Statement of Rev. Fred Kauffman

Mennonite Central Committee (Philadelphia, PA)


I am J. Fred Kauffman, Philadelphia Program Coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee, the international relief, development, and peace-building organization of Mennonite & Brethren in Christ churches.

I have lived in Philly for 15 years, 11+ years as pastor of West Philly Mennonite Fellowship, and 3+ years with MCC.

I grew up in Nebraska as a timid Mennonite farm boy, but left my rural roots to work with MCC in international programs for 15 years-in Guatemala for earthquake reconstruction, India in cyclone reconstruction, Cambodia in post-revolution reconstruction, and in Vietnam with educational exchanges.

For the January peace gathering, Heeding God's Call, organized by Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren, I served on the Steering Committee. I was a proponent of tending to local peace-making issues, not just those a half a world away.

In May 2008 I talked about the local peace focus with Fr. Isaac Miller from Church of the Advocate, and remember well his comment. "Somebody has to do something about the threat of gun violence that my youth live with."

- So why did I sit in front of Colosimo's? I have learned how guns flow from legal gun shops through gun traffickers to people who can not legally own weapons. Somebody has to do something.

- Why did I sit in front of Colosimo's? I have learned how cheap "dirty" guns end up in the pockets of teenagers and turn arguments into unintended murders and murderers. Somebody has to do something!

- Why did I sit there? I have learned about the "gun rights" lobby opposition to rational legislation to slow the flood of illegal weapons. And I learned about the Mayors Against Illegal Guns "Code of Conduct" which says to gun dealers, "If you sell lethal weapons, do so in a responsible way that limits the flow of guns to the illegal market." That's something!

- I have learned about the outrageous levels of violence caused by handguns in America as compared to other countries. Gun deaths per in 1995 in Canada were 4 per 100,000, in Germany 1.5 and in the US almost 14! That's over 3x as many as in Canada, and 9x as many as in Germany. Somebody has to do something!

- I did not want to sit in front of Mr. Colosimo's gun shop. We asked him in person twice to sign the code of conduct. After the first meeting we really though that he would. He didn't. I went with others to ask him again to abide by the code to slow the flow of guns from his sales counter to the street market. Colosimo's refused to open the door for us. So, in an effort to slow the traffic, we sat in front of his door. That's something.

- We did not block access or egress. Captain Fisher entered the gun shop and we did nothing to impede that. One customer left the gun shop. We did nothing to stop him. Another customer attempted to enter, and we did not stop him: the attendant told him to come back later.

- Why did I sit there on that frigid winter day? I am learning about a violent sub-culture in the USA which concocts a toxic religious ideology of popular Christianity, nationalism, and guns. "God, Guns and Guts." This is a worship of violence and a bloodthirsty eagerness to kill with the supposed blessing of God. For God's sake, someone has to do something!

- Why did I sit in front of Colosimo's? I am a follower of Jesus, a pastor in the Mennonite Church. Many of my ancestors in the faith chose to die rather than to take up weapons because they believed that following Jesus meant refusing to kill.

- Menno Simons, an early leader, said: "The regenerated do not...engage in strife. They are children of peace who have 'beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks... Iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine's blood of well-nigh equal value."

The "Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective" teaches: "As followers of Jesus, we participate in his ministry of peace and justice. He has called us to find our blessing in making peace and seeking justice. We do so in a spirit of gentleness, willing to be persecuted for righteousness' sake."

Why did I sit in the doorway of Colosimo's? It is a business that profits from blood money. In the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and of Jesus, I sat there to crack open society's acceptance of "how things are done," "business as usual," so that new and more peaceful ways can be imagined.

I had to do something.