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Letters to the Editor
Responding to the recent Sojourners article by Ryan Rodrick Beiler (“Undeterred by the Facts,” February 2017) regarding the arrest and detention of World Vision Gaza Director Mohammed el-Halabi, I would like to clarify the following pertinent issues.
El-Halabi has been indicted on charges of membership in a terror organization, use of material goods for terror, providing intelligence and material aid to the enemy in wartime, and illegal possession of arms and ammunition. If a plea deal will not be agreed between the sides, the Israeli state prosecution will present evidence on all these charges in a manner consistent with due process, fair trial, and maximum possible transparency given security considerations.
Hence, it is hard to understand Rodrick Beiler’s conclusion that Israel is “undeterred by the facts.” The case will move forward based only on evidentiary fact. Beiler also questions why Israel would level such charges against a Christian aid organization. The only reason is that, unfortunately, due to lack of adequate oversight, the charges appear to be true. This is probably why Western donor countries have suspended aid to World Vision Gaza operations pending trial.
We also reject and totally deny the unfounded intimations in Rodrick Beiler’s report that el-Halabi has been mistreated in Israeli custody. This is not the case. El-Halabi has also had access at all times to professional medical care and has been visited by his attorneys and family.
Embassy of Israel
Ryan Rodrick Beiler Responds:
Itai Bardov writes at length about the fair trial that Mohammed el-Halabi will be granted by the Israeli legal system. He then declares that “the charges appear to be true.” This is consistent with the Israeli foreign ministry’s campaign, as described in my article, to hype el-Halabi’s presumed guilt long before due process has had the chance to take its course.
Recent and extensive documentation by international, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Al Haq, and others) has indicated routine use of torture and other forms of abuse of Palestinians within the Israeli legal system, adding credibility to el-Halabi’s allegations of such treatment.
Regarding el-Halabi’s alleged crimes, and the claim that “Western donor countries have suspended aid” to World Vision, I would direct Bardov to the recent investigation conducted by the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which “uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds” on the part of el-Halabi.
While it is doubtful that the Israeli legal system will offer el-Halabi a “fair trial and maximum possible transparency,” as Bardov claims, it is certain that World Vision, the Australian government, and the international human rights community present a very different narrative from that offered by Netanyahu’s right-wing Israeli government. Whom will you believe?
Correction: Our May 2017 issue credited climate change research to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The surveys were actually a partnership between George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication and the Yale program.
“On the other hand…” Write to email@example.com or Letters, Sojourners, 408 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Include your name, city, and state. Letters may be edited.
New & Noteworthy
Forcing the Law
Do Not Resist , the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Documentary winner, directed by Craig Atkinson, is a critical glimpse into the militarization of policing in the U.S. Where will hyped-up police training, battle armor, weaponry, and surveillance technology take us? Vanish Films
Wary of science, or seeking a way to engage those who are? How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science gathers stories from pastors, biblical scholars, theologians, and scientists. Edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump. IVP Academic
In Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah are igniting conversations in Buddhist communities around the country about the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy in their religion. North Atlantic Books
Through diverse writers and his own experience, Orthodox priest Michael Plekon looks beyond the formal and liturgical in Uncommon Prayer: Prayer in Everyday Experience. What are the permutations of the “Prayer of Pierogi Making”? Why should we not fear the “Prayer of Darkness”? Notre Dame Press
New & Noteworthy
Choosing a Different Way
The documentary film Disturbing the Peace describes the path former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters took from armed conflict to nonviolent peace activism, resulting in the creation of Combatants for Peace. A model for overcoming polarization and rejecting violence, in an unlikely place. disturbingthepeacefilm.com
Author Melvin Bray presents a creative, questioning, culturally engaged approach to our sacred stories as a path to a stronger, more just, and loving faith. Better: Waking Up to Who We Could Be is a resource for Christians “for whom uncritical certitude is no longer working.” Chalice Press
Global Migration: What’s Happening, Why, and a Just Response explains key issues linked to contemporary migration and practical responses, guided by principles of Catholic social teaching. By Elizabeth W. Collier and Charles R. Strain with input from Catholic Relief Services. Anselm Academic
Prophets of Profit
In Brand® New Theology: The Wal-Martization of T.D. Jakes and the New Black Church , Paula L. McGee encourages pastors and scholars to see prosperity churches as a formidable force. She explores such churches’ troubling interweaving of commerce and faith and how they disempower their majority-female congregations. Orbis Books
Seven Elements of Just Peace
In April 2016, Roman Catholics from around the world gathered at the Vatican to discuss how the church might embrace the principles of nonviolence and just peace more deeply (see "Game Changer?" in the December 2016 issue of Sojourners.)
And what does "just peace" include? Here are seven key principles:
Just cause: protecting, defending, and restoring the fundamental dignity of all human life and the common good
Right intention: aiming to create a positive peace
Participatory process: respecting human dignity by including societal stakeholders—state and nonstate actors as well as previous parties to the conflict
Right relationship: creating or restoring just social relationships both vertically and horizontally; strategic systemic change requires that horizontal and vertical relationships move in tandem on an equal basis
Reconciliation: a concept of justice that envisions a holistic healing of the wounds of war
Restoration: repair of the material, psychological, and spiritual human infrastructure
Sustainability: developing structures that can help peace endure over time
Adapted from “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?” by Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, in Peacebuilding (Orbis Books, 2010).
Letters to the editors from Sojourners readers.
We Cannot Rest; We Must Rest
HERE'S A PARADOX: If justice delayed is justice denied, we cannot rest while anyone suffers; at the same time, we can’t work tirelessly for justice without rest. It’s the kind of pesky conundrum we face just as we’re settling in for a night of sweatpants and Netflix: The prophets in the Bible decried those who sit on fine couches while their neighbors go hungry ... but does that mean it’s wrong to re-watch the entire season of Queer Eye when we could be doing something more productive?
In this issue, Baptist minister J. Dana Trent uses the fourth commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”) to reframe our quandary. Through this commandment to practice “ritual rest from our labor,” writes Trent, “we opt out of tyranny and opt into care for one another.” At its heart, Sabbath rest isn’t a pause from justice work; it’s a way of disrupting a culture of what Walter Brueggemann describes as “endless desire, endless productivity, and endless restlessness.”
New & Noteworthy: May 2018
From Stage to Screen
Pulitzer Prize finalist Anna Deavere Smith brings her critically acclaimed play Notes from the Field to the screen. Based on hundreds of interviews with students, teachers, parents, and administrators, the production brilliantly highlights the disturbing U.S. school-to-prison pipeline. HBO
Love for Creation
Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World presents practical, faithful responses to environmental issues. With scientific data and comprehensive biblical theology, Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo invite readers to explore their relationship with creation and the Creator. Zondervan
New & Noteworthy
Yes, She Can
Dolores Huerta changed the course of history when she formed what became the United Farm Workers union with César Chávez. Often overshadowed by her co-founder, Huerta’s defiant resistance, struggle, and sacrifice take center stage in Peter Bratt’s captivating documentary, Dolores. Premieres March 27 on PBS. doloresthemovie.com
An Emerging Voice
Folk singer Azniv Korkejian was born in Aleppo, Syria, to an Armenian family. Relocated to Saudi Arabia and then to the U.S., Korkejian’s moniker, “Bedouine,” is drawn from the name of a nomadic group. With gentle guitar and smooth vocals, her self-titled debut album affirms her identity as a wanderer. Spacebomb
The Present Political Quagmire
The February 2018 issue raises big questions for our country and the evangelical church. The authors of “Is This a Bonhoeffer Moment?” (Lori Brandt Hale and Reggie L. Williams) and “When Seminary Becomes a Threat” (Wesley Granberg-Michaelson) rightly point out the risks of making parallels between two different historical contexts (Germany in the 1930s and 21st century America). Yet there are striking similarities, particularly the ease with which evangelical Christians, in America today and in Germany then, accepted populist movements and their nationalistic programs. In both cases, the populist forces were able to exploit societal anxieties and make a sentimental appeal to a cultural form of Christianity that served its purposes.
The slogan of the Nazified German Christians was “Germany our goal, Christ our power!” Based on a distorted interpretation of Lutheran theology, a group of theologians at the time issued a document, known as the Ansbacher Ratschlag, opposing the Barmen Declaration. It was addressed to the National Socialist Evangelical Union of Pastors and included this statement: “... we as believing Christians thank the Lord God that in this hour of need he has given our people the Fuhrer as a ‘good and faithful sovereign,’ and that in the Nationalistic Socialist state he is endeavoring to provide us with disciplined and honorable ‘good government.’” This distant mirror of attitudes—and even words—that are with us today should give Christians great concern. The vulnerability of the American church did not come about in the presidential election of November 2016. The present political quagmire has only exposed it.
I have just read “‘A Terrorist War Against Women,’” by Serene Jones (February 2018). Reading stories of sexual violence against women gives me hope that something can be done about that evil. But there is one voice that is not heard too often. It is that of sexual violence against men by male authority figures. I suspect there are many men out there who trusted a male authority figure and were assaulted. We are hurting.
On Rage and Apathy
IN THIS ISSUE, Victoria Newton Ford writes about Ava DuVernay’s forthcoming movie adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s bestselling fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time. As in the book, Meg Murry travels through time to find her missing father. But DuVernay, who also directed Selma (2014) and 13th (2016), adds a twist. In the film, Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace, are black. For Ford, this delivers something the novel cannot: “a hero of the universe who, in our current political space and time, is afforded the least agency.” In other words, writes Ford, “Meg is an angry black girl.”
A film that depicts a black protagonist—in all her fury, pain, and love—is especially radical, Ford explains, because America has continually “sought to conscript ... black [women] into a toolbox for the country’s deliverance.” She points to the political heroization of Oprah, Michelle Obama, and the black women voters in Alabama who defeated Roy Moore’s senatorial bid.
New & Noteworthy
A Returning Voice
Songwriter Audrey Assad, daughter of a Syrian refugee, releases her first album of original material in four years. Evergreen features songs about “rebirth, the rebuilding of trust, and the discovery of joy and love.” PledgeMusic
Respect for Refugees
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei brings the global refugee crisis to the big screen through his captivating documentary Human Flow. Filmed in 23 countries, the documentary features stories of desperation, courage, and resilience and speaks to our shared humanity. humanflow.com
A Prophetic Exchange
“How God Intervenes” (January 2018), with Kenyatta Gilbert and Walter Brueggemann, is a wonderful interview. How blessed we are to have these two wise and articulate prophets among us. There is so much insight in their challenging and inspiring exchange.
Political Drama, Then and Now
““DRAMATIC, POLITICAL, incendiary.” They seem like words you’d see splashed across the dust jacket of Fire and Fury, the controversial account of the Trump White House that generated a firestorm of presidential tweets when it was released earlier this year. But in this issue, Bible scholar Reta Halteman Finger uses those words to describe an older form of political drama: the book of Revelation.
Despite Revelation’s reputation as a harbinger of doom, Finger explains that the final book in the New Testament needs to be understood as an example of apocalyptic resistance literature, a genre of writing originally “intended to bring hope during times of political uncertainty or persecution.” This hope isn’t rooted in imperial acts of violence; it’s rooted in the victory of the Lamb, slaughtered but resurrected.
New & Noteworthy
A Voice of Compassion
Artist and activist Mavis Staples speaks to the increasing social divide in her latest album, If All I Was Was Black. In this interracial and multigenerational project, Staples doesn’t shy away from anger but, as always, her ultimate message is the promise of positive change. Anti- Records
Peacemaking with Purpose
Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart, co-founders of The Global Immersion Project, believe peacemaking practices should be grounded in Jesus’ teachings. Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World is full of stories, insights, and questions for discussion and shows what it means to live as a true global citizen. InterVarsity Press
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers.
Beyond a Caricatured Hero
THE PAGES OF this magazine rarely feature scathing reviews, but in 2011 we made an exception.
That year, in our February issue, we published Nancy Lukens’ critique of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas. Lukens, a German professor who translated many of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works into English, described the book as “stunningly flawed,” and lambasted Metaxas for trying to sculpt the 20th-century German pastor into an evangelical warrior on a crusade against liberal Christianity. Metaxas “does both Bonhoeffer and contemporary readers a gross disservice in implying that evangelicals are immune from the tragic error of merging nationalistic fervor with Christian piety,” wrote Lukens.
Fast forward seven years: Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer biography boasts a bestseller sticker, and a resurgence of nationalistic fervor helped win Donald Trump the White House—and the explicit support of many white evangelical leaders, including Metaxas.
Dreaming of A New World
IN WALTER BRUEGGEMANN'S first article for Sojourners, published in November 1983, he described the “radical break” we prepare for in Advent as “the Bible’s effort to break our imagination.”
In the decades that followed, Brueggemann’s keen analysis of scripture has called out some of the darkest practices of American empire, including consumerism, gun violence, financial corruption, environmental exploitation, and sexual assault. But while he’s never shied from speaking truth to power, Brueggemann has repeatedly emphasized that the core of the prophetic vocation isn’t merely to rebuke unjust systems, but rather, as he wrote in 1983, “to think a genuinely new thought, to dream of a genuinely new world that will displace the old failed one.”
New & Noteworthy
Faith in the Dark
Indie rock singer and Memphis native Julien Baker examines sexual identity, Christianity, and mental health in her latest album, Turn Out the Lights. Influenced by the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, Baker’s album is a meditation on empathy and unity. Matador Records
Memoir of Survival
Nadia Murad was just 21 years old when she was forced into the ISIS slave trade in northern Iraq. Now a human rights activist, Murad details her narrow escape in The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. Tim Duggan Books
Letters to the editor from Sojourners readers