The Strength of Peace

Douglas Roche

The Pacifist Who Went to War

This documentary is the story of two Mennonite brothers from Manitoba who were forced to make a decision in 1939, as Canada joined World War II. In the face of 400 years of pacifist tradition, should they now go to war? Ted became a conscientious objector while his brother went into military service. Fifty years later, the town of Winkler dedicates its first war memorial and John begins to share his war experiences with Ted.

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The Mennonites who came to Canada in the 19th century had a guarantee from the government of Canada they would not be conscripted to fight wars, but those who came in later years did not. When World War II started, opinions in the Mennonite community in southern Manitoba diverged about whether to fight. John Friesen went to war; his brother Ted did not. The community had to discover what true peace-making is.

— Douglas Roche

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Imagine having to make a decision that goes against everything you have ever been taught. Imagine that by making this decision, you will alienate your own brother. Such was the dilemma faced by young Mennonites during the Second World War: To go against their religious teachings and fight in the war or to be conscientious objectors. This touching film introduces us to two brothers from southern Manitoba who took different paths. It is easy in hindsight to judge people, but one must remember that the pressure to enlist and fight overseas back then was tremendous. Who is to say that we would have reacted differently? The filmmaker is not just concerned about decisions made 50 years ago. He includes some revealing sequences in which young Mennonites discuss the implications of pacifism in recent times and reflect on non-violence in light of contemporary realities.

— Albert Ohayon

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Comments

  • Gabby

    “Mr. Neufeld, I have recently had the pleasure of watching your documentary. I am the daughter of a Mennonite mother and was raised in the Mennonite church. As a result of discussing this documentary with my Mother, I discovered that the Pastor in their village in the Ukraine, refused to baptize my grandfather because he and nine other men took up arms to protect their village. When as a refugee in Germany, my grandmother ran into the Pastor. He took great pains to "tell" my grandmother that my grandfather who by now was a War casulty, was burning in hell. My never fearful grandmother clarified that my grandfather had "been" baptized. They just didn't submerge him in the water. I am very proud of the family I come from and equally proud of my husband who has served Canada for 25 years in the Armed Forces. God bless you for giving voice to this ridiculas and petty take on religion and I will remember the Winkler, MB fallen on November 11th and pray for those whose "religion" curropts their common sense and goodness.” — Gabby, 9 Feb 2010

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Film Credits

director
David Neufeld
producer
Joe MacDonald
editor
Kenneth George Godwin
narrator
Margaret Nagle
original music composer
Randolph Peters
cinematographer
Claude Savard
location sound
Jay Garuk
makeup artist
Cindy Smith
Jennifer Machnee
research
Jan King
Louise Moyes
consultant
Norma Bailey
Patricia Bailey
sound editor
Saul Henteleff
re-recording engineer
Bruce Little

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