civil war

Iraq: Humility Is the Best Option

Via The U.S. Army, Flickr.com
Via The U.S. Army, Flickr.com

America is stunned by what is happening in Iraq right now, and happening so quickly. We may be facing the worst terrorist threat to international security so far — despite all we have done and sacrificed. Both our political leaders and media pundits are admitting there are no good options for the U.S. now. But there is an option we could try for the first time: humility. Let me turn to two biblical texts that might provide some wisdom for both the religious and non-religious.

If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:20–21)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

All nations use propaganda to tell half-truths and spread misinformation about their enemies, which should be honestly challenged. Even so, it is also true that we have real enemies in this world, as individuals, groups, and nations. To assume otherwise is foolish, from the perspective of history, certainly, but also in light of good theology about evil as part of the nature of the human condition. According to the Bible, even our faith communities will encounter enemies. Jesus’s teaching assumes that we will have enemies, and he teaches us how to treat them. In the passages above, Jesus and Paul the Apostle offer guidance for more effective ways of dealing with our enemies. It seems to be clear that our habit of going to war against them is increasingly ineffective. For the past several years, we have found ourselves in a constant state of war with “enemies” who are very hard to find or completely defeat.

Christians in the Sudan Face Travel Restrictions, Cardinal Says

A Sudanese Christian woman carries a cross. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

For Christians living in predominantly Muslim Sudan, travel restrictions are making life more difficult each day, a Roman Catholic cardinal said.

Sudanese Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako highlighted the challenges at a Catholic Bishops Conference in Juba, the Republic of South Sudan’s capital. His auxiliary bishop could not attend the Jan. 21-30 meeting because his passport was seized by security agents, along with those of eight priests.

“Christians in the two countries are facing difficulties,” Wako told the gathering. “We [bishops] must focus on serious matters and come up with strong messages.”

From the Archives: February 1976

IN TERMS, America has tried to heal itself. The Civil War took place in the 1860s. The civil rights movement took place in the 1960s. From America’s two biggest domestic conflicts emerge three main elements: the first, a group of people, primarily white, the majority and ruling group in society. Let’s call this group the “Land of the Free”; the second, also a group of people, but a minority, primarily black, originally from Africa, the “Other America”; and the third element of our simplified history is the slavery and poverty that divides the first group from the second and which we will call the “Wall.” ...

There are several questions I must ask myself if I am to be a Christian in America today. One that gives me a great sense of urgency is this: “If change only comes after confrontation and violence, what type of confrontation is needed to make the country livable for all people?”

The problems in the Other America are so deep and rooted spiritually as well as educationally, socially, and economically that it will take a supernatural power to deal with them short of violence. That power can only be released through people committed to a love that mobilizes all of their skills, resources, and much of their time and life in the struggle. That power is to be released through the church, “the fullness of God who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).

John Perkins was a Sojourners contributing editor and president of Voice of Calvary when this article appeared.

Image: Hand caught between walls, Vlue / Shutterstock.com

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Syrian Christians May Get Pulled into Civil War

View of Maalula village with Muslim Mosque and statue of Virgin Mary. Photo: Via RNS/John Wreford/Associated Reporters Abroad

A huge statue of the Virgin Mary towers over churches, monasteries and mosques in the Syrian city of Maaloula, where a dialect of the Aramaic language of Jesus is still spoken.

The town has managed to stay out of the Syrian conflict between Sunni Muslim rebels and the regime of dictator Bashar Assad, as have most of Syria’s 2 million Christians.

But worsening violence has forced the community into a corner: Continuous clashes between the rebels and the regime in this isolated town of 2,000 people as well as other Christian towns over the past two weeks have many Christians worried that they will no longer be allowed to stay neutral.

Obama, Seacrest, and Our War Against Indifference

Ryan Seacrest during an American Idol taping, s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Ryan Seacrest during an American Idol taping, s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

As President Barack Obama prepared to address the nation on Tuesday evening to articulate a plan for intervention in Syria, NBC rushed to assure its viewers that the Ryan Seacrest-hosted game show, The Million Second Quiz, would not be interrupted. As detailed by the network, the president would speak for only 15 minutes, thus viewers could watch their televisions with full confidence that the entirety of the hyped-up program would be fully protected. While there was suspense as to whether NBC would follow through on its promise of an unbroken telecast, the presidential coverage stayed within the agreed upon time slot, viewers were able to watch their regularly scheduled program, and all was well in the world.

In the meantime, all is not well in the world. 

Christian Pacifism: Relevant Beyond Syria

Create Peace sign, nagib / Shutterstock.com
Create Peace sign, nagib / Shutterstock.com

As the United States prepares to “officially” become involved in the Syrian war, Christian pacifism has reemerged as a much-discussed and relevant topic. Unfortunately, the concept has been somewhat misrepresented, undervalued, and often downright demonized within evangelical communities.

Critics often assume Christian Pacifism is some sort of radical political movement associated with marijuana-smoking hippies who are anti-government conspiracy theorists. To make matters worse, pop-culture (and much of Christian culture) has made pacifism seem, well, passive — as if pacifists are unpatriotic and un-American heretics who refuse to enlist in the military and avoid physical confrontations at all costs. They are characterized and perceived as weak, scared, and gutless.

In reality, the beliefs that form Christian pacifism are spiritual and scripturally founded around the life of Christ. And whether you agree with the theology, it’s hard to passively dismiss the Biblical argument for pacifism as some sort of crazy mumbo-jumbo.

The Ethics of a Syrian Military Intervention: The Experts Respond

Syria illustration, Aleksey Klints / Shutterstock.com
Syria illustration, Aleksey Klints / Shutterstock.com

As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.

God Didn’t Choose Sides at Gettysburg

RNS photo by Samuel Murray
Statue of Father William Corby at Gettysburg battlefield by Samuel Murray. Photo courtesy RNS.

During the July 1-3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, there were Christians and Jews on both sides of the conflict who knew the answer to the question “Whose side is God on?”

Or at least they thought they did.

In 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared: “Our cause is just and holy,” and the South self-assuredly adopted as its motto Deo vindice (“God will vindicate us”). In the same year, Julia Ward Howe composed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with the triumphant words: “He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword. … I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps. … Glory, glory Hallelujah, His truth is marching on.”

Al-Khatib and Al Jazeera: Listening to Victims in Syria

Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring / Shutterstock.com
Violence in Syria illustration, Lightspring / Shutterstock.com

What the heck is going on in Syria? If you are like me, you have a problem keeping all the players straight, and the unfamiliar Arab names don’t help. Thankfully, the Syrian president has a relatively easy name to remember, Bashar al-Assad, but keeping track of who’s who and which side they’re on is a real challenge. Frankly, even when I can keep track, I’m very skeptical that I am getting anything close to the truth from news outlets, the White House, or our State Department. The talk about a “red line,” no-fly zones, arming terrorists, and weapons of mass destruction sounds a lot like the falderal we were being fed going into the Iraq war. So what’s a good citizen of the world to do? If I can’t make sense of the news accounts myself, who can I find to help me out? And if I can’t trust my government to sort out the good guys from the bad guys for me, how can I ever figure out what, if anything, my government should be doing in my name?

Standing with Syrian Refugees

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Young children sit inside a tent in the Za’atari refugee camp. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Our ministry with the Mafraq Church helped us see the desperate need for volunteers and funds to help the Church continue this vital ministry. Thousands of Syrians continue to make their way to Jordan fleeing the violence. Already more than 500,000 Syrian refugees live in Jordan. The refugee camps are overcrowded. We visited the Zatari Camp that has become home to more than 130,000 people. As far as the eye can see, the visitor can observe row after row of tents and small mobile units. The main street is packed with refugees while numerous shops, vendors, makeshift hospitals, and NGO distribution centers have sprung up in response to the plight of the refugees.

Other refugees are finding temporary residence in rooms, apartments, and warehouses in towns and cities outside the camp. The number of refugees in Mafraq has even surpassed the number of Jordanian residents. Church volunteers distributed basic items such as mattresses, blankets, small gas cookers, and gas containers. In addition, we delivered food baskets containing $50.00 worth of groceries to each family we visited.

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