Using the Afghan War Diaries to Guide our Path to Peace

By Shannon Sullivan 08-02-2010

The details brought to us in the Afghan War Diary from WikiLeaks paint a picture that those of us familiar with the wages of war have seen before. We see vast human rights abuses, routine murders of civilians, and a military authority more interested in protecting their own public image than anything else. We see war as the chaotic mess that it is.

Take this story: A man named Shum Khan ran "out of fear and confusion" (these are the words used in the report found here) when he saw troops coming. They fired warning shots at him, but when he kept running, they shot him in the ankle. They later discovered the man was deaf. Can you imagine living in conditions like that? Can you imagine being the young men and women who shot at him only to later discover he couldn't respond to them because he couldn't hear them? These are the stories that should move us, that should make us as Christians say that people, both the soldiers and the civilians, should not live like this. We as Christians ought to be as Christ was -- "to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death."

And yet, the talking points since the release of these documents have generally settled around whether or not they tell us anything new, in progressive circles, or whether or not they have greatly endangered the troops in Afghanistan, in more moderate and conservative circles. Even the president said in response to the leak that "these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan."

These discussions miss the point. As a person of faith, I want to pause to redirect the discussion of these documents. After missing numerous opportunities (like one pointed out by Logan Laituri in his own response to the media coverage of Wikileaks this week and like Wikileaks' release earlier this year of a disturbing video documenting the murder of civilians including two journalists), I think this is an opportunity for the faith community to stand up loudly against the war in Afghanistan. We are presented now with the opportunity to inject ourselves into the conversation currently captivating mainstream media, to use these documents to say eight years is eight years too long.

In church if you have a time for sharing of joys and concerns, pray for peace. Educate your congregation about the Afghan War Diary if they don't already know about it and begin to talk about how you can be engaged in peace work. Call your representatives and tell them that ending the war in Afghanistan must be a priority for them. This is an opportunity for us to let the Holy Spirit work through us for peace.

Such is the tender mercy of our God,

who from on high

will bring the Rising Sun to visit

to give light to those who live

in darkness and the shadow of death

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(Luke 1:79)

Shannon Sullivan is Faith and Public Life Beatitude's Society Fellow.

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