Thursday, September 18, 2014

World Day of Prayer for Peace


September 21, 2014

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the World Council of Churches and then the United Nations eventually designated September 21st every year as the DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE around the world.Since then many religious groups have also given support. It’s now a world-wide observance in a variety of ways. May the following thoughts enrich your involvement in “praying for peace” regularly.

For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[From the Book of Common Prayer]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Policing as Counterinsurgency

By John Moser
A few weeks back my wife and I visited the charming little college town of Delaware, Ohio. Delaware is about 35 miles from Columbus, and is home to Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a collection of fine restaurants and even a microbrewery. We had chosen a good night to go, because there was a local street fair, and the town was alive with booths from local businesses and civic organizations. The Delaware police were there, too.

And they brought with them their new toy, a big black armored vehicle called an MRAP. That stands for mine-resistant, ambush-protected.

One might wonder why Delaware, with fewer than 36,000 residents, has need of such a vehicle. Is the local constabulary really that worried about mines or ambushes?

But of course this development is hardly unique to Delaware. For the last ten years the Department of Defense has been providing local police forces across the country with military hardware at cut rate prices. Delaware paid only $2,600 for its MRAP, which ordinarily sells for some $700,000.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Sort of People Will We Be? A Reflection on Ferguson and Christian Identity

By Brian Bantum

As a teacher and especially as a theologian I try to help students connect how a community's understanding of who God is connects to the way they see themselves and their world. But inevitably, when we encounter the historical atrocities of the American slave system, Jim Crow, or other global acts of tragic dehumanization and violence, students are overwhelmed. But they also express a curious distance from those historical perpetrators. They say something like this, "Well, surely something like that couldn't happen now, we are not those sort of people." 

But what "sort of people" either justify or ignore the persistent cries of those being dispossessed and persecuted? And herein lies the fundamental problem. The implicit language of what is natural underlines how we view ourselves and others. While a relatively small percentage of individuals owned slaves in the United States, the assumption of what black bodies were, by nature, and what white bodies were, by nature, served to perpetuate the system as part of God's natural order.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Colors of My School

By Sue Dickson

Daviny sat next to me in the school’s cafeteria, her head bent closely to the paper as she bit her bottom lip in concentration. We were in La Aguada, a rural school in the FARC controlled mountains of northwest Colombia. She was showing me that she could write the letters of her name. Her parents do not read or write—but she does. Daviny is nine. She wants to be a teacher. She walks a couple of kilometers on mountain trails to school every day. Violence is part of Daviny’s life. Her older brothers have been recruited by the FARC. When a group of FARC militants showed up at the door of the family’s hut, they knew: they could either join the guerillas or be killed. As Daviny and I worked, one of the brothers was watching us from the edge of the jungle. In another world, at another time, he would have been a student in the school, too. He is fourteen. Now, he was a militant watching from the margins.

The school is three concrete-block rooms, painted bright yellow with blue trim—the colors of Colombia. Large windows look across a grassy field and out over the valley and jungle-wrapped mountains. There are no other buildings in sight. These mountains are exquisitely beautiful and they are exquisitely dangerous for outsiders. They are remote, undeveloped, sparsely inhabited and therefore a perfect hideout for the FARC. In the valley to the north, the paramilitaries remain in control. In the middle of that valley, a military base stands watch. Violence is commonplace.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Peace and Preservation

By Emily Wirtz

Just to piggy-back off of some of the other environmentally-based posts on here, I figure it’s worth discussing why we seem to think “the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim” (of course it was necessary to use a Pocahontas reference). We infect our own environment with pesticides, noxious gases, and waste and then take the good stuff from it—deforestation, city expansion, war destruction—and still expect the world to be a-okay.

[This is no joke. Residents of Toledo are presently warned not to drink the water since it comes out of the water source looking like the image to the left. The cause is an algae bloom in Lake Erie from phosphorus used in farming fertilizers. —Ed.]  

Vanessa Inaru Pastrano, “Inaru,” is a dedicated member of the United Confederation of Taino People, an elder of the Bohio Atabei Council and coordinator of the Peace and Dignity Journey’s Caribbean region. As an indigenous Native American, this Taino woman feels a strong connection to our environment: “Those trees, that grass, those insects all have a language of their own, and just because it’s not English or Spanish doesn’t mean we should ignore it.”

Inaru returned to Ohio to partake in Youngstown’s Taino Summer Solstice ceremony on June 21st, during which I had the opportunity to listen to her talk about her community involvement and environmental passions. Companies like Monsanto that advertise as “sustainable agriculture” yet use harmful pesticides and GMOs in their crop production, she explains, are a big part, but only one part, of the disintegration of Earth’s health.  Sure, “the Earth is going through its natural processes,” she continued, “but we are escalating it.” Waste from ships, deforestation in the Amazon and bombing in the Middle East are a few other issues she feels are “destroying the lungs of the Earth.” We seem to think, she explains, that nothing’s wrong unless we can see it directly affecting us. We ignore the destruction of the Earth because media doesn’t cover it. “We have to think like an Indian. Everything has life and purpose and meaning. Everything on this planet is alive, and the Earth is dying, and we are destroying it.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Violence We Want to Hear About

By Craig Hovey

It’s one thing to charge American media sources for being biased in favor of either Israelis or Palestinians (here is one example). But some commentators (like here and here) have been trying to make sense of the fact that Israel-Palestine gets more airtime than other conflicts, that the violence currently in Gaza is prompting much greater American media response, public protest, and analysis than violence in Syria, Ukraine, and northern Iraq. 

One commentator highlights the phenomenon by pointing to the fact that, last weekend, there was a higher death toll in Syria than total casualties so far in Gaza. He also cites a reporter for the Pakistani newspaper Al-Hayat who tweeted about anti-Israel protests in Pakistan but no anti-Syria protests even though Syria has 320 times the death-toll. 

This report (and this analysis) likewise show the relative lack of concern for Syria compared to Gaza, so much so that a Youtube video of Syrian children being used as human shields was largely ignored until it was re-posted with the false claim that it shows Hamas and children in Gaza.

There just seems to be something about the Israel-Palestine situation that consistently registers much more highly for the average American than other current conflicts. A former student of mine remarked that in his town people are wearing pro-Israel or pro-Palestine t-shirts like they are sports fans. 

Contrast this with the situation in northern Iraq. There are stories reporting ISIS’s order of female genital mutilation for the women of Mosel and the rape and murder of Iraqi Christians in Mosel while “the West is silent.” Why the silence?

I worry that no explanation is very flattering. Perhaps Americans are so fed up with Iraq that we simply don’t want to hear about it any more. It could also be that the idea of a persecuted Christian minority is embarrassing for some western believers for whom Christianity is a conquering force, or else is incongruous for western secularists for essentially the same reason, together with the assumption that these conflicts are only about politics and not about religion. 

Still more reasons must include the closer connection many Americans feel with Israel due to the large proportion of Israel that claims European or American ancestry. There is also a cultural connection in which western political and moral ideas such as democracy and how to wage war justly may be thought more plausibly to be expected of Israel compared to Arab nations. These last two points might help explain both opposition to Israeli policies and the prominent place that the Gaza situation has on the radar. We don’t have anti-Syria protests like we do anti-Israel protests because, according to the Al-Hayat reporter, the “only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.” 

It’s of course hard to know how to account for it all, but it strikes me that there is more going on than merely a need for journalistic balance or “equal time.” We actually seem to want to hear about some things and not others. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

By Emily Wirtz

During my short month in Costa Rica—and it was much too short—I had the most incredible experiences, made some crazy friends and met some of the most amazing people. Ultimately, one of my goals while in this beautiful country was to learn more about the peace-keeping environment for which they are known. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with David Kaufman, “Don David,” the director and founder of the Conversa program and Peace Corps member.

After receiving a Spanish degree from Ithica College, Kaufman became a dedicated member of and language instructor in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Then going on to serve as the Spanish Language Coordinator in Puerto Rico, he was inspired to create the programs in Conversa based upon the same values.

Of his time in the Corps, Kaufman was more than eager to discuss. A lot of people are reluctant to join due to an environment foreign and possibly dangerous. “You’ll get frustrated, you’ll get sick,” he
explained, “but they take care of you.” The opportunities within the Corps as Kaufman describes them are endless and open to a variety of experience and skill levels. If a program doesn’t work, it gets adjusted. “The toughest job you’ll ever love” was a life changing experience for this American tico.