International Relations

“Wait for the Exodus”: Today in Gaza

Palestinian infant injured by missle fire
Maybe we’ve stopped praying for Palestine. Maybe we never cared to start. Maybe it was too hard to ask God for a fix to this complex situation; and, hey, we don’t know the history well enough.

I hear lots of Christians decrying violence in Kenya – cuz, ya know, there are missionaries there. It’s a “save-able” country.
I haven’t heard much Christian response to the remarks made by Israeli deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that if Hamas does not stop its rocket fire, then it will be in for a big shoah and Israel will defend itself at all costs.

What does shoah mean? Well, it can be translated as “big disaster”. But, for most folks who speak Hebrew, shoah generally means holocaust. It is almost exclusively used to describe the mass extermination of the Jews during World War II, and certainly it would not be used by a high ranking official in public for any other reason. (more…)

Bush appointees plan Nuremburg of our time (but rigged)

So you may have read in the news a few weeks ago that US seeks the death penalty as six detained in Guantánamo are charged over 9/11. Though the process has been abominable, at least the decision to hold a trial (as opposed to indefinite detention) seems like a step in the right direction: away from the war on terror and toward a criminal justice response to terrorism. I wrote last year about Britain taking a step in the same direction.

Unfortunately, The Nation has an article today that suggests guilty verdicts in these trials may be a foregone conclusion. Here’s an excerpt from their article describing an interview with Col. Morris Davis , former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. “[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,” recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.'”

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United States: the last best hope of earth

Bush hands the mic to McCainI just read John McCain’s victory speech after today’s primaries. This passage caught my eye:

They will paint a picture of the world in which America’s mistakes are a greater threat to our security than the malevolent intentions of an enemy that despises us and our ideals; a world that can be made safer and more peaceful by placating our implacable foes and breaking faith with allies and the millions of people in this world for whom America, and the global progress of our ideals, has long been “the last, best hope of earth.”

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Britain stops fighting “War on Terror”

Though I haven’t seen this story widely reported, I think it’s very significant:

Britain Drops ‘War on Terror’ Label

“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”

For a long time, folks like David Cortright and Ron Mock have been saying that the first step in taking effective action against terrorism is ending the war metaphor and shifting to a criminal justice one. Miraculously, British officials seem to have caught on. (more…)

Advice time! What should I know or do before going to Bolivia?

It looks like I’ll be spending some time in a different hemisphere before too long. Details aren’t finalized, but I think it’s safe to say I’ll be going to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for about four months starting in January. My church has been supporting an orphanage there for longer than I can remember. I’ve been hearing about this children’s home since I was 12 years old and seriously thought about going there at other decision points in my life. This time, I’m actually going and not just listing it in my options.

If we had smilies on YAR, I’d use the one where the character jumps up and down excitedly with a giant grin.

Since this will be my first trip to the Third Word—technically I was in central Jamaica when I was three, but I don’t remember it—I know I have a lot of mental work to do in the next two months. I can never be fully prepared. I expect to be changed a lot while I’m there. But there’s no reason I can’t start that personal process in the mean time.

What/who do my fellow YARs recommend I read, listen to, watch or talk to before I go? If you’ve been to Bolivia, or Santa Cruz, or even this orphanage (like Denver), what do you wish you would have known before you went? What should I pay close attention to while I’m there? What surprised you the most? What do you wish people would ask you about? (more…)

Violent Video Game as Church Recruiting Tool

I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.

I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th

But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “

HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?

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When should we insist on peace and nonviolence?

In the past few months, we’ve discussed how to handle churches that stray from their nonviolent roots, why we should refrain from commenting on situations we don’t know in-depth, and why those of us in comfortable lives should hold their tongues when people in uncomfortable lives outside of North America use violence. Yes, that’s a simplistic way of saying it, but it’s a decent summary.

My question is, when should we insist on peace and nonviolence? When should we, as people committed to the peacemaking roots of our church tradition (and not because it is our tradition, but because we believe it, too), stand up and say, “Nope, I’m not going to let this get watered down”? If a person with a U.S. military background comes into our churches and says, “Don’t tell people in Palestine not to throw rocks when people point guns at them,” how do you respond? Should we insist on peacemaking and nonviolence for ourselves but decline to comment on how others live? Can we live in church fellowship with those who say otherwise, and if so, does this mean asking them not to promote their beliefs in our churches? (more…)

Biblical Authority in the Global South

I am currently reading The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South by Philip Jenkins. It is a fascinating book and if you have a chance to read it, I would highly encourage it. You can also hear Philip Jenkins give a little bit of an overview of the book from his address at the Berkeley Theological Union.

I would like to share a few quotes for discussion. From the end of the the chapter “Power in the Book” which surveys contemporary African and Asian perspectives on the Bible and its striking conservatism in relation to Euro-American “scholarly” understanding of biblical interpretation, Jenkins writes:

By what standards, for instance, do churches decide whether particular biblical verses or passages carry special weight, or might be less authoritative than others? Except for the hardest of the hardcore fundamentalists, American Christians rarely believe that each and every verse of scripture carries the same degree of inspiration, and hence the same value. Instead, many assume an implicit hierarchy of texts, based on what is commonly viewed as the best scholarly opinion. So, for example, the assumption that St. Paul did not really write the Pastoral Epistles attributed to him – the letters to Timothy and Titus – means that these can be treated as less serious, less authoritative, than the apostle’s undoubted words in Romans or the Corinthian correspondence. To claim that “Paul didn’t really write this” consigns the Pastorals to a semi-apocryphal status. At one synod of the Church of England, a clerical presenter made the remarkable argument that since no scriptural texts prohibited the ordination of women, modern conservatives should not “set up artificial and inept lines that no one can defend”. Apparently, in such a view, the explicit prohibition on women’s leadership or teaching authority found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 no longer ecen counts as part of the New Testament. Opinions can differ about the authority that such a passage should command, but for many believers, it literally has been read out of scripture. (Jenkins, 40)

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The Next Global Youth Summit

The AMIGOS met last week in Paraguay to plan the 2nd Global Youth Summit (GYS) of Mennonite World Conference (MWC). The event will happen July 10th-12th, 2009, immediately followed by MWC’s 15th World Assembly July 13-19. It will all take place in Asuncion, Paraguay…with independent trips to surrounding countries or regions before or after World Assembly.

At GYS, 50 delegates from 50 countries will meet to discuss the idea/practice of “Christian service”, social concerns, and church politics. Delegates will be given an assignment prior to the Summit to survey at least 50 people about what service means to them, what they see are the major issues in their local and national society, and youth involvement in their local church context. With answers and further questions coming in from all over the world, the delegates will work together to create a comprehensive statement on service and the other topics. They will present it to the MWC General Council, which consists of a church leader representative from each organized Menno/Anabaptist national conference in the world.

In addition to the delegates, the AMIGOS committee is expecting about 700-750 participants. Unlike the delegates who represent the youth (ages 18-30) in the Menno/Anabaptist churches in their country, participants come representating themselves, for their own personal reasons and interests. The participants create the atmosphere of theological debate and discussion, as well as a lot of laughter and soccer playing. In Zimbabwe, GYS felt like a big family reunion with all the extended family…cousins you’d never met but heard about, grandparents who told stories of days past, and lots of email exchanging and promises to “keep in touch”. It was and continues to be all about seeing who was and is part of the Menno/Anabaptist family globally: To learn that what we imagine we have in common, we don’t…and to find sweet connections through life situations that draw us closer to one another. (more…)

Bad News for Arms Dealers

Campaigning against the arms trade has always been a David and Goliath battle with a few small underfunded non-profit organizations against a massive, wealthy industry in which multi-billion dollar deals are routine. Good news usually comes after years of quiet, mostly thankless work.

All that is to say that I was extremely happy to read about the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation this week. DESO is (or was) a uniquely British government department whose sole purpose is to promote the sale of British weapons abroad using whatever “legal” means available to them.

During my time in the UK I spent a good deal of my time working with SPEAK, a Christian student campaigning network who was working to close DESO. In 2004 we spent a few hours on the coldest day of the year praying in a trench outside DESO headquarters and bringing them baskets filled with daffodils. As with many public witnesses, it was a whole lot of work and shivering that felt like a drop in a vast, empty bucket. (more…)

CPT gets some publicity…

cptrich.jpg

Some BBCers followed around a recent CPT delegation, and posted photos with captions. Even some photos and quotes from our very own YAR member Rich. Looking good, Rich.

I’d be interested in hearing some thoughts on CPT’s work, or ways to work for peace and/or justice. Should the church be actively supporting this sort of work? I’d argue that CPT is doing great work, but recently I’ve heard some critiques accusing CPT of working for “justice” instead of “peace”. What is the role of forgiveness is situations of oppression?

Just trying to stimulate some discussion…

Days of Prayer & Action for Peace in Colombia

I got a flier in my church mailbox a few months ago from MCC about the Days of Prayer & Action for Peace in Colombia taking place today and tomorrow. Part of my meager response was to give a short presentation and slide show at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church this morning to raise awareness about what is going on in Colombia, how the U.S. is involved and what Colombian Mennonites are asking for. I’d be interested to hear if other YAR readers participated and how.

I read some parts of the stories from Colombia in one of CPT‘s books, but one of the things that stood out to me most in preparing my presentation was a Colombian “table grace” taken from MCC’s photo gallery:

“Thank you God for this bread. And give bread to those who hunger – and hunger for justice to those of us who have bread.”

We Were Here First! Right?

Illegal immigration. That raises feelings in the hearts of alot of us. There are strong feelings on both sides of the debate. If you do your homework, it makes this debate a whole lot less easy. There has been a few things nagging at me and I just can’t shake it. Would you like to hear what they are?

First off, most of us European Americans fled our countries in search of freedom from our oppressors. The pilgrims were in search of religious freedom from the church of England. Even our Mennonite ancestors sought out freedom. Dutch, Swiss, German and many others were seeking solace and safety in a new land. It wasn’t as if this land wasn’t occupied already. Of course, we all know that there were indigenous people here long before we ever arrived.

Yet, without as much as a green card, we steam rolled our way across the country, practically wiping out whole people groups. We threw up our flags and claimed this land as our own. Even after states were established, the government steam rolled over their sovereignty as well. Welcome to the new Promised Land. (more…)

a day late

I was just reminded of the significance of the fact that yesterday was April 4. If you go back in history a few decades – you’ll remember that April 4, 1968 was the day MLK Jr. was assassinated. But right now, I’m more interested in what happened one year before that on April 4, 1967 (40th anniversary was yesterday). King gave one of his more famous speeches at Riverside Church, titled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.

I’ll spare you a reflection or commentary of that here but I just want to make note of this anniversary and suggest that you all take a little time to read it (pdf)* or listen to it (quicktime).* It’s pretty long so you might have to take more than a “little” time. I must have been out of the loop yesterday because I didn’t hear or read anything about it in the media. I usually catch things like this.

I must say though, that it’s not a very big mental jump to replace a few words and King could be speaking to us today. Forty years later, the message is as relevant as when he made it.

*if you don’t want to download the pdf, it’s also here and audio can also be heard here (realmedia) and here (mp3).