Every November, instead of a poppy, Rachel Bergen puts on a small button that says “To Remember is to Work for Peace.”
The button was created more than 20 years ago by Nan Cressman, who worked for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Ontario, as an extension of MCC’s regular peace work. For Bergen, who is currently studying journalism at UBC, it is a way to make a statement.
“I wear the peace button because I firmly believe in working for peace, not celebrating violence,” she said.
On Remembrance Day, many Canadians wear small red poppies to remember those who have died in military service. But for many Mennonites, whose theology includes active peace-making, there is some discomfort with wearing the poppy, and the sense that somehow one is unpatriotic if one doesn’t.
The need for an alternative to the poppy struck a chord with Cressman who, along with her colleagues, began brainstorming another way that people of peace could show respect for all victims of war.
John Dawson, who works for MCC in Abbotsford as the director of employment and community development, wears both the poppy and the MCC peace button.
Dawson, who grew up in a military family, wears the poppy as a way to remember the commitment of soldiers who paid a price for what they believed and the MCC peace button as a way of celebrating his commitment to active peacemaking.
“I wasn’t sure initially how to ‘remember,’ ” he says. “Was it appropriate for a Mennonite to be a part of Remembrance Day? When I saw the peace button for the first time it was like someone putting a key in the lock … remembering the cost of war and its toll on families, communities and whole countries.”
The MCC peace buttons cost $1, which covers production and shipping. They are available online at mcccanada.ca/peace/resources/peacebuttons or by calling the MCC office in Abbotsford at 604-850-6639 or 1-888-622-6337.