The Common Good

Overcome evil with good

Sojomail - September 28, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

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                   in days of violence and fear

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++++++++++++++++++++ 28-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++"Overcome evil with good"+++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Kurt Vonnegut: speechless

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *Overcome evil with good

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Things the movies teach us

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Top 10 social activist campuses

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Henri Nouwen's prayer for peace

 D e b a t e
     *Rios Montt: brutal dictator or slandered saint?
 B i z   E t h i x
     *Airlines warned to refrain from racial profiling

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

 W e b   S c e n e
     *Best of the Web for intelligent discussion on terrorism

Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre."

                - Kurt Vonnegut, survivor of Allied
                  fire-bombing of Dresden


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
Overcome evil with good

by Jim Wallis

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for 
the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, 
I will repay, says the Lord.'  No, 'if your enemies are 
hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them 
something to drink; for by doing this you will heap 
burning coals on their heads.'  Do not be overcome 
by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:

I have been writing that while we must find and 
hold accountable those responsible for the 
September 11 attacks, we must do so in a way that 
does not take more innocent life. But that won't 
be enough. In my last column, I suggested that our 
response might also be to demonstrate a new 
compassion, generosity of spirit, and commitment to 
justice precisely toward those people who have been 
abandoned and abused, specifically by undertaking a 
massive effort to keep the people of Afghanistan 
from starving this winter. This would demonstrate 
the relationship between halting terrorism and 
removing injustice, and suffering people every-
where would see the clear signal. 

Thursday, the Associated Press reported that 
the crisis may come much sooner. U.N. refugee 
officials in Pakistan report that events in 
Afghanistan could quickly deteriorate into one 
of the worst humanitarian crises ever. 
Conditions are approaching famine, and hundreds 
of thousands of refugees are at the sealed 
Pakistan border desperately trying to escape. 
The U.N. estimates 7 million people, 1/3 of the 
Afghan population, need aid. A U.N. official 
says: "We already have a crisis, whatever 
happens, and every day we are losing time - 
this is critical, critical, critical."

Even before September 11, the Afghani people 
were suffering. Years of conflict, neglect by 
both their own governments and the world, and 
two years of U.N. sanctions had led to a large 
flow of refugees and internally displaced 
people. The Taliban regime has been directly 
responsible for many abuses and much suffering. 
An increasing number of people were relying 
solely on outside aid from the U.N. and 
humanitarian agencies to survive. In the last 
two weeks, the fear of war has led to the 
evacuation of all aid staff, and the closed 
border crossings have resulted in a suspension 
of most aid.  

As the U.S. government continues to prepare for 
its response to terrorism, we could send a 
strong message to the people of Afghanistan 
that they are not our enemy by supplying needed 
aid. The rest of the world would hear that 
message, as our response to violence also includes 
assistance to the people inside that country who 
are not responsible for the terrorist attacks. It 
could play an important role in building the 
international coalition against terrorism the 
administration says it wants to build. And it 
would be in the best tradition of our faith.

U.S. aid agencies are already working with 
Afghani refugees, and many are gearing up to 
provide additional aid. InterAction, a 
coalition of 165 U.S relief agencies, has 
written to President Bush urging that 
humanitarian aid be included in any action 
the U.S. takes in Afghanistan.
For more information on InterAction's work 
go to:

Christian Aid provides direct relief in



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F u n n y  B u s i n e s s
Things the movies teach us

1. Large, loft-style apartments in New York City are
well within the price range of most people, whether
they are employed or not.

2. At least one of a pair of identical twins is born evil.

3. Should you decide to defuse a bomb, don't worry
which wire to cut. You will always choose the right one.

4. Most laptop computers are powerful enough to
override the communications system of any invading
alien society.
5. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered
in a fight involving martial arts: Your enemies will
wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing
around in a threatening manner until you have
knocked out their predecessors.

6. If you are blonde and gorgeous, it is possible to
become a world expert on nuclear fission at the age
of 22.

7. Honest and hard-working policemen are traditionally
gunned down three days before their retirement.

8. All grocery shopping bags contain at least one
stick of French bread.

9. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off - even
while scuba diving.

10. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German
or Russian officer, it will not be necessary to speak
the language. A German or Russian accent will do.


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Top social activist campuses

Rated by Mother Jones magazine

1. Yale University 
2. Pitzer College (Claremont, California)
3. Pennsylvania State University
4. Harvard University
5. Howard University
6. University of Michigan
7. Florida A&M University
8. Oberlin College
9. University of California at Los Angeles
10. University of Wisconsin

Want to find out what students at these campuses
did to earn their ranking from Mother Jones? Go to:


S o u l   W o r k s
*Henri Nouwen's prayer for peace

"O Lord, you came to bring peace, to offer
reconciliation, to heal the separation between
people, and to show how it is possible for men
and women to overcome their differences and to
celebrate their unity. You revealed your Father
as a Father of all people, a Father without
resentments or desires for revenge, a Father
who cares for each one of his children with an
infinite love and mercy and who does not
hesitate to invite them into his own house.

But our world today does not look like a world
that knows your Father. Our nations are torn by
chaos, hatred, violence, and war. In many
places death rules.

O Lord, do not forget the world into which you
came to save your people; do not turn your back
on your children who desire to live in harmony
but who are constantly entangled in fear, anger,
lust, violence, greed, suspicion, jealousy, and
hunger for power.  Bring your peace to this world,
a peace we cannot make ourselves. Awaken the
consciousness of all peoples and their leaders;
raise up men and women full of love and generosity
who can speak and act for peace, and show us
new ways in which hatred can be left behind,
wounds can be healed, and unity restored.

O God, come to our assistance. O Lord, make
haste to help us.  Amen."

*From "A Cry for Mercy," by Henri J.M. Nouwen


The Other Side magazine issued its pre-press
reflections on the September 11 attacks:

This magazine was about to go to press when we 
learned of the terrifying attacks on the World 
Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the hours since 
then, we find ourselves caught in a numb horror 
and an overwhelming unknowing. We have only 
begun to hear the stories of those who survived 
- and those who did not. 

It is impossible to know what will have occurred 
by the time you read these words. What retaliation 
will our national leaders have chosen on our behalf? 
Will we as a nation have searched our souls for the 
spiritual lessons of tragedy, loss, and vulnerability, 
or simply patched our false armor of invincibility 
and escalated the violence? Will we have seized the 
role of victim, never asking why attacks would be 
made on these icons of U.S. capitalism and militarism?

For the rest of the editorial, go to:


D e b a t e
Efrain Rios Montt: Ruthless dictator or slandered saint?

Dear SojoMail:

A friend of mine was a missionary in Guatamala for seven
years, so I sent her your referenced article on the
two brothers. I think you should read what she wrote
me. Also, I just recently talked to Rene Padilla, and
he, too, remembers Efrain Rios as a man of God.


Melinda Wallace
New Zealand
You know, Melinda, this is absolutely why I do not
trust media. I lived and breathed Guatemalan air
from August of 1984 until December of 1990, almost
7 years. They had to practically take me out on a
stretcher. When in the capital, Efrain Rios Montt
was a part of my evangelical church, "Verbo" [The
Word]. We met in an upper-middle class part of town,
coming (me) by three broken-down buses, some in
cars, many on foot. Rios Montt was put in and taken
out by a coup. When they literally called him to
office, he was in a cell group prayer meeting....
I think they hate Montt because he's an evangelical.
This is where it gets tricky. Catholics and evangelicals
are seen as opposing forces. Melinda, I can't tell
you the fear in which the Mayan Catholics lived in
the villages before they got God's word. They have
the Virgin Mary, the God of the Air, the God of
the corn, every god you can imagine....
If Rios Montt is really so dangerous and militant,
he could have his brother gunned down at a family
gathering. It sounds bogus to me. Rios Montt took
public radio during his presidency and told the
Guatemalans that the family was the symbol of the
church. If the man had a mistress and a wife, he
committed adultery. To be hours late is not
"Guatemalan," it's just plain bad manners and a
smite on cultural dignity. He tried to separate
what had become "Latino" (macho, mistresses, disorder,
no accountability) from what God had called Guatemalans
to be as believers, and he said it starts with the
head of the household.  He put the responsibility
on the men, which is a rare thing in Latin America as
you know. They get away with murder. I can't say
he never did anything bad. I don't remember when
his salvation experience took place. I just know
that I saw fruit in his life. There was so much
chaos in the year he was brought in, it would be
hard to say who did it.
I know this: guerrilla and military destroyed
Cotzal. Rios Montt was close friends with the
translator there who is red-haired and
had a red-haired wife and two daughters. They were
evacuated. Efrain lent the men protection during that
time in the form of public support. It would seem
unreasonable that he also killed all the men there
and then furthered Bible translation. We will know
in Heaven. I know this: he lives in Guatemala today,
unharmed. If he's so bad, why hasn't he had to run?

Thanks for sending me this. I'll be talking to
people whom I trust with my life, people who know
the truth.   

Julie Sgambati

We will never forget

by David Batstone

I recall once hearing Elie Wiesel, the famed
novelist and survivor of the Nazi concentration
camps, express his utter astonishment the first
time he heard a historian deny that the German
death camps ever existed. I suppose I now have
an inkling of how shocked he felt when I
read the above letter from an ex-missionary
from Guatemala. I do not doubt her sincerity,
but I am chilled by her poor judgment.

I worked in Central America in human rights and
economic development for more than a decade in the
1980s and into the 1990s. I arrived the year after
Efrain Rios Montt had been deposed in a coup, but
the stamp of his iron fist could be seen
everywhere I went, from the testimonies of
survivors in the refugee camps, to indigenous
villages in the highlands that had been razed,
to the silent mass graves.

Guatemala's General Efrain Rios Montt was one
of Central America's most bloodthirsty dictators.
During his 18-month rule - during 1982
and 1983 - his scorched-earth policy against the
indigenous people living in the highlands of his
country reached its peak. Some reports claim that
during the period between 1981 and 1983 more than
600 separate massacres took place, the majority
initiated by Guatemala's military forces. At the
time, Montt denied having a "scorched-earth policy";
he preferred calling it "a policy of scorched

Amnesty International confirms that the early 1980s
were in fact "the most intense and bloody military
repression in Guatemala's political violence." The
Amnesty International report singles out the reign
of Rios Montt for special infamy: "From March 1982
onwards, Amnesty International received consistent
reports of large-scale killings taking place around
the country. Although some of these killings may
have been carried out by armed opposition groups,
the vast majority were extrajudicial executions
committed by members of the armed forces or their
civilian auxiliaries. The exact number of those
killed is not known, but estimates put the toll
at tens of thousands. In July 1982 Amnesty
International published a list of more than
50 massacres in which over 2,000 people were
reported to have been killed in incidents recorded
between March and June of that year."

During his rise to power, and even in the period that
followed, Rios Montt was closely aligned with
fundamentalist Protestant groups in the United States.
In 1990, Tom Barry, a veteran researcher covering Latin
American affairs, wrote "groups like the U.S.-based
Youth with a Mission and Christian Broadcasting
Network joined with the Reagan administration to
support Rios Montt's crusade to mop up leftist
insurgents. These evangelicos worked closely with
the military to establish 'model villages' on the
ashes of Indian communities destroyed by Rios
Montt's legions." 

For the sake of the indigenous people, we
cannot allow history to be rewritten. As
Wiesel wrote of his own people, "Let us
remember.... They fought alone, they suffered
alone, they lived alone, but they did not
die alone, for something in all of us died
with them."


B i z   E t h i x
Airlines warned to refrain from racial profiling

by Jessie Mangaliman
San Jose Mercury News

In the wake of reports of racial profiling at airports
across the country, the U.S. Department of
Transportation has issued a directive to all airlines
urging caution and reminding them that targeting
Arab Americans, Muslims, or Sikhs is against the law.

"We strongly encourage each airline to take steps to
ensure that its employees understand that, not only
is it wrong, but it is also illegal to discriminate
against people based on their race, ethnicity, or religion,"
said Norman Strickman, assistant director for aviation
consumer protection at the Department of Transportation
in Washington, D.C.

Since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington,
a number of Pakistani, Egyptian, and Indo-American
passengers have been pulled off domestic flights
because airline crews and passengers were uncomfortable
flying with them.

National civil rights organizations have denounced
the practice as racial profiling, and have begun
collecting information on other incidents not
reported to airlines. "Whatever racial profiling went
on before, multiply that by 100 and you have an idea
of what's going on now," said Helal Omeira, executive
director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in
San Jose. 


B o o m e r a n g

Cynthia Capone of Albany, New York, wrote:

All I can say is a heartfelt thank you for the daily
editions of SojoMail at a time when your voice was
needed. I have been a 25-year subscriber to Sojourners
and appreciate you all.


Anne Noble of Eatontown, New Jersey, wrote:

I just wanted to say a simple thanks to Sojourners for
the daily mail surrounding the WTC tragedy. I found Jim
Wallis' "Telling the truth" column on 9/25 particularly
illuminating. I also appreciate having a safe forum for
discussing viewpoints that may be unpopular and that some
might (wrongly) label unpatriotic.

When my next paycheck arrives, I'm earmarking some money
for a small contribution to SojoMail.


Lou Schoen of Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote:

Count me on the stage for the movement...and thanks
to David Batstone for this thoughtful, balanced
summary of the moral high ground amidst the "sudden"
global quandary about terrorism.

There's an odd blessing given us by these shocking
terrorist acts: Our government has been placed in a
position where it knows, without question, that it
has to have faithful international partners if it
is to succeed in its aims.  Although I'm sure Bush
will never admit it, he dares no longer to assert
a unilateralist policy.


Lisa Yimm of San Francisco, California, wrote:

In the article "Building the stage for a movement"
(9/25), David Batstone writes:

"All authentic adherents of the Abrahamic
religions - Jewish, Christian, Muslim - must dig
down deep to their own wells and stretch out far
to their distant cousins to lock arms in peace
and civic unity. Fundamentalist perversions of
their respective traditions threaten the destiny
of the planet.... I hope there are others who can 
join me on this platform."

If you truly want to reach out to all of the "others"
to join you in your movement, then why not widen your
view outside of the Abrahamic religions? SojoMail
occasionally includes quotes from great spiritual
leaders like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. I'm
sure that authentic adherents of Buddhism, Wicca,
and many other non-Abrahamic systems of belief would
surely agree with your platform, as do I.

Thanks for your daily deliveries of thought,
discussion, and wisdom.


Jonny Clark of Belfast, Northern Ireland, wrote:

I think SojoMail is outstanding. I was sorry to hear
that Charles Deemer is abandoning the peace movement
and that he thinks that the West can win a war against
terrorism using force. It is impossible; numerous
countries around the world bear witness to that,
Northern Ireland included. The only weapon strong
enough to counter terrorism is love, "for love is as
strong as death, it's jealousy unyielding as the
grave, many waters cannot quench love." It is love
coupled with humility, repentance, and forgiveness
that can diffuse time bombs such as those set
ticking by the Crusades and other acts of evil that
sow seeds of hatred. A time bomb was set ticking
in the ruins of the WTC: Let us make sure that the
bomb does not ignite and is diffused by people
willing to do the radical thing and bless those who
persecute us. Let us bomb Afghanistan with aid and
relief, sent in a spirit of love.


Marc DelMonico of Utica, New York, wrote:

I first want to thank SojoMail for providing all of
us with a respectful and reasonable forum in which
to deal with the grief, pain, and anger we all
experience in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
I am saddened by Charles Deemer's departure from
the peace movement ("An open letter to the peace
movement"  - Sojomail 9/27). Any voice for peace
and true justice lost at this time only threatens
to make a violent solution seem more and more like
the only real response. It is not.
Deemer says that when our nation is attacked, we
have to decide whether to surrender or fight. True
enough, but what does "fight" mean? Does "fighting"
always have to be launching missles, sending troops
in with guns blazing, or having special forces
plan covert assassination efforts? Gandhi (and
later King) both believed and stated that to
embrace nonviolence with one's whole being meant
that one must be willing to "fight," even to die,
but to engage in such "battle" without physical
weapons. We are to respond creatively with
nonviolence - not to be "cannon fodder," but to
use the brain power and reasoning ability God gave
us to either (a) render the opponent unable to
harm or (b) convert the opponent. What saddens
me is that Deemer only seems to find nonviolence
meaningful in a utilitarian way. If he thinks it
won't work, he will abandon it in favor of the
use of violent force.

Susan Easton of Hillsborough, California, wrote:

As I am both a nurse and a theologian, allow me to
share my perspective. As a theologian, I can tell
you with some authority that a relatively small band
of radicals has not just attacked America, they have
hijacked the Islamic faith and contaminated its very
soul. I agree with calls for wisdom among our leaders,
but when I hear political terminology about making a
"measured response," I must draw on what I learned
as a nurse.

When someone has a cancer that is life-threatening,
that cancer must be removed if at all possible. In
many cases, cancer therapy is radical and exacts a
terrible toll. The means of achieving a healthy
outcome may be lengthy, painful, even disfiguring.

As the events of September 11th have shown, a cancerous
ideology has grown and is spreading as a cancer
metastasizes from one organ to another. In a single day,
it brought destruction to over 6,500 cells, wounding and
weakening untold numbers of adjoining and interconnected
cells. As difficult as it might be, I believe that
this deadly growth must be removed or it will eventually
prove fatal to the planet that gives us all life.

Surely, at both ends of this historical and spiritual
spectrum, vigilant and devout prayers for "healing" are
very appropriate and have been shown to positively
influence that process. Equally powerful is the human
instinct to fight for life. As I see it, civilization - as
expressed in ideals like freedom and human dignity - is
currently engaged in a life-and-death struggle - make
no mistake about that diagnosis.


Paul Verizzo of Denver, Colorado, wrote:

The advice of Rose Marie Berger on stopping anti-Muslim
violence has already been put into action by the
metropolitan Denver, Colorado, community!

On Friday the 21st, the Colorado Interfaith Alliance
hosted a "ring of protection" at the Islamic Center on
Parker Road. They were hoping for a ring of hand-holding
supporters to go around the mosque; it is rather large
in square footage. As the late afternoon sun watched,
the people of Denver not only circled the center, but
went around again. And then again! Three rings of
humanity, probably 2,000 strong, of all faiths and
races told our Muslims that "we care and we are
watching out for you." By garb and signs, one could
see that virtually every faith was there in support
of our brothers and sisters.

Speakers included a rabbi, ministers, and a Buddhist
leader who, appropriately enough, was born in one
of the infamous Japanese concentration camps. The
Iman told the crowd that to his knowledge this was
the first ever interfaith event held at a mosque
in the U.S.!

Ed. note: Thanks, Paul. For reports of similar
actions in Seattle and Philadelphia go to:

Peter Stephens of Oxted, United Kingdom, wrote:

The saturation coverage of the attacks over here in
the UK raises some interesting issues. There was no
"global coalition" when hundreds of thousands were
being murdered in Rwanda. It took the world community
26 years to react to the Indonesian invasion of East
Timor, yet months to react to the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait. I hope that these apparent double standards
about human worth reflect a myopia in the U.S. to the
plight of the rest of the world and the shock of such
an unprovoked attack without forewarning, but I fear
that it may reflect a view that if you are African
or poor, you don't matter. Please prove me wrong.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



W e b   S c e n e
Best of the web for intelligent discussion on terrorism

by George Hunsinger
Princeton Theological Seminary

1. One of the best Web sites I have found for background
information is:  George Friedman, the
head of Strategic Forecasting, clearly has insider knowledge
of the intelligence situation. Despite his political point
of view, this site offers a depth of analysis otherwise
unavailable to the general public, with new articles every
day. Be sure to read around in their "Crisis Archive,"
organized by date since Sept. 11. Between the lines one
can find warnings and a critique of U.S. military policy.

2. The best political commentator I have found is Robert
Fisk. Read his two powerful pieces at
Fisk is a regular columnist for The Independent in the UK.
If you go to and type "Robert
Fisk" into the search box, you will gain access to
everything he has written since Sept. 11. Unsurpassed for
his humane vision and his profound historical perspective,
Fisk writes a column nearly every day. (The Nation
also has outstanding entries by Richard Falk and Jonathan

3. A fascinating online resource is the Institute for
Counterterrorism in Israel: Although
the articles are not as tight and focused as those
at Strategic Forecasting, there is much here that is
worthwhile. Especially startling is "The Bin Laden
Principle" by Yoram Schweitzer, ICT Researcher, written
on August 4, 2001 - more than a month before the
terrorist attack. Schweitzer lists seven features of
bin Laden's style of operation, all of which perfectly
fit what happened on Sept. 11.

4. Finally, check out, a clearinghouse
of articles from all over the world. It is something like
TJ Maxx - you have to hunt and search for the good stuff,
but it's there, often from London papers, but including
sources from India, Pakistan, Australia, and Japan. Be
sure to look in the editorial section for the articles
by Michael Klare and Anthony Simpson, both outstanding.


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