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Walk for Peace draws 420 to rally at Harvey County Courthouse

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - "It is time to end our romance with militarism." - Jim Juhnke, Walk for Peace rally, Feb. 15, Newton, Kansas

The Bethel College community marched for peace Feb. 15, united in heart with millions of anti-war protesters who marched the same day in 600 cities around the globe. The North Newton to Newton walk and rally on the Harvey County Courthouse lawn drew 420 people from Bethel, central Kansas and other states as well as attention from area newspaper, radio and television reporters. Bitter north winds and occasional snowflakes met 300 demonstrators for peace as they gathered mid-morning in front of the Administration Building on the Bethel campus to begin the march. Newton residents, numbering around 125, assembled in downtown Newton. Both groups met at the courthouse where two dozen pro-military and a handful of anti-abortion supporters had also gathered for their own causes.

Bethel College senior John Eads from Denver City, Texas, led cheers to rally the peace activists. "What do you want?" "PEACE." "When do you want it?" "NOW."

"The real strength of this nation does not come from the barrel of a gun or from a missile hatch of an F-15 but from the commitment and courage of Americans like you and me and, yes, those on the far side of the lawn, to stand up for what we believe in, for what is right and good. This commitment is deeply rooted in our history and is part of the American dream," said Joel Goering, junior from Silver Spring, Md., in his speech to the anti-war demonstrators.

What do you want? PEACE. When do you want it? NOW.

Jesse Zerger Nathan, sophomore from Moundridge, called attention to the numbers of protesters demonstrating in cities around the world. "We are united in our diversity in saying NO WAR IN IRAQ. We are not here for pure symbolism. Our anti-war movement is winning. Peace is patriotic, and true patriotism includes (the opportunity for) criticism. Our will is unshakable. NO WAR IN IRAQ."

What do you want? PEACE. When do you want it? NOW.

Frank Smith from Bluff City referred to his years of experience as a peace activist. "We (the United States) have few allies that we haven't bought. Country after country opposes our intent for an immediate, broader invasion. We are hurdling toward an isolationism in this country not seen since the 1920s. What can we do? We can meet, protest as we have done today, write letters to the editors of newspapers and hope for the sake of the environment and for our grandchildren, for the millions of kids in the Mideast, that we who are represented here will prevail."

What do you want? PEACE. When do you want it? NOW.

Retired Bethel College history professor Jim Juhnke spoke about the need for disarmament. "The lesson of history in the modern era is that war begets war, that arms races beget arms races. A pre-emptive military attack and invasion of Iraq would put more blood in the eyes of our enemies. It would encourage hostile nations to gain ever more deadly weapons for their own pre-emptive wars-following the same principles President Bush has espoused. As World War I produced Hitler and as World War II produced a nuclear arms race, a pre-emptive war against Iraq would fertilize the ground for all sorts of new Hitlers and new terrorists. There is a more peaceable way. It is the way of diplomacy, of peacemaking, of international cooperation toward disarmament. It is time to end our romance with militarism. It is time to turn in the direction of peace and disarmament."

What do you want? PEACE. When do you want it? NOW.

John McConnell, English instructor at Wichita State University, presented an impassioned speech that called for the United States to interrupt the pattern of war. His experience as a Navy lieutenant on a ship in the Persian Gulf War and his relationships with veterans have encouraged him to speak out against war. "I stand here this morning, thinking about people, like myself, who are in places they don't want to be. I don't want to be up here criticizing my government. I hate doing this, but I'm tired of the fact that our military gets used again and again and again to cover up the short-term thinking of our political leaders who are just trying to get the latest problem off the headlines. ... I want my government to think about a plan that addresses dictators, that thinks about international law, that thinks about our own stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, that thinks about the weapons trade industry, that thinks about the production of limbless, bitter veterans. Why are weapons manufacturers for-profit companies while our nation leads the world in numbers of homeless veterans? I don't want to be here, but I have no choice because my government has no solutions. They offer war as a solution but we all know it can't solve problems. It is always destructive. It doesn't care if you are a hawk or a pacifist. It is always destructive."

What do you want? PEACE. When do you want it? NOW.

Other Bethel College students who spoke were Andy Gingerich from Middlebury, Ind., Jason Schmidt from Whitewater, Katie Best from Buhler and Bekah Trollinger from Bluffton, Ohio.

Marchers included parents of Bethel College students, who were on campus for Parents and Family Weekend, as well as Hesston and Tabor college students, some of whom helped Bethel students plan the event. The rally at the courthouse lasted more than an hour and was decorated with peace posters and American flags. A brief time of prayer followed the speeches.

Authored by June Krehbiel

The full speech of retired Bethel College professor Jim Juhnke.

Other related news: Hutchinson News article 2/16/03 Wichita Eagle article 2/16/203 The Newton Kansas article 2/17/03

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.