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.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Defilement




"Guantanamo is so striking in its immorality and lack of justice," said Nolan, who participated in a similar protest for last year's rally -- representing the same man, 26-year-old Fazaldad, whose first name is listed as "unknown" on Defense Department lists. "If humans were created in God's image, torture is clearly a defilement of that." - Tim Nolan, on being arrested on Jan. 12, 2008 at the Supreme Court while protesting the illegal incarceration of detainees at Guantanamo.

The main goal of the action was humanization: "About 70 of those arrested withheld their legal name and instead gave the name of a detainee upon arrest. Today in court they gave their legal name but stated that their arrest on behalf of a detainee. Thus one of the main goals for the action was achieved because a number the court dockets as well as individual citations now have one of the detainees' names on them."

Only thus were the names of detainees at last recognized in a court of law.

There was a time in America when the brutalities carried out on these detainees would have roused the indignation, not merely of those who live by the Sermon on the Mount, but of the average subway rider in any major city. There was a time, I say, when those who tortured and degraded their fellow man as we have done in Guantanamo, would have provoked overwhelming shame throughout this country, even in the parishes of the Catholic Church. But that time, that happier time, has passed, perhaps forever, and such deeds are now nothing more than fodder for late night pundits. But there was a time...

When we declare human beings to be less than human, we defile ourselves: "The judges hearing the case ... concluded that the plaintiffs were not 'persons' for purpose of the relevant statute protecting religious freedom. They further concluded that acts of torture and contempt and abuse targeting religious belief were within the legitimate scope of conduct of an American cabinet officer, so that official immunity blocked the suit." - "In Voiding Suit, Appellate Court Says Torture Is To Be Expected", McClatchy Newspapers, Jan. 11, 2008. The judges concluded that the Guantanamo detainees were not human in the eyes of good Americans. Therefore, these units of organic matter should expect torture, for that is their fate under the eyes of a Christian nation.

The Church declares the remedy for this defilement: penance. Fame and success are not necessary, just the willingness to suffer for our brothers and sisters incarcerated in the dungeons of the American Empire: "Juma Din is the name of my prisoner. An Afghan who is one year older than my daughter, he has been in Guantanamo a long time. That’s all I know about him. I wrote his name on both my wrists with a ballpoint pen to be sure I wouldn’t forget it. How terrible if I had forgotten his name!"- Jean Athey, "Speaking for Those in Guantanamo", afterdowningstreet.org, Jan. 18, 2008.

The first step in rehumanizing ourselves is to give our victims their names back. They are not categories such as "enemy combatants" - they are fathers, husbands, sons and daughters who are cared for beyond comprehension by our God.

"In the many years he has been at Guantanamo, and to the shame of my country, no court has heard his name or learned anything about him. Is he a terrorist, a pawn in someone’s tribal vendetta sold to the United States for a bounty, or just unlucky -- in the wrong place at the wrong time? Whatever the answer, I know he has suffered mightily and, I thought, I could 'suffer' just a little on his behalf."- Jean Athey, "Speaking for Those in Guantanamo", afterdowningstreet.org, Jan. 18, 2008.

No court has heard this man's name. What an opportunity for sanctification God has granted to the Christians of our time. To take the names of the nameless and suffer on their behalf in defiance of an empire that smirks at its own inhumanity. What graces might shower down from heaven if only we would accept the burden of this penance!

"On that march, most of us thought about the prisoner whom we each represented. I wondered about the mother of Juma Din. She is probably about my age, since our children are the same age. What kind of hell must she have lived through for six years? By now, she surely knows her son is in Guantanamo; she must suffer daily, waking up each morning to imagine what horror he will endure that day." - Jean Athey, "Speaking for Those in Guantanamo", afterdowningstreet.org, Jan. 18, 2008.

The essence of penance is not the degree of suffering, but the imaginative endurance of the suffering we have caused others and particularly our Savior. In the case of the Guantanamo detainees, it is the horrors which our silence and inaction have created in the lives of innocent men and those who love them. It has long been demonstrated conclusively and admitted by the Pentagon itself that most of our detainees had nothing to do with any terrorist organization, but were picked up due to greed for U.S. monetary rewards and tribal vendettas. The empire needed enemies so they were manufactured by U.S. tax dollars.

"I suffered dry heaves the rest of the day as we waited to see the judge. This was starting to be a bit more miserable than I had anticipated. But, I thought, has Juma been tortured? Has he been ill? Has he had been forced to go hungry or eat something he found disgusting? Probably. And he likely didn’t have the sympathy and loving care I was receiving from my friends in the holding cell." - Jean Athey, "Speaking for Those in Guantanamo", afterdowningstreet.org, Jan. 18, 2008.

Finally, she said what she had come to say: "'My name is Jean Athey and I am here on behalf of Juma Din.' For the first time, Juma had his name before a court of law." - Jean Athey, "Speaking for Those in Guantanamo", afterdowningstreet.org, Jan. 18, 2008.

As Christians, we must shout, 'I am Juma Din! I have a name - I have a face. My humanity has been trampled beneath the feet of a Christian nation and I have been tortured due to the silence of a Christian people."

"The logic of non-violence is the logic of crucifixion and leads the man of non-violence into the heart of the suffering Christ. The purpose of non-violence is to move the oppressors to perceive as human beings those whom they are oppressing. Men commit acts of violence and injustice against other men only to the extent that they do not regard them as fully human. Non-violent resistance seeks to persuade the aggressor to recognize in his victim the humanity they have in common, which when recognized fully make violence impossible." James W. Douglass.

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