The Common Good

'We Need to Be Liberated Again'

Sojomail - April 12, 2007


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Most of us know this town would have a heck of a time trying to run itself these days without the immigrants. They're working at the grocery stores, the fast-food places, they're opening businesses and keeping this town alive and young. We're just being practical by telling them, 'Look, we want you in our community, and we want you to feel like you belong.'"

- Republican Mayor Robert Patten of Highstown, New Jersey, whose town council unanimously approved measures allowing undocumented residents to interact with police and city services without fear of being reported to federal authorities - making it one of an increasing number of "sanctuary cities" with no-questions-asked policies on immigration status. (Source: The Washington Post)

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HEARTS & MINDS BY JIM WALLIS

'We Need to Be Liberated Again'

On April 9, 2003, Saddam Hussein’s government collapsed as the U.S. military swept into Baghdad. The next day, President Bush delivered a triumphant “message to the Iraqi people.” In it, he said:

The goals of our coalition are clear and limited. We will end a brutal regime, whose aggression and weapons of mass destruction make it a unique threat to the world. Coalition forces will help maintain law and order, so that Iraqis can live in security. We will respect your great religious traditions, whose principles of equality and compassion are essential to Iraq’s future. We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that protects the rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave. Iraq will go forward as a unified, independent and sovereign nation that has regained a respected place in the world.


Fast forward four years. Monday, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites took to the streets to demand that the U.S. leave. According to the British Guardian newspaper,
"they shouted 'Yes! Yes! Iraq. No! No! America' amid a sea of banners and Iraqi flags. 'We were liberated from Saddam. Now we need to be liberated again,' read one placard. 'Stop the suffering, Americans leave now,' demanded another."
Along with the continued death and suffering, the sectarian violence that has been unleashed has resulted in ethnic cleansing in once-peaceful neighborhoods. I recently heard a powerful NPR story, "Mixed Baghdad Neighborhoods Become Enclaves." The reporter interviewed a Shiite father who watched his son being beaten by a Sunni boy with the encouragement of his father, and a Sunni who was told “your son or the house,” while his son was being beaten by Shiites. It’s a situation, said the reporter, where “no one can risk trusting anyone anymore.” Estimates are that 700,000 people have been displaced in Iraq due to sectarian violence. U.S. military officials claim the situation is improving, but as the report concluded, “Even if it becomes safer, it’s not clear what’s been broken can be put back together again.”

And then there is the story of 50-year-old Khadim al-Jubouri. Four years ago, a picture of him went around the world, as he stood with a sledgehammer attacking the base of a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. Now, according to The Washington Post, he says:
It achieved nothing. We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him.

Far from a “unified, independent and sovereign nation,” Iraq four years later is shattered, occupied, and violent. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

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THIS WEEK IN GOD'S POLITICS

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Janna Hunter-Bowman: Colombia's 'Fragile Unreality'
Now the political waters in Colombia are growing from unsettled to turbulent; conditions are likely to get worse before they get better. I feel like the power players are more boldly and unselfconsciously asserting a dimension of "fragile unreality," as Russian fiction author Nabokov described his context of totalitarian regime. A hunted Colombian Baptist pastor tells me his drama. The cast of characters is outrageous; hit men are taxied by those who should be their target’s protectors. It would be easier to convey through a one-act play in which executioner and savior are played by the same actor.

Nontando Hadebe: 'The Passion of the Christ' in Zimbabwe's Context
Last week I watched The Passion of the Christ - it was my third time watching the film. Each time I watch the film a different facet of the suffering of Christ is revealed to me. This time I watched it in the context of Zimbabwe, a country that is being beaten and brutalized by its leaders in their quest for ultimate power. What more can one say in the face of ongoing suppression of opposition, harassment, and violent treatment of those who seek justice and a collapse of the economy with an inflation of 2700 percent? Every item of news and story feels like a lashing and beating and it just goes on and on. As I watched the film, the suffering of Jesus merged with the sufferings in Zimbabwe, and then when all seemed lost and hopeless, the resurrection brought in the first sign of hope against all probabilities.

Jim Wallis: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Sixty-two years ago today, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Nazi concentration camp in Flossenburg, Germany, for his role in the anti-Hitler resistance. His books – Life Together, Ethics, The Cost of Discipleship, Letters and Papers from Prison, and others – continue to be read and discussed widely. Last year, Harper San Francisco published A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer, short meditations drawn from his writings for each day of the year. I wrote the foreword to the book, and later excerpted it as a column in Sojourners magazine, noting, "The more I read Bonhoeffer, the more amazed I became. He seemed to break all the categories."

Brian McLaren: Which Holy War?
We've probably heard many people here in the U.S. ask, "Why aren't there more moderate Muslims speaking out against the violent extremists and calling for reform in Islam?" As I reflected on Roland Martin's editorial on Good Friday, 2007, I couldn't help but think, "Maybe around the world, 'behind our back,' so to speak, people are asking a similar question about Christians in the U.S." These reflections stayed with me over the weekend and were with me still on Easter Sunday. In his Easter sermon, my pastor quoted Romans 8, where Paul says that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Those words challenged me to believe that the impossibility of resurrection is indeed possible ... not just in our individual lives, but also in our religious communities, if we are truly open to the life-giving, death-defying Spirit of God.

Video: Jim Wallis (and Others) on Biblical Justice
From a video by Christian Aid: "Christian leaders, including Jim Wallis (Sojourners), John Bell (Iona Community) and the Bishop of Durham (England), reflect on the biblical call for justice. This film was produced by the video team at Christian Aid, the international development agency of the churches of the UK and Ireland. Christian Aid works wherever the need is greatest – irrespective of religion or race." Watch it.

Duane Shank: Remembering the Past
Philosopher George Santayana is credited with the saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Over on The Huffington Post this morning, there is an excellent example of the truth of that statement. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. writes: "In 1968, my father, running for president, addressed in a speech, the White House's proposal for a troop surge in Vietnam. Robert Kennedy had initially supported the U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Forty years later, as Congress and the White House debate the further escalation of yet another war that has already claimed the lives of an astounding 640,000 Iraqis, killed 3,256 U.S. soldiers and wounded another 50,000, his words should have special resonance to those of our political leaders who are still searching for the right course in Iraq."


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Be a Tipping Point for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Sojourners seeks a media-savvy organizer to coordinate the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign. Position is for a 9-month contract to start ASAP. Find out more here.

"For the Peace of Jerusalem" - Churches for Middle East Peace advocacy conference - May 6-8, 2007, Washington, D.C. Featuring Lincoln Chafee, former U.S. Senator; Daniel Levy & Ghaith al-Omari, Israeli and Palestinian drafters, Geneva Accords. Details:www.cmep.org.

















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