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Colombian Indigenous Peacemakers Put the "Active" in "Activist"

In an Indigenous region of Colombia's Cauca province, activists armed with ceremonial wooden staffs, moral authority, and *lot* of moxie are telling both government armed forces and guerrillas to get out of their territory. In the face of an upsurge in guerrilla-vs.-state violence, Colombian President Manuel Santos made a saber-rattling visit to the town of Toribío to hold an emergency cabinet meeting there, but indigenous activists from the Nasa ethnic group--all too aware that government troops' presence in civilian areas can paint a target on them--were not impressed with Santos' offer of more of the same.

“The military can’t protect us and the guerrillas don’t represent us,” [Indigenous Guard leader] Mensa said, as he cradled the tasseled staff that identifies the volunteer guard. “All of them need to leave this area and let us live in peace.”...

"Even before Santos had finished the emergency meeting, the community had decided to take matters into its own hands. One group confronted the FARC at the roadblocks and another walked more than two hours to a barren mountaintop army battalion that overlooks Toribío.

"After a short standoff with troops, about 200 people swarmed the base and began toppling sandbagged bunkers and filling in foxholes."...

"At the FARC roadblocks, villagers shouted the guerrillas back into the jungle and seized five homemade mortars, called tatucos..."

Read more from the Miami Herald

When I visited Colombia last summer, I interviewed two members of the Indigenous Guard for an article for Sojourners magazine, and was deeply inspired by their commitment, strategy, and guts.

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Church of England 'Doesn't Practice What It Preaches' on LGBT

In a column Sunday in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral, set a discussion about the Church of England and its stance toward gay marriage within the context of the Eucharist, saying, "The parish church opens up the jollof rice and communal wafers to all comers, shouldn't we do the same with the marriage feast?"

Fraser continued,

The problem with the CofE on the gay issue is not that it doesn't practise what it preaches but that it doesn't preach what it practises. And orthopraxy (what you do) is more properly basic than orthodoxy (what you think). In practice, the CofE has a reasonably good track record of opening up the jollof rice and the communion wafer to all comers – and certainly better than its official pronouncements would lead onlookers to believe. So why is there such a huge gap between the CofE at parish level and the CofE as expressed by official pronouncements? During General Synod this week, the archbishops came under heavy fire from parish clergy for submitting a shockingly negative response to the government's same-sex marriage proposals in the name of the CofE, as if they constituted the CofE's views. They don't. The parish church is typically a more inclusive place than the church's leadership understand. Here there is neither rich nor poor, black nor white, gay nor straight. The archbishops are out of touch. The parish is the centre of gravity of the church.

Read the column in its entirety HERE.

Image: Stained glass window depicting the Last Supper by Antonio V. Oquias/Shutterstock.

 

 

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Where Does the Syrian Conflict End?

 

Dr. Josef Olmert asks if, as the Syrian conflict rages in the streets of Damascus, the end is near?

"It has been in the making, as consistently predicted in this blog, and now it is finally happening. The Sunni uprising against the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar Assad is fast approaching the point of decision. The battles are taking place in the capital Damascus, and the reports, while some may be somewhat exaggerated, are very clear: the rebels of the Free Syria Army are fighting in the very center of the city, are about to be, or already are in control of some of the headquarters of the once feared intelligence organizations, and it is all taking place minutes away from the presidential palace. By some accounts, the palace is without residents, as Bashar and his immediate family have already moved to the Alawite Mountains, something that was also predicted in this blog."

Learn more here

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Class and War

Chris Hedges has a fascinating piece for Salon on the betrayal of the most vulnerable by war:

"We condition the poor and the working class to go to war. We promise them honor, status, glory, and adventure. We promise boys they will become men. We hold these promises up against the dead-end jobs of small-town life, the financial dislocations, credit card debt, bad marriages, lack of health insurance, and dread of unemployment. The military is the call of the Sirens, the enticement that has for generations seduced young Americans working in fast food restaurants or behind the counters of Walmarts to fight and die for war profiteers and elites.

The poor embrace the military because every other cul-de-sac in their lives breaks their spirit and their dignity. Pick up Erich Maria Remarque’sAll Quiet on the Western Front or James Jones’s From Here to Eternity. Read Henry IV. Turn to the Iliad. The allure of combat is a trap, a ploy, an old, dirty game of deception in which the powerful, who do not go to war, promise a mirage to those who do."

Read the full article here

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Immigration: Local v. Federal Battle Still Raging

 

Despite the recent Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration laws, the battle between legislators at the local and federal level is still raging, writes Adam Sorensen for Time:

"Last Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference to announce that he didn’t want his city’s law-enforcement authorities to follow federal requests to hold some undocumented immigrants, picked up on other charges, for deportation. The national media’s ears perked up. Emanuel, a former Chief of Staff to President Obama, was at loggerheads with his old boss — good copy in the making. But on the same day, back in Washington, D.C., much bigger news was developing on the future of federal and local cooperation on immigration policy. John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told a House subcommittee that his efforts to persuade officials to honor any of ICE’s detention requests in the jurisdiction of Cook County, which includes Chicago, had hit a wall. 'I won’t sugarcoat it,' he said. 'I don’t think that approach is going to work in full.'”

Read more here

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Tracking American Poverty

Ever wondered how the poverty rate has changed over the years?  And how that breaks down by various demographic categories? You could spend several hours poring through the annual reports by the Census Bureau and find all the data.

Here’s an easier (and more interesting) way. Our friends at Demos, an organization that “combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze change,” have created a series of interactive graphs that can answer all your questions.

Tracking American Poverty & Policy contains the data on the U.S. poverty rate annually from 1967 to 2010, including the rate of those in “deep” poverty and those near poverty when you zoom in on the graph. Then follows a set of graphs for the same time period by race, gender, age, educational level, and family; with the same three breakdowns.

It’s a useful resource for historical data on poverty, and it’s fun to play with the graphs to find the data.

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DRONE WATCH: The Drone Caucus

Members of Congress with common interests often create a caucus to advocate for that interest. Some have become permanent institutions – think the Congressional Black Caucus – others are more short-term. One of the more recent, reported by Arizona Public Radio, is the Unmanned Systems Caucus. Its role?

“Primarily, the caucus advocates for drones — those pilot-less planes infamous for their role targeting insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re used as a spy tool in Iran, a drug-fighting tool in Mexico and an anti-smuggling tool along the U.S.-Mexico border. …

The drone caucus — like the technology it promotes — is becoming increasingly important in the nation’s capitol as the government looks to unmanned vehicles to help save money on defense, better patrol the country’s borders and provide a new tool to U.S. law enforcement agencies and civilians.”

And that advocacy is being rewarded. The report cites Alex Bronstein-Moffly, an analyst with First Street Research Group, a D.C.-based company that analyzes lobbying data:

“Many of the drone caucus members are well supported by the industry they endorse. According to Bronstein-Moffly’s data, the 58 drone caucus members received a total of $2.3 million in contributions from political action committees affiliated with drone manufacturers since 2011.”

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DRONE WATCH: Sea Drones

Over the past several weeks, the U.S. has been expanding its military presence in the Persian Gulf, increasing its capability to act if hostilities begin with Iran. Minesweepers are intended to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, and additional fighter jets increase the ability to launch strikes into Iran.

The latest development, reported by the Los Angeles Times, sea drones.

“The Navy is rushing tiny underwater drones to the Persian Gulf to help find and destroy sea mines as part of an American military buildup aimed at stopping Iran from closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the event of a crisis, U.S. officials said.

Only 88 pounds and 4 feet long, the unmanned, remotely guided submersibles carry a TV camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge for what amounts to a kamikaze mission: When it detects a mine, the undersea craft obliterates itself as well as the mine.

The Navy bought dozens of the little-known German-made devices, known as the SeaFox, in February after an urgent request by Marine Gen. James Mattis, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, for more minesweeping capabilities in the region.”

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Reports: More Than 200 Dead in Syrian Attacks

According to Reuters, opposition forces in Syria are reporting that 220—mostly civilians—were killed by Syrian forces in the bloodiest day so far. 

"According to a detailed account by activists before news of the massacre, a convoy of 25 vehicles with army and security forces headed west after dawn on Thursday, with three armoured vehicles and five trucks towing artillery, passing through the town of Muharda in the direction of the village of Tremseh.

"They blockaded the village from all four sides and began violently and randomly firing on houses as a helicopter flew overhead. As the attack happened the electricity and telephone lines were cut. Residents gathered in the streets in a state of fear and panic. They were unable to flee because of the blockade from every side," the report posted on activist Web sites said."

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