Category Archives: Nonviolence

The Pentecostal “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide

by Darrin J. Rodgers, originally posted at AG News and Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

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Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Gerber was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Gerber only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Gerber’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Gerber cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Gerber quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise. Gerber’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Gerber.

Gerber shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Gerber’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Gerber and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Gerber and Lambert arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Gerber, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Caesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Gerber identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Gerber were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D. W. Kerr, in the foreword to Gerber’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Gerber for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self-denial and a deeper surrender.”

Gerber suffered a stroke and passed away on Dec. 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Gerber followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the Jan. 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest, a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.

Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence

Peace on Earth… Really?

by Bev Murrill, originally posted on her personal blog.

I’ve heard the Christmas messages on TV and social media through recent days. They intimate that the message of peace lies in the Christmas story. I’ve heard it too from busy shoppers, bemoaning their lot as, stressed and sweaty from their efforts, even in the middle of winter, they hurry to buy the advertised accessories to peace.

We moan about commercialism, but it doesn’t stop us from joining in, big time. We scurry, along with everyone else, to buy last minute presents, and to make sure we have enough food! Enough food! I think this kind of scurrier generally has enough food.

The message of peace comes from the child in the manger…

Honestly?

I used to think that. I used to say it too, but I don’t believe it anymore.

Peace doesn’t lie in the manger. It never has.

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Christmas celebration in Aleppo, Syria.

Just a couple of years ago, for the first time in 4 years, the courageous Christians of Aleppo celebrated Christmas with carols and a tree in the midst of the city. A city at war and almost destroyed. And the peace? Where was it? Peace was celebrated between opposing camps in a set of trenches in WW2. It lasted the day… and then they went to the task of killing each other again. Continue reading Peace on Earth… Really?

Denis Mukwege: The Link Between Smartphones and War

In his Nobel speech, Dr. Denis Mukwege highlighted how the aweful conflict in Congo – the deadliest war since WW2 – that has led to the death and rape of millions of people, have been fuelled by the electronics industry.

The troubling reality is that the abundance of our natural resources – gold, coltan, cobalt and other strategic minerals – is the root cause of war, extreme violence and abject poverty.

We love nice cars, jewelry and gadgets. I have a smartphone myself. These items contain minerals found in our country. Often mined in inhuman conditions by young children, victims of intimidation and sexual violence.

When you drive your electric car; when you use your smart phone or admire your jewelry, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects.

As consumers, let us at least insist that these products are manufactured with respect for human dignity.

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For decades, rebel groups supported by foreign nations have taken control over mines in Eastern Congo to “tax” the workers in exchange for their “security”. Minerals like coltan, tungsten and gold are then transported on roads also control by militias to be exported to Asian nations where they are assembled into electronics or jewelry. Continue reading Denis Mukwege: The Link Between Smartphones and War

The Prophetic Foresight of Denis Mukwege

I’ve just had the privilege of listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege as he visited Stockholm. PMU and Läkarmissionen, two Christian aid organizations that have supported Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for decades. We celebrated Mukwege with music, speeches and donations. Among other things, we sang Mukwege’s favorite hymn, “The Promises will Never Fail” (Löftena kunna ej svika) by Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus, in Swedish and Swahili.

Missionary and nurse Kerstin Åkerman pointed out how prophetic Mukwege is. He has this ability – naturally or supernaturally – to have a visionary mindset and see things before they happen. For example, he stressed the importance of starting the building process of the Panzi Hospital quickly in 1998. Nobody understood why.

One week after the governor had initiated construction, the Second Congo War broke out. Kerstin realized that if the hospital had not claimed the land, the government would have wanted to use it for their purposes. Mukwege could see that before everyone else.

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Mukwege at Stockholm Waterfront. Photo: PMU on Instagram (@pmuinterlife)

As Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize last Monday, I had the privilege of being published in Sojourners, one of the biggest Christian journals with a focus on peace and justice. Among other things, I pointed out:

Historically, Pentecostalism originated from the Holiness Movement, which had a clear emphasis on social justice and helping the poor. It also had a high view of gender equality, allowing women to preach. This was also true for early Pentecostalism, even though it quickly conformed to the normative patterns of male dominance that was prevalent in other church movements. Early Pentecostals were also predominantly pacifist and champions for peace in times of world wars.

With this history in mind, it makes sense that Mukwege does not need to fuse his Pentecostal faith with something else in order to become a feminist activist, fighting for peace and women’s rights. I believe this is at the heart of Pentecost. We read in the Holy Scriptures that the consequence of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the apostolic church was not merely tongues and healing, but also economic redistribution and social equality (Acts 2:42-47).

Mukwege is a great representative and role-model for the world’s 600 million Pentecostals and charismatics. I hope that we will follow his example of combining spiritual gifts with activism for a better world.

To support the Panzi Hospital, please donate to PMU or donate to the Panzi Foundation.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Pentecostal Nobel Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege is “Accepted in All Camps”

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist who receives his Nobel Peace Prize today, proclaimed in 2015 when he was preaching at a Swedish Pentecostal conference: ”The Panzi hospital is a fruit of your prayers!” A Pentecostal himself who occasionally pastors a local church in Bukavu, dr. Mukwege has repeatedly thanked the Swedish Pentecostal movement for supporting him.

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Maria Bard

This support goes way back and have had multiple layers. We have talked to Maria Bard at PMU, the Swedish Pentecostal Mission’s development cooperation organization, about what this bond between their organization and Panzi has looked like, as well as her personal meetings with and impressions of Mukwege himself.

What has the Swedish Pentecostal movement done to support Mukwege?

First of all, Denis Mukwege’s father was a pastor in the Congolese Pentecostal movement CEPAC, which was founded by Swedish missionaries in 1921. Swedish Pentecostal churches funded parts of Mukwege’s medical education. Initially, he worked on a hospital called Lemera which was founded by Pentecostals. It was one of the biggest and most well-functioning hospitals in the region. Many Swedish Pentecostal missionaries have been treated and born there. It was destroyed as the First Congo War broke out.

There was a lot of discussion on whether the Lemera Hospital should be rebuilt or if a new hospital should be constructed. Due to the recent genocide in Rwanda, there was a lot of need in the Congolese province of South Kivu. In addition to grants from elsewhere, the director of PMU at the time, Roland Stenlund, convinced the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to help financing the establishment of a new hospital, led by Dr. Mukwege. The Panzi Hospital. Continue reading Pentecostal Nobel Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege is “Accepted in All Camps”

Few but Pentecostals Realized that World War One was Pointless

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the ”War to End All Wars”: World War One. It directly killed nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Furthermore, it contributed to the spread and severity of epidemics that killed an additional 100 million people.

And here’s the really embarrassing part: with few exceptions, WW1 was a war in which Christians killed other Christians. Catholics fought other Catholics; Protestants fought other Protestants. People who claimed to follow Jesus slaughtered their supposed brothers in the trenches because their leaders – many of which claimed to have been appointed by God – ordered them to.

Madness. Utter, disgraceful madness.

As time went on and more people died without breaking the stalemate of the conflict, many started to protest. In fact, one of the reasons the war ended in 1918 was that soldiers and civilians alike criticized their own governments for continuing the pointless fighting. But many were late in the game. Christian pacifists criticized WW1 long before it was cool: and many of them were Pentecostals.

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The Weekly Evangel, the official evangelistic magazine of the Assemblies of God, stated in 1917:

From the very beginning, the movement has been characterized by Quaker principles. The laws of the Kingdom, laid down by our elder brother, Jesus Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, have been unqualifiedly adopted, consequently the movement has found itself opposed to the spilling of the blood of any man, or of offering resistance to any aggression. Every branch of the movement, whether in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, or Germany has held themselves to this principle.

When the war first broke out in August of 1914, our Pentecostal brethren in Germany found themselves in a peculiar position. Some of those who were called to the colors responded, but many were court marshaled and shot because they heartily subscribed to the principles of non-resistance. Great Britain has been more humane. Some of our British brethren have been given non-combatant service, and none have been shot down because of their faith.

In the same year, Arthur Sidney Booth-Clibborn who was a Pentecostal leader and grandson of the founders of the Salvation Army, wrote:

Find me in the New Testament where Christ ever sent His followers on such a mission? On the contrary He sent them out to save men—not to butcher them like cattle. . . . No! as far as the Christian is concerned, the “eye for an eye” system has given place to the “Turn to him the other cheek also” of Matt. 5:39-44.

And A. J. Tomlinson, first general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy, wrote in early 1918:

I could not take a gun and fire it at my fellow men even at the command of a military officer. I could submit to the penalty inflicted upon me for refusing, but I cannot kill. I doubt if I could take the obligation to become a soldier in the first place.

Pacifism is often labeled naive or short-sighted, but in this case the pacifist Pentecostals were able to see the truth through all the patriotic war-mongering around them, thanks to them sticking to Jesus’ commitments in the Sermon on the Mount.

World War One was an idiotic catastrophe of Christians killing Christians. Our Spirit-filled ancestors refused to play that game.

Read more about early Pentecostal pacifism here.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

Pentecostal Nobel Peace Prize Winner Denis Mukwege Gives Glory to God

For too long, the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been destroying millions of lives. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two, fuelled by conflict minerals used in our electronics and cars. Rape is a weapon of war; eastern Congo is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.

In the midst of this chaos, darkness and death, a bright light is shining. That light will now receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

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Dr. Denis Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal pastor who has a strong and robust faith in Jesus. The Swedish Pentecostal Mission funded his medical studies and, together with organizations, helped him build and run the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of the conflict-ridden South Kivu province. Over 50,000 survivors of sexual violence have been treated at the hospital during the last 20 years. Continue reading Pentecostal Nobel Peace Prize Winner Denis Mukwege Gives Glory to God

Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall

Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 3:8-13 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3.  Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another.  Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed. 

They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another.  There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame.  Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system. 

In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations.  As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy.  And God’s people were naked and not ashamed. Continue reading Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall

The Pathway of Violence Versus the Way of Jesus

I recently read an article in the NYTimes about a little boy who was separated from his father at the border and placed with a foster family and I wondered about how he would process this experience in the future.  His foster mom said he cried and wailed at night for the first week and slept with a drawing of his family.  He is experiencing the punitive emotional violence of our current anti-immigrant climate.  Further some estimate that up to 2000 of the children have been separated from their parents in effort to punish families who are seeking refuge through the asylum system.  (Intercept)

How did we get here?  How did we become a people who can view every immigrant at the border as a potential criminal or someone coming to take advantage of us?  And where will this end?  

There is a trajectory that leads to more and more violence.

First, I think this kind of behavior begins with fear.  We fear something such as a loss of safety, or loss of identity or loss of stability.  The current immigration and refugee fears are fueled by concerns that muslim refugees will take over our culture and our governments to implement Sharia Law.  Or that there will be so many people of color that white people will become a minority.  This fear is real fueled by pundits across the nation.   Continue reading The Pathway of Violence Versus the Way of Jesus