Training Peacemakers – not Soldiers

 

The year was 1945. Hitler was ordering 16-year-olds into the military, and Hans Sinn of Hamburg was one of them. He found that one group in the induction centre was being sent to Denmark, where he knew there was enough food.

Bad choice: it turned out to be an SS training camp, staffed by veteran sociopathic Nazis.

Hans and his friends waited for their chance to escape. When they heard of Hitler's suicide, they made their move. Walking up - unarmed - to the guard at the gate, they told him,

"You can stay here and die with them, or you can come with us and live."

The guard threw down his gun and joined them. Over rivers, through bombed-out ruins, they made their way back to Hamburg.

Disappointed with postwar Germany's lost chances for disarmament and peace, Hans left for Canada in 1952, "just for two years." In 1959, Hans returned to Germany to oppose rearmament and spoke about a form of "Peace Corps," getting it onto the party platform of a small party, the Gesamtdeutsche Union.

Back in Canada, on a walk for peace from Vancouver to Berlin, Hans stopped to speak in Montreal in January 1963. There he met a woman named Marian Bedoukian. She left her job and joined him on the march, and they were married in England. There, Hans spoke at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament convention about forming a Peace Corps. Returning to Montreal afterward, he became co-editor of Sanity magazine, the publication of the Canadian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In July 1965, he was part of the Grindstone Island Training Institute in Nonviolence, including the famous "31 Hours" simulation of nonviolent resistance to an invasion. In 1970, after his sons Anthony and Nicholas were born, the family left for Brooke Valley near Perth, Ontario. He joined a land co-operative, where he built the house in which he and Marian have lived ever since.

In 1981, on Grindstone Island near Portland, Ontario, a group gathered to found Peace Brigades International, or PBI. Hans was one of the 11 founders, along with Murray Thomson of Ottawa. Hans became an International Committee member of PBI International and later chair of PBI-Canada.

In 1984, he spoke to a hearing of the German Green Party in Bonn about a Peace Corps. In the early 1990s, he spoke in Berlin, at the Evangelical Academy in Berlin, which had developed its own proposal for a CPS. By 1999, Ziviler Friedensdienst had become the first fully operational Civilian Peace Service in the world.

In 2000, Hans again was a founder, this time of Nonviolent Peaceforce Canada (NPC), still keeping his active role in PBI. In the summer of 2004, NPC accepted Hans's plan to hold a Consultation on a Civilian Peace Service or CPS for Canada. On February 10, 2005, he was speaking to Canadian parliamentarians about it. In 2008, CPS Canada issued a 400-page White Paper, and has since accredited the first CPSC Peace Professionals.

In 2015, Hans had joined forces with Silke Reichrath to establish Brooke Valley Research for Education in Nonviolence after resuming work with former European friends and contacts. Their organization works to combine restorative justice and peace education with the tools of civilian defence and unarmed protection. One of their projects is to bring recognition to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and after.

"But the major issue I see today is the prevention of domestic violence in Canada," Hans said. "Why are we spending a billion dollars additional military defense spending, in the face of the great unmet need and failing commitment at home to indigenous children? Peace begins at home."

 

By: Carl Stieren, 2005, edited by an unnamed editor at Peace Magazine, http://peacemagazine.org/archive/v21n2p13.htm and Evelyn Voigt (Revised July 29, 2017)).

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