A Heart for Peace

The surprising new surge in evangelical peacemaking.

Lisa Sharon Harper (@lisasharper) is Chief Church Engagement Officer for Sojourners and co-author of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith.

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is chair of the Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons of the World Evangelical Alliance and founder of the Two Futures Project.

Permanent Preparations for War

Most of us have read President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell speech warning of the growing military-industrial complex in the U.S.  Fifty years later, many of his fears have become realities. Aaron B. O’Connell, an assistant professor of history at the United States Naval Academy and a Marine reserve officer, points out in a New York Times column the part of Ike’s speech we don’t often remember: Eisenhower’s least heeded warning — concerning the spiritual effects of permanent preparations for war — is more important now than ever.”

He explains:

“Uncritical support of all things martial is quickly becoming the new normal for our youth. Hardly any of my students at the Naval Academy remember a time when their nation wasn’t at war. Almost all think it ordinary to hear of drone strikes in Yemen or Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. The recent revelation of counterterrorism bases in Africa elicits no surprise in them, nor do the military ceremonies that are now regular features at sporting events. That which is left unexamined eventually becomes invisible, and as a result, few Americans today are giving sufficient consideration to the full range of violent activities the government undertakes in their names.”

Family Research Council Shooter Charged with Terrorism

WASHINGTON -- A federal grand jury added terrorism to the list of charges faced by the Virginia man who was indicted in the shooting of a security guard at the conservative Family Research Council's Washington offices.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, of Herndon, Va., was arrested Aug. 15, shortly after police say he opened fire in the lobby of the FRC's downtown headquarters, injuring an unarmed security guard.

Before he opened fire, Corkins reportedly was carrying a bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and told security guard Leo Johnson he disagreed with the FRC's politics; the FRC had supported the fast-food chain's donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

Corkins pleaded not guilty to initial charges of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, as well as the District of Columbia offenses of assault with intent to kill while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.

How To (and Not To) Respond to the Current Crisis in the Middle East

A shared meal in Hebron.

A shared meal in Hebron.

My heart is heavy.   

Every day for the last week, media outlet have told their version of the current uprising stretching across the Middle East (Egypt, Libya, Yemen).  Whether it’s pictures of embassies burned to the ground, rioting citizens, or highly politicized comics, the surge of content has been anything but “feel-good” and hopeful.

And that’s because the events and corresponding responses have been anything but “feel-good” and hopeful.     

My heart breaks because I know the events that are unfolding do not represent the majority of those who inhabit the Middle East. I spend a significant amount of time in there and have built deep, life-long friendships.

Just two weeks ago I sat around a table and shared a meal with Christians, Jews and Muslims in the home of a devout Muslim family in the region. A day after that, I served alongside Muslim youth workers who are promoting non-violence and reconciliation in the face of oppression and poverty.  

On the same day, I sat with an Arab Christian who embodied Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in dealing with daily injustice by saying, “We refuse to be enemies.” Lastly — and what keeps playing over and over in my head — are the words spoken to me by a Muslim friend named Omar who said,

“Please give this message to all of your American friends. We (Arab Muslims and Christians) desire peace.  The violence you see in the news does not represent us.  It is not the majority, it is the smallest minority of extremism.  Please listen to our story and accept our friendship.”

In Lebanon, Pope Benedict Tells Middle Eastern Christians: 'Fear Not'

Poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beruit, Lebanon.

Poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Beruit, Lebanon.

BEIRUT — As violent protests against an anti-Islam film spread to much of the Muslim world on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon to a warm welcome from Christian and Muslim leaders.

The pontiff's appeal for peace and reconciliation in the region, however, stood in jarring contrast with violent clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, which left one dead and 25 injured.    

Landing at Beirut's airport in the early afternoon, Benedict praised Lebanon as an example of "coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions."    

Without referring expressly to the unrest, the pope warned that the country's "equilibrium" is "extremely delicate."  

Photo Essay: 'Ramadan Kareem' at Jerusalem Checkpoints?

(photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

The hands of Palestinian men grip the steel bars at the Bethlehem checkpoint. (photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

Due to a temporary relaxation in Israeli policy, many Palestinians traveled to Jerusalem through checkpoints during Ramadan this year. But now that Ramadan is over, it’s back to business as usual.

Every day, thousands of Palestinians circumvent the Israeli separation wall by crossing into Jerusalem without permission from Israeli authorities. Israeli journalist Haggai Matar recently described this major flaw in the wall’s security rationale, even quoting a pro-barrier activist who admits:

“'There’s no problem crossing the gaps in the fence and tens of thousands of illegal workers cross it back and forth every day, and there should be no problem getting suicide bombers through with them,” stresses Ilan Tsi’on, co-founder of 'A Fence for Life.' 'So why don’t they? Because that’s the Palestinians’ choice.'”

The same logic applies to the checkpoints controlling movement within territory under Israeli occupation since 1967 — including East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, the Haram Al-Sharif (or Temple Mount), and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Though Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, no other nation recognizes the legitimacy of the action and international consensus still regards it as occupied Palestinian territory. That so many Palestinians routinely risk arrest and prison by circumventing these checkpoints — without incident — shows that their security rationale is absurd. While at the same time, the vast majority of Palestinians who try to play by the rules of occupation remain restricted under Israel’s matrix of control.

The Uncomfortable Questions Around Terrorism and Race

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

Since 9/11, many Americans have conflated terrorism with Muslims; and having done so, they've tolerated or supported counterterrorism policies safe in the presumption that people unlike them would bear their brunt. (If Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD sent officers beyond the boundaries of New York City to secretly spy on evangelical Christian students or Israeli students or students who own handguns the national backlash would be swift, brutal, and decisive. The revelation of secret spying on Muslim American students was mostly defended or ignored.)     

In the name of counterterrorism, many Americans have given their assent to indefinite detention, the criminalization of gifts to certain charities, the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, and a sprawling, opaque homeland security bureaucracy; many have also advocated policies like torture or racial profiling that are not presently part of official anti-terror policy.

What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by those policies? What if the sprawling national security bureaucracy we've created starts directing attention not just to Muslims and their schools and charities, but to right-wing militias and left-wing environmental groups (or folks falsely accused of being in those groups because they seem like the sort who would be)?

Read more here

LAPD Modifies Surveillance Program of Muslims

Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo b

Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

After lobbying from Muslim and Sikh leaders, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to modify its information-gathering program on suspicious activities after the New York Police Department came under fire for spying on local Muslims.

Since 2008, the LAPD has used the federal Suspicious Activities Reporting (SAR) program to file reports on potential terrorist-related actions, such as someone photographing certain buildings. Sikh and Muslim leaders said the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau should ensure that future suspicious activity reports are prompted by actual behavior with apparently genuine criminal or terrorist elements.

Still Things Left Unsaid When it Comes to Drones

From Mother Jones this morning:

White House Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan officially acknowledged the administration's targeted killing of Al Qaeda members abroad for the first time in a speech on Monday. But Brennan didn't tell the whole story: He largely rehashed the legal rationale for targeted killings of specific Al Qaeda suspects, instead of defending the use of more controversial "signature strikes," in which targets are selected based on a "pattern of behavior."

Read the full story here

Homeless Veteran to President Obama: "Why Are We Sending Money to Pakistan?"

During the first-ever all-virtual interview conducted by Americans via Google+'s "hangout" group video chat feature, a young, homeless veteran in Boston asked President Obama why the United States still gives money to countries such as Pakistan, that are known to fund terrorism — especially when there are so many veterans living on the streets after returning from the war. The session was broadcast live via YouTube.

Watch the video of their conversation inside the blog...