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Curing hate with love

Active peacemaking in a world at war

by Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas

In the wake of the Second World War, Elsie C. Bechtel (left, wearing glasses) was one of many Brethren in Christ who actively expressed the nonviolent peace and love of Christ through compassionate service. From 1945–1947, she lived in France and cared for orphaned children, attending to both their physical and spiritual needs. Photo: Courtesy of the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives

During World War II, young Brethren in Christ church members launched a movement for active peacemaking. For generations, BIC people declared their commitment to following Christ’s nonviolent witness to peace. Yet during times of global conflict, their only public, visible expression to this commitment involved refusal—especially the refusal to join the military.

But in the 1940s, many BIC leaders and laypeople pursued a more active peace witness. Joining with fellow Christians, including Mennonites and Quakers, they confronted the senseless devastation wrought by war through direct relief and recovery efforts: distributing clothing, rebuilding homes and churches, and ministering to those in need.

Among the BIC who journeyed abroad was Elsie C. Bechtel, a member of Valley Chapel BIC (Canton, Ohio). From 1945–1947, Bechtel lived and worked in a tiny village in south-central France, caring for children displaced or orphaned by the war. Before leaving the U.S., she expressed her desire to combat the world’s evil with active love. “Curing hate by love” may seem absurd, she wrote, but Christians can pour out such love “recklessly” because “our God is the God of love and there is no limit to His supply.”

This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2016 issue of In Part magazine.

Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas is a church historian who works at Messiah College and attends the Grantham Church (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) with his wife, Katie, and son, Lucas. devinmzt.com

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