Archives

Drones versus Christ’s Love

Back in August, I posted here an entry concerning drones strikes and Christian just war theory. Since then, the Christian evangelical progressive community, Sojourners, has posted in their blog, Drone Watch, another view in a piece called, Has Drone Firepower Conquered Christ’s Love?, by Danny Mortensen.

It begins from a different perspective and with a different emphasis:

For centuries, followers of Jesus have wondered how they should relate to states and governments. Recent documents from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations bring such concerns to the fore, highlighting the cruel collateral damage of many of President Barack Obama’s personally ordered drone strikes — strikes that according to the president, are legal and in accord with international law, use technology that is precise and limit unnecessary casualties, eliminate people that are real threats, and prevent greater violence.

Rather than considering the humanity of our (perceived) enemies and seeking reconciliation and restorative justice, we default to catching and killing. In doing so, we give the widest berth possible to Jesus’s teachings and examples of self-sacrificial enemy love. In both Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus tells us that to love our enemies is to be children of God, for radical love and kindness are his nature and his perfection. Loving enemies is essential to anyone who would claim God as his or her Father. Jesus said, “Love.” Not, “Love unless you happen to be the ones in charge and in possession of firepower. In that case, kill the bastards.”

We are charged with loving our world indiscriminately, self-sacrificially, and with great humility, and that should always inform our relationship with the state and government.

I Declare World Peace.

Advertisements

Human Rights and Compassion

October 16 is the annual Blog Action Day. Since 2007, bloggers have come together to write on an important issue. Past issues have included Poverty, Water, and Climate Change. The issue for 2013 is Human Rights.
I have had a separate page on this blog for the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. I also have a separate page dedicated to the Charter for Compassion. I believe human rights (the Declaration) and compassion (the Charter) are related and complementary. I believe that we need both human rights and compassion to achieve world peace.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights Declaration

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about following the atrocities of World War II. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Its drafters said:

Man’s desire for peace lies behind this Declaration. The realization that the flagrant violation of human rights by Nazi and Fascist countries sowed the seeds of the last world war has supplied the impetus for the work which brings us to the moment of achievement here today.

Charter for compassion logo

CharterforCompasssion.org

The Charter for Compassion came about from a TED Prize wish of comparative religion scholar and writer, Karen Armstrong. The Charter was developed by a Council of Conscience and was unveiled on November 12, 2009. Sister Joan Chittester,  a member of the Council, said:

In a world where force is too often the response to differences of opinion, culture and ideas of the divine, compassion is its one universal antidote. This Charter gives spiritual voices the opportunity to unite in this most authentic cry for peace.

I believe the Charter for Compassion is an important document-become-movement for our post 9-11 world.

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins thusly:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge, …

The Charter for Compassion begins this way:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

The Declaration ends:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The Charter concludes:

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

I believe we need to think in terms of both rights and compassion. We need both head and heart (and hands and feet, too) to achieve world peace. We do need rights in terms of law. We need them spelled out, stood upon, and accounted for. However, rights themselves can go only so far. We also need compassion and empathy. We need to think in terms of treating each other as we would wish to be be treated — the Golden Rule.

As I have said before, “I believe that a human being is a human being is a human being with all the rights and privileges thereof.” We should all be treated accordingly — even by nations, including my own.

I Declare World Peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh on Terrorism and Compassion

Thich-Nhat-Hanh

This past Sunday, Krista Tippett of the public radio program, On Being, rebroadcast her interview with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk in exile, Thich Nhat Hanh, at a retreat in the United States about. ten years ago. Much of what he had to say is still relevant. Here is an excerpt from the transcript. You can find more on the web  of this particular program here.

In the transcript, Thich Nhat Hanh is referred to as “Brother Thay.”

Ms. Tippett: Some of the things you’ve said about the war on terror, you used the word “forgiveness” right away, and I don’t think that was a word that was anywhere in our public discourse in this country. But I also heard you this morning, when you were speaking with the group, talking about the responsibility of everyone also for policies, global policies. Say some more about that, about what role individuals have to play even in something like the war on terror, from your perspective.

Brother Thây: The individual has to wake up to the fact that violence cannot end violence, that only understanding and compassion can neutralize violence because, with the practice of loving speech and compassionate listening, you can begin to understand people and help people to remove the wrong perceptions in them because these wrong perceptions are at the foundation of their anger, their fear, their violence, their hate. And listen deeply. You might be able to remove the wrong perception you have within yourself concerning you and concerning them. So the basic practice in order to remove terrorism and war is the practice of removing wrong perceptions, and that cannot be done with the bombs and the guns. And it is very important that our political leaders realize that and apply the techniques of communication.

We live in a time when we have a very sophisticated means for communication, but communication has become very difficult between individuals and groups of people. A father cannot talk to a son, mother cannot talk to a daughter, and maybe husband cannot talk to a wife. And Israelis cannot talk to Palestinians, and Hindus cannot talk to Muslims. And that is why we have war, we have violence. That is why restoring communication is the basic work for peace, and our political and our spiritual leaders have to focus all their energy on this matter.

Ms. Tippett: But I think some would say — people in positions of power would say that they simply can’t wait for that communication to happen or for that change to take place, that they also have to act now.

Brother Thây: If they cannot communicate with themselves, if they cannot communicate with members of their family, if they cannot communicate with people in their own country, they have no understanding that will serve as a base for right action, and they will make a lot of mistakes.

Ms. Tippett: I’m wondering if, you know, by way of bringing this back to you and the practice and how you know the practice, if you would read this poem, “For Warmth,” and talk about how you think about anger and how one lives with anger. Being mindful doesn’t take away all these emotions. Right? These human emotions.

Brother Thây: Well, we have to remain human, you know, in order to be able to understand and to be compassionate. You have the right to be angry, but you don’t have the right not to practice in order to transform your anger. You have the right to make mistakes, but you don’t have the right to continue making mistakes. You have to learn from the mistakes.

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm. And would you say something about when you — the occasion on which you wrote this poem also?

Brother Thây: I wrote this poem after I hear the news that the city of Ben Tre was bombed, and an American army officer declared that he had to destroy the town in order to save the town. It was so very shocking for us. In fact, there were a number of guerillas who came to the town, and we use anti-aircraft gun to shoot, and, because of that, they bombarded the town and killed so many civilians.

Ms. Tippett: Was it 1965 or something like that?

Brother Thây: Yeah, around that time.

Ms. Tippett: OK.

Brother Thây: [speaking Vietnamese]

Ms. Tippett: [translating]) “I hold my face between my hands. No, I am not crying. I hold my face between my hands to keep my loneliness warm, two hands protecting, two hands nourishing, two hands to prevent my soul from leaving me in anger.”

Brother Thây: When you notice that anger is coming up in you, you have to practice mindful breathing in order to generate the energy of mindfulness, in order to recognize your anger and embrace it tenderly, so that you can bring relief into you and not to act and to say things that can destroy, that can be destructive. And doing so, you can look deeply into the nature of the anger and know where it has come from. That practice help us to realize that not only Vietnamese civilians and military were victims of the war, but also American men and women who came to Vietnam to kill and to be killed were also victims of the war.

[music]

Ms. Tippett: So here’s the question that occurs to me again and again. These root causes are so simple in a way — wrong perception…

Brother Thây: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: …poor communication…

Brother Thây: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: …anger that may have its place in human life but then needs to be acted on mindfully, in your language. Why is it so hard for human beings — and I think this is as true in a family as it is in global politics mdash; to take these simple things seriously, these simple aspects of being human?

Brother Thây: I don’t think it is difficult. In the many retreats that we offer in Europe, in America, in many other countries, awakening, understanding, compassion and reconciliation can take place after a few days of practice. People need an opportunity so that the seed of compassion, understanding in them to be watered, and that is why we are not discouraged. We know that if there are more people joining in the work of offering that opportunity, then there will be a collective awakening.

Ms. Tippett: I look at you and I also see that you view the world through the eyes of compassion, which is another term you use, and that I see the weight of that on you. It is also a burden to look at the world straight and to see suffering and to see the sources of suffering wherever you look.

Brother Thây: When you have compassion in your heart, you suffer much less, and you are in a situation to be and to do something to help others to suffer less. This is true. So to practice in such a way that brings compassion into your heart is very important. A person without compassion cannot be a happy person. And compassion is something that is possible only when you have understanding. Understanding brings compassion. Understanding is compassion itself. When you understand the difficulties, the suffering, the despair of the other person, you don’t hate him, you don’t hate her anymore.

Ms. Tippett: What would compassion look like towards a terrorist, let’s say?

Brother Thây: The terrorists, they are victims of their wrong perceptions. They have wrong perceptions on themselves, and they have wrong perceptions of us. So the practice of communication, peaceful communication, can help them to remove their wrong perceptions on them and on us and the wrong perceptions we have on us and on them. This is the basic practice. This is the principle. And I hope that our political leaders understand this and take action right away to help us. And we, as citizens, we have to voice our concern very strongly because we should support our political leaders because we have help elect them. We should not leave everything to them. We should live out daily in such a way that we could have the time and energy in order to bring our light, our support to our political leaders. We should not hate our leaders. We should not be angry at our leaders. We should only support them and help them to see right in order to act right.

Ms. Tippett: I want to finish because I know I’ve taken a lot of your time. I want to ask you, this is from Fragrant Palm Leaves, which I know is a journal you wrote in the 1960s, but this is about Zen: “Zen is not merely a system of thought. Zen infuses our whole being with the most pressing question we have.” What are your pressing questions at this point in your life?

Brother Thây: Pressing questions?

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm. What are the questions you work through in your practice just personally, I wonder.

Brother Thây: I do not have any questions right now. My practice is to live in the here and the now. And it is a great happiness for you to be able to live and to do what you like to live and to do. My practice is centered in the present moment. I know that if you know how to handle the present moment right, with our best, and then that is about everything you can do for the future. That is why I’m at peace with myself. That’s my practice every day, and that is very nourishing.

Ms. Tippett: And I wonder, living that way and practicing that way, does forgiveness become instinctive? Does there become a point where you no longer react with anger but immediately become compassionate and forgiving?

Brother Thây: When you practice looking at people with the eyes of compassion, that kind of practice will become a good habit. And you are capable of looking at the people in such a way that you can see the suffering, the difficulties. And if you can see, then compassion will naturally flow from your heart. It’s for your sake, and that is for their sake also. In The Lotus Sutra, there is a wonderful, five-word sentence. “Looking at living beings with the eyes of compassion,” and that brings you happiness, that brings relief into the world, and this practice can be done by every one of us.

I Declare World Peace.

Peace Day ~ 2013

Tomorrow, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, a very important day. it is a United Nations designated day “devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” Accordingly, it is also to be a Day of Ceasefire.

It is to be a day for a prayer, an act, a thought for peace. I believe it can also be a day to take stock, for reflection.

Our world is a mess as it always is. However, there have been important moves of late that are important to my area of concern. Wherever they may lead or not lead, peace talks have been restarted between Israelis and Palestinians. The new president of Iran, Hassan Rohani, a moderate, is reaching out to the West, especially U.S. president, Barack Obama. The two have even corresponded. The United States has at least delayed and maybe cancelled its proposed military strike on Syria. Syria is declaring its chemical weapons and wants to be under the international Chemical Weapons Treaty. I also note that the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis I, is calling for a kinder, gentler church with an emphasis on the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

Israeli Apartheid and Occupation of Palestinians with related strife continue. The Syrian Civil War continues, becoming more complicated with fighting between the opposition forces and with a huge outpouring of refugees, not to mention internal displacement. The pope has not changed his mind on women priests and sexual matters. Iran, it is said, will not turn into a liberal democracy. In other words, though baby steps for peace may be taken, difficulties, injustice, strife, and violence do continue.

However, for Peace Day and everyday, I Declare World Peace.

I Declare World Peace

 

I also encourage the signing of the Charter for Compassion, believing that the practice of compassion and the related Golden Rule, including by nations,  is the way to peace.

The Cry of the People

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Photo: Doctors in Fallujah, Iraq are registering hundreds of babies with severe birth defects, which they attribute to Depleted Uranium munitions and other war toxins. [Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera]*

 

My husband is rereading Reckoning with Apocalypse: Terminal Politics and Christian Hope by Dale Aukerman (Crossroad Publishing, 1993). He has pointed out to me a passage that quite moved me and pertains to our own world situation:

The Cry of the People

Jews in Palestine during the earthly ministry of Jesus were a subject people under the Roman overlordship. They had virtually no access to the central power of the Empire. The rule under which they lived came upon them from above. They did not have a participatory voice for choosing that rule or the rulers. Jewish collaborators took part as an elite that imposed roman authority, as well as their own, on the masses. That political situation seems quite remote from present-day democracy in the West.

Yet the most significant decision made by Roman authorities during the centuries of the Empire was that of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth, and, ironically, the local population did have a participatory voice in that decision. It was sort of direct democracy between the crowd and Pilate. Much Roman decision-making was oriented toward killing on behalf of the Empire, and the execution of Jesus was in line with that, even though Pilate, who alone had the requisite authority, drew back. But “the people,” incited by their leaders (Mt. 27:20), had their say, and Pilate went along with vox populi.

 When i gaze at photographs of Jews, especially children, being rounded up for Auschwitz, I try to comprehend  for those few something of the tragedy of it all. Anne Frank’s legacy is that of taking us past the incomprehensible numbers into the humanity of who she, a single victim, was. In Jerusalem the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust victims has a building dedicated to the children. At the entrance are a few photographs of haunting faces. And then inside, into the eerie darkness of mirrors and myriad dots of light is read in endless succession name after name, each intimating the unique, unfulfilled human person from among the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished. But for the slain Iraqi children and the hundreds of thousands who continue to die in the aftermath of the war and for the forty thousand children around the world who are given over needlessly to death each day we have no Anne Frank, no Yad Vashem, and hardly any pictures. These children and any who for us would visually represent them have been carefully kept from our view. There were the other Germans, among them Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” If we are not to have our own humanity effaced by the alluring powers of destruction and by the tidal inhumanity of official thought control, we must see those we are not meant to see and cry out for them.

Some in Jerusalem did not join in the cry, “Crucify him!” Luke pictures massive dissent before and after that execution: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him…. And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts (Lk. 23:27, 48). Offering continuation of that dissent, some in our time do not merge into the collective readiness to kill. They do not become functionaries for contemporary crucifixion. They withhold consent and live out their resistance to the purpose and deed of taking human life. What is most crucial is the stance: to see all public killing, from capital punishment to nuclear holocaust, as having its historic center in the execution of Jesus and to live life from him in struggle against all death-mongering.

At this moment:

#NoWarinSyria #DontBombSyria #HandsOffSyria

#NoDrones #StopDrones

#NoMoreWar

And always:

I Declare World Peace. (#IDWP)

  *See the article and photos of “Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer” by  Dahr Jamail at Al Jazeera here .

I Have a Dream

I post on for the anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous I Have a Dream speech in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August, 1963 an excerpt from a post by the Rev. Chuck  Queen of Frankfort, KY in his blog,  A Fresh Perspective,  of August 2013.

From the progressive point of view, the kingdom of God is as much about this life in this world as it is about the life and world to come. It’s about being in right relationship with God and everyone and everything else. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is just as important as loving God.

It’s about a world where everyone has enough – not just to survive, but to thrive and flourish.From the progressive point of view, the kingdom of God is as much about this life in this world as it is about the life and world to come. It’s about being in right relationship with God and everyone and everything else. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is just as important as loving God.It’s about a world where everyone has enough – not just to survive, but to thrive and flourish.

It’s about a world where the playing field is leveled, where the excluded are included, where all are treated with dignity, equality, and respect.

It’s about a world where poverty is eliminated and the oppressed are liberated and all that is broken is healed.

A progressive vision emphasizes inclusion, equality, compassion, social justice, and the dignity of all people.

(You can read the full post here.)

I Declare World Peace.

10 Reasons you should be OUTRAGED on the Drone Wars:

I have been wanting to post on the issue of drones, especially the “killer drones,” but have not been able to get it together. Instead, I am borrowing, in two posts, from others. This is a post from an organizer with CODEPINK who is Yemeni-American.

I Declare World Peace.

Digital footprints

Image

10. Bombing civilian communities and destroying homes, schools, hospitals, and pharmacies, is a form of terrorism. Saying oops and labeling them collateral damage is not OK. They are human beings with stories and histories. These are War Crimes.

Ex. On Dec 2009, a U.S. Tomhawk cruise missile hit al-majalah, a village in Yemen and dropped cluster bombs all over, killing  14 women including 5 pregnant woman and 21 children (the youngest child was only a one year old.) The cluster bombs resulted in two more deaths a year later after it exploded and injured15 more. No one killed in that massacre was even considered a “militant”. In other words: this was a war crime.

9. It took Diplomatic cables for the U.S. to finally admit they were launching airstrikes and waging a war in Yemen. They’ve been lying to you despite using your money to pay for these wars.

View original post 402 more words