The Common Good


Sojomail - September 20, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

          Promoting faith, reason, compassion, and justice
                   in days of violence and fear

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine


          SojoMail will continue to be delivered to
          you daily this week...responding to the
          events of September 11, the suffering
          left in its wake, the threat of a global
          war, and the historic shaping of our
          moral character, now and for the future.


++++++++++++++++++++ 20-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++ "How Lonely Sits the City" ++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Spring will come...

 M o r a l   V i s i o n
     *How lonely sits the city

 B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
     *'Deny Them Their Victory' goes to the Hill

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *C.S. Lewis: A grief observed

 D e b a t e
     *What are the roots of Islamic radicals?
        -Viewpoint One: Jihad drives believers to war
        -Viewpoint Two: Islamic terrorism a tool of U.S.

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Combing the world press

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  Day

They can cut all the flowers, but they
cannot stop the coming of the Spring.

                - Pablo Neruda


M o r a l  V i s i o n
In the valley of the shadow

by Ken Sehested, with Kyle Childress

"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How
like a widow has she become, she that was great among
the nations!...She weeps bitterly in the night" 
(Lamentations 1:1).

Here I sit in Nacogdoches, the oldest city in Texas, 
reflecting via one of the oldest scriptures in print on 
the oldest drama of human savagery. The shedding of 
blood begun by Cain - against his brother Abel, early 
in Genesis 4 - was geometrically escalated, by chapter's 
end, in Lamech's threat to avenge his personal honor 
70 times seven. God's refusal of revenge - indeed, the 
Divine prohibition against human vengeance - was ignored 
with impunity then no less than now. It is an old story. 
But there is another story, indeed a counter-story, which 
can and must be told by the believing community.

Grieving and intercession make us available for the
ministry of mercy and comfort. This, of course, is what
President Bush attempted in his speech to the nation 
Tuesday evening when he referenced the psalmist's 
affirmation of hard-won hope: "Yea, though I walk 
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4). It is very appropriate for
the nation's leader to speak words of succor to the people.
And the believing community should stand ready and willing
to echo and amplify those words whenever possible.

Nevertheless, the body of Christ must remain alert when
Caesar quotes scripture. The text of Holy Writ is forever
threatened with being co-opted, is always in danger of
being robed in the garments of empire, of being mobilized
to endorse injustice, of being segregated from intended
conclusion. And in Tuesday night's episode, President Bush
neglected to note that the text he quoted pushes forward
to the point of "table fellowship" with enemies.

Which brings me to the parallel, if less comfortable,
work of prophetic challenge to which the body of Christ
has been ordained. An essential work of gospel proclamation
is theological interrogation of political propaganda. In
short, the body of Christ is called to ask the questions
currently being disguised by newspaper headlines.

For instance: Not so long ago, following the bombing of
the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, state
authorities, news media, and common mobs alike began
harassing people of Arab descent living in the
U.S., only to discover that responsibility actually
lay with one of our own decorated war veterans of
European lineage.

Even if someone the caliber of Osama bin Laden, whose
name has frequently been mentioned as a suspect behind
the simultaneous bloody attacks on the market-military
monuments, is found to be responsible, the believing
community needs to recall an embarrassing bit of history.
It was the U.S. that originally recruited, trained, and
supplied bin Laden and his colleagues for guerrilla warfare.
Back then, his services were as a "hot" proxy agent in
our "Cold" War with the Soviet Union. He has since found
a more lucrative offer on the free market of global
political violence.

To our shame, and our peril, we have little knowledge
of a millennium of Western meddling in Arab affairs,
deposing this ruler, propping up that one, with no
criteria other than cost/benefit calculations. Few in
the U.S. realize that our nation, aided by Great Britain,
has waged against Iraq the longest bombing campaign in 
human history. Since the formal end of the Gulf War - and
without even the semblance of U.N. authority - we have 
over the past decade, on a weekly, sometimes daily
basis, continued to rain death from the skies.

UNICEF, the U.N.'s own child-welfare agency, has indicated
that at least a half-million Iraqi children have died since
the end of Desert Storm from causes directly related to the
international economic sanctions. When former U.S. Ambassador
to the U.N. (and then-Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright 
was asked point-blank on national television if the death of 
half a million children was a price worth paying in opposing 
Saddam Hussein, she said yes. We say no. The competition of 
loyalty is that stark. Choose this day whom you will serve.

*Ken Sehested is executive director of the Baptist Peace
Fellowship of North America. Kyle Childress is pastor
of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas.

For the complete text go to:





B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
'Deny Them Their Victory' statement goes to the Hill

by Duane Shank

A broad spectrum of the U.S. religious community - now
nearly 1,500 people - including Christian, Jewish, Muslim,
and Buddhist leaders, have joined their signatures to the
interfaith statement "Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious
Response to Terrorism." The statement has now been delivered
to every congressional office and faxed to the White House.
A number of other organizations and denominations have put
it on their Web pages and urged that it be circulated and
used. Many of those signing are sending emails about
activities in their communities and houses of worship.
As U.S. military forces are being deployed to Central Asia
and President Bush addresses the nation and world this
evening, our prayer is, as the statement says:  "We must
not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate
in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life."

Sign the statement online at:


               RESPONDING IN FAITH

For resources, reasoned responses, and statements
by churches, organizations, and individuals, visit
SojoNet's crisis response page at:


S o u l   W o r k s
A grief observed

by C.S. Lewis

No one ever told me about the grief. Except
at my job - where the machine seems to run on much
as usual - I loathe the slightest effort. Not only
writing but even reading a letter is too much. Even
shaving. What does it matter now whether my cheek
is rough or smooth? They say an unhappy man wants
distractions - something to take him out of himself.
Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on
a cold night; he'd rather lie there shivering than
get up and find one. It's easy to see why the
lonely become untidy; finally, dirty and disgusting.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most
disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy
that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy
that you are tempted to feel his claims upon you
as an interruption, if you remember yourself and
turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be -
or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go
to Him when your need is desperate, when all other
help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed
in your face, and a sound of bolting and double
bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may
as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more
emphatic the silence will become. There are no
lights in the windows. It might be an empty house.
Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that
seeming was as strong as this. What can this
mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time
of prosperity and so very absent a  help in time
of trouble?...

Of course it's easy enough to say that God seems
absent at our greatest need because He is absent -
non-existent. But then why does He seem so present
when, to put it quite frankly, we don't ask for him?

Want to read more? For a longer excerpt from C.S.
Lewis' "A Grief Observed," go to:


Free window signs available

Inkworks Press has created two window signs:
*Justice, not Vengeance/Let us not become the evil that
we deplore
*Hate-Free Community/Stop Racist Attacks

We've also made flyers of Rep. Barbara Lee's speech before
Congress on September 14 under the headline "Barbara Lee
Speaks for Me, and Millions More." For people living in
the San Francisco Bay Area, these materials are available
at Inkworks now. We request a donation if possible to
defray expenses and to print more, but it's not necessary.
Our purpose is to get them into circulation. We will
reprint bulk orders at cost.

For people outside of the SF Bay Area, you can download
and reproduce (in jpeg and pdf format) the posters for
free. You will find the links to these flyers at:

Or contact Inkworks Press at (510) 845-7111;


D e b a t e
What are the roots of Islam radicals?

Viewpoint One: Jihad drives true believers to war

by Shalendra Sharma

One pervasive theme in the various left-wing rags
(many of which conveniently hide behind the banner
of "alternative media") is how the CIA created the
Taliban. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The roots of the Taliban and bin Laden lie in the
madrasahs (religious schools) run by the hard-line
Jamiat-ul-Islam in Pakistan. In the 1980s, Pakistani
dictator Zia Ul-Haq promoted the madrasahs as a way
to garner the religious parties' support for his rule
and to recruit troops for the anti-Soviet war in
Afghanistan. Initially, the madrasahs were financed by
the zakat (the Islamic tithe collected by the state),
but soon private and non-governmental interests in
Pakistan, the Persian Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia
became the key financial backers. One of the key
backers was the millionaire, Osama bin Laden -
financier, gendarme, and firebrand demagogue
rolled in one.

Some years ago, I was able to travel extensively
throughout Pakistan. I visited several of these
madrasahs. Most of these "schools" preached an extremist
version of the "jihad" (holy war) doctrine, ignoring math,
sciences, and the study of other secular subjects necessary
for functioning in the modern world. Many of these gun-
toting "students" fancied themselves as "true believers"
and came from all corners of the Arab/Muslim world. With
their jaundiced view of the West, these students were
united in their hatred for everything un-Islamic - in
particular, the United States and Israel. As these
footloose soliders of Islam returned to their countries
of origin, they laid the foundations of a transnational
network of extremist groups. What unites these groups
is their messianic hatred of open, tolerant, market-
based societies. 

The various inept, corrupt, and autocratic Mujahideen
governments that replaced the Soviet-backed puppet regime
in Afghanistan failed to bring law and order to the
war-torn country. As Afghanistan spiraled towards a new
round of violence and anarchy, Pakistan stepped in to
fill the political vacuum by supporting a group of
stridently militant clerics and jihadis (now calling
themselves the Taliban) who were trained in its many

With Pakistan's backing, the Taliban quickly came to 
control all but 10 percent of Afghanistan. Almost
immediately, the Taliban began to implement with zeal
its intolerant theocratic vision (including the imposition
of the purdah on women, the narrow implementation of
the sharia law, and most recently the destruction of
the famed Buddhist sites in Bamiyan). Branding those
who disagreed with them as heretics and apostates, the
Taliban unleashed a reign of terror on its own people.
In Afghanistan's zero-sum tribal political culture, such
terror quickly degenerated into the timeless politics
of vengeance and vendettas, an endless cycle of killings
and reprisals - sending millions of fleeing refugees
to the already overcrowded camps in Iran and Pakistan.

The next target of the Pakistan/Taliban alliance was
India - the land of the so-called infidel Hindus. In
the Indian state of Kashmir, it is estimated that some
35,000 people have died in the past decade as a result
of Pakistani and Taliban-sponsored sectarian and
terrorist violence. The targeting and killing of
thousands of civilians in Kashmir and elsewhere in
India violated the nation's sense of propriety, not
to mention both the Islamic "just war" tradition and
international jurisprudence. As India's pleas for a
united international front against terrorism fell on
deaf ears, the country hunkered down for the long fight.

If there is a lesson, it is that a poor Third World
country was able to gradually turn the tide - chasing
the armed imams back to the decrepit holes that they
had come from. India was successful because it learned
that valuable lesson from the Israelis: to hit back
hard after every terrorist attack.

Let's hope they have the courage to take the necessary
measures to fight this menace.

*Shalendra D. Sharma, Ph.D., is associate professor of
international politics at the University of San Francisco


Viewpoint Two: Islamic terrorism a tool of U.S...until now

by Michel Chossudovsky

Since the Cold War era, Washington has consciously
supported Osama bin Laden, while at same time placing
him on the FBI's "most wanted list" as the world's
foremost terrorist. While the Mujahideen are busy
fighting America's war in the Balkans and the former
Soviet Union, the FBI - operating as a U.S.-based police
force - is waging a domestic war against terrorism,
operating in some respects independently of the CIA,
which has since the Soviet-Afghan war supported
international terrorism through its covert operations.

[Consider] the following text, which outlines the history
of Osama bin Laden and the links of the Islamic "jihad"
to the formulation of U.S. foreign policy during the
Cold War and its aftermath:

"Prime suspect in the New York and Washington terrorist
attacks, branded by the FBI as an 'international
terrorist' for his role in the African U.S. embassy
bombings, Saudi-born Osama bin Laden was recruited
during the Soviet-Afghan war 'ironically under the
auspices of the CIA, to fight Soviet invaders.'"
(Source: Hugh Davies, The Daily Telegraph, London,
24 August 1998)  

"In 1979 'the largest covert operation in the history
of the CIA' was launched in response to the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in support of the pro-Communist
government of Babrak Kamal." (Source: Fred Halliday,
in The New Republic, 25 March 1996)

"With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan's
ISI [Inter Services Intelligence] - who wanted to turn
the Afghan jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim
states against the Soviet Union - some 35,000 Muslim
radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan's
fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more
came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually more
than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly
influenced by the Afghan jihad." (Source: Ahmed Rashid,
in Foreign Affairs, November-December 1999)

The Islamic jihad was supported by the United States
and Saudi Arabia with a significant part of the
funding generated from the Golden Crescent drug trade:

"In March 1985, President Reagan signed National Security
Decision Directive 166...[which] authorize[d] stepped-
up covert military aid to the Mujahideen, and it made
clear that the secret Afghan war had a new goal: to
defeat Soviet troops in Afghanistan through covert
action and encourage a Soviet withdrawal. The new covert
U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase in arms
supplies - a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987, well as a 'ceaseless stream' of CIA and Pentagon
specialists who traveled to the secret headquarters of
Pakistan's ISI on the main road near Rawalpindi,
Pakistan. There the CIA specialists met with Pakistani
intelligence officers to help plan operations for the
Afghan rebels." (Source: Steve Coll, in the Washington
Post, July 19, 1992)

In a cruel irony, while the Islamic jihad - featured
by the Bush adminstration as "a threat to America" -
is blamed for the terrorist assaults on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, these same Islamic
organizations constitute a key instrument of U.S.
military-intelligence operations in the Balkans and
the former Soviet Union. In the wake of the terrorist
attacks in New York and Washington, the truth must
prevail to prevent the Bush administration together
with its NATO partners from embarking upon a military
adventure that threatens the future of humanity.

*Michel Chossudovsky is professor of economics at
the University of Ottawa, Canada.

To read Chossudovsky's full essay online, go to:


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Combing the world press

Limits of solidarity - Stratfor

"We are now seeing the beginnings of friction within
the planned coalition. Because the coalition is critical
to the United States, these limitations will likely
shape U.S. strategy and may be one of the reasons why
such a tight lid is being held on the emerging U.S.
military strategy. Partly, the secrecy is for operational
security. But partly it is because the Bush administration
prefers to have its allies shape strategy in private,
rather than in public."

U.S. 'planned attack on Taliban' says former
Pakistani diplomat - BBC

"A former Pakistani diplomat has told the BBC that the
U.S. was planning military action against Osama bin
Laden and the Taliban even before last week's attacks."


Allies in war - Front Page

"Liberal self-hatred masquerading as a concern for
human rights was the primary reason why it was so easy
for a complicated and lethal attack to be planned and
carried out without coming to the attention of American
intelligence agencies."


Ashcroft confers on anti-terror laws - MSNBC

"Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., the chairman of the House
immigration subcommittee, told that Congress
will be considering an array of measures as part of
legislation to restructure the INS. Identification
cards for citizens and non-citizens 'is not something
we'd reject out of hand,' Gekas said."


Christians should not charge into 'holy war' -
The Times of London

"At the weekend, American pollsters asked their
public how their government should react to
Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington.
Eighty-five percent of respondents supported
military action. An astonishing 58 percent
wanted action 'even if it means that many thousands
of innocent civilians may be killed.' These
were not Viking berserks. Most would have
called themselves Christians.",,248-2001323991,00.html


B o o m e r a n g

Mike Monaghan of Cheshire, England, wrote:

Thank you for your voice of compassion and sanity -
for us in the UK sadly what we mostly hear from the
U.S. are voices calling for revenge and retribution
with little heed for the suffering that such actions
will yet again bring on the innocent. And seldom do
we get any sense from the political leaders that
perhaps this is a time for re-evaluating the
country's global policies and asking why it is
perceived by so many to have fallen short of its own
ideals of justice and freedom.


Nils Victor Montan of Sherman Oaks, California, wrote:

I take it that from your recent and constant
propaganda bombardment that everything that
has happened in the United States in the past
week is the fault of America and its "policies."
No one else (most of all the perpetrators of
the murder of 6,000 people) has ANY moral
responsibility. Thanks for your pompous and
portentous drivel. Why not go door to door to
the families of the victims of the plane crashes
and give them copies of your profound vision
statement. I'm sure they will be deeply moved.


Bette Holleman of California wrote:

I would like to correct the misnomer made by Wesley
Granberg-Michaelson when he referred to the sociopaths
who committed the attacks on the U.S. as "zealous
martyrs." The great martyrs went to their martyrdom
ALONE, they didn't shed innocent blood or ask others
to die with them against their will. Let's not insult
martyrs this way. I believe the correct term to
describe these individuals would be "cowards."

In rebuttal to those who believe the U.S. somehow
deserved this attack, I would remind you that we
provide most of the humanitarian aid and food
supplies to the rest of the world, despite our
many shortcomings. Hunger and disease thrive because
of the greed and corruption of the governments of
many of these nations, who use it as a means of
controlling their people. The Taliban is a prime

I make no apologies for living in this country,
or for the prosperity we enjoy. I praise God each
day that I am here and do what I can wherever I can
to help others. I invite you to walk the streets
anywhere in this country, especially in NYC or DC,
and share your opinion. NO ONE deserves this, and
if you believe this is Divine Retribution, Heaven
help us. You may just get what you deserve, too.

Ed. note: Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds 
of views. While some contributors to SojoMail may 
express the opinion that the horrendous attacks of 
September 11 were somehow "deserved" because of past 
actions, Sojourners has never said such a thing, nor 
do we believe it.


Deborah Haffner of Chicago, Ilinois, wrote:

I applaud Rep. Barbara Lee's lone voice of dissent in
congress. How many more lives are going to be lost
because we have appropriated $40 billion to "war" and
changed our domestic priorities?  Not to mention the
fact that our own CIA trained bin Laden when the Soviet
Union invaded Afghanistan.... Why don't we hear more
about this in the media - our merchants of fear and
chaos? We need to talk about the fact that we will
"go to bed with the enemy" when it suits our political
and economic interests, and then turn around and 
call that enemy "evil," without looking at the
evil within, the fact that we created the monster!
Just like we sold all those arms to Saddam Hussein....
Have the "chickens come home to roost?" We must use
this time for reflection, for repentance, as a
nation, for all the terrorist acts we have been
complicit in...against Native Americans, African
Americans, German Americans, Japanese Americans...
we must choose life instead!


Patricia Guthrie of Peoria, Illinois, wrote:

Your e-mails are sustaining me. I am so alone in my
thinking of restraint. Everyone is calling for war
and I read Luke 6: 27-38 ["Love your enemies, do
good to those who hate you..."] and think...can I
really trust You enough to protect us without

Rev. James D. Thomas of Virginia Beach, Virginia, wrote:

I was a new subscriber and was really enjoying
your publication. Then I started to get daily
e-mailings that promoted a pacifist ideal. I am
not a warmonger. But, I have visited Islamic
countries several times. I have read the literature
and think I have a better than average understanding
of the issues. On several occasions I have read
contributions over the past week that seem to
blame us for the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon.
This is just as wrong as Pat Robertson and
Jerry Falwell's accusation that the gays, the
ACLU, and the abortionists (among several others
they listed) were somehow responsible. To me,
this is like accusing a woman who was raped as
being partly responsible because of the clothing
she was wearing at the time. There is absolutely
no action that this nation has had a part in that
even remotely shares the blame for such a hideous,
satanically evil act. While individuals are
entitled to their opinions, printing such opinions
implies a sense of acceptance. As a responsible
citizen and even as a responsible Christian, I
deplore blaming innocents for their own deaths.

I am sorry that I will miss the value that your
publication may have to offer in the future. However,
if I continue to support your actions, I too am
implying acceptance.


David Moseley of San Diego, California, wrote:

Thank you for printing the letter of Tamim Ansary in
Monday's SojoMail (9/17/01) alerting us to the plight
of the people in Afghanistan who have suffered, and
continue to suffer, so much. I was able to read it
to my theology students in class yesterday evening,
and it had a dramatic effect on their appreciation
of the situation that they now face with regards to the
question of how to respond to this terrible tragedy.

I was shocked to discover from my students that many
professors had simply ignored what had happened last
week, teaching their regular curriculum as if nothing
catastrophic had taken place at all. Parents, teachers,
professors, clergy, community leaders, and mentors
enjoy a unique privilege of being able to initiate and
encourage discussion and dialogue at this time. As
Dr. Martin Luther King once pointed out, it is mostly
not race or religion that divides us, but ignorance.
The acts of terrorism last Tuesday were just as much
an attack on the values and traditions of Islam as
they were on "Western Christianity," for all the
victims were beloved sons and daughters of God.
The clamor for justice for the victims of these
terrorist atrocities must not be allowed to eclipse
our commitment to justice for all people, everywhere.
"Collateral damage" is in danger of joining "ethnic
cleansing" as an addition to the other horrifying
euphemisms in our dehumanized vocabulary.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. Want to make your voice heard? Send
Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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