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Author, activist to give next KIPCOR Peace Lecture

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Steve Ratzlaff, longtime Mennonite pastor and advocate for peace and justice and the author of a new book, will be the second speaker in the Peace Lecture series sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College.

Ratzlaff will talk about his book, 7 Steps to End War & Save the Planet, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus. The lecture is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be taken. Ratzlaff’s book will be available for sale at the lecture.

Ratzlaff was born and raised in Henderson, Neb. He attended Bethel College and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1967 with a B.A. in history. He also earned a Master of Divinity degree from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind.

He has served as pastor of Seattle Mennonite Church and First Mennonite Church in Lincoln and is currently lead pastor of Mennonite Community Church in Fresno, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Lynette. They are the parents of two grown children.

In the mid-’70s, Ratzlaff taught in rural Bolivia, an experience that, he says, changed his view of the world. In Bolivia, he learned first-hand the impact that the actions of U.S. government and multi-national corporations have on people in South America.

The time in Bolivia “ignited my passion for justice,” he says. Since then, he has led workshops on peace and justice in Australia and Canada, participated in a fact-finding mission to Colombia and served with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

As a life-long pacifist, Ratzlaff has been active for many years in issues of social justice and in finding alternatives to war. As a conscientious objector to war, he was a youth worker on the streets of Kansas City during the Vietnam War as his alternative service assignment. In the 1980s, he served as co-chair of the Seattle Pledge of Resistance, a nationwide effort to keep U.S. troops out of Nicaragua. He has been a war-tax resister for the past 35 years. He currently chairs the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund board, working to pass legislation in Congress to give conscientious objectors the right not to have to pay for war.

“[7 Steps to End War & Save the Planet] is the culmination of a lifetime of thinking,” Ratzlaff said. “Global warming just proved to be the proper avenue to talk about the need to eliminate the obscene amount of money we spend on armaments and war.

“Global warming is the greatest crisis facing us and if we don’t find resources to deal with it, we will be living on a different planet in a relatively short time,” he continued. “War, religious fundamentalism, power politics and a failure to seek to solve problems diplomatically all get in the way of the cooperation needed to solve global warming. I chose to self-publish because this subject needs to be talked about now, not a year or two from now which is how long it would have taken through the normal publishing process.”

The KIPCOR Peace Lecture Series, now in its 36th year, provides a forum to address issues of peace, justice and conflict resolution in the world and at home. The series has included Nobel laureates, scholars, performing artists, activists and visionaries. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public. The series receives support from the J. Winfield Fretz Lecture Fund and the Peace with Justice Task Force of the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church, both of which support speakers and events on peace and justice. Other funding comes from individual contributions to KIPCOR.

For information on Steve Ratzlaff’s appearance at Bethel College, call KIPCOR at 316-284-5217 or e-mail kipcor@bethelks.edu. For more about 7 Steps to End War & Save the Planet, see http://7stepstoendwar.com/.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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