In the bright light of these days’ events it is helpful to be reminded of unalterable truths that transcend party conventions and oppressive governments. The political gatherings and increasing pain of the Middle East conflicts confuse the consciousness. They divert attention and trouble our slumber. Corporate callousness and individual hopelessness has set in and we have turned our faces to that which inures us from the persistent discomforting news.
Pick your own, even if momentary distraction. For me it has been Washington National’s baseball in the drive for a championship and maybe a World Series appearance. My spirit rises or falls on the team’s performances and batting averages of the Nats mini gods.
The biblical Job sought less superficial solace from his and the world’s sufferings. He responded to one of his “comforters” saying “when the land falls into the hand of the wicked He (God) blindfolds its judges” (9:24).
“Stop fighting,” suggests Farzana, a brave 22-year-old Afghan stage actress.
Significantly, her statement is in sharp contrast to what seems to be the democratic world’s unquestioned modus operandi of today, exemplified by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pet-phrase for Afghanistan, ‘Fight, talk and build.’
What Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers are sensibly suggesting is a ceasefire.
A ceasefire — like the one called for in Kofi Annan’s Six Point Peace Plan for Syria that Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers also supported — is a first step towards ending the equally sectarian war and incendiary global politicking in Afghanistan.
It is crucially needed to stop the color-code chaos of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks in which 45 coalition security forces, mainly Americans, have been killed by "allies," Afghan security forces, or insurgents posing as soldiers or police.
It is what is needed to end the four Afghan decades of using mutual killing as a method of conflict resolution. The U.N. is uniquely well-positioned to do this, empowered by their original Charter to "remove the scourge of war from future generations."
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.
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.”
In the recent past there was a small group of children gathered in the village of Tucville, located near Georgetown, Guyana. After a few hours of games on the street, the curious crew wandered away from adult supervision and explored a nearby abandoned sewage facility. The children enjoyed their playful investigation, but as they walked a narrow path near the edge of a raw sewage container, a 5-year old girl named Briana Dover accidentally slipped, fell, and quickly sank to the bottom.
As to be expected, Briana’s friends immediately screamed and ran for help, but as neighbors and witnesses rushed to the site, they all stood in shock. Although some considered diving into the tank, no one stepped forward. The container was too large, the smell of rotten feces too disgusting, and the actions required far too dangerous. With each passing moment Briana held to the brink of life at the bottom of the sewage reservoir, moving closer to death with each tick of the clock.
In the meantime, a middle-aged Rastafarian named Ordock Reid heard the commotion. After initially thinking it was a worker dispute, he eventually examined the situation, and as he approached the tank, he was greeted with loud screams and anguished faces. When he was told about Briana’s predicament, he acted immediately. Ordock Reid – a total stranger – took off his clothes, tied-up his dreadlocks, fastened a rope to his waist (handed the other end to an onlooker), and submerged himself through the muck and filth in an attempt to rescue Briana Dover.
Ever since the global financial cabal drove the world's economies into a ditch, popular movements have been rising up to fight "austerity measures" that exact punishment on the poor and leave the rich untouched. This is a familiar biblical meme for the definition of injustice. The words of the prophet Jeremiah come to mind: "Your clothes are stained with the blood of the poor and innocent" (Jeremiah 2:34).
"When Spanish mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo recently led farmers on a supermarket sweep, raiding the local shops for food as part of a campaign against austerity, his political immunity as an elected assembly member protected him from arrest. He now asks other local mayors to ignore central government demands for budget cuts and refuse to implement evictions and lay-offs. In this era of austerity, such flagrant disrespect for the law ought to be encouraged. Sometimes, the greatest strength of popular movements is their capacity to disrupt. So here, for the benefit of imaginative indignados, are five examples of civil disobedience:
“There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.” — German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
In Goma, the epicenter of Congo mayhem, where corruption and poverty thrive, Fidel Bafilemba embodies the courage to challenge the norm of his home country.
“That’s me—the disorder of this country, but also the hope for a better future. A hope for an educated people. That’s me. Fidel Bafilemba, activist.”
Working for peace in his hometown has been a journey of transformation—Fidel is a militia member turned peace activist. In the midst of chaos, Fidel manifests hope—a hope for a better future where he, his family, and his community can make self-determined decisions for prosperity and reconciliation.
His struggle is to bring to fruition God’s “kingdom come,” even amid the mayhem of his environment, “for the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.” (1 Cor. 4:20).
When others see destruction, poverty, and war, Fidel envisions the future of his people. It is a future of a Congo lush with natural resources and beauty that benefits, rather than destroys, communities. That’s why Fidel refuses to accept impunity and injustice, and seeks to empower others to question and ask, “why?”
“Why don’t we have roads? Why don’t we have education? Why don’t we have, why don’t we have?”
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.
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.
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.
“Peace for humanity is not only the absence of war, or the end of violence ... For us Christians, peace is based on a fundamental new relationship between mankind and God. That is why Christ said he brought peace, ‘not as the world gives.’ He brought a different peace.” – Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, known as Don Samuel, a champion of the poor and of the indigenous people in southern Mexico
Eastern Congo is home to some of the world’s most stunning scenery—and some of its most brutal and unimaginable violence. The relationship between these two symbols of the region is a close one.
Part of the call of Christian peacemakers is not only to make peace between people a reality, but also to bring peace between people and the planet. In his work, conservationist Dominique Bikaba recognizes that peace between people and peace with our environment are closely intertwined, and he is seeking to bring about both.
Armed groups are waging war in eastern Congo, taking no heed of the grave impact that the conflict is having on the environment around them. The resources of the region are being exploited, to the detriment of future generations. This disregard for the communities of the region is a modern-day salting of the land. It’s a practice well known to the people of Israel in the Old Testament, in which armies would spread salt on the land of their adversaries so that nothing would grow there (see Judges 9:45).
The conflict in Congo is being waged on local communities—but Dominique is a problem-solver. He is seeking creative ways to conserve these communities while conserving the environment they inhabit, fostering the inherent relationship between the two. He is “bringing the forest to the community.”
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.
I heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in the middle of leading worship. It was the same space where two months ago we buried a child killed by gun violence. It was the same space where two weeks ago we prayed for the community of Aurora. And now we were gathered again and like the family of an addict we were left with the pain of a destructive lifestyle.
We wept. We prayed. We sang.
I stood up and said, “We have prayed. And there is power in prayer. Change can happen with prayers. And we pray for brothers and sisters who worship a different God than ours and yet we call them our family. We pray for the shooter because we are taught to pray for our enemies. But prayer is not enough."
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?
In 1991, Rodney King was stopped and beaten by a group of Los Angeles police officers. The stop was not unusual, and the beating was a tragic reminder of the history and the reality of police brutality in the United States. The difference this time was that the beating was recorded on videotape. Rodney King became a symbol of racist injustice perpetrated by ordinary people, of injustice perpetrated by law enforcement.
Also in 1991, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, a Burmese activist for democracy. Under house arrest at the time, she could not travel to Oslo to receive the award. She was then and is today a symbol of patient persistent witness against oppression and for human rights.
On June 16, 2012, Aung Sun Suu Kyi received her 1991 prize in Oslo. On June 17, 2012, Rodney King was found dead in the swimming pool of his home. Both of these individuals are important because of their choices for peace.