Wiebe, Rudy. Peace Shall Destroy Many. (A novel) McClelland & Stewart Inc. 1962.
Being of the same ‘vintage’ and having been brought up under very similar circumstances I read this novel with great interest and empathy. I was impressed with the courage that it would have taken for Rudy to be so forthright with his assessments of some very serious problems surrounding so many Mennonite immigrants as they sought to establish their lifestyle along with their religious convictions in their adopted land of Canada. I can only imagine the reviews this novel would have received in the “Mennonite Harald”.
This is Rudy’s first novel and it is about religious intolerance and the problems that can be caused by rigid adherence to traditions of non-violence. In 1944, the time frame of this story, Canada was very involved in WW11 and the position of non-violence of the Mennonites was being tested. There were three options for Mennonite young men who received their ‘conscription’ letters. They could report for duty as a regular soldier, they could join the non-combatant ‘medical core’ of the army, or they could request exemption from military service as a ‘conscientious objector’. (My oldest brother was in the third group.) For the religious leaders of the church the third option was the only acceptable choice.
Within the Mennonite community of “Speedwell”, Saskatchewan, the non-violence issue became an issue of family relationships. It surrounded not only physical violence but also emotional violence. This theme touches most of the characters in our story. It is here where the destruction was most devastating.
To the Mennonites their German language was a crucial part of their tradition and for that matter their survival as a religious community. The language was their most effective response to the Scriptural exhortation to be separated from the world. It became a real obstacle for proper integration as immigrants and discredited those who tried to evangelize non-Germans in the community.
I look forward to getting my hands on more books written by this ‘newly discovered’ author.