Christainity, Justice, Liberation Theology

shut down the school of the americas!

Tomorrow morning, me and a group of 11 others will leave from Union Theological Seminary to Fort Benning, Georgia to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation ((WHINSEC) previously known as the School of the Americas). This is a US Army training facility for military persons from South and Central America. They are taught the importance of democracy and how to throw a coup if the government of their countries are Marxist or Socialist (or really anything that the US cannot control). WHINSEC’s two major accomplishments (certainly devastating) was the Honduran coup in 2009, which military leaders were trained by WHINSEC.  And the Chilean coup and murder of the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973.

I came to Union because I wanted to be flooded by liberation theology. Using the experience of the oppressed and the love and power of God to free them is my ultimate concern (to use a Tillichian). So when I read this answer on an archived website by a School of America’s spokesperson in 1999 to the question “Why the controversy over the School?” I flipped.

According to leaders of the opposition movement, the controversy is not limited to the School nor its graduates; but rather with U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In their view, that policy is responsible for all the violence and repression that characterized many countries during the Cold War. The School is the easiest target for those people who believe solutions lie in eliminating military or police forces in the region. Many of the critics supported Marxism — Liberation Theology — in Latin America — which was defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army. In other words, their objective of achieving socialist revolutionary governments failed, and they now are going after one of the mechanisms which assisted in promoting and maintaining democratic ideals.

I protest to give voice to those who cannot be present. I protest for the silent voices of the dead. I protest because this program needs to be shut down and I want to make sure they know it. I protest because bodies move/change the world, even more so than ideology. I protest because I want that struggles for peace and justice rather than being dictated by US demands.

Pray for South and Central America that they will not be inflicted by US control any longer. Pray for those fighting for freedom and non-bourgeoisie democracy all over the world. Pray for those traveling to Georgia to protest. And pray that you too may know your neighbors better trying to love them as deeply as you can. Amen.


Christainity, Justice, Scripture

praying for peace in syria

Pope Francis called the church and the world to pray for peaceful resolutions in Syria. Indeed, the world needs more people to focus on peace and non-violent solutions. For my class, Revelation: Economy, Ecology, and Empire, the first assignment given was to read all of Revelation and figure out who the writer believes to be the righteous heros or the villains. As I read through it tonight, I was disturbed by the role angels play. Of course, it is an angel who guides John through the vision, but angels also release the horrible seven seals. One moment, angels praise God in all the tapestry and in the next, angels are sending locust to destroy 1/3 of plant life.

For political and military interventions, the US has always played the dual role of these angels. We can send good medical aid to people around the world, and have people who would sacrifice anything for peace. Yet, concurrently, we promote victory through violence. Our military and special ops have devastated other countries and governments through means of violence and Empire building. For instance,  in the 1970’s, the US aided in the killing of Salvador Allende, Chile’s first Socialist President, because he did not fit the mold our capitalist democracy. If the US is an angel, then its wings are tattered and burnt.

Similar to the Gospel of Matthew, Revelation’s author affirms, “if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed” (13:10). This message seems clear. If we spread violence world-wide, then eventually it will come back to us. I believe this to be very true, especially with our high statistics of gun violence, allowing cities to go bankrupt, to let our public education system to go to waste. Yet, the American logic makes total sense: if we keep our troops overseas, we don’t have to worry about getting them a job in the US. Our priority is to keep the military-industrial-complex machine running at full steam: we needmore wars, more conflict, and enough public opinion for a  greater meaning of purpose for our soliders.

One more note, before we close in prayer. I scan many news sites trying to gather as much information about  the Syrian situation as possible. All of our news outlets focus on the President and Congress’ decision whether we “help” them out or not. Al Jazeera, on the other hand, reported that the Syrian Parliament does not want us to intervene. Their question is what would happen after the first strike? They are afraid that extremism would gain even more popularity and so many more people will be killed. The conflict in Syria is complex and trying to “fix” all of the world’s problems with bombs is a horrible idea.

In conclusion, there is the Palestinian Liberation Christian Community called Sabeel. Every week they pray for Palestine and for those around the world. Here is their prayer from September 5th:

Lord, it is also a time of great uncertainty and tragedy for many people across the Middle East. In the wake of the latest alleged chemical attack which took the lives of nearly 1,500 people, we wish to pray especially for the people of Syria, remembering the more than 100,000 killed and the 6.2 million displaced by the horrific civil war. At this time of upheaval, many countries surrounding Syria fear for the security and the stability of their nations; Merciful God, hear our people’s cries for safety, justice, and peace. Lord, also give wisdom and restraint to world leaders that they will not respond to this recent tragedy with warfare and instead will seek the path of non-violence. We pray, God, for a political solution that will stabilize this war-torn country and the entire Middle East. Lord in your mercy. Hear Our Prayer.

Gracious God, we lift the Egyptian people up to you. In the midst of turmoil and violence, we beg you to be the light that shines in the darkness and reveal your way of peace and reconciliation. Lord, we pray that you would provide a way forward which honors the dignity of all and brings a peaceable political solution and end to the conflict. Lord in your mercy. Hear Our Prayer.