the Underground Railroad. Born in Maidenhead, England. Died in Union Springs, New York. Buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Union Springs.
~The Mennonite Matriarchal Movement Heroes Series.

28.10.2016 Democracy Now!

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Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Targets Clinton Campaign Headquarters
(Image by Democracy Now!)

Thursday’s mass arrests came as Native American youth flooded the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to demand Clinton oppose the Dakota Access pipeline. After Clinton campaign staffers declined to meet with the delegation, they attempted to present a letter to security guards. The protesters were later ordered by police to leave or face arrest.

While Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has come out against the pipeline, Clinton has so far refused to take a stance on Dakota Access. In the Clinton campaign’s first statement on the pipeline, spokesperson Tyrone Gayle wrote, in part, “Now, all of the parties involved … need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it’s important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators’ rights to protest peacefully, and workers’ rights to do their jobs safely.”

Climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben responded on Twitter, writing, “Hillary Clinton managed to make a statement about the Dakota Pipeline that literally says nothing. Literally.”

Quaccheri cristiani ecumenici per fare il bene

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Marginal Mennonite Society

Happy birthday, Levi Coffin (Oct. 28, 1798 – Sept. 16, 1877)! #Quaker. #Pacifist. #Abolitionist. The home he shared with his wife, Catherine, in Fountain City, Indiana, was known as the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.” The house is today a National Historic Landmark. It is estimated that the Coffins helped about 3,000 slaves escape to freedom. Levi’s autobiography, “Reminiscences of Levi Coffin,” was published in 1876, shortly before he died. The book (still in print) is considered one of the best first-hand accounts of the Underground Railroad. Born in Guilford County, North Carolina. Died in Avondale, Ohio. Buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Cloudy Skies for Friends General Conference — Part II[Part I of this post is here.] The Central Committee of Friends General Conference is gathering today, near Baltimore, for its annual meeting. To judge from the scene at its annual Gathering in St. Joseph Minnesota this summer, the skies over this autumn meeting ought to be cloudy. FGC…

via Cloudy Skies for Friends General Conference — Part II — A Friendly Letter

On this date in 1553 (Oct. 27th), Michael Servetus was burned at the stake in #Geneva, Switzerland. #Humanist. #Rationalist. #Antitrinitarian. Physician. Theologian. Opponent of infant baptism. Condemned by Protestants as well as Catholics. It was the Protestants who finally captured him and ordered his execution. Servetus observed that the doctrine of the “trinity” is not based on the Bible, for the term and the concept are nowhere to be found in the text. He said trinitarians have turned Christianity into a belief in three gods. No matter how much they try to explain otherwise, orthodox Christians are actually polytheists. He advocated a return to the gospel simplicity that pre-dated the trinitarian formulations of the creeds, in the hopes that Christians could find common ground with the Jews and the Moslems who have preserved the truth of God’s unity. Servetus never joined the Anabaptist movement, but many of his views were certainly influenced by his interactions with Anabaptist radicals in Strasbourg during his time there. He was about 42 years old at the time of his martyrdom.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes/Martyrs Series.

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This Day In History: October 27, 1659

Mary_dyerAlthough the Puritans partially came to America to escape religious persecution, there was an abundance of it to be found in the Massachusetts Bay Colony… except it was them doling it out this time. On the receiving end were the Quakers- members of the Religious Society of Friends, a group that the Puritan leaders generally felt represented the pinnacle of heresy.

The Quakers first came to the American colonies when 8 members of the religious sect arrived in Boston aboard the Speedwell on July 27, 1656. The following year, another 11 arrived aboard the Woodhouse.

The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony certainly didn’t roll out the Welcome Wagon. In fact, they promptly arrested the Quakers upon arrival. Undeterred, the Friends were unapologetic in their efforts to spread their flavor of Christianity.

To try to solve the problem, the Puritans passed laws to deter more Quakers from entering the colony. Shipmasters could be fined for giving them passage; Quakers could be stripped to the waist then whipped and imprisoned; and several Quakers had their ears cut off.

It didn’t work. The Quakers kept right on coming back, continuing to spread their message. In fact, the colony’s soon to be chief Quaker nemesis, Mary Dyer, specifically came to the colony because of the persecution, wanting to support her fellow Friends in their time of need.

As a result, on October 19, 1658, Massachusetts lawmakers passed more legislation to show that they really meant business. From then on any Quaker who’d been banished would be executed if they dared to return to the colony. Given that just being a Quaker was a banishable offense, this effectively made it so that the colony had a two strike and you’re out death penalty policy towards Quakers.

By the following year, with much trepidation by some in the community, they got to take the law for a test run. William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and the aforementioned Mary Dyer had all been banished in September of 1659; but, “moved by God,” to come to try to stop the Quaker persecution in the colony and spread their teachings, they all three returned about a month later. All three were sentenced to death by hanging.

Their date with the gallows was set as October 27, 1659. Robinson and Stephenson were led from the jail while Dyer emerged from the House of Correction. The older woman stood between the younger men and held their hands as they walked toward, not the Boston Common as you’ll often read, but the Boston Neck near the present day intersection of Washington and West Dedham Street.

There was an immense crowd of people gathered around the tree that served as a gallows for Boston’s condemned, and many didn’t take kindly to Mary’s scandalous hand-holding with two men that were not her husband. Dyer reportedly responded to this complaint by stating, “It is an hour of the greatest joy I can enjoy in this world. No eye can see, no ear can hear, no tongue can speak, no heart can understand the sweet incomes and refreshings of the spirit of the Lord which now I enjoy.”

William Robinson was the first to ascend the ladder next to the tree limb that secured his noose. Then the support was pulled away and his execution was soon complete. Marmaduke Stephenson went next.

Finally, Mary Dyer stood with her own noose around her neck. Her arms, legs, and skirts were bound (the latter for modesty’s sake). Lastly, a handkerchief was placed over her eyes.

But it was not the end for her; the leaders of the colony did not want to execute a woman simply for being a Quaker.

Instead, she was granted a last minute reprieve. In a pre-arranged decision, unbeknownst to her, said leaders decided to give Dyer 48 hours to skedaddle out of Massachusetts. They had simply wanted to give her a good scare to show Dyer they were serious, and hopefully rid themselves of her for good without having to kill her.

Dyer was not unknown to them and had previously been run out of the colony for matters unrelated to being a Quaker.  She was a former Puritan member of the colony (arriving in 1635) before getting caught up on the losing side of the 1636-1638 “Antinomian Controversy,” among other things centering around the issue of whether salvation was given via “free grace” rather than one’s works being counted for or against you. The idea of “free grace,” among other ideas proposed by the dissenters, was seen as heresy by the town leaders. They would later use Dyer giving birth to a “monstrous” stillborn baby on October 11, 1637 as evidence of God’s wrath against her heresy.

In fact, when then Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop found out about the secret stillborn birth that had been kept quiet specifically because of the deformities, he even went so far as to take a mob of about “100” people to dig the baby up. Beyond spreading the word of the deformities far and wide to support his cause, Winthrop also described what he found in his journal:

 It was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape’s; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback, the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be, and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons.

Needless to say, historians think his various accounts were exaggerated to support his position.

Whatever the case, Mary Dyer and her husband, along with many others, were subsequently run out of town via banishment or in many cases simply being disarmed and shunned within the colony until they decided to leave. About fifteen years later in 1652, she returned to England, ultimately met George Fox (the founder of the Quaker sect) and converted. She headed back to the New World in 1657, bringing us back to Dyer’s mock execution and subsequent reprieve.

While you might think she’d be happy about not being hanged, nothing could have been further from the truth. The next day she wrote to the General Court stating,

My life is not accepted, neither availeth me, in comparison with the lives and liberty of the Truth and Servants of the living God for which in the Bowels of Love and Meekness I sought you; yet nevertheless with wicked Hands have you put two of them to Death, which makes me to feel that the Mercies of the Wicked is cruelty; I rather chuse to Dye than to live, as from you, as Guilty of their Innocent Blood.

Death was simply not something she feared so the scare tactic didn’t work on her.

However, Dyer did leave for a time, seeking shelter along with other Quakers at the appropriately named Shelter Island, owned by Nathaniel Sylvester. But eventually she decided to go back to push the matter further. In the interim, other Quakers had been arrested for violating their banishment, but the colony was hesitant to hang them owing to the public outcry the previous hangings had created back across the pond. Given this, Dyer felt that by returning to the colony, it would either force the leaders to change the law concerning executing Quakers or they’d be forced to execute a woman for no other crime than being a Quaker. And as executing male Quakers had been controversial, doing the same to her would be a PR nightmare for the colony.

In May of 1660, she arrived back in the colony. A little over a week later, Dyer was brought before Governor John Endicott, at which point the following conversation was recorded:

Endicott: Are you the same Mary Dyer that was here before?

Dyer: I am the same Mary Dyer that was here the last General Court

Endicott: You will own yourself a Quaker, will you not?

Dyer: I own myself to be reproachfully so called.

Endicott: Sentence was passed upon you the last General Court; and now likewise–You must return to the prison, and there remain till to-morrow at nine o’clock; then thence you must go to the gallows and there be hanged till you are dead.

Dyer: This is no more than what thou saidst before

Endicott: But now it is to be executed. Therefore prepare yourself to-morrow at nine o’clock.

Dyer: I came in obedience to the will of God the last General Court, desiring you to repeal your unrighteous laws of banishment on pain of death; and that same is my work now, and earnest request, although I told you that if you refused to repeal them, the Lord would send others of his servants to witness against them.

And so it was that on June 1, 1660, she once again found herself with a noose around her neck. But the leaders of the colony still didn’t want to hang her, offering her a chance to escape the hanging if she’d just repent her wicked ways. She reportedly responded, “Nay, I cannot; for in obedience to the will of the Lord God I came, and in his will I abide faithful to the death.”

When she was then told her blood was on her own head, she reportedly stated,

Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law of banishment upon pain of death, made against the innocent servants of the Lord, therefore my blood will be required at your hands who willfully do it; but for those that do is in the simplicity of their hearts, I do desire the Lord to forgive them. I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to his will I stand even to the death.

Finally, the support was kicked out from under her and the colony was rid of Mary Dyer once and for all.

This didn’t have the intended outcome the Puritan leaders were going for. News of the execution of Mary Dyer spread like wildfire all the way back to England and as a result of this particular brand of religious persecution (including the later hanging of Quaker William Leddra), King Charles II stepped in and in 1661 put the kibosh on the practice of executing or arresting people just because they were Quaker.

As a way around this, the “Cart and Tail Law” was passed in the colony where instead of arresting the Quakers for being Quaker, the Quakers would simply be stripped to the waist, then dragged through town behind a cart while being whipped. They could then potentially be dragged to another town within the colony to receive the same treatment. This was repeated until they’d find themselves unceremoniously deposited in a bloody heap outside of the colony where they were let go. Unfortunately, not everyone survived the transport method.

This eventually drew the attention of the rulers back in England and further decrees were sent over forbidding such atrocities. However, there are accounts of such acts continuing for a few decades after until popular sentiment, along with a string of royal decrees, more or less ended this sort of overt legal persecution of the Quakers.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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