Peace & Peacemaking

Settler attacks, domestic violence and tears

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

CPTer Joel Gullege injured

Sunday afternoon when I got word that my friend Joel Gulledge had been attacked by Israeli settlers in At-Tuwani. Joel was escorting some Palestinian children home from summer day camp when they were threatened by a masked settler with a slingshot. Jan Benvie, a friend and CPTer from Scotland, rushed the children away while Joel filmed what was happening. The settler caught up with Joel, grabbed his video camer and began beating him around his head with it while he punched him with his other hand. Joel didn’t fight back, but yelled for help.

This sort of thing has happened before to CPTers in Hebron and At-Tuwani. These have long been the regions where CPTers are most regularly the target of physical violence. Colleagues of mine have had their arms broken and lungs punctured and been stoned by Israeli settlers from the Havot Ma’on settlement.

So the attack itself is nothing new, but this attack hit closer to home for me. Just two weeks ago I said goodbye to Joel near his home on the north side of Chicago. Joel and I hung out together this summer at PAPA festival where he did a workshop on the situation in Israel/Palestine. And now I have the image of him being beaten in the face with his own video camera in my head.
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Everything Must Change Conference

In May, I attended Brian McLaren’s conference for his new book Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I was hungry for the ways he articulated the dangers and opportunities we face in this century. Attending Brian’s conference was so refreshing, just to see people talking about these issues. There’s a further summary of the conference content by ST.

Much of the ideas in his book are not new to the faith-based peace activists I know. However, there is a lot we need to face in the inconvenient truths of environmental issues, and crises connected to humanity’s overconsumption. When activists talk about these issues, people are put off by the stark realities we expose them to, those realities being hard enough to face as it is.

McLaren talked about these painful issues in a way that was easily understandable for mainstream evangelicals or folks on the fringe of the church. He applied the example of Jesus and his relevance to our times, naming the social and political backdrop of Jesus’ life during a period of Empire, inequality, and injustice.

What was so important for me, was the chance to go deeper than intellectual discussion of crisis scenarios, deeper than fix-it mode. It was an opportunity to feel, to grieve and to struggle with hope through worship and the arts. (more…)

Conference Review

Not everyone can or wants to go to every conference. This is a summary of a recent conference. I think sharing the info that we learn at conferences is important.

The “Everything Must Change” tour came to Goshen College on May 9-10. This seminar was lead by renowned evangelical leader in the emerging Christian church movement, Brian McLaren. His focus for the event was addressing the following questions: “What are the world’s top global crises?” and “What does the message of Jesus say to those crises?”

Early on in the seminar, McLaren related a story in which he was leading youth worship as a young adult. He asked the youth to help him create a list of the major concerns at their churches. Issues such as whether or not to have guitars as part of worship music were brought up. He then asked the youth to help him create a list of the issues that they considered the most pressing global concerns, and issues like nuclear disarmament and famine came up. A startling difference was apparent between the two lists. Just like he suggested in the narrative of his story, McLaren instigated a call for a breaking down of the secular/sacred divide and for the Church to be deeply involved in the issues on the second list, the global list. Those of us who attended the seminar were treated to and challenged by a multi-dimensional, mixed media approach to exploring how to understand and deal with interconnected global crisis issues of planet, poverty, and peacemaking. The fourth major crisis McLaren introduced was “purpose”. He explained the latter concept in his assertion that “the biggest problem in the world is the way that we think about the biggest problems in the world.” (more…)

Wisdom from Those Gone Before

ST’s post reminded me of a conversation I had last September with someone I’ve admired for his consistent commitment to justice-making over decades (peace and development work in Vietnam during the American War in that country, international and community interfaith work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc).

Knowing that it can be easy to burn out or drift toward the mainstream, I was interested in how he’s sustained his passion and activism over the course of the years. His answers came almost faster than I could write. (more…)

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her. (more…)

Earth Day Reflection: You will be exterminated one by one…

Last week I shared the following reflection at an earth day service at Westminster College in Missouri. It’s an attempt to bring together the themes of creation care and peacemaking. The last 3 paragraph are a postscript.

The community I’m going to share about today is located in the San Lucas mountains in north central Colombia. They are small scale gold miners who work their own claims in 16 remote communities scattered around the Sur de Bolivar region. They work with picks and shovels to extract enough gold to feed their families and little more.

In early 2006 the Colombian military began a campaign of intensified military operations in the area. The small scale miners see it as an attempt to intimidate them and force them off their land to make way for the transnational mining corporation Anglo Gold Ashanti and its subsidiary Kedahda to begin industrial scale exploitation of the gold deposits in the region.

On September 19, 2006 Alejandro Uribe, a leader in the small scale gold miner’s federation was walking home from a community meeting when he was stopped by the Colombian army. The federation has been an important voice for the communities in organizing to defend their way of life and their right to the land. On that evening in 2006, the army shot Alejandra dead. Two days later soldiers told residents, "He won’t be your only death. There will be more dead leaders."

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“It could be that civilians were nearby… it would not be the first time,”

Photo by New York Times

Many of you remember my post from a few months ago on what is currently happening in the Gaza strip in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The above image comes from last Thursday, when Israeli military killed over 20 people in one day during fighting in the Gaza strip. 14 of those deaths happened in Central Gaza, and five of those killed were under 16 years old. The image depicts an unnamed Palestinian boy, in what is probably the last moment in his life. He was hit by Israeli tank fire while standing amongst a Reuters TV crew – with vehicles clearly marked as a media crew – that lost a cameraman whose name was Fadel Shana.

This is a link to a video from Fadel Shana’s camera. It is of an Israeli tank in the distance firing a shell at the TV crew – again, a clearly marked vehicle. You will see, just before the video goes black, a secondary explosion in the upper part of the screen. This is the shell cartridge as it explodes, shooting thousands of lethal antipersonnel darts (“flechettes”) into the bodies of Fadel Shana and three Palestinian bystanders, two of them boys.

Here is a link to the NY Times coverage of the fighting that day. Note the comments of Israeli Army spokeswoman Leibovich:

Asked about the many civilian casualties, Maj. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli Army spokeswoman, said the military had struck an armed group. “It could be that civilians were nearby; it would not be the first time,” she said.

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Tom Sine wants to know what you’re doing

The New ConspiratorsBack in September, Tom Sine emailed me asking if members of YAR could read over the manuscript for The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. I emailed it out to regular contributors and invited feedback. The book looks at four streams of new Christian Expression – emerging, missional, mosaic and monastic. We’ll have a review of the book here on YAR coming soon.

The weekend before last, a bunch of folks (including a few from our sister network, the submergents) got together for the New Conspirators conference in Seattle. You can read Mark Van Steenwyk’s concluding report for the New Conspirators conference at Jesus Manifesto. It sounds an exciting time for folks from many streams to incubate ideas and imagine together. I very much wish I could have been there.

Today, I got an email from Tom with the following request:

Christine and I have been invited to keynote at the Mennonite Conference for North America in July. We would like to share bit of what you and your compatriots in the network are doing. Could you send me concrete examples of projects you are involved with? Could you also send me any creative examples of younger Anabaptists who are creating new expressions of church, community, advocacy, celebration and mission? We want to put older Mennos in touch with what you and other younger leaders are doing.

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Colombia, Ecuador and Chavez

Chavez escalates border tensionsFor the last few days, I’ve been wanting to write something about the news from the region Charletta and I recently left. Today my teammates in Colombia released Border Tensions: A Prayer Request. This statement puts things a lot better then I could have. It also notes some details that I hadn’t heard, such as the claim by the Ecuadorian government that FARC commander Reyes was in “advanced stages of negotiations” with the Ecuadorian government for further hostage releases when he was killed.

I have to admit that I didn’t really shed any tears when I heard about the death of Reyes. Under his leadership the FARC has massacred indigenous people, farmers and North American activists and committed many terrorist acts. They’ve built a drug trafficking empire and lost any credibility as a positive force for change in the region. They’ve become a criminal enterprise acting with a thin veneer of ideology and in the process caused untold damage to Colombia’s authentic movements for social change. But the CPT release is a good reminder that this bombing represents a continued shift on the part of the Colombian government “to deal with the national conflict in a military framework rather than building on civil and diplomatic attempts.”

The team’s statement also mentions the “saber-rattling by neighbors in the region”. I’d like to look at that saber rattling a little more closely. Specifically, the war-mongering coming from the party that was not directly involved in the incident, Chavez. In the fall of 2006 I went to Venezuela on my honeymoon and wrote four posts here (1, 2, 3, 4) documenting some of the reactions we heard to Chavez from people we met along the way. At the time we saw that there were a lot of good things going on in Venezuela, but it was also clear that Chavez’s leadership was problematic. While we were there he made his famous Bush-is-the-devil speech that boosted Chomsky to #1 on Amazon. It was a stunt that brought up conflicted response for me. While it was great to have Chomsky get some exposure, Chavez was clearly setting a polarizing and divisive course for himself and his country. (more…)

Top Ten Heresies of the American Church

I wasn’t going to post this here, but after reading Conrad Kanagy’s insightful book, “Road Signs for the Journey”, it seems that us Mennonites need a few reminders of who we really are.

You see, a “heresy” is, according to I Timothy 6, a teaching that is in opposition to the teaching which Jesus gave. So we need to examine our own churches and see where we stand in realtion to Jesus, as opposed to in relation to the Confession of Faith.

So here’s my top ten:
1. Prejudice against the lower class
When Jesus says “blessed are you who are poor.”

2. Thinking salvation = comfort
When Jesus says, “Woe to you who are wealthy, for you have already received your comfort

3. That the only good leaders are seminary-educated leaders
When Jesus says, “The greatest among you shall be your slaves.” (more…)

Peacemaking, Solidarity and Mining Corporations

As some of you may know, I’ve been working in Barrancabermeja, Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams since January 5. I’ve been writing regularly about my work here on my blog for the Mennonite, but I thought it was about time I wrote something here on YAR.

CPT’s work here in the Magdalena Medio has changed quite a bit since I was last here 3 years ago. At that time our work was still mainly focused on the Opon, an area where paramilitaries and guerillas threatened the civilian population as they vied for control. CPT’s work there has focused on a physical presence as a deterrent to human rights abuses, threats and killings by armed groups. CPT Colombia continues to accompany the Opon, but has also broadened it’s accompaniment to include other communities in the Magdalena Medio region.

The region is rich in resources including oil and the largest gold deposits left in South America. This means it is also a major target for multinational corporations and their proxies the Colombian government and paramilary groups. Communities across the region are finding ways to nonviolently defend their rights and their land. Today, CPT is accompanying many of the communities where that conflict is the hottest. (more…)

What if ‘going home’ was our calling?

In the past few months I’ve been noticing a startling trend. Some of the most passionate people of my generation are returning to their home communities. After college, after working overseas, a surprising number of my peers are deciding – when they could go almost anywhere – to move back to the places they grew up.

Now, you might say that I’m biased – having just moved to back Elkhart, IN for Mennonite Voluntary Service when I grew up one town away in Goshen. And I am certainly excited about how our unit is flourishing in its first year — serving as a means for a number of us young people to re-commit to an area where we’ve already had ties.

But it’s not just us. A woman raised in central plains has returned to commit herself to finding ways to live sustainably. After two years with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a seminarian returns to intern at a congregation of farmers and businessfolk. A group of recent graduates from Goshen College decide to travel among the Central States conference for a summer of learning about how people in their home region approach peacemaking. (more…)

Midwest going through hard times

The housing bubble has way-popped over here in Elkhart. There are a ton of houses around here for sale and no one with enough money (even with subsidies) to buy them. And last week an organization that supports housing for low-income folks had to close its doors as the result of circumstances, no operating costs and its board looking out for its own interests instead of the common good. So many foreclosures! :(

So for the folks in the Elkhart MVS unit, it’s been a tough week. But the South central community is still strong…and we believe, getting stronger.

One way we are getting stronger is that we are learning to support one another through these tough times. The NY Times said that foreclosure rates are on the rise, and if communities aren’t organized to pull together, the vacant houses will rip gaping holes in its social fabric. We are also reaching across ethnic boundaries, and learning together to look beyond capitalist assets to enrich our lives. Two examples of the budding community economy: (more…)

Why Gus got arrested last weekend

School of the Americas Protest 2007This past weekend, my friend Gus was arrested in Georgia. Now before you worry too much, let me further explain that he was arrested after an act of civil disobedience as part of the annual protest against the School of the Americas (a.k.a. Western Hemiphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a notorious training school for some of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America.

Gus was one of 11 people who trespassed across the line into Fort Benning, where the School of the Americas is housed. Thousands of others marched outside the gates of Fort Benning in what was the 18th Annual Protest against the school and the US foreign policy it stands for.

In 2005 the story of the SOA came particularly close to home for me when eight members of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community in Uraba, Colombia were killed while I was in the country with Christian Peacemaker Teams. According to witnesses, the assasins were members of the Colombian military’s 17th Brigade, commanded by an SOA graduate. Ironically, Luis Eduardo Guerra, one of the leaders who was killed, spoke at the November 2002 vigil outside the gates of the School of the Americas.

It was the first time Gus had attended the vigil, but not the first time he had risked arrested. This year he was arrested twice while occupying Senator Durban’s office to encourage him to end the occupation of Iraq. But Gus isn’t your average peace activist type. He does janitorial work for the building where I live, working alongside my wife to sweep the floors and the was the windows here. He does not often talk about his convictions unless pushed.

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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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