Interfaith Solidarity

I’ve heard two stories lately about interfaith solidarity that really impressed me.

First, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was taken prisoner in WWII. A Nazi prison guard demanded to know who of Edmonds’ men were Jewish. Edmonds refused to single them out, but instead declared, “We are all Jews here.”

Even with the threat of death, he didn’t change his answer. This courageous act saved the lives of the Jewish soldiers. The story goes:

Nazi leaders had told the Jewish soldiers to assemble outside their barracks one morning, to be taken to labor camps where they would almost certainly die.

But Edmonds, of Knoxville, Tennessee, ordered the entire contingent of 1,000 U.S. servicemen to join them, saying the Nazis had to kill all of them or none.

Even when threatened at gunpoint, Edmonds didn’t budge, and his gambit worked. The Nazi official backed down and around 200 Jewish soldiers stayed in captivity with the others until they were liberated.

You can learn more of the details here (“‘We are all Jews here’: U.S. soldier honored after leading revolt against Nazi prison guard who demanded Jews step forward so they could be killed,” Kieran Corcoran, Daily Mail, 2 Dec 2015).

Second, a similar situation recently occurred in Kenya, but this time it was Muslims protecting Christians. The BBC reports:

A group of Kenyan Muslims travelling on a bus ambushed by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, according to eyewitnesses.

They told the militants “to kill them together or leave them alone”, a local governor told Kenyan media.

At least two people were killed in the attack, near the north-eastern village of El Wak on the Somali border.

Learn more about this brave stance here (“Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack,” BBC, 21 Dec 2015).

What would I do if I had been in that camp or on that bus? Would I have the courage in the moment to stand up for others? Would I express that level of solidarity? I’m thankful for those who such a brave example for us to ponder. May I be shaped and formed by these stories.

Web Round-up

Christian articles relating to social ethics and action (plus a few about faith more generally):

Plus here is a list for Seventh-day Adventists (link).

MISC PEACE, JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS (General Sources)

ENVIRONMENT

Veterans Day Web Round-up

I agree with Jesse Ventura that we can love vets and hate war. With that in mind here are some links on the topic of war and veterans:

Shane Claiborne on Veterans Day

Shane Claiborne posted three items on Veterans Day that I believe are worth contemplating. He shares thoughts on Facebook rather than a blog (as far as I know), so they are hard to link to. Therefore, I’ve decided to copy-and-paste them here. Shane, if this is inappropriate, let me know so I can remove them. Peace

(1) November 11, 2014

I absolutely love that the Church celebrates Martin of Tours, the “patron saint of soldiers”, on the same day as Veterans Day. Ironically, Martin was one of the Church’s first conscientious objectors to war – he refused to fight, left the military, and coined the phrase: “I am a soldier for Christ… I cannot fight the wars of man.” I can’t imagine a better person to remember on Veterans day.

Here’s a little more about brother Martin:

Martin of Tours was born during the troubling time of Constantine’s crusades. He was born four years after Constantine’s legendary conversion to Christianity, when Christians were exchanging the cross of Jesus for the sword of the empire. Into this world of “holy war,” Martin was born. He was named after Mars, the god of war. His dad was a veteran, in fact a senior officer, of the Roman Army. And like many of our kids, Martin entered the service as a young teenager to fight the crusades of the empire.

And then there was an interruption. Outside the gates of Amiens in modern-day France, Martin had a human encounter that would forever change him. He met a scantily-clad beggar and was deeply moved with compassion. With very little to give away, he took off his military cloak and cut it in half, giving half to the beggar. Then he eventually laid down his arms, saying, “I am a Christian, I cannot fight.” Later he would be taken to jail, insulted, and persecuted for deserting the army. He’s great person to remember on Veteran’s Day.

Our veteran buddy Logan Mehl-Laituri released his newest book FOR GOD AND COUNTRY on Veteran’s Day last year. This year Logan and the Centurion’s Guild have been profiling 10 “Soldier Saints” over the past 10 days — check it out on their blog: http://centurionsguild.org/blog/

And while we’re at it… why don’t we give a copy of one of Logan’s books away to the 10th person to email us with “WAR NO MORE” as subject: sc@redletterchristians.org

It’s the perfect book for Veterans Day as we try to honor the soldiers and the dead by putting an end to war.

http://centurionsguild.org/blog/

– See more at: http://www.redletterchristians.org/feasting-martin-tours-veterans-day/#sthash.CEcw9lDd.dpuf

(2) November 11, 2014

One of my favorite Veterans (other than my dad of course) is Charlie Liteky.

In 1968 Charlie Liteky was given the highest award in the US, the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson. In the movie, “Forrest Gump”, they dub over Charlie to put Tom Hanks in as he is given the award. What is not as well known is that in 1986 Charlie joined some of the most decorated veterans in the US as they returned their Medals of Honor and renounced all war.

Charlie and I got to be in Iraq together in 2003 with the Iraq Peace Team. One of the things he taught me is that veterans often know the horrors of war better than anyone. We can see it in the suicide rate (one a day for soldiers, 22 a day for veterans) and in the rate of homelessness and addiction of vets (there are 50,000 homeless veterans).

When we fight for peace, we are fighting for them. We honor the men and women in uniform by trying to put an end to war. In Iraq, I remember Charlie holding a sign while we were there that said: “I hate war as only a Veteran can.” It reminded me of the words of Ernest Hemingway: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.”

Let’s commit ourselves today, as many folks celebrate “Veterans Day” — to honor the infantry and the dead by committing to build a world without war.

In the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.

(3) November 11, 2014

And finally…

In remembrance of Veterans Day, I came across one of my favorite poems from a veteran named George Mizo. It was handed to me by one of his friends at a vigil for peace:

You, my church, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.

You, my teachers, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.

You, my father and mother, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.

You, my friends, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.

You, my government, told me it was wrong to kill … except in war.

But now I know, you were wrong, and now I will tell you, my church, my teachers, my father and mother, my friends, my government, it is not wrong to kill except in war. It is wrong to kill.

Web Round-up

MISC PEACE, JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS

ENVIRONMENT

RELIGIOUS ETHICSlist

Friday Web Round-up

MISC PEACE, JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS

ENVIRONMENT

FOOD & FARMING

SEX & GENDER

RACE

MEDIA

TRAFFICKING

Friday Web Round-up

Economics

Human Rights

War, Peace & Social Change

Psychology

Environment

Religion: List

Random: List

ADRA & Sarajevo

peaceIn 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:

Reflection Questions:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. Do these themes have any connection to “normal life” outside of a war zone? What relevance might this discussion have for our daily lives?

Articles of Note (Updated)

I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and did some online reading. Here is a sampling:

Dirt!

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.

You can watch it on Hulu for free or stream it “instantly” on Netflix.

Some of the topics in the film reminded me of three articles I’ve read recently: