The Common Good

A bipartisan plan to end the war

Sojomail - June 23, 2005

Quote of the Week » Start small - but don't stop there
Action Alert » A bipartisan plan to end the war
Good News » G8 approves debt cancellation
Spiritual Practices » God's October surprise
Culture Watch » Muslim audience applauds Crusades flick?
Media Watch » Sojourners in the News
Boomerang » Readers write
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"Small acts of humanity amid the chaos of inhumanity provide hope. But small acts are insufficient."

- Paul Rusesabagina, Rwandan and former hotel manager whose actions inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda.

Source: Christian Science Monitor


A bipartisan plan to end the war
by Duane Shank

In October 2002, as the U.S. drive for war in Iraq was building, Sojourners organized a joint statement by church leaders from the U.S. and the U.K. In it, we noted that "To initiate a major war in an area of the world already in great turmoil could destabilize governments and increase political extremism.... It would add fuel to the fires of violence that are already consuming the region. It would exacerbate anti-American hatred and produce new recruits for terror attacks against the United States...."

Yesterday, two and a half years later, The New York Times reported on a new assessment by the CIA that "...Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat." The report went on to note that since the American invasion, Iraq has become "a magnet and a proving ground for Islamic extremists" and is "helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings, and other kinds of attacks...." Our words have rarely seemed more prophetic.

I have recently developed a new spiritual discipline. Each morning when I read the newspaper, I stop at the daily list of new U.S. casualties in Iraq to read each name aloud and say a prayer for that person and his or her family. And the numbers are growing - as of today, 1,722 Americans have died and more than 13,000 wounded. The chaos and insurgent violence resulting from the U.S. occupation is also leading to the deaths of more and more Iraqis, with no end in sight.

Some of our political leaders are finally beginning to wake up. Last week, a bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), introduced the "Withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq Resolution." It calls for the administration to announce a plan by the end of the year for troop withdrawal - and to initiate the plan as soon as possible.

This week, Gallup released a new poll showing 59 percent of Americans oppose the war. In another poll released two weeks ago by the Associated Press, 52% of U.S. citizens said they disapproved of the way the Bush administration has handled the so-called war on terrorism - and 56% disapprove of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq.

As the death toll continues to mount, the administration remains mired in the quicksand of a disastrous war, and has refused to create an exit strategy or commit to a withdrawal date.

It's time to take action. Ask your representatives to support H.J.RES.55, the bipartisan resolution calling for a plan to end the war.

Duane Shank is policy adviser at Sojourners.

+ Click here to take action - tell Congress to end the war


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G8 approves debt cancellation

The G8 recently announced that, finally, 18 desperately poor countries will receive full cancellation of their debt to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and African Development Fund. This is fantastic news for those countries, many of which now spend more on debt service than on health care or education. But many other countries also need debt cancellation in order to have any hope of meeting the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals - and the G8 is demanding that those other countries meet harmful conditions in order to get debt cancellation (if they get it at all).

+ Read Jubilee USA's analysis

Read more:

Odd alliance brings about debt relief
by Elizabeth Becker, The New York Times

It took them more than five years and required the star power of Hollywood names like Brad Pitt and leading evangelicals like Pat Robertson. But the potent campaign built by Granola Belt charities, flamboyant rock musicians and movie celebrities, number-crunching economists, conservative and liberal religious groups - not to mention the Dalai Lama - finally helped persuade the world's wealthiest nations to forgive the debt of some of the world's poorest.

The dam broke as the campaign grew in numbers - about 150 million people at the last count - and in sophistication. Led by Bono, the Irish rock star, the African debt-relief campaign made enough strategic alliances, especially with conservative groups and within the Bush White House, that some success proved inevitable.

+ Read the full article


Go With Peace
by Kelly Guinan

An extraordinary new peace education book, this text takes the abstract concept of peacemaking and teaches with hands-on, concrete lessons. Engaging, enlightening, challenging, and fun! Perfect for schools, homes, community centers, places of worship, camps, shelters - anywhere children and their families can be found.

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God's October surprise
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

At just the moment of history when religious conflict, violence, terrorism, and war have re-emerged, bearing lethal dangers for our different communities and our shared planet, God has given our spiritual and religious traditions a gift of time.

During October 2005, a confluence of sacred moments in many different traditions invites us to pray with or alongside each other and to work together for peace, justice, human rights, and the healing of our wounded earth.

To begin with, two strands of time that are celebrated in two communities now often at odds with one another are this fall woven together in a way not seen for decades. The sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan and the sacred Jewish lunar month of Tishrei, which includes the High Holy Days and Sukkot, both begin Oct. 3-4.

But there is more. Oct. 4 is the Saint's Day of St. Francis of Assisi; Oct. 2 is Gandhi's birthday and also Worldwide (Protestant) Communion Sunday. And in mid-October, parallel to Sukkot, there are major Buddhist and Hindu festivals.

There is much we could do to heal the world during this sacred season of sacred times.

+ Read the full article


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Muslim audience applauds Crusades flick?

British journalist and columnist for The Independent, Robert Fisk shares his surprise at the reaction of Lebanese audiences to Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, The Kingdom of Heaven:

"[A]t the end of the film...Saladin enters the city and finds a crucifix lying on the floor of a church, knocked off the altar during the three-day siege. And he carefully picks up the cross and places it reverently back on the altar. And at this point the audience rose to their feet and clapped and shouted their appreciation. They loved that gesture of honour. They wanted Islam to be merciful as well as strong. And they roared their approval above the soundtrack of the film."

+ Read the full article


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Sojourners in the News

Darfur in darkness: Liberal evangelicals are picking up where conservative evangelicals left off
+ The American Prospect

Religious Right, Left meet in middle
+ The Washington Post

Not to get preachy, but McCain needs some religious vote
+ The Dallas Morning News

The gospel according to...
+ Chicago Tribune

Author wants U.S. to abandon red-blue religious feud, focus on social justice
+ The Tennessean

Moral debate bridges gap
+ Chelmsford Independent


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Readers write

Andrew Wells-Dang, regional representative of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, Hanoi, Vietnam, writes:

Congratulations to David Batstone for his thoughtful reflections on where Vietnamese society is heading today ["The money trail cuts across values in Vietnam," SojoMail 6/15/2005]. Many of my friends and colleagues in their 20s and 30s share similar views and experiences to those of the young woman, Thuy, described by David. Vietnam has actually been implementing far-reaching economic and political-administrative reforms since the mid-1980s, and it is one of the fastest changing and fastest growing places on earth right now.

Compare this picture with the report by Human Rights Watch linked to by SojoMail, and it seems to describe a completely different country. Which, in a sense, it does - not a north-south divide, but rather one between more prosperous cities and disadvantaged remote areas. But David's views are based on direct experience, while external human rights organizations have to gather second-hand information from sources of varying credibility. It's like using news reports about Guantanamo Bay to represent everyday life in America.


Rev. Tracy E. Longacre writes from Oakland, California:

I found this comment fascinating: "The current generation of urban young people, the first fruits of a free-market economy, have much higher expectations for material gain. To put in shorthand, they want their own iPod, and they want it now."

All I could think was, "well, isn't that true here in the U.S. also?" How many poor, urban American youth "want their own iPod and they want it now"? Here, of course, they are inundated with images of the "American dream" - an iPod in every pocket, a pair of Air Jordans on every foot - which is out of their reach. Personally I completely understand why, faced with a choice between a job with a wage so low you cannot live on it vs. drug dealing or theft or some other far more lucrative venture, many people choose the latter.

Hard work at any level is not highly regarded in our society. We are addicted to "get rich quick" schemes. For those without the capital or other means to "get rich quick," it seems natural that the response is anger and resentment.


Michaela Patel writes from Melbourne, Australia:

Yes, Peter Glynn [Boomerang, Sojomail 6/15/2005], there should be alternatives proposed to the current Guantanamo prison. How about moving all prisoners onto real U.S. soil so they are no longer in this convenient Cuban limbo, which allows the U.S. government to deny them rights to the U.S. justice system, but at the same time claim they are somehow U.S. prisoners? How about charging them with a crime, rather than leaving them in jail, uncharged for years? One Australian has been there for more than three years, uncharged with any offense. Even his lawyers don't really know what he's supposed to have done, but the fact that three years has not been long enough to gather any evidence with which to charge him suggests that the case must be flimsy indeed. If, as Glynn says, the prisoners are murderous thugs, then for heaven's sake charge them properly and bring them to trial. However much we may oppose their views of the world, it is unacceptable to keep people in jail just because we don't like them.


Katrina M. Walsemann writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Rachel Javellana wrote in the June 15 Boomerang that she struggles "to understand some of its [the Bible] teachings about marriage. The verse that comes to mind speaks of the husband being the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the church."

I, too, have struggled for many years to come to some sort of understanding about the apparent contradiction between what Paul writes concerning marriage in Ephesians 5:23 and other scripture regarding women (e.g., Jesus' response to women; the fact that the first people Jesus appeared to after his resurrection were women; the Galatians 3:26-28 verses that tell us there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in the kingdom of God).

However, a kind friend directed me to a Web site ( run by the organization Christians for Biblical Equality. In an article written by Gilbert Bilezikian ("I believe in male headship"), the author addresses this very issue. He argues that the biblical meaning of the word "head" in this verse is opposite of the English meaning. Instead of referring to a hierarchical order, the biblical form of the word actually describes the "servant function of provider of life." It is a bottom-up approach, not the top-down approach that so many pastors and Christians assume.

The author concludes his article as follows: "The fall had made of Adam ruler over the woman (Genesis 3:16). Christ makes of husbands servants to their wives in their relationship of mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21). For this reason, I believe in male headship, but strictly in its New Testament definition." I urge everyone struggling with these issues to check out this Web site. They have a lot of wonderful resources and provide very thoughtful insights into issues of equality.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.


by Charles Dickinson

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