War

Joe Kay 8-29-2017

Image via Gimas / Shutterstock.com

A starting point is recognizing the truth that war is never noble or courageous. Noble and courageous acts occur during war, but war itself is always the ultimate human failure and must never be portrayed as anything else. War is the expression of our worst impulses — killing and maiming one another while destroying the many good things we've built together.

Kathy Kelly 6-08-2017

Without any input from the centralized government, the Afghan Peace Volunteers build community and share resources. Within Kabul, they arrange inter-ethnic activities and projects, distribute food, educate children, and manufacture heavy blankets to help families survive the harsh winters. They risk their lives to relate with people whom they are told are their enemies.

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the ILVA steel plant during his pastoral visit in Genoa, Italy, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

The Vatican said on Tuesday it had scrapped tentative plans for Pope Francis to make a visit this year to South Sudan, which has been hit by civil war, famine, and a refugee crisis. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the trip "was not for this year" but did not say when it might now take place.

Friends and family members gather around a victim's casket at a church supporting the Rise Up movement. Image via Eric Stoner 

The heightening militarism following Trump’s invitation to Duterte is neither unrelated nor isolated from U.S imperialism in the Philippines — a history that is often manipulated through religious language.

Jenna Barnett 3-29-2017

Women sewing American Flags in Brooklyn on July 24, 1940. Photo: Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments, by Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White traveled the world in search of complete stories: from Depression-era Hooverville to partitioning India to Apartheid-era South Africa to Nazi Germany. She became the first female war photojournalist and the first photographer for LIFE. After surviving a helicopter crash and getting stranded in the Arctic, Bourke-White’s colleagues declared her “Maggie the Indestructible.”

Smoke rises from the old city during a battle against Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, March 26, 2017. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The military statement differed from reports by witnesses and local officials that said many more bodies were pulled from the building after a coalition strike targeted IS militants and equipment in the Jadida district.

Displaced Iraqi people react at Hammam al-Alil camp, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

The battle for Mosul, Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq, is now in its sixth month with Iraq forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition, air strikes and advisers now controlling the east side and more than half of the west.

“Love your enemies.” I’m reflecting on this, the hardest of Jesus’ commandments, as I grieve my own nation’s policies of war, exclusion, vengeance, and cruelty — policies envisioned through the lens of enmity. The lens of enmity warps our vision, inverting it so that the outside world is obscured by our inward fears. It contorts the human faces in front of us into monsters. It magnifies our own pain and obstructs that of others. It blinds us with lies.

Image via RNS/Doctors of the World

Don’t expect a peaceful scene of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus when you open a Christmas card from Doctors of the World.

The British branch of the humanitarian group has opted to set the characters of the creche in the midst of Mideast crises. On one card, Mary and Joseph are leaning over the baby Jesus, as a missile traverses a starry night.

“Christmas is a time people contemplate the world,” the group said in its online introduction to the cards. “Doctors of the World’s cards seek to remind the public that this year war has forced millions from their homes, and they really need our help.”

Abby Olcese 11-04-2016

Image via Hacksaw Ridge on Facebook.

Hacksaw Ridge is an intensely violent film about pacifism. That may seem like an oxymoron, but here, context is everything. Mel Gibson’s World War II film is about the pacifism of real-life conscientious objector Desmond Doss. Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist who served as an army medic and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers without once picking up a gun.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

We should have no fear of making an apology, which is the outward symbol of an inward change of heart acknowledging and renouncing our violence. We should apologize not only in Hiroshima, but in Nagasaki, Vietnam, Fallujah, Kunduz — around the world, and upon our own shores, with reparations to Native and African Americans.

Benedict Varnum 5-27-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

“Down by the Riverside” comes out of the same time in the history of our nation that the lingering divisions of Civil War did, and it’s a reminder to us that our hope and calling as children of God is to leave off studying war.

I believe that a Christian can nonetheless honor those who have fallen in war. They are casualties not only of the arms of a foe, but also of the failure of humanity to build a better peace. Those who hold arms take on not only the burden of risking their lives, but are also made to bear those first poisoned fruits whenever nations or radical groups turn to the sword instead of the plowshare.

Maria Santelli 5-02-2016
Everett Col;lection / Shutterstock

Everett Collection / Shutterstock

WITH THE RECENT decision to open combat positions in the U.S. armed forces to women, Selective Service registration is back in the news, in the courts, and in Congress. While much of the debate has focused on issues of gender—will young women be required to register?—the problems with draft registration are extensive and worthy of more thorough consideration.

For many people of faith and people of conscience, questions around Selective Service registration are not new, and, ethically speaking, nothing is different now that women may be part of the equation. For many, the questions around Selective Service registration have long been ones of preparation for war, militarization of our communities, and coercion of individual conscience.

The Selective Service act of 1917 launched the modern American version of the government raising an army in a time of war. In 1975, following the Vietnam War, draft registration was suspended, but it was reinstated under President Carter in 1980 and continues today. There is no option to register as a conscientious objector, no matter one’s religious beliefs.

Over the last 35 years, millions of young men have violated the law by failing to register. Only 20 of them have been prosecuted for the felony offense—19 of those were resisting for reasons of faith or conscience.

The last indictment for failure to register was filed in 1986. The government thought it would prosecute a handful of resisters to set an example and encourage compliance. The strategy backfired. When these conscientious objectors were interviewed on the evening news, claiming allegiance to a higher moral law, noncompliance with registration actually increased, much to the government’s dismay. It had underestimated the power of conscience. It failed to take into account a universal truth: When we follow the counsel of our conscience, we tend to make better decisions.

Ched Myers 2-29-2016
NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

NATALIA61 / Shutterstock

AS I WRITE this, one week after the beginning of “Desert Storm,” the networks have returned to their regularly scheduled programming, responding to polls the third day of the war indicating that Americans were tiring of the coverage. (Considering what we don’t hear, “coverage” seems a wholly appropriate euphemism—just try to verify reports beginning to leak out of the war zone of 100,000 or 200,000 civilian casualties.) War news has become a mere refrain—“Allied forces continued today to pound Iraq ...”—punctuated with videotaped missile strikes or bemasked reporters and the horrific wailing of air raid sirens.

Micah Bales 1-14-2016

For his final State of the Union address, President Obama delivered a characteristically eloquent and passionate speech. He issued a heartfelt call for unity and cooperation in a country whose political climate is just a few notches short of civil war. He asked us to consider how we might move forward as one nation, affirming our highest ideals rather than the hateful rhetoric of would-be despots.

Obama’s final State of the Union was in many ways a masterpiece of American political theater. He reminded us of the best of our tradition, calling us to live up to our history of welcoming the outsider and being a land of opportunity for all people. Despite the fact that this canonical history is to a great degree aspirational rather than actual, I was at many points uplifted to hear the president invite us to live into the more beautiful aspects of the American Dream.

Matthew Skinner 12-14-2015

Detail from Antonello da Messina's "Annunciata." Image via  / Shutterstock.com

National Geographic magazine recently named Mary, the mother of Jesus, “the most powerful woman in the world” as an appraisal of her ongoing influence and popularity. But do Mary’s words and example have a prayer of being heard and effecting change in this time of war?

Indeed, this is war. America has effectively been engaged in continuous warfare since the weeks after September 11, 2001. In a few decades we’ll learn what happens when whole generations of people grow up and take charge of a society that has waged war their entire lives.

Attempts to tone down the descriptions we use for warfare or the way we conceptualize the present conflict don’t change anything. No end is in sight. Others turn up the rhetoric: after the San Bernardino shooting, at least one presidential candidate insisted the USA now finds itself in “the next world war.” Another one puffed up his chest and boasted of his resolve to “carpet bomb” people. We hear this stuff so often, we’ve become numb to its magnitude.

the Web Editors 12-02-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

The British Parliament voted Dec. 2 to begin a bombing campaign in Syria in order to disrupt ISIS.

The vote took place after a contentious ten-hour debate in the House of Commons. Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments that those opposed to the bombing campaign are “terrorist sympathisers” hung in the background of the debate.

Shively Smith 11-09-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

It is so easy to read Mark and think of war as far off — especially if you are someone living in a neighborhood or region that has a semblance of peaceful times. For non-military families and organizations it is easy to miss that “wars and rumors of wars” means that families, perhaps right next door to us, are bracing for the possibility that parents or children may be leaving soon. 

The portion of our population in the military is staggering. According to 2013 reports, approximately 2,220,412 of our population were on active duty in the armed forces and reserves. Family members out-numbered military personnel 1.4 to 1. There were 689,344 spouses reported and more than 1.2 million dependent children living in active duty families.

Micah Bales 11-05-2015

Image via /Shutterstock.com

As he poured the gallon jug of kerosene over his head, onlookers reacted with disbelief. Before anyone knew what to do, he lit a match. In one terrible instant, 31-year-old Quaker Norman Morrison set himself ablaze in front of the Pentagon, just 40 feet below the 3rd floor window of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Moments before ignition, Morrison passed his 11-month-old daughter, Emily, to a bystander. His wife and two other children were in Baltimore that day, unaware of what this young husband and father had planned.

Though his terrifying act of self-destruction, Morrison brought the Vietnam War home to a country that was still largely unaware of the widespread atrocities taking place in Southeast Asia. It was hard for most Americans to comprehend the true human cost of U.S. carpet bombing, and the incineration of whole families in the name of peace and security. Even the U.S. military officials leading the war effort did not understand on a visceral level what it meant to burn human beings alive in Vietnam.

Norman Morrison provided a live demonstration.

Kathy Kelly 10-26-2015

Image via Kathy Kelly / Sojourners

Tall, lanky, cheerful, and confident, Esmatullah easily engages his young students at the Street Kids School, a project of Kabul’s Afghan Peace Volunteers, an antiwar community with a focus on service to the poor. Esmatullah teaches child laborers to read. He feels particularly motivated to teach at the Street Kids School because, as he puts it, “I was once one of these children.”

Esmatullah began working to support his family when he was 9 years old. Now, at age 18, he is catching up on school.He has reached the tenth grade, takes pride in having learned English well enough to teach a course in a local academy, and knows that his family appreciates his dedicated, hard work.

When Esmatullah was nine, the Taliban came to his house looking for his older brother. Esmatullah’s father wouldn’t divulge information they wanted. The Taliban then tortured his father by beating his feet so severely that he has never walked since. Esmatullah’s dad, now 48, has never learned to read or write. There are no jobs for him.

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