Second Assembly

2nd National Assembly to Honor Freedom of Conscience, Saturday, October 17, 2009, Austin, Texas

Free admission, engraved pen, T-shirt, lunch, fellowship

Program Scenario

9a Registration, Initial gathering with refreshments, signup for all CO’s present to be presented and recognized later

–provide continuous media presentation of CO experience/bios/etc

9:30-10:45 Seminar/Workshop sessions

Standing Together, Defending the Faith

Panel – Psychological Effects of War an Soldiers

11a-12:15 General Session:  Music, Honoring CO’s present,         Keynote address, Gene Stoltzfus

12:15 Lunch: sandwiches, chips, cookies, drinks on site

1:15p General Session:  music, Dialogue with and for CO’sPanel – Journey to Conscientious Objection; persons discuss their experience, with facilitator present

2:15 Refreshments

2:30  Seminar/Workshop sessions

 The Honor Window

The Journey to Conscientious Objection

3:45  Refreshments

4:00 Closing ritual, burning petitions with Song of Peace benediction

Description of Seminars/Workshops

The Honor Window – A Peaceful Weapon for the Conscientious Objector, Mickael Skye

Anyone wo dares to take a stand based on the convictions of his/her conscience must face the judgments of the world.  How does the conscientious objector deal with the judgments of fellow soldiers, commanding officers, fellow citizens, and families?  A powerful new process, called The Honor Window, gives the CO a practical way to reach the hearts of even the greatest adversaries, and inspire them to stand with him/her.  In this session, VisionForce founder, Michael Skye, will demonstrate this method and show how you can use it in your life to dissolve the walls of judgment and fear that keep people separated, and create a window to honor.

Standing Together, Defending the Faith: Creating Congregations and Communities of Conscience, Thad Crouch

 What if churches who talk Just War Theory actually walked their talk?  Building on the ideas from the past panel, “What leads us to Conscientious Objection and where is Conscientious Objections Leading Us?” we will expand the boundaries of Conscientious Objection in two ways: first, we will look at the possibilities of actively practicing CO based on ethics broader than pacifism, especially Christian Just War Theory Doctrine; secondly, we will explore practical and innovative ways that congregations and communities can honor and support individual COs  and even take risks as communities of conscience, this expanding conscientious objection beyond individual actions.  Together we can frame our actions around the broadly accepted values of faith, honor, and freedom to create cognitive dissonance, transform congregations, and mobilize mountains!

Psychological Effects of War on Soldiers, facilitator Bill Munger, MD

Veterans will discuss the consequences of war experiences on their composure.  Persons who have never been in combat situations cannot fully comprehend the impact of this traumatic exposure.  Even persons who must endure these encounters often cannot understand the deep psychological implications of practicing behaviors that conflict with the internal wisdom of the individual conscience.  Soldiers will share personal responses to warfare and describe disruptions prompted by their previous participation in the violence of war.

Journey to Conscientious Objection, facilitator Garland Robertson 

Soldiers tell experiences of coming to awareness and following through with discoveries.  Our individual adventure in life requires that we respond to acquired experience and understanding.  Participation in war is no exception.  Young persons enter the military in order to serve their country and defend the dignity of persons being abused and manipulated.  Yet when they discover the origin of conflict and the actual practice of warfare their previous inadequate conception of the justification for military activity is challenged.  Soldiers will discuss how they have managed incompatibility with combat and conscience that surfaces in a context of violence.

About Gene Stoltzfus

Seeing helicopters discarding Vietnamese soldiers who were killed and wounded would be a dramatic sight for anyone, especially a young conscientious objector from northeast Ohio arriving in Vietnam in 1963 to work with International Voluntary Services. This introduction to war prompted Gene Stoltzfus to begin a search to make sense of life and death where the terms of survival, meaning, and culture approve and even train persons to kill.

For forty years Gene has been about this quest, a pilgrim on a journey to understand what it means to be a person of peace living in a culture of war. Along the way he has directed Mennonite Voluntary Services for the Commission on Home Ministries; co-directed the Mennonite Central Committee in the Philippians with his wife, Dorothy; co-founded Synapses, grass-roots, interfaith network linking domestic and international concerns for justice and spirituality; and directed the Urban Life Center in Chicago. Today Gene is best know as the founding director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative of the historic peace churches who had the vision that disciplined and trained teams of people could be put together into highly charged critical situations and they could make a difference. Gene served as director of CPT from 1988 until 2004.

Gene believes that persons who have the vision and courage to refuse war have power, a lot of power. And when organized and disciplined we can in this century put an end to war.

Gene studied Sociology in Goshen College, then earned an MA in South and Southeast Asian Studies from American University in Washington, DC, and a Master of Divinity Degree from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He lives with Dorothy in Fort Frances, Ontario, travels frequently to speak about issues of peace and justice, and blogs weekly on the web at Peace Talk.

Please welcome Gene Stoltzfus.

(Event sponsored by Institute to Honor Freedom of Conscience)


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