PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus


THE END OF PACIFISM AS WE KNOW IT by peaceprobe

 

THE END OF PACIFISM AS WE KNOW IT
In theatres of war where I have worked I have met people who don’t want to participate any longer.  In Colombia I talked with paramilitary soldiers seeking ways out of their previous commitments because the killing they have seen is so distasteful.  Israeli soldiers have built a succession of organizations and support groups for persons not wishing to participate in specific wars.  In Iraq I met former Iraqi soldiers who opted out of military service with great difficulty.  
For these people their own participation in war was the trigger that unleashed a flood of personal questions about war making in general and witnessing against the sources of war.  For some the flood of questions leading to new vision was set off by spiritual conversion.  Despite the modern tendency among popular Christianity to link religious life with national purpose and militarism, people find a peace position often from their own study of the Bible.  
Twenty years ago I was contacted by a person who was curious about Christian Peacemaker Teams. He wished to become involved and support the work.  He had just resigned from a job in a corporation that was heavily involved in military contracts and he wanted to do something “positive”.  We talked several times and eventually he helped to develop our internet based work.  From time to time I had to call him at very inconvenient times of the day and night so he could make critical information available on the internet regarding a crisis event.  He never once complained about my disruptive calls despite his own work and family obligations.  He always wanted to do more and made me feel like I was doing him a favour by providing a route for him to effectively make use of the energy that was released within him when he made his decision to take pacifism to a new level in his personal life and career.
Another friend, a pastor told me of a dilemma that entered his life.  He had been a supervisor for fuelling airlanes at a regional airport.  His job included providing fuel for private planes of companies who stored their executive aircraft at a regional airport.  Over time he realized he was providing gasoline to fuel a US military contractor whose work was shrouded in mystery.  He needed work. One day the contractor demanded that he put more fuel in the airplane than regulations allowed.  He refused to do so but was ordered to comply by his superior because the contract was very important to the small airport.  He complied but over the next year and a half he continued to ponder his dilemma, being a peacemaker who fuelled jets that managed the delivery of modern weapons.  Eventually he resigned.
People often approach me when I travel to discuss a career dilemma where family income depends upon design, development or fabricating the instruments of violence.  Sometimes the discussion is not ready for decision.  At other times it is.  Those decisions always intersect with questions of economic survival, ethics, and peacemaking.  Pacifist churches, meetings and associations are not exempt from these emotional and  life changing opportunities for taking a decisive stand.  People who are facing hard decisions know very well that any decisions they make will affect all their relationships for good and bad.  What they don’t know and what I can only vaguely explain is that wide margins of new energy and creativity often follow decisions of dissent when the voice of conscience is acknowledged and acted upon.
Pacifism is not a static condition or position. I have recently learned that the word pacifism comes from two Latin root words through the French word pacifisme.  Pac is traced back to the Latin word, Pax that means peace or harmony.  Fism derives from the suffix ficus which comes from the Latin ficere that means to act or take action.  In the Bible the Greek word eirenopoios (peacemakers, Matthew 5:9) is translated into Latin as pacifici, which means those who work for peace.  Though in our day we tend to abstract ideas from actual living, the original meaning of pacifist was to be an active peacemaker.  A pacifist inherently takes action.  
Pacifism rejects the use of violent means despite the fact that the tree of violence reaches through contract and contractor into the main streets of most of our communities.  The contradiction inherent in modern economy brings the production, ideological formation and general culture of violence inside our homes and work life.  At one time it may have been possible to be a wedge into the organized violent suppression of violence by simply refusing military service. For most of us that expression of pacifism, refusal to join the military, is no longer the only critical boundary for a life of peacemaking. However, in some countries, like Israel, Colombia and Iraq the decision not to participate in the military is still the flashpoint.  In systems where there is no longer a draft the decision by active duty soldiers to get out because of moral convictions  is often transforming and costly.  
There are three possible responses to violence to which we are connected in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cleveland, violent opposition, passivity, or militant nonviolence.  The active even militant nonviolence inherent in pacifism transforms life from static hum drum and rules, to dynamic engagement with the power of active living. In the Bible peacemakers (the Latin translation used the term pacifist) are called Blessed.   
To be Blessed according to Roman Catholic tradition is to be beatified and worthy of veneration.  Perhaps not everyone who does peacemaking wants to be beatified by the Roman Church or venerated.  However the root meaning of pacifism, peacemaking with all the release of energy that it implies, still holds.  Being pacifist is not a rigid formula for action.  Pacifism is the awakened conscience and the willingness to act on it sometimes alone, but preferably with some support.  The blessing is inherent in the action itself, and the surprise that follows.   
 

In theatres of war where I have worked I have met people who don’t want to participate any longer.  In Colombia I talked with paramilitary soldiers seeking ways out of their previous commitments because the killing they have seen is so distasteful.  Israeli soldiers have built a succession of organizations and support groups for persons not wishing to participate in specific wars.  In Iraq I met former Iraqi soldiers who opted out of military service with great difficulty.  

For these people their own participation in war was the trigger that unleashed a flood of personal questions about war making in general and witnessing against the sources of war.  For some the flood of questions leading to new vision was set off by spiritual conversion.  Despite the modern tendency among popular Christianity to link religious life with national purpose and militarism, people find a peace position often from their own study of the Bible.  

Twenty years ago I was contacted by a person who was curious about Christian Peacemaker Teams. He wished to become involved and support the work.  He had just resigned from a job in a corporation that was heavily involved in military contracts and he wanted to do something “positive”.  We talked several times and eventually he helped to develop our internet based work.  From time to time I had to call him at very inconvenient times of the day and night so he could make critical information available on the internet regarding a crisis event.  He never once complained about my disruptive calls despite his own work and family obligations.  He always wanted to do more and made me feel like I was doing him a favour by providing a route for him to effectively make use of the energy that was released within him when he made his decision to take pacifism to a new level in his personal life and career.

Another friend, a pastor told me of a dilemma that entered his life.  He had been a supervisor for fuelling airlanes at a regional airport.  His job included providing fuel for private planes of companies who stored their executive aircraft at a regional airport.  Over time he realized he was providing gasoline to fuel a US military contractor whose work was shrouded in mystery.  He needed work. One day the contractor demanded that he put more fuel in the airplane than regulations allowed.  He refused to do so but was ordered to comply by his superior because the contract was very important to the small airport.  He complied but over the next year and a half he continued to ponder his dilemma, being a peacemaker who fuelled jets that managed the delivery of modern weapons.  Eventually he resigned.

People often approach me when I travel to discuss a career dilemma where family income depends upon design, development or fabricating the instruments of violence.  Sometimes the discussion is not ready for decision.  At other times it is.  Those decisions always intersect with questions of economic survival, ethics, and peacemaking.  Pacifist churches, meetings and associations are not exempt from these emotional and  life changing opportunities for taking a decisive stand.  People who are facing hard decisions know very well that any decisions they make will affect all their relationships for good and bad.  What they don’t know and what I can only vaguely explain is that wide margins of new energy and creativity often follow decisions of dissent when the voice of conscience is acknowledged and acted upon.

Pacifism is not a static condition or position. I have recently learned that the word pacifism comes from two Latin root words through the French word pacifisme.  Pac is traced back to the Latin word, Pax that means peace or harmony.  Fism derives from the suffix ficus which comes from the Latin ficere that means to act or take action.  In the Bible the Greek word eirenopoios (peacemakers, Matthew 5:9) is translated into Latin as pacifici, which means those who work for peace.  Though in our day we tend to abstract ideas from actual living, the original meaning of pacifist was to be an active peacemaker.  A pacifist inherently takes action.  

Pacifism rejects the use of violent means despite the fact that the tree of violence reaches through contract and contractor into the main streets of most of our communities.  The contradiction inherent in modern economy brings the production, ideological formation and general culture of violence inside our homes and work life.  At one time it may have been possible to be a wedge into the organized violent suppression of violence by simply refusing military service. For most of us that expression of pacifism, refusal to join the military, is no longer the only critical boundary for a life of peacemaking. However, in some countries, like Israel, Colombia and Iraq the decision not to participate in the military is still the flashpoint.  In systems where there is no longer a draft the decision by active duty soldiers to get out because of moral convictions  is often transforming and costly. 

There are three possible responses to violence to which we are connected in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cleveland, violent opposition, passivity, or militant nonviolence.  The active even militant nonviolence inherent in pacifism transforms life from static hum drum and rules, to dynamic engagement with the power of active living. In the Bible peacemakers (the Latin translation used the term pacifist) are called Blessed.   

To be Blessed according to Roman Catholic tradition is to be beatified and worthy of veneration.  Perhaps not everyone who does peacemaking wants to be beatified by the Roman Church or venerated.  However the root meaning of pacifism, peacemaking with all the release of energy that it implies, still holds.  Being pacifist is not a rigid formula for action.  Pacifism is the awakened conscience and the willingness to act on it sometimes alone, but preferably with some support.  The blessing is inherent in the action itself, and the surprise that follows.

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“The Kind of Fasting I have chosen:” by peaceprobe
February 22, 2007, 9:38 am
Filed under: Getting on the Way to Peacemaking, Nonviolence, Scripture: Nonviolence

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2007

“The Kind of Fasting I have chosen:” Isaiah 58:6
We are entering the Lenten season. In the mid 1990s when I was with Christian Peacemaker Teams we initiated a Lenten Fast in Palestine to highlight the demolition of houses and the creation of refugees. To do so our Palestinian partners built a tent for us in a prominent location in Hebron. Students, school children – Palestinians and Israelis came to join the fasters for brief periods of time and to discuss its meaning, house security and spirituality.

Eventually people around the world learned of the fast and thousands joined by giving up a meal each day, selected food or committing themselves to a specific daily discipline of sacrifice as they prayed for and remembered the situation in Palestine. In those days we weren’t sure how a Lenten Fast would play in the Muslim world where we were working. So we delayed the beginning to consult further, only to discover determined enthusiasm among our Muslim co-workers and advisors. Actually we didn’t get the fast started exactly 46 days before Easter on Ash Wednesday. But, when fasting began news of its purpose spread widely and support mushroomed. Along the way of the fast we discovered a fresh new connection from faith to action that eventually culminated on Easter Sunday.

Although I had fasted on a number of occasions before, this was the first time that my fast was linked to Lent, to Easter, and to a critical social issue – Palestinian housing. When we began the fast we had no backup material to encourage and warn people about the physical effects of the fast. Nor did we have suggested daily prayers or liturgy to help create a pathway for participants. We learned as we went and responded to these requests the best we could in the days before the age of the World Wide Web. I did a largely liquid fast for 32 days. In evenings my reward for the day was either a glass of fruit juice or a cup of broth.

Fasts are very human events. They can bring out our competitiveness, our irritability, and our less attractive demons that we usually keep hidden. But even this can be a gift when we recognize the negative voices within and figure out some new ways to live with them. As the fast progressed I found that my body remained strong, maybe even stronger than usual. I also found that my mind was much sharper than when it had to use so much energy directing my digestive system. My most difficult moments were at meal time when I discovered a ball of tension stuck in there where I had used food as comfort. As soon as meal time was over the ball of tension disappeared. By day 25 (I noticed that I did count the days) I lost interest in food and discovered some new dimensions of calm. Now I had a new worry. Would I be sharp, confident and decisive if a unexpected crisis unfolded somewhere?

The fast gave a burst of energy world wide, for the concern for Palestinian housing. Several local and international initiatives to stop home demolitions began around that time. Since demolitions still continue in Palestine you can make the argument that it didn’t work. However I choose to look at the underside of the event and notice how the fast riveted the attention of thousands of us to secure housing and I am confidently that some roads were not built where houses would have been demolished, some fields were not confiscated and hope was sustained in a very difficult period. On another level I felt a new surge of energy from the spirit to push forward and sustain the work.

One of my favorite fasts took place in Mexico in the spring of 2000 during Lent in front a military base and several hundred yards from the tiny village of X’oyep where members of the Bees, a 15,000 strong group of pacifist who had been attacked during worship two years earlier had found emergency housing. In that attack 49 people were killed by armed assassins supported by various forces seeking control over the land. I spent the week before Easter with our team at the fast site and we gathered with the local people to pray every four hours, night and day, as was the custom of the local people. The 12:00 pm and 4:00 am fast prayer times reminded me that the art of fasting which reaches back to the dawn of recorded history not only had to do with the spirit but it also subjected our ancestors to the cold.

Occasionally student groups and others joined the us at the inconvenient fast site deep in the mountains. After the massacre, a military base was set up to provide social services ( in military language civic action ) for the local people to win over the local resisters with benevolence. But the local people refused all dental attention, medical help and other emergency services. They refused the charity of the Mexican government because they believed that they were the ones who should offer hospitality if hospitality was desirable. They regarded civic action as an insult to their dignity and survival as a people. After all it was their land. On the Saturday before Easter Bees from surrounding mountains and refugee sites marched in single file over steep paths to a festival like event in front of the military base to celebrate their life of struggle and hope. The day was concluded by painting the military helicopter pad with a representation of the sun, their most powerful symbol of Mayan history and community. By morning the landing pad’s new face was destroyed by the military but hope was stronger than ever. By the end of the following year that military base was gone and the helicopter pad lay in ruins.

Lent tugs us towards our long history of fasting which shows up in almost every religion. For Christians, Lent is marked by fasting from foods and festivities, and by other acts of self denial. The three practices traditionally taken up during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbor). For the work of nonviolence in the examples above we have connected the lenten fast experience with a hunger fast, a method of protest used to stimulate deeper reflection and change on the part of the opposition. This connection has plenty of precedent among the Hebrew prophets who made generous use of popular notions of sackcloth and ashes. The prophets turned the popular notions of personal penance, mourning, and repentance into social protest.

One of the more striking examples of this was Mordecai who when he learned of the planned genocide against the people from Queen Esther, “he rent his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry” (Esther 4:1 RSV)

Perhaps the most impressive statement on fasting comes from Isaiah (58: 3-9 NIV) where the author uses strong words to condemn pious fasting that is not linked to justice and wholeness for the land and the people.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and
exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking
each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man
to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a
reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what
you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the
chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the
oppressed free and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide
the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked,
to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh
and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your
healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a]
will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your
rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you
will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do
away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger
and malicious talk,



Beyond Imagination by peaceprobe
May 4, 2006, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Nonviolence, Scripture: Nonviolence

Recently US undersecretary of state Karen Hughes spoke at a Catholic sponsored interfaith peace meeting that focused on religion and terrorism. She said that it was a misuse of religion to use it to justify terror and insurgency. But she had nothing to say about state violence or the legitimation of war as an instrument of policy by many of President Bush’s allies in this nation and around the world. Faith leaders from across the globe met at Georgetown University in Washington DC in an occasional conversation initiated 20 years ago by Pope John Paul II to explore the connection of faith and peace. This event occurred about a month after media controversy broke out over the appropriateness of peace action in a war zone, and whether adequate gratitude had been expressed by Christian Peacemaker Teams to the soldiers who freed the CPT captives.

The value that we put on life in a war situation, now the Iraqi war – but it could be any potentially violent setting – stretches us to the roots of the meaning of our lives. I grew up in a home where great respect was shown for Anabaptists who died for their faith. Anabaptists are the free church ancestors of many evangelicals, including Baptists, Brethren and Mennonites. An estimated 5000 of them died during their formative era in the 16th century and since. As a child from time to time I would go into my father’s study and take down the biggest book there, an old copy of the Martyr’s Mirror, which had been given to him by his father. I would look at some of the drawings depicting horrible scenes of torture and killing. Then I would read one or two of the stories of how my spiritual ancestors, Anabaptists and others going all the way back to Jesus lived and died because their faith was out of step with the world around them. I was very impressed with their courage, boldness and authenticity. 

Then I would put the book back on the shelf and return to other childhood interests. Occasionally I would ask about the stories and would get respectful serious confirmation that yes, these people who lived courageously and died by the thousands were in fact my ancestors. Then I would go about my life on the farm, engage in baseball fantasies and play football. Sometimes I took a long walk in the woods to try to understand what it would be like to live in a world where my convictions could get me killed. I was more than a little troubled by the thought that I might not have the courage to follow through. I was also troubled by the thought that I might have that kind of courage. Which was worse? 

One of the dangerous things that Anabaptists did was that they read the Bible and noticed what it said. This was one source of their courage. Because of the inherent content of the Gospel, it is described as an offense, meaning that it is a challenge to the authority that governments and institutions would like to see go away. The Anabaptists read about losing life in order to save it. Like their distant enlightened modern cousins they may have initially wondered what was meant by the phrase, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) I don’t think that they understood this as referring to a new kind of commercial or organic fertilizer. Their lives demonstrated this teaching as referring to the end of life for a specific living seed, a symbol for Jesus and followers. 

Anabaptist conviction and witness carried the threat of death because Anabaptist practice was out of sync with the time. The Anabaptist understanding of faith did not smoothly interface with political and social systems of the Holy Roman Empire. Anabaptist commitment to voluntarism and nonviolence was an offense to the system. The early church also had problems like that. Religion and empire worship were intertwined and there was little tolerance for deviation from the norm. Something in the world view or faith among these folks, the Anabaptists gave them calm and courage. Although they argued for freedom of belief and rights, they could not have known that their work was part of the bedrock that in future centuries would lead to a fundamental change in the way people understood rights of all kinds. Their willingness to accept death was a product of a comprehensive view that the meaning of an individual life reaches beyond the boundaries of this earthly body.

The early church and Anabaptist conviction was expressed in a time that predated the enlightenment. The enlightenment taught us that the only reality is material reality, that life ends with death, that everything is explainable if you just have enough scientific knowledge. Such a perspective is very different from one that says some part of us goes on beyond this earthly life. Today this extension of physical life is discussed with the language of energy, light, and even physics, specifically quantum physics, all avenues that may not be completely disconnected from the stuff of salvation which we read about in the Bible. 

Our modern notions of Human Rights and economic rights have been formed in a milieu of modern materialism. Economic rights say that it is your good fortune to live in a time when the accumulation of wealth is good. You get there by being smarter, working harder or just being lucky to be born in a place where the momentum is on the side of wealth, your personal wealth. A liberal Human Rights perspective says that the material manifestation of life must be preserved at all cost. It states that life is valuable, deserving of respect and honor. The taking of life is bad by the state or by individuals or groups but sometimes it is necessary. The pacifist works on this continuum but simply pushes it out a bit further by saying that it is never right to take life. Today most pacifists function unconsciously within the world view of the enlightenment

Today we are placed on the earth as Christians in a time when there is a fierce struggle for the our souls. It is good to occasionally check in with the people in our ancestry who thought there were things worth living and dying fcr. Their lives – allbeit in historical periods with very different world views – help us get a hold on the deeper meaning of the life, faith and world wide perspectives waiting to be revealed within us. Their lives also helps us to get back to the often analyzed but rarely lived Gospel which describes the power of light, which I take to be the light of God or if you please the God world view. Light is always more powerful than darkness. Telling truth when everyone is around you is lying is dangerous but very powerful. Once that truth is out, it is almost impossible to stop it. Something has to be done. Either you get rid of the truth teller or you start rumors. In modern times you can use the media for this. The truth teller is naive, misled or ungrateful to the military that is the source of power. 

It should not surprise us that peacemakers who are killed in dangerous situations evoke hostile responses. Most of our world does not yet function out of a world view that is confident that light will prevail and that light flows through our material bodies and beyond. Such a perspective is an irritant. But we know the perspective of light points to a hopeful way out of violence by reminding us that we may not be chained forever to the limits of our material imaginations.



The 20th Hijaker by peaceprobe
March 6, 2006, 11:33 am
Filed under: Detainees, Scripture: Nonviolence

During this time of Lent I invite your attention to the question of captives, a matter that was second on Jesus priority list in his return to his native village, Nazareth. The story of the 20th hijacker gives insight into life in captivity. Captives and their treatment have been a consistent matter of concern for prophets, ancient writers including those who wrote the Bible, and freedom workers. In this time of Lent I am sure there are church workers and pastors who will want to imaginatively consider how Jesus might have been treated in the period of his captivity leading up to his first penalty of death (Luke 4; 28-30) – the one from which he escaped during his visit to his hometown Nazareth and in his second captivity leading to his execution.

For some insight on how modern persons in captivity are treated you may want to consult Time magazine’s article on the 20th hijacker. 

The 83 page supporting piece for this article, includes excerpts of a daily log of the interrogation of al-Qualtani the 20th hijacker at Guantanamo . In this, sanitized log we get some sense of the state of captivity in the age of terrorism. The log begins Nov. 23, 2002 and continues through January 11, 2003. The log may be inspiration for skits, sermons and teachings appropriate for lent. It dramatizes the clash of culture and the use of state power in the treatment of captives. It shows how the basic stuff of life, food, water, sleep, fear, survival and prayer function in captivity.



Shine the Light: Seeing the Signs of the Times by peaceprobe
January 24, 2006, 9:57 am
Filed under: Scripture: Nonviolence, Shine the Light: Wash. DC

Sermon 

Scripture reading: Matt. 5: 1-14 

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I am in Washington to join with others in a an effort to Shine the Light on the institutional sources of violence and terrorism in our nation. Every day at 3:00 pm we will walk around one of the places where violence is imagined or supported and then walk to the White House where we will pray together. We invite you to join us. As we begin this witness I wish I could promise you that violence and terror will vanish forever, that our CPT colleagues and all detainees will be released, and abuse will forever be vanquished from our home in this world. In fact I can’t promise you anything, not one positive result. Some sincerely believe that we will make things worse. Others sincerely believe that by choosing the language of Light we reflect an arrogance that may lead to further conflict. Many think we are just one more eccentric, misguided and irrelevant, maybe fanatical expression of Christian faith. Our message may be misinterpreted, maligned, or distorted in the media.

As we begin this Shine the Light experience we do so as imperfect, and often wounded people. But we are also people who have grown through our wounds and the pain of abuse that we have witnessed around the world. We have learned that light is more powerful than the absence of light. We have learned that the great forces of the world are frightened by the light. But every time we have to begin again, with our doubts, our unfinished confidence and our prayer that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. In my comments today you will see great threads of hope given to us by the world wide church, by the Muslim world, and by our own culture which is yearning to rid itself of violence.

For the years that I was with CPT our teams tried to begin the day with common worship. I am sure our primitive attempts at worship must have looked wimpy to our Muslim friends whose ritual of five prayer periods every day always facing Mecca was so clear, and confident. I noticed over the years that when life got more dangerous and severe, Muslim prayer time become more disciplined. I also noticed that when we felt threatened, demeaned, or desperate to break through the silence of oppression with an act of love, our own worship which included scripture, songs and prayer became more focused. Sometimes in our confusion, laughter would lubricate our prayers. Other times a CPTer might jump up in the middle of our serious gathering seized by the Spirit with a message or a song. Some of us doubted the messenger but we knew we might just as well start listening to the Spirit.Worship times launched us into discussions of the day’s activities; or in times of discouragement someone would take initiative to rebuild the team’s confidence. The internal silence was broken and now the real discussion about the oppressive outside silence began. What to do!!! Ideas spewed forth in a collage of chaos and the organizers in the team listened for the patterns in the chaotic threads. They searched for a way to weave it into a tapestry for action and witness, a cloth that would draw attention to the horror that the team was witnessing but with a luminous streak of hope that the darkness could not put out. When I was with CPT that was the way it worked some days when things were down.

Two years ago I was in Baghdad where I spoke with many Muslim leaders in the Mosques. For some it may have been their first contact with Christians. We listened to each other explain our work and our needs. Some understood that Christians thought of all of them as terrorists. Many were outraged by the disappearances of people in their community and the residual effect of the occupation which to them was terrorism. We were also concerned about these matters and found common ground. When we described our work in nonviolence and refusal to accept armed protection or rescue even when detained they listened and said, “That is what Islam is about. We can do that.” Others said, “It wouldn’t work here.” I witnessed them open themselves to the power of peace based on fairness in Muslim tradition. So today the fact that so many Muslim leaders have spoken up on behalf of detainees including CPTers is not an accident. This speaking up is a way to counter act how faith is hijacked by states and groups working out of pain, anger and the energy of retribution.

We see similar strong words from Christians around the world who joined together in greater unity against war in this, the second Iraqi war than we have witnessed in 1700 years. We see discussions and initiatives of holy peacemaking instead of holy war. Within the silence of our faith we are reminded again and again of that light.
On that September 11 day I watched as the towers of finance and industry burned. I thought that this was an opportunity to put our best agape love inspired imaginations to work. The world felt broken. Why would God allow this, unless it was a reminder to us of our deepest task as Christians. When the CPTers were detained in Baghdad I was again reminded of how our agape inspired imaginations were presented with another opportunity. The world abounds with opportunities that stretch our imaginations.

Terrorists of all kinds, guerrilla supported, organized crime, and state sponsored believe that their purposes and pains will be made right by killing an enemy. By lashing back we set the terms for still another generation of terror. Our culture has worked this way for more than 5000 years back to the days of city states in Iraq. Despite the weight of this cultural tradition our hearts are gladdened when we read the great outpouring of public criticism of the war in Iraq, a criticism that is growing. During the Viet Nam war it took us years to reach this point. In the space of less than three years we have reached a critical point where our government must acknowledge the great chorus of people for peace.

God did not create us to be instruments of violent retribution. God created us as peacemakers, instruments of light and salt, and people of sacrifice and prayer. The program of the Prince of Peace did not include repaying evil for evil. Jesus proposed a program of enemy loving. I don’t presume to know the full power or dimensions of that program but I have enjoyed many occasions when I saw it work. The Prince’s program suggested a complete paradigm shift of how violence is engaged. We live in a time when experiments to carry out this new paradigm are widely initiated, conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, nonviolent direct action, all of which have some roots in the stories of the Prince before he was killed by the State.

As we consider the great congregation of believers we are captivated by the legacy of pain, abuse, broken souls passed from generation to generation, some would say “unto the seventh generation” perhaps longer. I call upon us to awaken the souls of broken warriors, so hungry for hope, so ready to know the fullness of the Prince’s program of peace, so wanting to believe.
What a blessing this century can be when Christians come together in a renaissance of peacemaking, harmonized and completed by the diverse gifts of nationality, culture, and gender. There is power in the people of faith to make all things new. I believe we have been placed here for a time like this to reinvigorate humanity’s journey and show major results in the Prince’s program. This is the time to be pastors to all God’s family.

The termination of terror, torture and war is not up to Washington, or Baghdad, or Kabul or London or Tokyo or Delhi or Paris or Jerusalem. It is up to us. As we pray together we will find ways to take on more responsibility for the power that we have been given. The cost for us will not show up on your credit card. We have the power in our internal bank, the power of enemy loving. It has only one condition. If this power does not get used it molds, smells bad, dies and the residue might create another disease. Prepare for surprises. This detainee crisis on the back of a generation of torture and terror has shaken the Muslim world into genuine steps of faithfulness to the highest call within their tradition. I believe that Christians are feeling similarly called.

Twenty years ago during the discussions about the founding of Christian Peacemaker Teams I realized that despite so many voices to the contrary a sizable minority in our churches were joined by many other mainline and evangelical groups, and Roman Catholics representing a potent force for world peace. I believed that if organized we could fundamentally impact spiritual health, social structures and the perceived legitimacy of war and killing for nations and neighborhoods striving to achieve justice. The incredible power of active nonviolent peacemaking is a premier sign of our time. People of faith have witnessed the effectiveness of nonviolence to push back killing and violence often with amazingly small doses of organized action. We no longer need to be surprised by this.

The effectiveness of nonviolence has been adequately tested but we are in fact caught in the history that still waits for us to demonstrate this power fully. Over the last 20 years I have carried on conversations about nonviolence and faith in more than 20 countries often with people who are open to active nonviolence; but until it is demonstrated more comprehensively, they believe the threat of the gun must be maintained in order for society to be secure. The final elimination of military force, armed police and armed national and international guerilla action will be accomplished when a broader culture of nonviolence that rejects the gun is expanded exponentially.

In an age when millions are anxious about their security and long for structures that bring peace, the sign of hope that a peace church can bring people everywhere is breathtaking. Our work together up to this time has been preparation, like pilot projects where our faith and confidence are tested and our skills refined. Forty years of peace work has taught me that our world is waiting for us to move beyond pilot projects to invite the nonviolent Gospel of peace to become fully visible and an active choice for every citizen of the human family. This can be the defining sign of the 21st century. “Where have you been all these years?” were the first words spoken to me during my visit to an Afghan leader some years ago?

This question reverberates in my soul every day as I try to pray?

How should we pray? Should we pray that our four friends be released? Should we pray that all detainees be released? Should we pray that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven? Should we pray that the power of holy peacemaking will be revealed in its fullness?

As we pray let us remember…
– that our understanding of life and death may be clarified and expanded beyond their present limits.
– that our lives will be more in tune with God’s spirit for this, our age.
– that in life and in death the highest good might be achieved through our prayer and sacrifice.
– that we can choose to be candles of light wherever the shadows stretch their long reach over hidden pain.
– that the Glory of God will be revealed and that all flesh, all creation will see that Glory together.



Shine the Light on the US State Department by peaceprobe
January 23, 2006, 10:10 am
Filed under: Politics of Empire, Scripture: Nonviolence

Where Foreign Policy gets put to work: 

The State Department building has remained the same for 50 years. Quiet, well dressed, dignified, but with several generations of new and improved security around it. Senior government workers are on the top floor and others, less senior on the intermediary floors until you reach the bottom. On this day I was only on the outside. But, I do know some of the folks on the inside and have enjoyed good meetings and conversations.

Today as I walked around this two block building I found my heart reaching out to the folks inside, many of whom entered government service with hopes that they would help bring good things to this world as members of the Foreign Service. Many of my generation are now either retired or will soon depart. Years ago I knew them, people like me, products of the hopefulness of the Kennedy generation. 

Now after so many years they can see that Viet Nam was not the end; Viet Nam was the continuation of generations of American international adventurism beginning with the Philippines in 1898 and stretching back through the Indian wars. Some of the folks in that building might whisper their frustrations if given a moment. Their efforts to butter the already slippery foreign adventurism of the late 20th century US reach must have been hard work. One by one I have watched them drop out and turn to the safety of the private world; still some try and hope.

The embassies which they lead now are protected like modern castles, from car bombs, attacks, and demonstrators like me. Frustrations with the world with the US are poured on to these foreign service officers as their professional policy lives are jilted by one administration to another every four or eight years.

The plaque on the front of the State Department proclaims a mission of arms control and environmental protections among other great values. More than half of the arms of the world are now manufactured in the United States. Millions here and around the world remain mystified with these words, arms control and await delivery on the promise. We walked silently, hoping not to appear holier than they who represent us in distant nations as we prayed for our common renewal for ourselves and for the earth.