Tonight I finished watching Nobelity (2006, site 1, site 2), which features a series of interviews with Amartya Sen, Wangari Muta Maathai, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams and other Nobel winners. Topics covered include health, energy, peace, war, culture, religion, the environment, over-population and hunger. This diversity of topics keeps the film moving, but it also means that no topic can be addressed in depth. The final consideration of love and family was especially meaningful to me. I believe this is a critical theme–we’re all in this together; we’re all interdependent.
In The Promise of Peace, Charles Scriven tells the story of Adventists supporting human life during the destruction in Sarajevo. Read the book to learn more about SDA history.
Serbs, Croats, and Muslims were in violent discord, and Bosnia was a rubble of broken hearts and dreams. Artillery and sniper fire, along with undependable roads and telephone lines, had isolated the three hundred thousand people in the Muslim-controlled section of Sarajevo, the capital.
It was 1992. That year the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, working with a tiny congregation, began hauling parcels of food into the most desperate section of the city. The food came mostly from refugee families trying to help their loved ones back home.
Word of the activity spread, and it wasn’t long until Serb, Croat, and Muslim volunteers, hundreds of them, were using imported trucks to maintain an informal postal service between Sarajevo and safer cities elsewhere….
The trucks could pass through the Serb-controlled outskirts of Sarajevo only if the Serbs permitted it. The whole operation depended, in fact, on the cooperation and goodwill of the warring factions. A newspaper reporter… asked how members of the Sarajevo Adventist congregation were able to sustain the necessary cooperation and goodwill.
The pastor [Milan Suslic] said they were “not part of any nationality or any side in the war”; they belonged “to the region, but not to the conflict.” He said, too, that the makeshift postal service was fending off every hint of violence. “If somebody found even one bullet in the convey,” he explained, “our work would be ruined.” And project leaders were putting constant effort into assuring the rival factions that the operation’s aim was to help all groups in Sarajevo. In his most telling remark, Pastor Suslic declared, “We are nobody’s and everybody’s.”
With these words, the pastor pictured a congregation that, in a world sundered by arrogance, would play no favorites and do no violence. For the purposes of their project, the congregation’s members saw themselves as a people for all peoples, a source of blessing but not of discord. They simply wished the divine will done on earth as it is in heaven. They were few, but they would defy the stranglehold of violence. They would live out–today–the ideals that the Second Coming would establish forever. (pp. 20-21)
Note: For more thoughts on violence and development work, I recommend these two books:
- Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace or War (Mary B. Anderson, 1999)
- Conflict and Development (Roger Mac Ginty and Andrew Williams, 2009)
- What do you think about congregations and denominations getting involved with situations of violence and injustice? What are potential risks and benefits? How is a cost/benefit analysis inadequate for this discussion?
- In a situation of injustice, where one side is oppressing the other, can neutrality or equal support of both parties prolong the injustice? In the words of Howard Zinn, can we be neutral on a moving train?
- In this particular situation in Sarajevo, which do you think would have been preferable–(a) supporting all parties as described, (b) searching for other ways to support only at-risk noncombatants though this would break neutrality and incite hostility from one or more communities, (c) remain on the sideline and preach about forgiveness, compassion, and love for all including one’s enemies, or (d) ____? Describe how you reached this conclusion. What values or issues are you prioritizing?
- What role did faith have in determining the self-identity of the various communities–SDA church members, Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. What are the most salient determiners of my identity today? What are the consequences of this particular focus and identity?
- Do these themes have any connection to “normal life” outside of a war zone? What relevance might this discussion have for our daily lives?
Last night I watched Dirt!, a documentary that considers many perspectives on the uses for and value of dirt. Some parts felt far-fetched (e.g., I’m sure some other planets have dirt; we’ve analyzed so few to know), but most parts were thought-provoking. Even some sections that seemed pointless (paving dirt on the Indian floor every day) actually speak to ways of life that I believe will outlast modern industrial farming and all that goes with it.
Some of the topics in the film reminded me of three articles I’ve read recently:
- Debating the Local Food Movement (Emily Badger, The Atlantic, 3 July 2012)
- Brazilian City Offers Vegetables in Exchange for Trash (Stephen Messenger, TreeHugger, 16 July 2012)
- The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise (Lester Brown, Guardian, 24 July 2012)
I appreciated this WV article — What does “social justice” really mean? Two excerpts:
The Bible makes social justice a mandate of faith and a fundamental expression of Christian discipleship. Social justice has its biblical roots in a triune God who time and time again shows His love and compassion for the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the disinherited — you get my point. “For Christians, the pursuit of social justice for the poor and oppressed is the decisive mark of being people who submit to the will and way of God,” writes Tim Dearborn in “Reflections on Advocacy and Justice.”
Social justice is about creating kingdom space in the here and now, giving witness to the ultimate just society yet to come. So every time we use our voice and influence to get in the way of injustice — whether it’s human trafficking, economic exploitation, human rights abuses, or infants dying needlessly from disease and malnutrition — we provide a foretaste of God’s kingdom to come.
These are some of the essays I’ve written over the past few years in my peace studies program. I would likely approach them differently now–some are down-right sloppy–but this is what I wrote while hip-deep in the process.
- Christian Attitudes to War, Peace & Revolution: A Brief History of US SDAs & Military Service [Go here for more on the topic.]
- Economic Justice: Jubilee and Meritocracy
- Issues in Community Development: Genocide
- Independent Study: Christian Peacemaking
- Education for Peace & Justice: Vision for EPJ
- Christian Nonviolence: People Power in the Philippines
- Peace & Justice: Latin America Perspectives: The God that Failed
- Mission and Peace: Theology of Mission & Peace
- Anabaptist History & Theology: Comparison of Anabaptist and Adventist Movements [Quotations, not a formal paper.]
- Peace Research: 19th Century Restoration Movements [Collection of original writings.]
- Research Methods: Adventists & Torture [I should have never mentioned military issues, and instead focused solely on torture.]
- Pauline Theology & Ethics: Ministry of Reconciliation handout (2-pg) and paper
- Pauline Theology & Ethics: Paul & the Powers
- Comprehensive Exams, Day 1: Relationship between Peace & Justice
- Comprehensive Exams, Day 2: Three Difficult Sayings of Jesus
Click here to see a list of my film reviews, book reviews, interviews and other writings at Spectrum, Adventist Today, and other outlets.
These are my better essays and lists at Adventist Activism:
- Close the SOA/WHINSEC
- Food: Diet, Production, Health & the Environment
- The Nonviolence of Humility
- The Limits of Christian Ethics
- Boulder (CO) & Project 5:2
- Christian Nonviolence
- Lakeview SDA Church Cheers for a Cure
- Still Waters
- Peace Messenger: Peacemaking Heritage Series
- The Peacemaking Remnant
- 100 Days Campaign
- Christian Peace Witness for Iraq
- Preface 2 – Success & Motivation
- Preface 1 – Tzedekah
And these are what I consider to be my more important pieces at Adventists for the Environment:
- The Beauty of Creation and the Sabbath
- Motivation for Creation Care is More Than Heat
- Adventist Review – Letter to the Editor
- Global Warming Reader
- Mammals in Decline
- A Walk on the Wild Side(walk)
- Unintended Consequences – Corn & the Zone of Death
- The Development of a Theme
- A Path Toward Awareness
- Environmental Film Festival