Parting with Sister Anne Montgomery

Sister Anne Montgomery, photo courtesy Kathy Kelly

Sister Anne Montgomery, photo courtesy Kathy Kelly

Anne Montgomery died this week. I remember her words to me and to our young Iraqi friend Eva, sitting in the Al Monzer hotel in Amman, Jordan. This was in 2006, and she’d waited three weeks for a visa to enter Iraq as a peace witness. Anne had crossed into zones of conflict more times than any other activist I’d known. During these weeks with us, she’d been meeting and working with Iraqi refugees, many of them undocumented and struggling to eke out a living in Jordan.

Now the wait was over. The visas were not forthcoming, and Anne had decided she was needed most in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, where the Christian Peacemaker Team — at that point, she had been a “CPT-er” for 11 years — was particularly short staffed and had requested a month of her time. She was going to attempt the crossing from Jordan into Israel by taxi, since Israel could very well have refused her entry, and we were to save a bed for her. But for the moment, we treasured the chance to learn from her in case this was a parting.

It was, and a greater parting has now come, so I take comfort in her words, and rededicate myself to taking direction from them.

Israeli Court Rules American Peace Activist Rachel Corrie's Death an 'Accident'

Rachel Corrie Memorial / Peace Vigil, Martin W. Kane / Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Corrie Memorial / Peace Vigil, Martin W. Kane / Wikimedia Commons

In the spring of 2003 I made myself a T-shirt. It said: "We Are All Rachel Corrie." I wore it as a constant reminder of the cost demanded of those who are peacemakers.

On March 16, 2003, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement stood with others to defend a Palestinian home from demolition by Israeli Defense Forces. The photos of Rachel, in her bright red ISM jacket, confronting the Goliath earth mover were some of the first indications Americans had of how the IDF was using bulldozers as weapons of war. Though Rachel was plainly visible to the driver, he continued to move forward, using his machine to crush her to death.

On August 28, Israeli judge Oded Gorshen ll invoked the “combatant activities” exception, noting that IDP forces had been attacked nearby and ruled Corrie’s death an “accident.”

Catholic Bishop: Unions and Government Will Sign Agreement After 44 Killed in Mine Violence

Bishop Kevin Dowling, the Catholic bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, is co-president with Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International, representing the global Catholic peace movement. The massacre by South African police of 44 striking miners at British-owned Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana is in Bishop Dowling's diocese. He is an active leader in the Catholic nonviolence movement.

Agenzia Fides reports from Johannesburg:

"Maybe tomorrow, August 29th, there will be the signing of an agreement between the unions and the managers of the platinum mine in Marikana (North West Province, in South Africa). This was reported to Fides Agency by His Exc. Mgr. Kevin Dowling, Bishop of Rustenburg.

"We hope the efforts of the government to sign a reconciliation agreement tomorrow among four trade union organizations and the management of the mine is successful," said Mgr. Dowling.

"Negotiations are still in progress and relate in particular to an increase in wages. Tension is still very high and workers who want to return to work are blocked with threats by strikers," said the Bishop, who is participating in efforts to negotiate with the other Christian leaders who are part of the South African Council of Churches.

On August 16, a union protest in the Marikana mine degenerated into violence: the police shot and killed 34 miners. In the fighting a total of 44 people died. In a statement sent to Fides Agency the Southern African Catholic Bishops'Conference (SACBC) called for a thorough investigation into the massacre and condemned the violence.

Read the rest here.

More Than 12,000 Christians "Starving" in the Village of Rableh: Humanitarian Law is Invoked

Agencia Fides, the Vatican news outlet for Catholic missioners, is the only news source for reports about Mussalaha, the popular faith-led peace movement in Syria. With violence fracturing along religious/ethnic lines, this inter-religious movement seeks to maintain safe havens for all Syrians who will lay down their weapons. Mussalaha is also smuggling food, medicine, and hope into blockaded cities, such as Rableh where more than 12,000 Christians have been under siege for more than 10 days.

Agencia Fides reports: Over 12 thousand faithful Greek-Catholics are trapped in the village of Rableh, west of Qusayr, in the area of Homs. Food is scarce, the faithful are living on "bread and water", medicine is lacking to treat the sick and wounded. This is the alarm raised by local sources of Fides that invoke respect for humanitarian law, that confirm what the international press is reporting on the situation in Rableh. For more than ten days the village of Rableh is subject to a strict blockade by armed opposition groups, which surround it on all sides....

 ...representatives of the popular initiative for reconciliation "Mussalaha" were able to carry a small load of humanitarian aid to the village. A representative of "Mussalaha" assured the faithful by claiming that "everything will be done to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid." An appeal was launched by His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, visibly moved, to all men of good will so that "Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria, and finally for peace to be reached in our beloved country." Even the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, His Exc. Mgr. Mario Zenari, called on all parties involved "to the strict observance of the international humanitarian law", pointing out that the resolution of the crisis in Syria depends first of all on its citizens.

Read the whole article.

Indian Churches Try to Broker Peace in Assam

Interethnic violence has flashed through India during the conclusion of the Muslim holy season of Ramadan during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Catholic leaders in northern India, where Muslim migrants have been particularly targeted, has called for common ground dialogue and hosted meetings with leaders of the conflicted communities based on the Catholic churches long-standing relationships with both communities.

Anto Akkara for ENI NEWS reports:

"Churches are initiating steps to broker peace and restore harmony in the northeast Indian state of Assam, which has been rocked by bloody clashes between local ethnic Bodo people and Muslim migrants.

'We have hosted leaders of both communities twice already. We are now preparing a larger meeting of both communities after Ramadan,"'Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon diocese that comprises the troubled region, told ENInews on 15 August 2012.

The clashses have left 78 dead and over 400,000 refugees."

Read the rest of the article here.

Muslims Brace For Tense Holiday

Praying illustration,  Zurijeta /

Praying illustration, Zurijeta /

Following attacks on seven U.S. mosques in the last two weeks, including three attacks last weekend, many Muslim Americans are approaching the end of Ramadan on Aug. 19 under a cloud of fear as Muslim groups try to increase security without spurring panic.

According to reports, vandals shot paintballs at the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City on Aug. 12, and in Lombard, Ill., someone threw a bottle filled with acid at an Islamic school while 500 people prayed inside. The night before, a neighbor fired an air rifle at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill., while on Aug. 7, two women were videotaped throwing pig legs on a proposed mosque site in Ontario, Calif.

'We Are All Oak Creek:' Prayer Vigil Near White House (Photos)

Prayer vigil near the White House for the Sikh community. Photo by Rose Marie Be

Prayer vigil near the White House for the Sikh community. Photo by Rose Marie Berger / Sojourners

Four hundred people gathered across from the White House last night with a single message: “We are all Oak Creek.” 

Responding to the murder of six Sikh worshippers, the wounding of four others, including police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, and the suicide of perpetrator Wade M. Page, hundreds gathered to stand with the Sikh community as they invited prayers for the victims, the murderer, and his family. "Tonight, we are not Jain, Muslim, Hindu,” announced one speaker, “we are all Sikh tonight. We are all Oak Creek. We will not allow fear to overcome us."

In a response reminiscent of the Amish during the Nickel Mines, Pa., massacre in 2006, the Sikh community, the fifth largest religion in the world, is not used to the national spotlight in the U.S. But neither do they shy away from an opportunity to introduce their faith to a wider audience and to practice what they preach. 

Was Jesus a Pacifist?

Crown of thorns and nails, Jill Battaglia /

Crown of thorns and nails, Jill Battaglia /

Editor's Note: The following is a question from Christian Piatt's book Banned Questions About Jesus. It is on sale on Amazon Kindle for $2.99 through July 25. 

Jarrod McKenna: No.

Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. And we as disciples must wield the same sword Jesus brings, and no other.

The question is, what is this sword?

What is this sword that heals rather than harms enemies?

What is this sword that never collaborates or mirrors the Powers, thereby exposing their addiction to violence?

What is this sword that prophetically turns over tables of idolatry and injustice in a judgment that does not harm, hurt, coerce or kill anyone?

What is this fire that is ablaze with the very presence of I AM in response to the cries of the oppressed, this fire that does not destroy the bush in which it burns?

What is this power that is ablaze on the cross, sucking the oxygen of injustice and violence from creation then causes a cosmic backdraft in the resurrection, setting the world alight with the love that conquers death?

A Public Service Announcement from a Coloradoan

Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

The Aurora, Colo., movie theater where 12 people were killed early Friday. Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

It's a sad day in Colorado. Our collective hearts hurt.

I didn't want to blog today. Blogging in response to everything that happens in the news can come across as knee-jerk, reactionary, self-serving, and exploitive. We're called to "pray without ceasing" — not to blog without ceasing. Sometimes reverent silence is what is needed.

The staff at Sojourners contacted me and invited me to write something in response to what just happened. So, I'm not writing a blog. I'm providing a Public Service Announcement.

Jimmy Carter Tries to Pull the Log from America’s Eye

Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GettyImages

President Jimmy Carter in Egypt last month. Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GettyImages

Earlier this week, former President Jimmy Carter critiqued the United States for its (read: our) deteriorating record on human rights and rule of law in the last decade.

But those responding to Carter's New York Times Op-Ed (“A Cruel and Unusual Record”) have largely missed his main point. In the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, Carter wants to lead America in removing the log from our own eye in hopes of honoring God and regaining our position as champions of human rights and rule of law.

During his visit to Cairo for the Egyptian elections, Carter met with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar — the most authoritative voice in Sunni Islam. Discussing human rights, religion, and the historic election that was taking place outside, Carter exhibited a rare humility in articulating his convictions. I feel that a whole range of human interactions might be improved if we would each remove the log from our own eye before trying to remove the speck from our neighbor’s.

Sitting with women’s rights activists and top Christian leadership; in private briefings and press conferences, this self-critique proved central to Carter’s efforts to build trust and advance human rights in Egypt and around the world.

After decades of lectures from the White House and U.S. State Department, much of the world has grown tired of the West’s wagging finger and “holier than thou” attitude. There may have been an era when this posture had a greater effect, but the U.S. has lost too much of its moral credibility in the wake of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and drone strikes carried out against the President Obama's “Hit List”.