An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Palestine is the conscience of us all

Alyssa Peterson:

"Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before...

"Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other," Levy continues, "the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates 'an eye for an eye,' the second wants to 'erase Beit Hanoun' and the third 'to pulverize Beit Lahiya.' And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to 'erase Beit Hanoun'? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality."

Christ died for the people of Beit Hanoun. Muslim or Christian, the question is the power of love. And the impotence of love. We fighters for human rights must accept our impotence, the deafness of those entranced by power, and continue to fight. We must be able to look at inevitable failure, at our inability to save even a single child from the jaws of the Israeli/US death machine and then swear we will never lower the volume of our No!

"Whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him (I John 4.17). Where we suffer because we love, God suffers in us." And we feel that suffering when we raise our impotent and invisible hands to shield the children and find that they go on suffering and dying. Then we look to the death of Jesus where we find the origin of this despairing love and suddenly, the strength to continue protesting floods our veins. "Where he has suffered the death of Jesus and in so doing, has shown the force of his love, men also find the power to continue to love, to sustain that which annihilates them and to 'endure what is dead'." Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God.

It is not a "mistake" or "incompetence" when forces are committed to destruction and the inevitable blood starts to flow. This arises in a hatred that objectifies the living flesh of God, our brothers and sisters. These are not tactics, but the eruption of sin's potency that condemns both itself and its victim. Let love's power connect your heart to the hearts of those suffering in Gaza and Iraq, so that you begin to see these brothers and sisters as God sees them.

Each time we deliberately dismiss our knowledge of these crimes and those our government is committing in Iraq, we diminish our humanity. The case of Alyssa Peterson, referred to a few posts ago, is emblematic of what participation in these acts, either silent or active, inflicts on the soul. Alyssa Peterson, as you may remember, died of self-inflicted wounds after two days of participating in interrogations in Tal-Afar, at a place referred to as "'the cage' - where she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. She said, 'They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds, so that I was the first thing they saw. And then, we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood.' Other soldiers later told her that the old rules no longer applied. This was a different world and a new kind of war."

She may have seen other things as well: "What happened to other prisoners was much worse. At the request of the White House, U.S. servicemen and women, contract interrogators and CIA employees have beaten, maimed, sodomized and killed prisoners held in custody by the United States. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and in secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, prisoners have been electrically shocked, water boarded, starved, beaten and frozen to death, suffocated with hoods, hung upside down until dead and had their flesh seared off with chemicals. More than 100 Afghan and Iraqi prisoners have died in this manner while in U.S. custody." Brian Moench, "Has the Military Lost its Humanity?", Nov. 22, 2006.

Alyssa perhaps felt that the loss of her humanity was the loss of everything that made life valuable - to be a part of the madness which our rulers have forced on us is to abandon membership in the fellowship of decency.

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