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Conference explores Hope in Troubled Times

Written on October 29th, 2007

‘This is God’s world and ideologies do disintegrate over time’

Mark Vander Vennen says he began his work in peace and conflict issues when he lived in Pittsburgh and saw abject poverty living next to the international headquarters of the third largest military contractor in the United States.

While living in the inner city ghetto he was struck by the contrast of the billions of dollars flowing through the Rockwell International building, he says.

“I felt constrained to act in some way,” he says. “I joined a group called Christian Peacemakers, and we were unswervingly committed to non-violence and we did a number of activities at Rockwell.”

Vander Vennen has worked with survivors and perpetrators of violence and has been actively engaged in peace and conflict issues for over 25 years.

He is a co-author of the book Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises. This was the theme of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) worldview conference, held at Toronto Christian District High School Oct. 13.

Co-author Bob Goudzwaard gave the keynote address at the conference. David Van Heemst, who is the third co-author, was unable to attend. The book explores worldwide poverty, environmental degradation and widespread terrorism.

Vander Vennen says Goudzwaard’s address, called Daring to Hope, discussed where we find hope in today’s day and age, “in the midst of what looks to be overwhelming global problems; specifically global poverty, environmental destruction especially climate change, terrorism and war and peace.”

Goudzwaard told the audience three stories that have impacted his life, including the fall of the Berlin Wall. “These were illustrations for Bob of what in the book we call ideologies, that ideologies do exhaust themselves eventually. That this is still God’s world, and so ideologies do not have the final say, and that’s where our hope comes from,” says Vander Vennen.

“Our hope comes not from things that we ourselves do, or create — that tends to be the emphasis of the modern world which is so driven by technological economic growth and so forth — our hope doesn’t come from those things, it comes from the fact that this is God’s world and that ideologies do disintegrate over time.”

Vander Vennen spoke after the keynote address about war and peace. He talked about technological developments including the use of bioelectromagnetics used in battle, the effect of depleted uranium and the “Complex 2030” proposal in the U.S. to bring nuclear weapon production capacity back to Cold War production levels.

“International law, policy, respect for the dignity of people, environmental integrity — none of those things seem to stop or interfere even the slightest with this kind of technological development,” says Vander Vennen.

He says while military technological development seems to drive policy; it is not part of policy discussions. This leads to a notion of idolatry, he adds.

“In idolatry, sacrifices are needed to keep the gods happy, and here is a new form of friendly fire, much more deadly form of friendly fire affecting U.S. soldiers, for instance.”

Vander Vennen says hope lies in identifying ideologies such as material prosperity, identity and guaranteed security and looking for alternatives.

Panel members responded to the speakers and held workshops in the afternoon. The panel members were playwright David Copelin, politician Hon. John McKay and former Catholic School Board trustee Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni.

ICS conference organizers say a DVD is being made of the conference and will also be available online. Keep checking their website for details.