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.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Seek the Truth. Make the Stand.




"I come and stand at every door
But none shall hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead." - Palestinian hymn

The dead which our silence has killed do not depart. They will remain with us, a silent witness to our sins until the day we die. The fact that we have allowed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to be slaughtered for the sake of high profit margins for energy companies, as well as to ensure the continuation of our lifestyle, will be part of our judgement. May God have mercy on our souls.

"When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, it was not just for our neighbors' sakes that he commanded it, but for our own sakes as well. Not to help find some way to feed the children who are starving to death is to have some precious part of who we are starve to death with them. Not to give ourselves to the human beings we know who may be starving not for food but for what we have in our hearts to nourish them with this to be, ourselves, diminished and crippled as human beings." -Frederick Buechner

One of the signs that the reign of hatred and domination is coming to an end can be found in the resistance of those directly charged with the enforcement of the imperial rule. Army National Guard Spc. Eleonai "Eli" Israel has refused to continue fighting and is currently waiting to return home to an uncertain fate.

This ex-street kid and decorated soldier reasons as follows: "I have taken and/or destroyed the lives of people who were defending their families from being the 'collateral damage' of the day. Iraqi boys are joining groups like 'Al Qaeda' for the same reason street kids in the U.S. join the 'Cribs' and the 'Bloods'. It’s about self protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand...Our own sacrifices, as tragic as they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people. 'Success' in Iraq is not a matter of the number of coalition deaths 'declining'. Success would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty."

Though the truth of his insight has become common wisdom even in America, few are willing follow it through to the responsible act - moral conviction knows no timing, a truth that the Democrats are too morally obtuse to grasp. Indeed, their enslavement to tactical considerations has destroyed their moral effectiveness. "I envy the soldier who is able to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral convictions against political ambition. What matters is making the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing."

Moral truths must be acted on when they are perceived, not when it is tactically optimal, by which time the original force of the moral insight has degraded. In fact, letting tactics dictate in this way is already an implicit denial of the moral insight into the fundamental criminality of the war. What is the moral stature of the secret Christian who lets his fellow Christians walk humbly to martyrdom while he sits praying in comfort, denying his convictions to the authorities? What will be the fate of the "German Christians" who supported the Nazis even after they knew about the trains packed with Jews heading toward the camps?

Eli Israel has tasted this martyrdom: "I informed my chain of command of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi people. Seconds after the words left my mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney."

How many anti-war Christians would be willing to accept this treatment? And to enjoy the peace that comes from acting for truth?

"I was illegally confined to a cot in an operations room, placed under 24 hour guard, and escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve 30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig the other day and I’m now in the process of being 'kicked out' with an 'Other Than Honorable' discharge. I regret nothing."

What makes his story particularly powerful is that for Eli, an orphan and street kid, the military was the first place where he had found pride of achievement. To give it up takes a courage few of us will ever know.

How providential that the Church has chosen this time to beatify Franz Jagerstatter for his resistance to the death against Nazism. He indeed is the model that we can look to for the resistance to which God is calling us against the war machine that has plunged our Iraqi brothers and sisters into a hell not unlike that imposed by the Nazis on the Jews during WWII.

In the words of Spc. Israel, "Seek the truth. Make the stand."

Read the whole story here: Courage to Resist

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