Brooklyn Delegation to Texas
Delegation from Haitian First Church of the Brethren, Brooklyn, attends counter-recruitment conference in San Antonio, Texas, November 3-5, 2006
Three veterans, with experience ranging from the Vietnam era through 2004 in Iraq, had just finished sharing their experiences as part of a panel at the conference, "Counter-recruitment: Countering Military Recruitment with Gospel Nonviolence."
Michelet Hyppolite, past president of the youth group at First Haitian Church of the Brethren, Brooklyn, NY, stood up in the full sanctuary of the San Antonio Mennonite Church and asked his youth to stand up out of the crowd: "Sadie! David! Miolson! Josué! Stephen! Janesse! . . ." A group of eight or ten youth stood.
He pointed to them and asked the veterans, "What advice can you give these young people who came with me? Military recruiters are all over them. What do you want to make sure they know?" The vets responded that it was important they learn from the experience of their elders and those who had gone before them; that they didn't need to learn for themselves that war was a tragedy and left lifelong scars. They shared that as Christians it is important to be shaped by the gospel, not the culture of violence around. And they shared that there are real alternatives for education and job training; even if you have to look for them, it merits the effort. Reflecting later, group member Sadie Hyppolite shared, "I experienced God through the words of Conrad and the other veterans when they spoke of how they came to realize that war is not the answer. My faith was impacted in that I realized that you can truly do all things through Christ."
|Sadie Hyypolite and Janesse Paul|
Hyppolite and the youth who stood with him were part of a sixteen-member delegation from Brooklyn, NY, brought by On Earth Peace to San Antonio, Texas. The conference they attended was a follow-up to the Anabaptist Consultation on Alternative Service called by the Council of Moderators and Secretaries in March 2005, in Elgin, IL. Organized by Mennonite Central Committee, the event specifically focused on the impact of military recruitment in communities of color and communities impacted by poverty, and was initiated by the people of color caucus from the previous gathering.
In June 2006, Pastor Verel Montauban of the First Haitian Church of the Brethren, Brooklyn, NY, wrote to Matt Guynn, coordinator of peace witness for On Earth Peace, sharing that military recruitment was strong in the high schools, colleges, and local communities in New York City, and that he wanted to find out how to get his youth group and community members active in response. Since early 2005, On Earth Peace has worked to support and encourage the church to reach out to young people in their congregations and communities to help find alternative paths to military participation. Guynn shared, "This organizing is about building relationships with young people. It is spiritual formation for God's kingdom, where we strive to overcome evil with good, instead of striving to overcome evil with violence and more violence."
|Ebens Dorcilien, Ricardo Sanon, and Michelet Hyppolite|
In September, Guynn visited the Haitian congregation in Brooklyn to meet with members of the youth group. There was so much interest in the issue of military recruitment that On Earth Peace offered to underwrite the cost of travel to the Texas conference so a major delegation from Brooklyn could attend. In November, sixteen people, including Pastor Verel Montauban and several adult advisors, boarded a plane to Texas, to meet other youth from around the country, and to learn more about alternatives to the military and how to respond to military recruiters. The weekend included worship, workshop sessions (including a Catholic Peace Fellowship session on the draft attended by many from the Brooklyn group), and personal testimonies.
What comes next? "Next comes the Haitian congregation's own discernment about how to proceed in the Brooklyn context. We will work with the youth group and other congregational leaders to discover how to encourage them, as find and promote positive nonmilitary options for the future," shared Guynn. On Earth Peace's Encountering Recruitment Network provides one-on-one support for local organizers responding to military recruitment and the conditions which make youth susceptible to sign up.
|Leunz Cadely and Sandra Beauvior|
After the event, delegates reflected:
The best commitment I found this weekend is love. If the military recruiters needed me, I would accept only if I could preach love to everyone.
"The people who came to share their stories, I believe were sent by God. They served as living experiences and models to us as a young generation to know thatour choices do have consequences."
" I learned a lot of the different aspects of militarism, racism, and conscientious objection.
My commitment: That war is not an option. I intend to start a group and march into schools and help other teens make the right decision about joining the military.
I am going to teach people, especially parents, on what they should do to prevent their kids from signing up for the military.
|David Hyppolite, Stephen Tiphaine, Josué Kerlegrand, and Miolson Anelson|
I will tell other people, especially young people, about the good news of peace. One way to achieve that goal is not to take part in killing and war but to know and share peace around the world.
God's love moves among different people and in different ways. Because of this experience with God at this event, my faith was strengthened.
I found that other opportunities are available for young people. As I learned so much at this event, I will chare with many parents and students. I will evangelize through high schools, churches, and other community centers.
I experienced God in learning that my body is a temple and not to be used in war.
I found a commitment to peace, to speak to youth in schools and on the streets, spreading the word.
It was known already that if you are a Christian you can't kill. I learned at this conference that if you are a Christian, you need to stay as far away from the military as possible.
--Marie Esther Piersaint
|Fritzline Bellevue, Marie Esther Piersaint, Litania Ulysses-Sanon, Ermite Dorcilien|
- Young Peacebuilders
- Social Change