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

War Against Women in the (DR) Congo

Last night CBS’ famed 60 Minutes weekly newsmagazine aired an excellent segment by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “War Against Women in the Congo.” It concerns the systematic use of rape against women and children in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tragedy of the Darfur region of the Sudan is horrid and should not be underplayed, but it gets far more coverage in the U.S. than the horrors in the DRC–even though both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch conclude that what is happening in the DRC is the worst human rights tragedy in the world, currently. Further, although women have been raped in all wars, this is the most systematic use of rape as a weapon of war anywhere–making even the rape camps during the Balkans civil war which broke up Yugoslavia in the ’90s or the rapes in the Darfur refugee camps now look small in comparison. DAILY GANG RAPE is now the norm–and reaches children as young as 3 and women in their ’90s–and is leaving entire villages traumatized.

The video is disturbing and not for the squeamish. We need to make ending this a high priority of the U.S. State Dept. and the U.S. and international human rights groups and campaigns.

The blog, Texas in Africa, run by a Texas poli-sci grad student whose dissertation is on Congo’s health system and who has spent considerable time in Africa, has regular updates on all matters African, especially Congo related. Texas in Africa is a pseudonymn for a young Baptist woman (a graduate of Baylor University, Yale, University and now finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin) who also lived for some time in Kenya.  One can also find good information on the crisis in Kenya by regularly reading her blog.

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Baptists, blogs, human rights., torture, war, women | Comments Off on War Against Women in the (DR) Congo

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

mandela_minus_clinton.jpgOn 18 July 1918, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Qunu in the Transkei, South Africa.  Born to African royalty, Mandela (a Methodist Christian) studied and practiced law, joined the African National Congress during its Gandhian nonviolence stage, and later came to lead this central organization in the struggle against apartheid(racial separation) in South Africa.  After the Sharpesville massacre (1961) of unarmed students, Mandela led the ANC to abandon its commitment to Gandhian nonviolence and take up arms in a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare (terrorism was rejected). On 05 August 1962, Mandela was arrested and tried for treason and spent the next 27 years in prison where he was often tortured.  In 1990, the ANC was unbanned, Mandela was released from prison, and in 1994 became the 11th President of the Republic of South Africa–the first non-white president and the first to be elected in free and fair elections open to all races.

This amazing contemporary leader is not without his faults. He is now married for the third time and has been a largely absentee father. His autobiography is painfully honest about what his dedication to the freedom struggle has cost in family life.  As a Christian pacifist, I criticize his abandonment of Gandhian nonviolence during the anti-apartheid struggle–and I am persuaded that ANC’s choice to resort to sabotage and guerrilla warfare did NOT speed up the end of apartheid and may have even delayed that end.  Nevertheless, it must be said that Mandela is one of the few revolutionaries who maintained his ideals once in power and continues to grow and stretch as very public moral leader. 

Mandela has been honored with over 100 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize.  Although he himself engaged only in sabotage, he has admitted that not only the white government, but also the ANC, committed human rights violations during the years of struggle, especially the 1980s. He has sharply rebuked those who have tried to have statements in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission removed which have given evidence of ANC human rights violations.  Since leaving the presidency of South Africa, Mandela has led the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and has become a champion of the environment–and one of the most vocal of global leaders in strong opposition to the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush.

From Mandela’s closing remarks at his trial for treason:

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

UPDATE: Note, all (polite) comments are welcome, but some visitors to this blog from Africa seem to have the mistaken idea that this is a good place to send birthday greetings to Mr. Mandela. As far as I know, Mr. Mandela does not read this blog and is unlikely to see any birthday greetings you leave here.  You would do better to send those personal wishes here.  Thanks for stopping by anyway. 

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Africa, liberation | 6 Comments

Catholic Archbishop Calls for Nonviolent Resistance to Zimbabwe’s Dictatorship

Pius Ncube, Catholic Archbishop of Zimbabwe, has called for Zimbabwean Christians to take the lead in nonviolent resistance to the brutal rule of President Robert Mugabe, the revolutionary leader who has undermined the democracy he created in 1979 and instituted a brutal dictatorship.  The Archbishop’s call came soon after the latest beating and jailing of the leader of Zimbabwe’s political opposition. He volunteered to be on the frontlines of such nonviolent confrontation with the army and police and called for Zimbabweans to put away fear and follow the example of other nations who had faced dictators with unarmed faith and determination.  A spokesperson for Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF Party has replied that Archbishop Ncube is “an inveterate liar” and a tool of British and American interests.

Let us keep the people of Zimbabwe in prayer as we hope the churches, of all denominations, respond positively to the Archbishop’s courageous call.

March 25, 2007 Posted by | Africa, economic justice, human rights., liberation, nonviolence, Obituaries | Comments Off on Catholic Archbishop Calls for Nonviolent Resistance to Zimbabwe’s Dictatorship

Updates on Zimbabwe Crisis Available

The problem with having friends all over the world is that you worry about them. News stories about famines or floods or wars or human rights abuses, etc. are never just abstract “crises,” but moments in which you pray for people you know face to face.  I met Henry and Hermina Mugabe in seminary. He is now the Principal of the Baptist college in Zimbabwe. A brilliant man whose dissertation was the first attempt at an indigenous Shona Christian theology, Henry had to flee his homeland during the revolution of the late ’70s and moved temporarily to South Africa, where he met Hermina, and finished his undergraduate education. Later he studied at the great World Council of Churches’ center at Bossey, Switzerland. I met them in the U.S. during seminary and doctoral work as Henry and I had several classes in common–and, since Kate and I didn’t have kids, then, we sometimes babysat for the Mugabes.

When the Mugabes returned to Zimbabwe in the early ’90s, they were already worried that Pres. Robert Mugabe (no relation–at least, no close relation), once hailed as Zimbabwe’s George Washington, had stayed in power too long, and was eroding the democracy he had helped to launch. Neither they nor we had any idea how bad it was going to get. I try to keep up through the BBC, the only English-language news agency that still tries to cover Zimbabwe, but with all foreign journalists banned from Zimbabwe, even the BBC has a hard time following things accurately.  Now, I have discovered the blog, Observations of Africa, by Leon Johnson (who, with his other blog, Observations from the Sidelines, has joined Christian Peace Bloggers), which has many updates on events in Zimbabwe. Now, I can, at least, pray for my friends in a somewhat more informed way.

March 20, 2007 Posted by | Africa, blog-ring, economic justice, human rights. | 1 Comment

Darfur Crisis Worsening!

The crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan is set to worsen, warn African and human rights groups. The world worked quickly to stop the crisis in Lebanon, but during the time that about 1,000 Lebanese were killed, another 10,000 were killed in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of Darfur’s people have been killed or displaced since that crisis began, with much less global outcry? Is the difference racial? Do we care less because the Darfur Sudanese are black whereas the Lebanese are lighter-skinned?

If U.N. Sec.-Gen. Kofi-Annan succeeds in getting Sudan’s govt. to allow a UN peacekeeping force in the area, will it be as difficult to get nations to supply troops as it has been for southern Lebanon?

What actions can church groups be taking independent of government types? Is the Sudanese crisis on the moral radar of your church?

August 29, 2006 Posted by | Africa, human rights., just peacemaking | 3 Comments