Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Seeking Peace: The Courage to Be Nonviolent

The Baptist Peace Fellowship’s peace camp is not the only exciting gathering for justice and peace coming up.
Another is “Seeking Peace: The Courage to Be Nonviolent.” This will be held 8-11 September in Indianapolis, IN
To register go to this url: http://www.plowsharesproject.org/php/HistoricPeaceChurchConference.php Hurry, because the housing is available at the conference rate only until 09 August! There is another city-wide event that weekend and housing will be at a premium! This conference is sponsored by the Historic Peace Churches (Mennonite Church, USA; Church of the Brethen, and Friends/Quakers) as well as by Every Church a Peace Church, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the Plowshares Peace Studies Collaborative. Other sponsors include the Mennonite and Brethren Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests, Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC, On Earth Peace Assembly, the Mennonite Central Committee, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, Brethren Witness Washington Office, and the Peace and Justice Support Network of the Mennonite Church, USA. Keynote speakers will include Rev. C. T. Vivian, legendary veteran of the Civil Rights movement (a Baptist and board member of Every Church a Peace Church); Rev. Dr. Ann K. Riggs (Quaker), Associate General Secretary for Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches; Peggy Gish (Brethren), farmer, peace activist, and author of a book describing what it was like to be in Iraq at the start of “Shock and Awe;” Dr. Lisa Lirch (Mennonite), Professor of Conflict Transformation, Eastern Mennonite University. There will also be workshops and worship.
All are welcome. Join us if you can!

July 21, 2005 Posted by | nonviolence, peacemaking | 2 Comments

Baptist Peacemakers

Baptist Peacemakers? Does that sound like an oxymoron? Of course, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimmy Carter, and Muriel Lester should all come quickly to mind, but if you called a conference of Baptist peacemakers could you get a dozen? Would you believe sometimes as many as 200 in one place? Does this sound unbelievable? Would you be curious enough to go see it?
Well, here’s your chance. The 20th annual “peace camp” summer conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America will be held 1-6 August on the campus of Linfield College and with First Baptist Church in McMinnville, OR. Famed Jesus scholar Marcus Borg of Oregon State University will be a keynote speaker, as will Craig and Cindy Corrie whose daughter, Rachel Corrie, was killed by the Israeli Defense Force when she worked nonviolently to protect Palestinian homes. The Bible Study leader for the week will be Cam Watts, pastor of Aylmer Baptist Church in Ontario and leader of Canada’s “Gathering of Baptists.” Preacher for the week will be Rev. Carol Sutton, National Coordinator of New Life 2010 for the American Baptist Churches, USA. Music leader will be Michael Stern, folksinger/songwriter and Artist-in-Residence of the Rauschenbusch Center of University Baptist Church, Seattle. Also speaking will be Paul DeKar, Prof. of Missions and Evangelism at Memphis Theological Seminary. DeKar, trained as a historian has written much on the history of Christian nonviolence including, For the Healing of the Nations: Baptist Peacemakers (Smyth & Helwys, 1993). There will be workshops, a caucus of those churches that are partner congregations for the BPFNA (or interested in becoming partner congregations), films, chances to relax and fellowship together, worship opportunities, and chances to be involved in the weekly peace vigil of First Baptist Church, McMinnville. Plus, the setting is beautiful and Oregon is a perfect vacation spot.
Space is quickly filling up! To register click this link: http://www.bpfna.org/summerconference/index.html .
Watch this space for other opportunities for peace and justice work. 17th C. Levellers were inspired by their Christian faith to create and just and peaceful world. We 21st C Levellers must seek the same. `

July 20, 2005 Posted by | Baptists, peacemaking | Comments Off on Baptist Peacemakers

Global Baptists Support Londoners/Condemn Attacks!

We must oppose violence wherever it is found!

Worldwide Baptists Express Support and Condemn Terrorist Violence in England
An outpouring of support for victims of the terrorist attacks in England and concern that violence against innocent people continues, has come in from around the world to the Baptist World Alliance. With it has also come the confidence that the Baptist World Congress scheduled for Birmingham, England, July 27-31, 2005 must continue.
On behalf of the worldwide family, Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the BWA, expressed the sorrow of Baptists and the hope to which the Congress will testify. In a letter to the British Ambassador in North America, Sir David Manning, also sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair and David Coffey, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and incoming President of the BWA, he expressed sympathy and condolences to the British people for “the horrific and evil attack upon innocent men and women in London.”
Lotz said, “It is particularly sad when such tragedies are done in the name of religion,” and he pointed out that “Baptist people have defended religious freedom throughout our long history.” Baptists are concerned that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and everyone else have the right to practice their religion freely.
“It is to the British Baptists,” Lotz said, “such as Thomas Helwys, John Smyth, John Bunyan and John Milton that we have looked for that strong defense of religious freedom since 1612. We shall continue to defend religious freedom, separation of church and state, and respect for men and women of whatever faith tradition.”
Billy Kim, Seoul, Korea, President of the Baptist World Alliance, said, “We are praying for the British people during this time of sorrow. I have asked my people to pray for both those who are injured and the families who have lost loved ones. We are confident that the Congress will continue to be blessed by God.”Turning to the Congress, Lotz said that thousands of Baptists will gather to celebrate the BWA Centenary in Birmingham “to affirm our faith and to encourage all people to follow the example of Him who walked the shores of Galilee and preached peace.”
Lotz emphasized Baptists will go to England “to show our solidarity with the British people in their time of sorrow. Our very travel to Britain from every corner of the earth will be a testimony to our belief that faith is greater than fear, hope greater than despair, and love greater than hate,” Lotz said.
Already more than 11,500 from 107 countries are registered for the Congress and that number is expected to swell with people who will come on day passes.
“In Birmingham men and women of various languages and cultures will celebrate that it is possible for religious traditions to live together in harmony,” Lotz says.
In a statement released yesterday, July 7, Coffey said: “The events that that took place in London today fill us with horror, and our prayers go out to the bereaved and the injured, together with all those who are seeking to offer help and comfort, including the emergency services, security forces and chaplains. In a world of violence, where there is too little respect for life, we want to stand alongside all those who are the victims of such brutality, sharing their pain and anger, and embracing them with compassion.”
Coffey continued: “This is a time when we are called to answer the evil of violence with an unswerving commitment to the ways that make for peace and justice,” he said. “We join in Christian hope with all who seek the common good at this critical time.”
Regina Claas, General Secretary of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany, told British Baptist leaders that German Baptists are deeply moved by the news of the catastrophe. “It is just unbelievable for us how people can do such a cruel thing,” Claas said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with you and especially with our sisters and brothers in London at this time,” Claas wrote.
On behalf of the Central Youth Committee from the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha, leaders wrote that the terrorists had caused death, injuries, destruction not only in the United Kingdom but in the whole world. “It is not an attack on the UK people,” they wrote, “but to the human civilization. We are always against such terrorism and intolerance among the different faiths, which happens very frequently against us in our daily life.”
Baptist leaders in Nepal, which continues to suffer from political instability, pledged to pray for “peace and normality” in the United Kingdom so that the BWA Centenary Congress will go on smoothly. “We are also praying for the families who have lost their loved ones,” wrote Yukta Man Gurung, General Secretary of the Nepal Baptist Church Council. Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, expressed shock and sadness on behalf of European Baptists. He recalls as a student in London in the 1970s the bombing campaigns of the Irish Republican Army and the fear which they struck into everyone moving around the city.
“We must continue to demonstrate that the terrorists who seek to change the world by bombing and killing will be defeated by those who stand up for truth and justice in the world using peaceful means of argument and protest,” Peck said.

July 9, 2005 Posted by | Baptists, terrorism prevention, violence | Comments Off on Global Baptists Support Londoners/Condemn Attacks!

Baptist World Congress to Proceed

Since the 2005 Baptist World Congress (the meeting, once every five years, of the Baptist World Alliance) is scheduled for 27-31 July in Birmingham, England, the recent bombings in London had many afraid that the Congress would be postponed or cancelled. To the contrary:

BWA Congress to Proceed: In God We Trust!
Baptist World Alliance leaders, Billy Kim, President, Denton Lotz, General Secretary, and David Coffey, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, host of the Centenary Baptist Congress, and incoming BWA President have issued the following joint statement: “The BWA Congress in Birmingham, England will proceed! Indeed it is in God we trust not in any civil or secular power. We continue to remember in prayer the bereaved and injured in our prayers and all those caring for the brokenhearted. Condolences from Baptists around the world have poured into the BWA and British Baptist offices.
We believe in the face of appalling evil we need to show our strong faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. In this period when many of our brothers and sisters are suffering from religious persecution and who live daily with the threat of terrorism, what better way to show our solidarity with the suffering of the world than to attend the BWA Congress. Therefore, it is with faith in Christ and the courage He gives to believers worldwide that we affirm once again that the Congress will indeed take place. Our witness will be made even more powerful by the testimony of brothers and sisters from around the world who have experienced either persecution or violent acts of terrorism. Baptist attendance at the BWA Congress will not only be a sign of solidarity with our British brothers and sisters but our presence will be a confirmation of our strong faith that Jesus Christ rules and our faith is in Him!
Therefore, we call upon Baptist brothers and sisters worldwide to continue to make plans to attend the congress as an act of fellowship. For those who have not yet registered we encourage to plan to attend now! Our security is in the God of peace, justice and love! Come celebrate with thousands worldwide in a great festival of faith, courage and love!”

I am so in love with those sentiments that I wish I could go, but there is no way for me to afford a trip to Britain and then turn around and go to the Baptist Peace Fellowship’s peace camp 1-6 August in Oregon–and I am already signed up to be there!

July 9, 2005 Posted by | Baptists | Comments Off on Baptist World Congress to Proceed

Draining the Swamps of Terrorism

We are all Londoners this week. Who could not be in complete solidarity and grief with those facing such senseless carnage. London will survive–it survived the Battle of Britain (daily bombings for a year!) and all the IRA attacks in the ’70s and ’80s. Our admiration for the courage and tenacity of Londoners cannot be topped.

But our grief and solidarity must not prevent us from concluding that the bombings show the war on terrorism is not working. Bush’s “we must fight them there” (and then going after the wrong people) “so that we won’t fight them here” has produced more, not less, terror. Blair was a fool to go along with it. Trying to wipe out terrorism by killing all the terrorists is not just immoral but stupid–like trying to end malaria by killing more mosquitos. Until you drain the swamps that breed the mosquitos, the mosquitos will produce faster than you can swat or spray (and your sprays will kill much else as “collateral damage.”) Likewise, preemptive wars to kill terrorists creates terrorists faster than they can be killed. We have to drain the swamps of the conditions which make it easy for fanatic terror groups like al-Qaeda to recruit.

First among what is necessary is a just, stable, and peaceful Middle East. Ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and finding a just 2-state solution with a shared Jerusalem capital is essential. Palestinian suffering can only be manipulated for terrorist gain when they are suffering. As Alice Walker might say, “Justice for Palestinians will stop the curse of the Middle East.” (See her essay, Only Justice Can Stop a Curse.) Ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, perhaps with the UN playing a role in a transition to a stable Iraq, is also necessary.

The attacks on London were probably aimed at disrupting the G-8 summit. The goals of the G-8 agenda are anathema to groups like al-Qaeda. Ending the impoverishment of Africa, creating a stable, uncorrupt, and sustainably developing Africa shrinks the terrorist recruiting pool considerably. Ending poverty is not only morally right, but a smart answer to terrorism. It’s not appeasement, but cutting the ground out from under the terrorists. Not only are desperately poor and oppressed people ripe for simplistic/fanatic “answers,” but if the U.S. and Europe are hard at work ending Africa’s impoverishment, it is much harder to paint them in demonic terms. The Bushies talk about winning “hearts and minds,” but their actions seemed designed to lose hearts and minds daily. Thankfully, the G-8 work on ending African poverty, though less than hoped for, was a powerful step in the right direction.

Bush blocked the agreement on global warming reversal. The other G-7 countries should simply bypass him and reengage the U.S. under a new president. Again, saving the planet is the right thing to do for both humans and other living things. But since it also involves ending the West’s dependency on Middle East oil, it also drains the swamps of terrorism. As long as the U.S. and Europe are hooked on oil like junkies are hooked on drugs, they will do anything for the needed fix. Western oil junkies support some despotic regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and invade others (e.g., Iraq) in desperation for the oil fix. Thus, they make it easy for groups like al-Qaeda to paint them as “the Great Satan.” A U.S. and Europe that is on a strict carbon-minimizing diet and has turned to multiple sources of clean, renewable energy, is free to pressure Saudi Arabia to reform and democratize. They are free to leave Iraq for Iraqis–shrinking again the recruiting pool for terrorists.

Terrorism is also caused by religious extremism, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. I have argued in this blog that we need to push for the renewal of prophetic religion and oppose authoritarian religion wherever it is found. That’s beyond the G-8 goals, but the G-8 goals will make provide a context that automatically will favor prophetic religion. When people are not hungry or oppressed, can breathe the air, drink the water, and live in relative freedom and stability, the easy answers of authoritarian religion are far less persuasive.

Despite his lockstep following of George W. Bush off the Iraqi cliff, there is some evidence that Tony Blair understands these realities. Could he please explain them to George W before it is too late?

July 9, 2005 Posted by | just peacemaking, terrorism prevention | Comments Off on Draining the Swamps of Terrorism