Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.
Abraham Johannes Muste was born on January 8, 1885, in Zierikzee, The Netherlands. His family was part of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1891, his family immigrated to the United States. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1896. In 1909, he was ordained and married Anna Huizenga. He attended Hope College in Michigan and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1905. He went to Union Theological Seminary in New York and earned his degree in 1913. In 1914, he became the pastor of a Congregational Church. When World War I broke out, he took an unpopular paciﬁst stance and lost his position in the church because of it.
Muste was involved with labor strikes taking place in 1919. During the 1920s, he was the director at Brookwood Labor College. As the Great Depression hit, his views become more revolutionary. By the early 1930s, he was a Marxist-Leninist and helped form the Trotskyist Workers Party of America. In 1936, he traveled to Europe and met Trotsky in Norway. Upon his return to America, his convictions shifted again, though no one can pinpoint exactly why. He returned to his earlier paciﬁst beliefs and remained a committed Christian paciﬁst for the rest of his life.
I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.
In 1940, Muste became the Executive Secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a religious paciﬁst organization. He remained in this position until 1953. During that time, he helped found the Congress of Racial Equality. After his retirement in 1953, he continued working for peace and justice. He worked with the Committee for Nonviolent Action against nuclear weapons. He also worked with emerging African nations and helped to organize the World Peace Brigade. He advised Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work in the Civil Rights Movement.
We cannot have peace if we are only concerned with peace. War is not an accident. It is the logical outcome of a certain way of life. If we want to attack war, we have to attack that way of life.
During the 1960s, Muste joined protests against the Vietnam War. He organized a coalition of various group against the war, which would otherwise have not worked together. In 1966, he led a demonstration in Saigon and was arrested and deported. Later that year, he traveled to Hanoi and met Ho Chi Minh. A.J. Muste died on February 11, 1967 at the age of 82. His life serves as a model for working for peace, commitment to paciﬁsm, and creative non-violent resistance.
I was not impressed with the sentimental, easy-going paciﬁsm of the earlier part of the century. People then felt that if they sat and talked pleasantly of peace and love, they would solve the problems of the world… but simply advocating “love” won’t do it… reconciliation is not synonymous with smoothing things over in the conventional sense. Reconciliation, in every relationship, requires bringing the deep causes of the conﬂict to the surface and that may be very painful. It is when the deep differences have been faced and the pain of that experienced, that healing and reconciliation may take place.