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.

Monday, May 05, 2008

To Know Yahweh is to Achieve Justice for the Poor




"ExxonMobil was top seller of petroleum products to the Pentagon between FY 2003 and 2007, for a total of $4.2 billion. Moreover, ExxonMobil has benefited mightily from the rise in the world oil price, a significant portion of which has been traced directly to the Iraq War by noted economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Dean Baker and by Congress’ Joint Economic Committee. ConsumersforPeace.org estimates that ExxonMobil’s windfall war profit over the five years of the war, directly related to the war, amounts to $39 billion." - AN APPEAL TO CLERGY AND LAITY CONCERNED ABOUT EXXONMOBIL AND IRAQ

"In 2007, the price of grain rose by 42 percent, and dairy products by 80 percent, according to United Nations figures, and food inflation has accelerated further in recent months. In the last twelve months alone, wheat prices have increased by 130 percent, and rice by 74 percent.

As the Observer noted on April 6, 'A global rice shortage that has seen prices of one of the world’s most important staple foods increase by 50 percent in the past two weeks alone is triggering an international crisis.' In March and April, mass hunger spawned violent rioting in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal, and Haiti." - Sharon Smith, "The Revolt over Rising Food Prices"

The nature of the crisis is as obvious as it is ignored by the corporate media and "gospel of prosperity" churches. Despite the glassy smiles and complex analysis of mainstream economic experts, there is no food shortage. In fact, there were record harvests last year. The shortage is one of compassion. People are unable to afford food because of the speculative profits of commodity traders, exacerbated by the trend toward biofuels. This trade in commodities, of course, aids the oil and gas companies whose profits have soared enormously since the Iraq occupation began. Equally, agribusiness has never done better, "The agricultural/food business is now the second most profitable industry in the world, lagging only behind pharmaceuticals." - Sharon Smith, "The Revolt over Rising Food Prices"

The rise in oil prices also leads to massive shifts in how crops are allocated, "Now the law of supply and demand has dictated that the new market for biofuels should reduce the production of corn for food by 25 percent in the U.S.—triggering a man-made shortage and a rise in corn prices. Speculators have been hoarding crops on the expectation that prices will rise further. Meanwhile, investors around the world have been fleeing the falling dollar to buy up commodities such as rice and wheat, adding to the speculative momentum and forcing staple prices higher for the world’s poorest people." - Sharon Smith, "The Revolt over Rising Food Prices"

For Christians to respond as Christians, we must break some taboos. First, let us be absolutely clear about what God expects of us in this situation, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isaiah 58: 6 - 11.

Unfortunately, centuries of meekness before the masters of empire have unstrung these words until they have become mere pleas for charity. In fact, they are pleas for justice. To give charity at this point means to sustain the system of organized hunger so that speculators and agribusiness cartels can rack up yet higher profits, while guaranteeing that in one or two years another "crisis" will ensue with more calls for charity. The taboo we must break is the one against understanding why the hungry are hungry in a world that produces an abundance of food for all. Then we must act on our understanding.

The fundamental blindness is to believe that the system of free market agribusiness can ever solve the hunger problem. It cannot simply because it is not and will never be in its interest to do so. Hunger is its profit engine and a well-fed world would not garner maximum profits. Instead we must work for a world where "Food is a human right and governments have a responsibility to see that their people are well fed. In addition, there are known ways to end hunger—including emergency measures to combat the current critical situation, urban gardens, agrarian reforms that include a whole support system for farmers, and sustainable agriculture techniques that enhance the environment. The present availability of food to people reflects very unequal economic and political power relationships within and between countries. A sustainable and secure food system requires a different and much more equitable relationship among people. The more the poor and farmers themselves are included in all aspects of the effort to gain food security, and the more they are energized in the process, the greater will be the chance of attaining lasting food security. As President Hugo Ch├ívez of Venezuela, a country that has done so much to deal with poverty and hunger, has put it,

Yes, it is important to end poverty, to end misery, but the most important thing is to offer power to the poor so that they can fight for themselves." - Fred Magdoff, "World Food Crisis: Sources and Solutions"

Or in the words of Jeremiah:

Shame on the man who builds his house by not-justice,
and completes its upstairs rooms by not-right,
who makes his fellow man work for nothing,
without paying him his wages,
who says, 'I will build myself an imposing palace
with spacious rooms upstairs,'
who set windows in it,
panels it with cedar, and paint it vermilion.
Are you more of a king
for out rivaling others with cedar?
Your father ate and drank like you,
but he practiced justice and right;
this is good.
He defended the cause oft he poor and the needy;
this is good.
Is not this what it means to know me?
It is Yahweh who speaks."

- Jer. 22: 13 -16.

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