Mennonite Healthcare FellowshipBlog article
J. Fred Kauffman will be joining Curtis Book at this year’s Annual Gathering. He currently serves as the intern pastor at Methacton Mennonite Church, Norristown, Pennsylvania, and resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he and his wife Minh have lived since 1994.
Fred and Minh Kauffman have worked with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for 14 years in Guatemala, India, Cambodia and Vietnam; and Fred served for eight years as MCC Program Coordinator for the Philadelphia Urban Program. He enjoys linguistics, wood working, and playing guitar.
In 2009, Fred helped launch “Heeding God’s Call,” a faith-based gun violence prevention organization in Philadelphia. See: heedinggodscall.org. It began in January 2009 with a Quaker/Mennonite/Brethren event in Philadelphia called Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace. Largely sponsored and planned by Quakers, it involved Mennonites and Church of the Brethren as well; Fred was one of those individuals. The event was a call to Christians in the United States to reclaim the call to peacemaking as part of the gospel and Christian faith. The culmination of the gathering was a decision to address a “local peacemaking issue;” they settled on gun violence, specifically the illegal trafficking of handguns.
Since 2009, Fred and the organization have actively sought to oppose gun violence in Philadelphia. Through public presentations and demonstrations, they have begun to assert their stance. In one instance, a delegation of senior religious leaders (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish) challenged a local gun shop owner to sign a “Code of Conduct” created by Mayors against illegal guns. The owner refused, and in an act of civil disobedience, Fred joined eleven other individuals remaining at the shop, refusing to leave until the owner signed the Code. They were arrested and spent one night in jail for their actions.
They were acquitted of the charges against them, and their cause gained publicity as word spread concerning their actions. In September of 2009, a US Attorney General withdrew the shop owner’s license to sell firearms, and the shop was closed. It was later discovered that an on-going investigation of the establishment had been going on at the time of their demonstration and that the owner was indeed knowingly selling guns to “straw purchasers.”
Since the initial Gathering on Peace, Fred has been active in local vigils and planning events to counter and bring awareness to the culture of violence in the US. He is passionate about challenging the myth of a country founded on “God, Guts and Guns” and hopes to bring this message to the MHF Annual Gathering this coming week.
The workshop will look at the root causes and the magnitude of gun violence in the USA and consider some of its international dimensions.
Fred will join Curtis Book in presenting their experiences in Philadelphia in order to inform others on methods for confronting gun violence.. Fred hopes that through the workshop, other followers of Jesus will find ways to bear witness to the way of peace in their own backyards, and confront gun culture – through conversations, organizations or public witness.