Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christian Peacemakers and the Failure of the Interfaith Movement

As I have often said, and the Critical Moment in Interfaith Dialogue conference this June in Geneva (called by the World Council of Churches) affirmed, the aim of interfaith dialogue should not simply be to listen and talk and understand. While that is important, dialogue must push forward towards strategies of dealing effectively with situations of justice and peace.

In this linked article, (which I hope you will read), entitled “Christian Peacemakers and the Failure of the Left” author Mark LeVine, professor of Middle Eastern History at UC Irvine, makes the point that the peace movement failed in Iraq.

He writes:
“Imagine if Sunni insurgents decided to face down the greatest power on earth with a human chain of non-violent resistance. Or if Hamas threw human shields rather than human bombs at Israel.

This is the kind of movement that the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams currently held hostage in Iraq are trying to build, and it's precisely the model that the peace movement should have, but didn't, take as its strategy for challenging the Bush Administration and its imperial ambitions after the invasion. Instead, less than a dozen CPTers have stood virtually alone against 150,000 "coalition forces" and an equally violent and unscrupulous insurgency—a scandal whose reflection on the movement is every bit as devastating as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are for the US army.”

He goes on to say how the peace movement has settled for “cheap activism that has come to see periodic protests in New York or Washington DC as a legitimate substitute for the hard work of facing off against the violence of empire and occupation on the ground.”

I think he’s right on. But I want push the analogy further. Not only the peace movement, I think interfaith movement and the religious traditions that forms it has failed in Iraq. Why is it so hard to imagine persons of faith: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other religious persons, standing on the noblest traditions of non-violence of their religions, going to Iraq and forming a peace army that stands against the ambitions of the empire and the violence of the insurgency?

If anything, this crisis has forced me to ask some tough questions about how the interfaith movement must get itself organized.


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Right has played a high stakes game, and it appears to have paid off for them. They seem to have succeeded in reshaping the world in a conservative way. For a strong military they started a high stakes feud with a tar baby, to dismantle the welfare state they have bankrupted the public treasury, and to ensure the rest of the world follows to the bottom they have set off a globalized race to the bottom line.

While the concrete is setting around our feet, the liberal mainstream remains immobile, stupified, ineffectual. Our liberal ideals may still be the answer to the complexities of an ever-smaller, ever-more-interdependent globe, but we lack the courage of our convictions to move forward with them.

Absolutely and certainly, it will take more than cheap activism on the Left to change course. Unfortunately, the Left appears unwilling, as the Right has been, to risk much for what we care about most.


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