Activism

Counting the Cost

From my seat in the balcony in the National Cathedral, I realized that the crowd I saw numbered nearly the same as the number of American soldiers who had fallen in the last four years. For the first time I could visualize and internalize just how far the true costs of war extend, not to mention the many thousands of Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives.

Larisa Friesen is director of advertising sales at Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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A Stream of Light

As we stepped out of the cathedral, wind blew snow from the rooftops, past the lit windows of the Cotswold-like cottage beside the cathedral. It was almost like a Thomas Kinkade painting—except that our destination was not the warmth of a bucolic cottage, but the lawn of the darkened White House, where no one but our fellow peace witnesses waited with welcome. So we passed the inviting windows by and kept walking. Our soggy sneakers slipped on the icy street as we sang songs such as "We are marching in the light of God" and, yes, even "Kumbaya." Eventually the snow and sleet stopped, and as we crested the hill, the marchers in front of us held their candles high. What a sight! The stream of light eclipsed the cold.

Laurel Rae Mathewson is an editorial intern at Sojourners.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Reaching Out

Walking beside me was our 15-year-old son, David, and Odess Monsanje, from Zambia, who is living with us for a year. When I got tired on Friday night, I issued a call for arms, and there was always someone beside me to put their arms up to carry our sign.

I would hope that this march and vigil was the beginning of a "New Call to Arms." Maybe our church can connect with military families in our community who have lost a loved one and are missing the hands and arms to get things done like small carpentry or plumbing jobs. Maybe we can be the "arms" and "hands" of sisters and brothers walking alongside of children who have lost a father or mother.

Jim King is a member of Plains Mennonite Church in Hatfield, Pa.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Broken and Transformed

Rollercoaster feelings all around began with the storming weather that day. While it kept many away, for those gathered in the National Cathedral it seemed to enhance the energy of the evening. It was my first time to attend such a large protest. The call for prayerful dissent solidified my commitment. We were there united by the cross, bearing witness to a brokenness in our world. We were instructed to "march as if perfect love casts out fear," remembering "not that we failed in Iraq, but that the war from the start was immoral."

What touched me most was the invitation to march as a Lenten observance—that our demonstration was about our own brokenness as well. I felt moved beyond "us and them." Embedded in the courage and vision of the organizers was a humility that could help create a new politics that connected, not divided us. It would lay open both the vulnerability and glory of the human condition. I overheard one officer claim that he "didn't have a heart." Perhaps, like me, he might have been transformed had he marched with us.

Helen LaKelly Hunt is a feminist activist and author.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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An Act of Divine Obedience

I WATCHED FOR MONTHS as many of my coworkers devoted themselves to preparation for the Christian Peace Witness, including weeks of negotiation for the civil disobedience. As this was my first structured opportunity to risk arrest, I took it very seriously. At first, to be honest, it seemed frivolous and self-centered. Breaking an arbitrary law, a symbolic gesture at best, posed little hope of changing anything about Bush's policies. Every detail seemed orchestrated with the police in advance, like an elaborate stage play with marks set and lines rehearsed.

But as I thought, prayed, and conversed with others, I was slowly won over to the value of this act. It was to be part of a uniquely and explicitly Christian witness, done prayerfully and from the deepest part of my faith—a chance for solidarity, if only in a small way, with many who have had no choice in this war or its disastrous consequences, and a powerful way for me as a person of faith to say that this war has not been in my name or the name of my Jesus. It was, in its purest form, faith and politics. In the end, regardless of tangible policy effects or media coverage, it was an act of divine obedience, like Daniel's faithfulness to his God in the face of countervailing authority.

Bob Francis is organizing/policy intern at Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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Ambassadors

Ambassadors. I'm a sometimes preacher, these days a Methodist holding forth among an Episcopal congregation in Detroit. All week in Washington—first through a trial for our September Declaration of Peace action at a House office building whereat we renounced again this deathly, illegal, and immoral war; during walks and talks with dear friends; and also throughout the service at the National Cathedral—I was always half brooding on my upcoming homily. There was grist of Word aplenty in the cathedral service, in text and testimony, and in a haunting doxology.

But it wasn't until we processed outside and began the walk down Massachusetts Avenue, down Embassy Row, that it began to dawn on me. Passing beneath darkened windows or backlit gawkers at embassies for the British and the Australians, for India and Pakistan, for Guatemala, Peru, Sudan, Croatia, Korea, Haiti, Ireland, even the Vatican, I found myself thinking about Paul's letter to the Corinthians. The Sunday epistle lection would summon the church not only to be reconciled to God and one another, but to be thereby "ambassadors of Christ." As we crossed the police line to the White House gates to begin a long cold vigil 'til arrest, I figured I had my sermon, or it finally had me.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann is pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Detroit and a Sojourners contributing editor.

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'Its Better to Light a Candle'

As part of a global movement marking the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, thousands of demonstrators holding burning torches formed a peace sign at the Heroes' Square in Budapest, Hungary. They called for the withdrawal of troops and an end to the war.

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Women's Work

The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May 2006, seemed promising on paper—any step toward stopping the Khartoum-sponsored genocide was a good step. Yet soon after the signing, violence in many areas increased, humanitarian access decreased, and now the agreement is dead in the water. What went wrong? One crucial factor was lack of buy-in by all stakeholders. Women leaders, for example, were largely excluded from the negotiations, and the Darfur Peace Agreement proved insufficient to its crucial task.

In peacemaking processes the world over, women are consistently underrepresented. At 50-plus percent of the population, we are the largest group to have this problem. It's not just a matter of fairness or equity: Creating sustainable solutions for conflict and post-conflict societies without the active leadership of women produces structural failure. Evidence shows that gender equality is not a pie-in-the-sky value, but a critical component for effecting long-term peace.

Perversely, modern warfare leads the way in "including" women, children, and civilians—it kills more of them than soldiers—and our approach to forging peace must follow. International Crisis Group's research in Sudan, Congo, and Uganda, for example, suggests that peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction, and governance do better when women are involved.

Why? Women have their fingers on the "pulse of the community." They live and work close to the roots of the conflict, witness unrecorded wartime atrocities, and understand necessary components for lasting reconciliation—such as bringing war criminals to justice. In the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, sex crimes against both men and women got significant redress only when women judges were on the bench.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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What Can I Do?

1) As a citizen:
Join the trade justice movement
Go to the "get involved" or "take action" links on the following Web sites:

Bring trade justice issues to church
Share and discuss faith-based resources, incorporate trade justice issues into worship services, and move your congregation to action both inside and outside the church walls.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2007
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Taking Action

• Write your members of Congress to demand that they not renew the president's "fast track" authority on trade agreements, which ties Congress's hands by allowing it only to approve or reject trade agreements, not amend them. Fast track will expire this June unless it's reauthorized.

• Ask Congress to direct the U.S. Trade Representative's office to give antipoverty, environmental, and religious groups at least as much access to trade negotiations as corporations have; also ask it to commission impact reports of how any proposed trade agreement will affect the poor, women, and the environment, in the U.S. and abroad.

• Ask Congress to move its supervision of the U.S. Trade Representative from the overworked people who are doing it now (the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee) to a select committee on globalization—one whose members bring expertise in poverty fighting, the global AIDS crisis, equity for women, labor rights, and the environment.

• Write a letter to your local newspaper when it misuses the term "free trade" and parrots the market-fundamentalist party line.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2007
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