Just in time for the Holiday Season, the Adventist Peace Fellowship is releasing a 2015 Calendar that highlights peacemakers connected to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I spoke with APF co-founder and executive director Ronald Osborn about the calendar and what the Fellowship hopes to accomplish with its release.
In September, Ante Jeroncic, who is one of the Adventist Peace Fellowship’s board members and a faculty sponsor of the first APF student chapter at Andrews University, wrote asking whether Osborn could provide a list of “peace days” spanning the course of a calendar year. Osborn didn’t have such a list handy, but the question got him thinking that an Adventist peace and justice calendar highlighting important dates for peacemakers would be helpful and inspiring to many people. Osborn started work on the project immediately, he said, with the APF board of directors offering suggestions and feedback along the way.
I asked Osborn to describe the Peace Calendar and how it came together.
“The calendar features historical Adventists who made important contributions in areas of peacemaking, social justice, and human rights, including well known figures such as A. T. Jones, Sam Campbell, and John Weidner,” Osborn said. “Much of the text for the calendar had already been written by Douglas Morgan and myself for the biographies included on the ‘Peacemakers’ page of the Adventist Peace Fellowship website.
“We were able to track down photos and gain permissions from a variety of sources, including the Stahl Center at La Sierra University, the John Weidner Center, and the General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics. I am particularly grateful to Charles Teel, Kurt Gantor, and David Trim for their help locating quality images,” Osborn said.
Drawing on a broad definition of peacemaking, the board had a wide array of Adventist peacemakers to choose from. Osborn said that the group defined specific criteria for selecting the individuals featured in the calendar: “We wanted to highlight Adventist pioneers who made important contributions in each of the six areas of primary concern to the Adventist Peace Fellowship: nonviolent peace witness, economic justice, environmental ethics, health and human rights, freedom of conscience, and racial and gender equality.
Even given the specific parameters of the project, there were more prospective candidates than room to include them all. Practical considerations constrained the team as well.
“We needed high resolution black and white photos, which for some individuals were hard to come by. Also, we simply do not know the stories of Adventist peacemakers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and so the calendar is very U.S. and Europe centered. Hopefully we will be able to publish a calendar in the future that shines a light on the lives of people in other parts of the world,” Osborn said.
With only twelve months in the year with one individual selected for each month, some significant peacemakers did not make the final cut. Again, practical considerations determined some of the cuts.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to locate a sufficiently high-resolution image of Irene Morgan from the 1940s to use for the month of February, which is Women’s History Month,” Osborn said.
“Morgan refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger and resisted arrest by a Virginia sheriff more than a decade before Rosa Parks, leading to a landmark 1946 Supreme Court case declaring that segregation was illegal in interstate travel.” Instead, the calendar features abolitionist and women’s equality icon, Sojourner Truth, who had rich ties to the Adventist community and may have been baptized by Uriah Smith in the Kalamazoo River.
At the suggestion of APF board member and Walla Walla University professor Pedrito Maynard-Reid, and following the example of Walla Walla University, which has celebrated a peace week annually since 2010, the calendar designates January 12-19 (the week ending on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday) as the first annual Adventist Peace Education Week. “We are urging all schools and all teachers at all levels of education to devote chapels, lectures, readings, and classroom time to the history and practice of nonviolence with a special emphasis on the historical Adventist position of conscientious objection,” Osborn said.
May 23, the Sabbath before Memorial Day, is designated as the first annual Adventist Peace Sabbath. Churches in the Adventist Peace Church network will mark the day by mourning the loss of human life in war and remembering the heroism and sacrifices of Adventist peacemakers throughout history, such as the British World War I soldiers tortured in La Havre prison for their Sabbath-keeping and their refusal to carry weapons. Osborn stated that Maury Jackson and Yi Shen Ma at La Sierra University are developing liturgical resources appropriate for Adventist churches to use on Peace Sabbath.
Asked about his favorite month on the calendar, Osborn talked about Fernando and Ana Stahl, who served as missionaries and revolutionaries in Peru. “They are hugely inspiring,” Osborn said, “so maybe the month of September.”
“Vladimir Shelkov—the leader of Russia’s “True and Free” Adventists, who died in the Soviet Gulag in large part for his pacifism and who we feature in the month of August—was a genuinely heroic person. In April we call attention to a dedicated Adventist who was personal friends with the Pope as well as with Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer,” he added, and said that to find out who that individual was, readers will need to get the calendar!
The 21st anniversary of perhaps the worst massacre of the Rwandan genocide at the Adventist Mugonero Hospital also takes place in April. The calendar marks this date and many others to help raise consciousness about peace and justice issues throughout the entire year.
I asked Osborn if this were a contemporary peacemaking Adventist calendar, who might make the list. He said that Carl Wilkens, who stayed in Rwanda through the entire genocide in 1994 and saved hundreds of orphans’ lives would top the list. He also named Marianne Thieme, who helped found the Dutch Party for Animals, Ginn Fourie, “who is doing incredible work for peace and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa,” and Sibulele Lusaseni, an AIDS activist also in South Africa would make the list.
“The list goes on,” Osborn said.
The Fellowship hopes the calendar will shed light on the history of Adventist action for peace and justice, and will help inspire a new generation of Adventists “to boldly and creatively reclaim the radical spirit of many Adventist pioneers.”
The Adventist Peace Fellowship is a network of networks committed to recovering lost or submerged parts of the Adventist story for the sake of “the healing of the nations,” Osborn said. The 2015 APF calendar is part of that ongoing work.
The calendar is not for sale, but it will be given away as a thank-you gift to anyone who makes an online donation of at least $25 to the APF before the end of January, Osborn said.
“Our next major project is to design an Adventist peace and justice curriculum that can be used in classroom and church settings,” Osbron told me. “We will need some additional funding to make this happen.”
Jared Wright is managing editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.