Bishops call for reasoned debate on Iraq

Over 100 Episcopal bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and two former presiding bishops, the Rt. Revs. Frank Griswold and Edmond Browning have addressed a letter to Congress:

As Congress and the Administration consider the future of Iraq, we urge a careful and reasoned debate that avoids the partisan and harsh rhetoric that would diminish the important issues before our nation....[W]e encourage full and open discussion that acknowledges our mistakes as well as our responsibilities. ...

We believe it imperative that the United States now:

  • Map out a strategy for a responsible transition to Iraqi governance, making clear that we do not have long term interests in occupying Iraq
  • Join those in the region, including Syria and Iran, in seeking security and economic recovery for Iraq
  • Provide the women and men of our military and their families with the sustained and responsive care they need
  • Work for religious freedom and protection of religious minorities in Iraq
  • Serve the needs of Iraqi refugees wherever they may be
  • Seek peace in the region, including a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians
  • The letter is available here at Episcopal Line Online.

    Fighting for peace

    The Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington, has devoted his latest column in the Washington Window to a critical examination of how the Bush administration, Congress and the media led the United States into war with Iraq.

    Terrorism has dramatically increased since Operation Iraqi Freedom, with more than 450 suicide bombers killing themselves and others in Iraq since the start of the war. Since then, 3,386 American soldiers have died and 25,245 have been wounded-more than 7,000 so severely that their lives will forever be altered. Between 8 and 10 percent of the nearly 12,000 American soldiers treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany had psychiatric or behavioral problems related to their war experience, according to the hospital's commander, Army Col. Rhonda Cornum. Many veterans returning to the U.S. from active duty are being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In comparison, the international "Coalition of the Willing" referred to in 2003 and used as a support for our war effort, has lost 273 military personnel. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan now number 389. Figures for Iraqi military deaths have not officially been released by the Iraqi government.

    Warnings put forward by the religious community in the U.S. about the consequences of a military strategy to disarm Saddam Hussein were lost on a compliant Congress and an administration determined to go to war with Iraq. President George W. Bush called the nation to war on unsubstantiated charges that Iraq possessed chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction

    And:

    The U.S. Congress should be held accountable for giving an almost unanimous "green light" to the administration to go to war and for granting the President unlimited war powers. Republican and Democratic presidential candidates need to explain to the American public why they were silent when the short debate on the War Powers Act was being considered by Congress. Some politicians have said that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have voted to extend this power to the President. That is unacceptable. There was clearly enough information available about the Iraq's military capabilities and its severely weakened infrastructure resulting from the earlier Operation Desert Storm to merit significant debate. But Congress was too timid to explore alternative means for dealing with the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, and it should be held accountable for the crime of silence.

    As for the religious community in the U.S., every major Christian religious denomination in the country, except one, registered its opposition to engaging in military action against Iraq. Yet even with such overwhelming opposition, the current administration would not extend the religious leaders of these denominations the courtesy of meeting with them prior to the outbreak of the war.

    The media likewise were either unable or unwilling to report the opposition of the broad faith community to military action against Iraq. This is among the concerns that have led to questions about the integrity of the press during the build-up and initial military action in Iraq.

    Read it all.

    School of the Americas may close

    In the next two days, Congress will vote on an amendment to close the notorious School of the Americas/WHINSEC. According to a letter from School of the Amercas Watch

    The School of the Americas,... located at Ft. Benning Georgia, has trained -for more than 60 years- over 60,000 Latin American Soldiers in torture, psychological warfare and war against civilian populations. Many of the tactics of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay began at the SOA to be used on civilians and those working for justice in Latin America. This school has graduated the worst human rights abusers in Latin American History. Rep. McGovern (MA) and Rep. John Lewis (GA) will introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut funding for the SOA/ WHINSEC and stand up against the legacy of torture as a part of US Foreign Policy!

    For more information and how to influence the vote Click Here.

    Pedaling for peace

    Fourteen bicyclists from Iran who are criss-crossing the United States with a message of peace will make their final U.S. stop at the Washington National Cathedral on July 11, according to a story in Episcopal Life Online.

    Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop John Bryson Chane is scheduled to greet the women and men who comprise the Miles for Peace group at 3:15 p.m. on the steps of the cathedral's west end (Wisconsin Avenue side).

    The Miles for Peace program is a non-profit, non-governmental peace campaign whose objective is to convey the message of peace, friendship and peaceful co-existence with all nations.

    John Peterson, the cathedral's director of the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, called the visit another positive event in U.S.-Iran relations.

    Read it all here

    Sri Lankan church becoming peace center

    Ekklesia reports on an Anglican Church in Sri Lanka that is becoming a center for peace. It has been a venue for seminars and workshops on peace and inter-religious concerns since it opened as a conflict analysis centre in April 2006.

    The buildings of Christ Church along Jaffna's main road stand pock-marked by shell holes, as a grim reminder of the many pitched battles fought between Tamil rebels and Sri Lankan forces in this Tamil heartland on the northern fringe of Sri Lanka - writes Anto Akkara.

    Built in 1871, the Anglican church is, however, now getting a facelift. New roof tiles have been put in place, and major holes in the walls are being patched up.

    "We're converting this church into a war memorial, and it will be used as a centre for conflict analysis," the Rev S. P. Nesakumar, the archdeacon of Jaffna, told Ecumenical News International as he pointed to the severe damage inflicted by bombing and shelling during the 1990 and 1995 conflicts.

    Read it all here.

    What can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

    Bob Okun of ThanksUSA writes in the Wall Street Journal

    Stop what you're doing and simply listen for a moment so you may hear a conversation that is going on across America. It is not about who will be the next president, but about why average citizens aren't more fully engaged in the war on terror.

    Why haven't we all been asked by our leaders to give more of ourselves as in previous wars? And most importantly, what can and should we all do about the national disconnect between citizen and soldier?

    In part, most of us have gone on with our lives with minimal interruption because we are fighting an intensive, protracted two-front war with an all-volunteer force. Only a relatively small slice of American society, myself included, has any real connection to the brave men and women in uniform protecting our freedoms every day. Fewer still have any idea what their families are going through as they wait for their service members to come home.
    ...
    What started as a kitchen-table idea evolved into ThanksUSA, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing post-secondary school scholarships to the children and spouses of those serving on active duty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 1,000 military family members in all 50 states and D.C. have already received vocational and college scholarships, and another round will be awarded this year. Hundreds of thousands of other military families need and deserve a variety of support from community members, civic leaders, corporate leaders and all Americans as they set out to reclaim and reassemble their lives in the coming years.

    Since the war began, there have been some shining examples, "best practices" in corporate-speak, of businesses supporting the troops and their families.

    Home Depot, CVS and Dell have reached out to hire military spouses. Freddie Mac, purchaser of residential mortgages, has helped injured soldiers and their families to manage their finances upon re-entry to civilian life. Entrepreneurs such as Dan Caulfield (a veteran) recently created Hire a Hero, using the Internet to help returning service members connect with eager businesses seeking skilled workers.

    Other service organizations are involved, including Fisher House, which provides housing near hospitals for families of wounded veterans, and information clearinghouses for military families such as America Supports You, as well as the modern USO, all doing their part daily to help military personnel.

    Read it here (subscribers).

    From the way he writes it appears Mr. Okun supports the war on terror. Many of us did not support the war in Iraq, but does that alienate us from his mission to mend the disconnection between citizen and soldier? Many rail that it would not continue if there was a draft, because the pain would be felt by politicians. There is recognition of pain and it is used for argumentation. But few of us ask what can we as citizens do for those soldiers who have felt the pain.

    What is the moral course in Iraq?

    George Packer can hardly be described as a supporter of the war in Iraq, but in his latest article for The New Yorker, he both skewers the architects of the war, and poses some difficult questions for those who favor a rapid pullout.

    On the one hand, he writes:

    [T]he inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis. Though the streets of Baghdad are marginally less lethal than they were during 2006, sixty thousand Iraqis a month continue to leave their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration, joining the two million who have become refugees and the two million others displaced inside Iraq. The militias, which have become less conspicuous as they wait out the surge, are nevertheless growing in strength, as they extend their control over neighborhoods like Ahmed’s. In the backstreets, the local markets, the university classrooms, and other realms beyond the reach of American observers or American troops, there is no rule of law, only the rule of the gun. The lives of most Iraqis are dominated by a complex array of militias and criminal gangs that are ruthlessly competing with one another, and whose motives for killing are more often economic or personal than religious or ideological. A recent report by the International Crisis Group urged the American and British governments to acknowledge that their “so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down.”

    On the other hand, he finds all of the "quick exit" strategies being advocated on the left shortsighted and superficial.

    Bishop Tutu to lead peace mission

    Ekklesia reports that a delegation from a group called The Elders will go to Darfur on a peace mission. The Elders are retired statesmen organized by Nelson Mandela who are attempting to make a difference in making peace, working to alleviate poverty and combatting HIV/AIDS. They include former US President, Jimmy Carter.

    A delegation of influential elder statesmen without 'elections to win and constituencies to please' is to be led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the latest initiative to bring peace to Darfur.

    At least 200,000 people have died and some 2m forced from their homes during the four year conflict.

    The "Elders" will travel to Khartoum at the end of the month to meet representatives from all sides.

    They will then go to Darfur to talk to local community leaders and some of the displaced people now living in camps.

    Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town said: "We want community leaders in Darfur to feel that they have been heard by us."

    "And to the extent that we could then communicate their aspirations, their longings, particularly the women's groups, we will do so", he said.

    Read it here

    Interfaith fast for end to Iraq war

    Religious leaders representing tens of millions of Americans stood in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol to call religious communities of various traditions to a day of fasting and prayer to end the Iraq war. October 8th is the date chosen for the fast.

    Ekklesia reports:

    "We must return to the ancient disciplines so that we will turn away from violence toward reverence," said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, Philadelphia, to reporters gathered in front of the United Methodist Church office building on Maryland Avenue.

    Represented at the news conference were leaders of Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, and Baptist traditions. The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), and himself a Baptist, organized the news event.

    Ancient practices were used at the news conference in the call to the nation. The ram's horn, or Jewish shofar, was sounded to "wake up" a nation. Ashes were placed on the leaders' foreheads as signs of repentance. A bell was tolled to call America's people of faith to join together on October 8 to fast from dawn to sunset, breaking the fast with their Muslim sisters and brothers.

    "When you are fasting for Ramadan, you are enhancing your sense of compassion," said Dr. Sayeed Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America. "We will be asking mosques to open their doors to people of other faiths around the world on October 8 for prayer and dialogue."

    Dr. Syeed said the Islamic Center in nearby Sterling, Va., will open its doors to interfaith neighbours Oct. 8 to break the Ramadan fast together. Local religious groups are registering events at Interfaith Fast, a website managed by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

    Read it all here

    At the Cathedral: Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

    Linton Weeks writes in The Washington Post:

    It was the coolest of church coffeehouses.

    "Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

    To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

    When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

    Read it all. CBS has a story, too.

    Dalai Lama receives Congressional Medal

    The New York Times reports that the Dalai Lama ... said that he felt “a sense of regret” over the sharp tensions with China unleashed by his visit and the honors conferred upon him.

    In gentle language and conciliatory tones, he congratulated China on its dynamic economic growth, recognized its rising role on the world stage, but he also gently urged it to embrace “transparency, the rule of law and freedom of information.”

    As Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal today, Voice of America (VOA) broadcast the award ceremony and the Dalai Lama's acceptance speech live to Tibet via radio, television, and the Internet. The same broadcast included videotaped testimonials of the heads of all six sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

    The Congressional Medal ceremony will be rebroadcast in several formats to Tibet and elsewhere in China and will be available for viewing here.

    In an interview with VOA yesterday, the Dalai Lama expressed support for the Burmese democracy movement, saying that he admired the recent efforts of Buddhist monks and adding that their cause was just. He urged Buddhist members of Burma's military government to remember the Buddhist teachings of "compassion" and "love" as they confront these situations.

    Read more here and here and listen to the Dalai Lama's speech.

    In other news of peace, South Korea will host the worldwide Anglican peace conference November 14-20. More than 150 Anglican leaders, ecumenical guests and others will participate according to Episcopal Life Online.

    The US and Iran: A difficult history

    Washington National Cathedral hosted a panel discussion on the U. S.--Iranian relationship earlier this week. The Web cast is now available.

    The panel, moderated by Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrist, (R-MD), featured: Bruce Laingen, former Iran hostage and State Department official; Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times bureau chief and author of All the Shah’s Men; Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States and Dr. Abbas Amanat, Iran scholar, professor of history at Yale University and author of In Search of Modern Iran: Authority, Nationhood, and Culture.

    It is a two-hour presentation, and you can safely skip the first 15 minutes.

    WWJT?

    One might think that Christians, whatever their theological or political differences, could agree on the immorality of torture. Um, no. Andrew Sullivan has been following a debate (1, 2, 3) which has taken place largely on Evangelical Outpost. (1, 2.)

    The Washington Post is also asking for your opinions on the subject.

    Tasting life under occupation

    An Episcopal priest from Illinois writes about his experience visiting, and trying to get out of, the occupied West Bank. Robert Cotton Fite describes what it was like to stand in line for hours only to be denied entry and then finally to be let in with the help of a sympathetic Israeli.

    Waiting in line at a West Bank border checkpoint, intimidated by the prisonlike atmosphere and frustrated by the Israeli soldier denying me passage back into Israel, I got my first real taste of what it's like most days for thousands of Palestinians. There I was, having just enjoyed visits to several Palestinian towns, looking very much the harmless, middle-class American tourist, with what I was sure were the right stamps in my passport, being told I could not re-enter Israel nor continue my trip to Nazareth.

    I gave the young soldier my best surely-you-don't-mean-me look. Then, a polite request to "please call a superior officer." All to no avail. I would have to return to "wherever I came from."

    And,

    On this trip I was trying to understand a life under occupation.

    For a caretaker at a Jerusalem nursing home, it meant that a daily trip that should take half an hour instead takes two to three hours. For a Palestinian father of five, a Jewish holiday meant "closure" of the border and the threat of a lost job when he could not get to Jerusalem for work. For a man in his 60s from Zababdeh whose identity papers would not allow him to travel to Ramallah for the heart surgery he needed, occupation meant "borrowing" his cousin's identity papers to gain passage through a crucial checkpoint.

    Read: Robert Cotton Fite: A glimpse at a life in line: For Palestinians, a tense daily grind.

    An unjust mess

    The Archbishop of Canterbury describes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an tragic mess that fail to conform to the principles of just war theory. According to Ekklesia, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams told an audience of 600 on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2007, that "while people should recognise and honour the bravery of soldiers at war, past and present, the Middle East conflicts fell short of one of the significant requirements of what is traditionally held to be a just war."

    “One of the aspects of traditional just war theory is that you need to know what would count as a good end and how you would know when you have that and what to do then."

    Dr Williams continued: “I don't think we had that in place sadly. I don't think we knew what we would do next or what would count as our ending. And that is the tragedy.”

    Dr Williams also talked about how Christian pacifists can reconcile their beliefs with the reality of war and the church's development during some of the most turbulent times in history saying that for much of its early history it was involved in “damage limitation” exercises.

    “Granted there are going to be wars, how do you stop then being nightmares and a mere expression of naked power?" he asked.

    Christian peace campaigners have criticised the accommodation of mainline churches to violence during the 1700 years of Christendom, arguing that the core Gospel message calls for a more creative, nonviolent role in a iolent and divided world.

    Read it all.

    God's Basic Training

    The warriors pose for the camera in a group shot - some holding their weapons in one hand and their holy book in another. Elsewhere, a poster bears a quotation calling for the killing of enemy leaders and forcing the defeated people to convert. If you think the images come from Islamic fundamentalist training camps in remote regions of the Middle East you'd be wrong according to an article in Military.com.

    The photo depicts Army trainees at Fort Jackson, S.C., where in addition to basic combat training recruits may also attend "God's Basic Training," while the poster -- boasting a quotation from conservative author Ann Coulter -- adorns the door of a Military Police office at Fort Riley, Kansas.

    "These are startling and disgusting revelations of further unconstitutional behavior by technologically the most lethal organization ever created by humankind -- the U.S. military," said Mikey Weinstein, whose group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, discovered the evangelical-oriented program at Fort Jackson and the Coulter poster at Fort Riley.

    The group also has found at the Fort Riley exchange the Muslim-critical "Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam" on display right next to The Holy Bible. And at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., a new "Enabled By Christ" Christian men's store operates at the base exchange, Weinstein said.

    Officials with the bases in question and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, however, deny there is any deliberate intent to impose a religious belief on troops, and a Fort Riley spokesman told Military.com command would look into Weinstein's allegations there.

    Read is all here

    Tutu in Kenya

    Five days after President Mwai Kibaki unexpectedly defeated Raila Odinga, ethnic violence continues to ravage the country and its attorney general has called for an independent verification of the vote tallies. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has gone to Kenya to help mediate the explosive situation, which has turned the generally stable nation on its ear.

    CNN reports (story here):

    The crowds were gathering as Archbishop Desmond Tutu began meeting with opposition officials, including Odinga, in an effort to mediate the election dispute.

    "We've come to express our solidarity with the people of Kenya to express our sympathy at the carnage that has happened, hoping that we will be able to encourage the leadership to take action that would stop that carnage," Tutu said.

    It was not immediately clear if the Nobel laureate would also talk with Kibaki's party. A government spokesman said a meeting could be arranged with Tutu if it would help with the process.

    NPR has a good recap of the situation in Kenya so far here.

    Reconciliation Village in Rwanda

    IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports on Imidugudo, which translates as “reconciliation village”, in Nyamata, 30km south of the capital, Kigali, an experiment whereby genocide survivors and confessed perpetrators live in the same community, in small tin-roofed houses they built themselves. The village is the brainchild of Pastor Steven Gahigi, an Anglican clergyman who survived the genocide by fleeing to Burundi with his wife and two children. His mother, father and siblings all died and Gahigi thought he had lost his ability to forgive.

    Before the Rwandan genocide, Mutiribambi Aziri and Jaqueline Mukamana were neighbours in the town of Nyamata, south of the capital Kigali. When the 100-day slaughter began in April 1994, Mukamana, a teenage Tutsi student, and Aziri, a Hutu farmer, found themselves on opposite sides as 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe, and ordinary Rwandans.

    Mukamana went to fetch water from the community well and returned to find her entire family hacked to death by neighbours. She hid in the fields and then fled on foot to neighbouring Burundi.

    Aziri was one of those whipped up into a killing spree by Rwanda's hard-line Hutu administration. He did not murder Mukamana's family but he admits to killing some of her neighbours with a machete.

    Thirteen years later, they are neighbours again, chatting on the dusty roads and attending church services together.

    Read it all here.

    HT to epiScope

    Abraham's Curse

    Author Bruce Chilton, an Episcopal priest and chaplain at Bard College, writes of human sacrifice in an excerpt from his new book, Abraham's Curse:

    As Judaism has praised the sacrifice of Abraham, and Islam the offering of Ibrahim, Christianity since the first century has contended that Jesus accomplished in action the offering that Isaac only symbolized. The key Christian belief in Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God reinterprets and recasts the image of Isaac in Genesis.

    Abraham's story has never been ours more than it is now. Naming the compulsion to take innocent life in the belief that sacrifice is noble goes beyond the incidents of any single crime, and takes us into the foundations of human culture and of how people understand the divine.

    The Christian soldier, the Israeli conscript, and the Muslim jihadist are all poised for conflict and prepared for death, armed by their training and motivated by an ethos that is thousands of years old. The impulse to praise martyrdom, and therefore to encourage susceptible adolescents to become martyrs, is embedded in our cultural DNA.

    We live on the edge of a prolonged sacrificial commitment, in a war on terror whose end is as obscure as its purposes and whose methods are ill defined. Understanding what it is we're talking about when we speak of human death as a "sacrifice" has become crucial to us.

    Read it all.
    (Our thanks to The Chronicle Review for taking this piece out from behinds its subscription wall.)

    The war in Iraq and the ministry of The Episcopal Church

    Episcopal News Service observes the fifth anniversay of the war in Iraq by looking at the many ways in which The Episcopal Church remains active "ministering to those involved in the fighting and their families, ministering to those who have come home, and continuing its call for peace in Iraq and the entire Middle East."

    Read the article here.

    Honoring the dead

    Clergy representing Catholics, Protestants, and Jews gathered in Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco yesterday to offer prayers on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Throughout the week, people from churches and synagogues throughout the Bay Area brought hundreds of pairs of boots and shoes to honor American and Iraqi casualties of the war.

    The American Friends Service Committee’s “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit, a display of 425 pairs of military boots, representing Californians who have died in the Iraq War, formed the centerpiece of the event. To “complement this exhibit,” said an announcement on its web site, Grace Cathedral invited “faith communities and individuals to collect shoes to represent the more than 88,800 Iraqi civilian causalities.” After the exhibition, the shoes would be donated to Episcopal Charities and other organizations serving the needy.

    It's all here.

    Chaplains honor each of the 4000 fallen

    As we cross the 4000 mark of deaths of US service men and women and nearly 90,000 Iraqis killed in the war, Newsweek reports on the difficult work of being a chaplain and offering hope in the midst of death.

    Chaplain Kevin Wainwright was preparing his Easter Sunday sermon in Iraq when there was a knock on his door.

    The news was grim: 1st Lt. Phillip Neel was dead. The young officer and fellow West Point grad had been a regular at the chaplain's Sunday church services. Wainwright knew and admired him. Now he had to find the right words to honor him.

    Wainwright chose the legend of Sir Galahad, King Arthur's noble knight, and the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson to salute Neel in a memorial.

    He spoke of his compassion, his devotion to his soldiers. But in trying to understand Neel's death, the chaplain also posed an agonizing question: "Why does it seem that the good guys are the first ones to fall?"

    On Easter night, the sad milestone of 4,000 American deaths in the Iraq war was reached with an announcement by the U.S. military that four U.S. soldiers had been killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.


    Read it all here.

    Read about reaching 4000 US deaths in the New York Times here.

    Other new stories here and a roundup of news stories here.

    The Office of the Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies and news of military chaplains of the Episcopal Church here.

    Bishop for Chaplaincies The Rt. Rev. George Packard's blog is here.

    UPDATED at 11 a.m. 3/25
    More on activities marking this day here.

    Bishop stops arms

    An Anglican bishop in South Africa has successfully sued in court to prevent the transport of a large shipment of small arms across South Africa that were en-route to Zimbabwe. Bishop Rubin Philips acted in High Court of Durban and invoked a section of South African law to stop the shipments.

    According to news reports:

    "[The] legal action was being sought in terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act (NCACC), which 'requires that any transfer of arms be authorised by a permit issued on terms of the NCACC'.

    [...]The controversial cargo packed into 3080 cases allegedly includes three million rounds of 7.62mm bullets (used with the AK47 assault rifle), 69 rocket propelled grenades, as well as mortar bombs and tubes.

    The cargo is, according to the documentation, valued at R9,88-million."

    Read the full news story here.

    UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting that the ship in question has departed from the port of Durban.

    UPDATE: April 19 10:30 a.m. ET
    Reuters reports that the ship is headed for an Angolan port.

    Seeking a way forward in Zimbabwe

    The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement this morning concerning the deteriorating situation of ordinary people in Zimbabwe calling for "a civil society movement that both gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence."

    The text is here, but the most arresting thing about the news release from the Anglican Communion Office is the note at the end:

    Notes to Editors

    The average life expectancy of Zimbabweans hovers around 35, lower than any war zone. Since 1994 it has fallen from 57 to 34 for women and from 54 to 37 for men.

    Zimbabwe has the highest proportion of orphans in the world (1.3 million), largely due to the devastation caused by HIV and Aids.

    AIDS related illnesses kill 3,200 people each week.

    A Sunni-Shiite fatwa against suicide bombing?

    Gregg Zoroya of USA TODAY writes:

    High-ranking Shiite and Sunni leaders are preparing to issue a religious decree condemning suicide bombings and other forms of violence, according to an Anglican minister who has led efforts to bring the two Muslim sects closer.

    The draft decree, also called a fatwa, cites Quranic verses and says, "The prophet Mohammed prevents the spilling of blood, Muslim against Muslim, and thus suicide bombings are totally prohibited," the Rev. Canon Andrew White said during a dinner Monday with Pentagon officials. The draft calls on Iraqis "to reject and forsake all violence, forsake all killing and provocation," White said.

    "What is new is that this will be a fatwa from Shiite and Sunni," White said in an interview. "It's not going to solve all of our problems, but it's the beginning of the process toward the reduction of violence."


    Read it all.

    Wounds of war

    The Wall Street Journal carries discussion of whether soldiers wounded psychologically should be given the Purple Heart or not.

    ... with an increasing number of troops being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the modern military is debating an idea Gen. Washington never considered -- awarding one of the nation's top military citations to veterans with psychological wounds, not just physical ones.

    While many, especially families of the wounded warriors, are pressing for this award to go to victims of PTSD, The Rev. Robert Certain, retired Air Force colonel and Episcopal priest who preached the homily at the funeral of President Gerald Ford has mixed feelings about the question.

    The question of whether veterans suffering from PTSD should be eligible for the Purple Heart is a deeply emotional issue for military personnel and their families.

    Robert Certain is a retired Air Force colonel who was shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1972 and held as a prisoner of war. He received a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts and later became an Air Force chaplain and Episcopal priest.

    Mr. Certain suffered severe depression in the 1980s and was formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2000.

    Mr. Certain says that he is conflicted about whether veterans with PTSD should be eligible for the Purple Heart. In his own case, the disorder wasn't diagnosed until decades after the Vietnam War ended but he believes that making troops suffering from the disorder eligible for the award might persuade more of them to seek help.

    In an email, he wrote: "The scars resulting from PTSD are almost all invisible to the observer, but always obvious to the warrior who has them.

    Read it all here.

    War is...

    The NY Times blog, Freakonomics reports on twelve replies given by the Canterbury Club at West Point to the question, "What do you think about war in general?"

    1. Unfortunately war is necessary and has been for thousands of years.
    2. War is a tragic and hopefully unnecessary part of life. I pray that militaries may become deterrent forces only.
    3. War is a necessary evil.
    4. While war may appear to be the least beneficial thing to mankind and society in general, there are numerous aspects of it which further our development. Whether it be the liberation of oppressed people or simply the cooperation of two very different peoples, which results in new friendships between cultures, many positives are found amongst the tragedies.
    5. War is the most effective way to get things done.
    6. War is about protecting the innocent and fighting so others don’t have to.
    7. Fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to war.
    8. It is a horrible and necessary thing. We may as well be the best at it.
    9. I believe war is a necessary evil if there is a good enough reason (e.g., World War II).
    10. War is that in which humans grow most.
    11. I think war is a way to strengthen our country. It shows other countries that our country will not be stepped on and we will defend our country.
    12. War is a failure of diplomacy.

    They are all West Point cadets — more specifically, members of the West Point Canterbury Club, whose answers to questions about war were recently featured in an edition of The Episcopal New Yorker".

    Read it all here.

    Church in Iraq opposes death penalty

    Ekklesia reports that an al-Qaeda leader in Iraq has been sentenced to death for the killing of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho - despite the church's opposition to the death penalty.

    The Iraqi government said the criminal court had imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Omar.

    The archbishop of Mosul, who was 65, was kidnapped in February by gunmen who attacked his car, killing his driver and two bodyguards. His body was found in a shallow grave two weeks later.

    The US Embassy in Baghdad welcomed the sentence, saying in a statement: "Reiterating our condolences to the archbishop's family and community, we commend the Iraqi authorities for bringing the perpetrator of this brutal crime to justice."

    But the Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako said the death penalty against the convicted killer would not help improve the situation in Iraq.

    Read it all here.

    Tutu to investigate Gaza killings for UN

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu will visit Gaza later this week to conduct a United Nations investigation into the killing of 19 Palestinians by Israeli shells in November 2006.

    According to a report by Ekklesia:

    [Tutu] is intending to visit the scene of the incident in which Israeli forces fired an artillery barrage into the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun.

    The UN Human Rights Council set up the fact-finding mission in 2006, with Tutu charged with reporting back with his findings, but Tutu had been denied a visa for the last 18 months.

    Read it all here.

    Recently Bishop Tutu spoke at the UN on Faith and Health. Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a man known for speaking out about injustices from whatever side they come, and for his charismatic preaching peppered with heart-wrenching anecdotes. However, when he visited the United Nations in Geneva on 20 May, he stressed the link between "faith and health".

    Listen to his speech here.

    Episcopal, Lutheran PBs urge prayers, donations for Sudan

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have released a joint statement on Sudan.

    In the coming days, we urge all Americans to pray for peace in the Sudan and to call for strong action from the international community to restore stability in a land whose people have been entangled far too long in violence.

    Read more »

    Makgoba urges Mugabe to recognize political opponents

    From the Church of Southern Africa:

    Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town today called on the Southern African Development Community to establish mechanisms in Zimbabwe to bring about an end to political violence.

    He also urged Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF to recognise the legitimacy of its political opponents.

    The full text of his statement follows:

    Statement by the Most Reverend Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town

    "The African Union's resolution calling for negotiations to settle Zimbabwe's political crisis is a welcome first step towards fulfilling the AU's potential to work for an Africa without conflict.

    "Now space must be created to ensure that the negotiations are productive.

    "Both parties have to be genuinely willing to address one another's fears and aspirations. If the talks are to succeed, Zanu-PF needs to recognise the legitimacy of the MDC. In addition, the talks will go nowhere if Zimbabweans continue to live in terror of being attacked and killed for not having red ink on their fingers.

    "We acknowledge and give thanks for what the SADC mediation process has delivered so far. However, it needs now to be expanded, and I urge SADC to establish mechanisms on the ground in Zimbabwe to bring about a climate free of political violence.

    "We pray for negotiations between partners fully committed to finding one another and ending the desperate suffering of their people. A lasting settlement would breathe hope and transformation into our common life in Southern Africa."

    Churches call for peace in Georgia

    The World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and World Vision have called for peace in the military conflict between Russian and Georgia.

    Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports:

    The patriarchs of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches have issued calls for peace as military conflict between Russia and Georgia over the pro-Russian separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia escalated into the first war between countries with Orthodox Christian majorities in modern history.

    "Today blood is being shed and people are perishing in South Ossetia, and my heart deeply grieves over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox peoples called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love are in conflict," Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II said in a statement on patriarchia.ru, his official Web site.
    ....
    The Web site of the Georgian Orthodox Church, patriarchate.ge, reports that in a sermon on 10 August, Patriarch Ilia II called for prayers to end the conflict.

    Backing for the patriarchs' appeals came from two international church groupings that said the United Nations must "ensure the territorial integrity and political independence of Georgia".

    In a 12 August joint statement, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches warned, "The use of force in the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia has cost the precious lives of civilians and soldiers, risks destabilising a fragile region, and reawakens deep fears there and far beyond."


    Read more here and from Ekklesia here.

    Ekklesia carries the plea from World Vision:

    As fierce fighting continues in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, international aid agency World Vision is calling for the international community to help broker an immediate ceasefire.

    "Thousands of civilians are in harm's way right now, including women and children," warned David Womble, World Vision's national director for Georgia.

    "The U.N. Security Council must make this matter a priority, and help broker an immediate ceasefire between the parties. If fighting continues, thousands of families will be forced to flee, and we could be faced with a humanitarian crisis."

    To avoid any further civilian casualties and suffering, World Vision is calling for the United Nations Security Council to work to broker an immediate ceasefire. It also urges that combatants abide by international law and protect civilians, particularly children and women, who are most vulnerable.


    Read more here.

    Jewish relief groups are also active in care for refugees:

    The evacuation effort has been a lightning, joint project of international Jewish organizations working in close conjunction with the Israeli government. The Israeli Embassy has become a hub of activity where leaders and refugees have shuttled to and from since the conflict began.

    The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, one of the agencies working on the ground, estimates that more than 700 Jews have been displaced in recent days.


    Read more here.

    Power sharing deal in Zimbabwe

    CNN has the details. Let's hope this ends the persecution of the Anglican Church in that country. Pray for Bishop Sebastian Bakare of Harare, who has bravely labored to put this diocese back together under incredible stress.

    Click Read More to see the pastoral letter he sent to the people of his diocese in June.

    Read more »

    Veterans' Day

    Two 50-something Episcopal priests, now serving churches in Pensacola, reflect on faith in the face of war in the Middle East from their tours of duty as military chaplains. The Pensacola News Journal reports:

    One serves as a Navy chaplain at a combat-support hospital in Kuwait. The other serves as an Army chaplain at military prisons in Iraq.

    Less than three years after they're finished with their active-duty service, they end up at Episcopal churches in Pensacola, some six miles apart.

    The Rev. C. Neal Goldsborough and the Rev. Jeffrey A. Jencks emerged from combat with similar perspectives: They firmly believe they have seen God — and his dark counterpart — on the blood-soaked battlefields and field hospitals of the Middle East.

    It's Veterans Day, and the two priests say it's important that Americans remember that the sacrifice we ask of our young men and women overseas isn't just a physical sacrifice.

    It's a moral sacrifice as well, where troops are asked to shed all they have been taught about killing and the sanctity of life in order to fight a greater evil.
    ....
    God was not far off even in these most tragic of circumstance, said Goldsborough, who has been at Christ Church for six weeks. Evil was never far away either, something that became obvious to him as the remains of a child from Flight 77 were recovered.

    "Everyone paused while I said a prayer and made the sign of the cross," he said. "It was at that point in my life that the reality of evil became very, very real to me. But as I watched the volunteers, the brave military people, the people from the Red Cross working to combat all the destruction, I learned firsthand the reality of God and learned that God's love is stronger than evil."


    When serving at the detention camps, "Jencks said he ensured the detainees had new Qurans, and even brought in tutors to help them read and understand the words of their faith better. He helped ensure their religious dietary requirements were met and that they had a chance to vote in government elections." "The Muslims knew my cross," he said. "And a majority of them would see it as a sacred symbol."

    Read the article here.

    Meanwhile in England there is a controversy over church participation in Remembrance Day events. The BBC reports:

    Services of remembrance are taking place at parish churches across the UK. Liberal Christian research group Ekklesia says this amounts to the Church making a "political statement" at odds with its teaching and beliefs.

    But the Rector of Putney said this "missed the point" and it was right to remember sacrifices made for others.

    Ekklesia said it was not suggesting that the Church is celebrating British victories, even less that it is celebrating war itself.

    But it does claim that, when the Church says it is commemorating "those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today", it is ignoring the political and theological implications of its actions.


    Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the Rector of Putney in south-west London, and frequent contributor to The Lead, said that Ekklesia was missing the point.
    "I think the Iraq war was wrong... but these aren't services in celebration of some cheap nationalism," he said.
    "We are celebrating the service of people who put their lives on the line for others... and that's absolutely right and proper".

    Dr Fraser - who lectures Army officers on the ethics of conflict - presided over a service of remembrance typical of those in other Anglican churches.
    He received a military parade and then welcomed troops into St Mary's Church, in Putney, where their standards were placed behind the altar.
    He said the Church of England's special position in the state allowed it to "articulate a spiritual and a moral side" to institutions such as the armed forces.
    "They do a very difficult job... they don't get a lot of money, they don't get a lot of glory for doing it, they do it in the care for others. That's exactly right with my values as a Christian, and other people's too," he said.


    Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia offers his hope for a more realistic view of all who died in war and an examination of war itself and the role of Christianity:
    Two years ago Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow talked about the ‘poppy fascism’ in the broadcasting industry, which required their display by public figures every November. There is a similar unspoken oppression in the way that the church deals with Remembrance. Only the very brave would suggest from the pulpit that the dead might not all be ‘glorious’, that some might have died in vain, or that our recollections should encompass those that our country’s soldiers killed – even though that it what the Church is supposed to believe.

    A few weeks ago I found myself doing a radio interview with a war veteran who wanted a campaign medal to be given to Bomber Command. Bomber Command, and those involved with it had never received one. The reason, he said, was that the carpet bombing that they had been ordered to undertake in World War Two had been considered by many shameful and embarrassing. They had been quietly forgotten and pushed to one side.

    The 50,000 aircrews and personnel who died, need a proper memorial. They should be remembered. And perhaps it is the church’s role to make sure that people like those, whose story has been marginalised, continues to be told.

    But it is also important that their actions and the consequences should be remembered, - openly and honestly. We should recall that in a few nights of bombing, a similar number - 50,000 but this time civilians - were burned alive in the firestorm at Dresden.

    This is not to judge the soldiers and aircrews, or indeed fail to recognise and acknowledge the huge price that they paid. Rather it is to be truthful about what took place, and make sure that all the dead are remembered.


    Read the BBC article here and Ekklesia here. Jonathan Bartley adds that he is encouraged by Remembrance Day here.

    Reflections on Veterans' Day

    Today is dedicated to remembering all who have served in the military especially those who suffered in wartime. Stories and reflections from The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion follow:

    The SF Gate, Hawai'i Insider, tells of Putting a (Nisei) Face on Bravery:

    The island of Kauai, which hosted its annual Veterans Day parade on Saturday and will hold a graveside ceremony tomorrow (Nov. 11) at the veterans' cemetery in Hanapepe, also pays special tribute year-round to its Nisei veterans. Shortly after World War II, the Japanese American congregation at St. John's Church in Eleele gave a stained-glass window depicting St. George's slaying of the dragon as a memorial for the men of the 442nd who fell in battle -- and chose as a model a parishioner of Japanese descent. Below this Nisei St. George is an inscription from the Bible (Malachi 2:10): "Have we not all one Father? Have we not One God who created us?"
    StGeorge.jpgThe Rev. Mary Lindquist, the rector of the Episcopal church, wrote me that she "loves the window," and finds the "sentiment and story behind the image very moving." Noting that the parishioner who served as its model passed away a few years ago, she added, "Every year there is a memorial service for those who lost their lives in the 100th battalion, and those who are still living attend and are honored for their service. Now there are only a few men left here on Kauai."

    If you're visiting the Garden Island on a Tuesday or Wednesday (or if you call for an appointment on another day), you can stop by the Kauai Veterans Center for a peek in its small but poignant museum, which documents islanders' military service dating back to the Spanish-American War. It's been several years since I've visited, but the dozens of names of Nisei (and others born on this small island) killed far from home is still haunting.


    Read more here.
    Missy Daniels, on Faith Streams reports on commemorations in some Episcopal Churches:
    ... churches around the country will join national observances with the usual services and music to salute the armed forces and to recognize the sacrifices of those who bear the burden of America's wars.

    But at some churches a quieter and much less visible acknowledgment of that military sacrifice has been going on for years now, week after week -- praying aloud by name at Sunday morning worship services for every soldier who has died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The Rev. James L. Burns, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City, says including the individual names of the war dead in the church's weekly prayers for the departed has been met with gratitude by all members of his congregation, whatever their political persuasion. Burns is a Navy veteran, the son of a World War II veteran, and the grandson of a veteran of the Spanish-American War. "Every generation gets its war," he says. "We are a species that seems incapable of living without war. War costs dearly, and we should stop and remember."

    Many churches pray more generally for all members of the military and those "in harm's way," but naming the dead one by one, says the Rev. Morris K. Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington, Kentucky, powerfully reminds people what their country has asked the armed services to do. "Wars are started by the president and the Congress, not by the military," says Thompson, a Marine veteran. "They have just followed orders, and we remember them simply because of that -- they are following an order." One or two of his members complained that reading the names in the prayers somehow makes a politically charged statement, but Thompson says such prayer is not about politics. "It is a reminder of what we are doing. On behalf of every one of us, America has asked them to go to war. Agree with the war or not, we have asked them to go and fight a battle. The prayers are to remember their duty and sacrifice, and remembrance is an important type of theological reflection."

    Some weeks, says Thompson, when thirty or forty names have been read, the effect has been especially profound. "It gets very quiet, and it does sink in, one name after another after another," he observes. By reading each name deliberately and intentionally, he adds, "we are giving to God what is God's, giving these people back to God, that they will continue to know God even in death."

    In Washington, D.C. at St. James Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, in addition to its weekly prayers naming the military dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of the [4193 as of today] names of the military killed in the two current wars in the Middle East are read at a special evening prayer service on November 2, All Souls Day. The prayers took almost an hour last year, according to the Rev. Richard E. Downing, who says their significance is all-embracing. "It is like what the poet John Donne said about for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for you. We are all a part of everybody else.


    The Rev. James Bhawan writes in The Fiji Times:
    At the St. Simon and St. Jude Church, an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Oxfordshire, which is the closest to where I am currently staying, the service was simple yet poignant. This small community gathered to remember the men of the village who had made the ultimate sacrifice for King and country over the course of two world wars. Their names were read out by an Royal Air Force officer who had just returned from Afghanistan. Wives, children, grandchildren and neighbours gathered in this act of communal remembering. Preaching form the text of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), the Rev. Anne Hartley reflected on the sacrifices made for peace, righteousness and justice, as well as those whose lives are affected by conflict, grieving families, the persecuted and oppressed, the poor and hungry. She reminded us that the blessing given by Jesus ("Blessed are those...") is not just to be understood as some reward in heaven but as we pray for the Father's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in heaven, we must look to the promise of this blessing in the present and work towards it.

    This act of remembering and of sacrifice has put a frame around all the events of the past week. As President-elect Obama made his victory speech he paid a fitting tribute to all those who had sacrificed not just for his campaign but embodied the spirit of change in the generations past to make a dream a reality. Not just for African-Americans and civil rights champions but for anyone that dreams of the opportunity to make a difference in their country and perhaps the world.


    The Scottish Episcopal Church offers prayers and readings for Remembrance Day:
    O God of truth and justice,
    we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
    and those whose names we will never know.
    Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
    and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
    As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future;
    for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. Amen.

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27


    The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Chatham, NJ, writes at her TellingSecrets blog about lessons from her father about war:
    I couldn't possibly have understood - still can't possibly understand - the full cost of war, but I knew he had paid - and was continuing to pay - a heavy price for playing his part in The War that was supposed to have ended all wars. But didn't.

    "War," he said again, "is a terrible thing."

    He said it as fact and he said it as prayer.

    I understood then, that some may have fought for freedom for all, but all may not ever again be fully free.

    Pray for our Veterans on their Day.

    Pray for peace in our time - and their's.


    The Rev. Steve Rice, rector of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem, NC offers the prayer found in many places this day:
    A Prayer for Veterans' Day
    O Judge of the nations,
    we remember before you with grateful hearts
    the men and women of our country who in the day of decision
    ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy.
    Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land
    share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines.
    This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
    Thanksgiving for Heroic Service, BCP 1979

    Pray for the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Bishop Pierre Whalon invites his colleagues and us to hold the people of Democratic Republic of Congo in prayer this coming Sunday, November 23, 2008. Meanwhile, African religious leaders call for the various parties in the conflict to honor their agreements and stop the violence.

    Bishop Whalon writes:

    Date : 17 novembre 2008 10:35:40 HNEC


    Dear colleagues,

    As you know, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to fester. Much is still underreported. In addition to the crisis in the Goma region, there are two areas of rebel activity in Congo which have not hit the news: the Dungu area, in the north, where the Lord’s Resistance Army has attacked villages and abducted adults and children in recent weeks, and also the Gety/Aveba/Nyankunde region, close to Bunia, where a new militia group emerged in late September and displaced many people from their homes.

    Our Anglican sisters and brothers in those areas have been deeply affected, and are in the forefront of relief efforts and peacemaking.

    I am echoing Archbishop Fidèle Dirokpa's call for a day of prayer for peace in the Congo on Sunday 23 November.

    You can use the following prayer, if you like, or do your own.

    O God of peace and abundant life, You call peacemakers your children. Let your Holy Spirit guide and govern all those who are making peace in Congo, and give them success, So that all your people may have that abundant life promised through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God in Holy Trinity. Amen.

    Episcopal Relief and Development is sending aid. Please encourage your people to help in any way they can—prayer first, but also material help as well. See http://www.er-d.org/ for information on sending direct help.

    Here is a short documentary on the underlying issues that have led to what is called "The Third World War." Five million have already died...

    http://www.mediastorm.org/0022.htm

    Thank you in advance,

    +Pierre

    The Lutheran World Federation reports:

    Representatives of a Pan-African grouping of faith leaders say the mineral resource-based conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could be prevented if signatories to peace agreements honored their stated commitments.

    Key leaders of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) also appealed to the continent’s religious leaders to urgently engage political leadership in the DRC and neighboring countries to end a crisis for which civilians continued to suffer the greatest atrocities.

    “Are we not moved by the inhuman conditions of those [internally displaced] mothers and children? Is it not correct to say that while this war is raving, the mineral resources are being taken out of the country for the benefit of others other than the citizens of the DRC?” remarked IFAPA president and general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, in his keynote address to the third IFAPA Commission meeting, taking place, 10-13 November, in Entebbe, near the Ugandan capital Kampala. Established in 2002, IFAPA comprises representatives of Africa’s seven main faith traditions.

    In the past few weeks, fighting has intensified between government soldiers and rebels allied to dissident general Laurent Nkunda in the mineral-rich eastern DRC region, especially North and South Kivu, with relief agencies reporting massive displacement of civilians. Nearly 200,000 people, according to United Nations’ relief agency reports, are receiving emergency assistance near the city of Goma, while an unknown number is said to be cut off in the nearby forest.

    HT to Ekklesia.

    Bishop Whalon keeps BIshopBlogging

    UPDATE: 11/18
    Ekklesia reports on the Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference protest of the situation in their country:

    Member of the permanent committee of the Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference (CENCO) have issued a "cry of grief and protest" about the murderous situation in their country - calling for more concerted action from the UN, the authorities and the international community.

    The bishops say that they are "disturbed and overcome by the human tragedy in the east and northeast Democratic Republic of Congo", and that many in their congregations and communities have been affected by the appalling violence there.

    In a message sent to Agenzia Fides (entitled "The Democratic Republic of Congo mourns its children without consolation") the CENCO members affirm that in the eastern part of the country they are witnessing a "a silent genocide."

    "The great massacres of the population, the planned extermination of the youth, the systematic robberies used as a weapon of war...a cruelty and exceptional violence is once again being unleashed upon the local people who only ask that they can live in a decent manner in their homeland. Who is willing to take interest in this situation?"

    The Bishops criticise the UN peacekeeping force, saying that "the most deplorable fact is that the violence is taking place right before the eyes of those whose duty it is to maintain peace and protect the civilian population."

    Giving combat drones ethical judgment

    New York Times:

    “My research hypothesis is that intelligent robots can behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans currently can,” said Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech, who is designing software for battlefield robots under contract with the Army. “That’s the case I make.”
    ...
    In a report to the Army last year, Dr. Arkin described some of the potential benefits of autonomous fighting robots. For one thing, they can be designed without an instinct for self-preservation and, as a result, no tendency to lash out in fear. They can be built without anger or recklessness, Dr. Arkin wrote, and they can be made invulnerable to what he called “the psychological problem of ‘scenario fulfillment,’ ” which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas.

    His report drew on a 2006 survey by the surgeon general of the Army, which found that fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents.

    Making Middle East peace a presidential priority

    From Episcopal News Service:

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has joined 39 other U.S. Christian leaders in calling on President-elect Barack Obama to make lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority during his first year in office. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Episcopal Church is a member, is circulating the leaders' December 1 letter which is being sent to Obama's transition team. Signed by leaders from the Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions, the letter urges Obama's incoming administration to "provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal" of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. It also points out that delaying the implementation of a peace accord between Palestinians and Israelis places additional burdens on the lives of the Christians remaining in the region. "Without active U.S. engagement, political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult," the leaders say. "Moreover, we are concerned about the negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline."

    The full text of the letter is available here. Episcopalians and other Christians nationwide are being encouraged to circulate the letter and add their names to the leaders' call for peace in the Holy Land here.

    Greatest gift for Iraqi Christians

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Iraqi Christians are returning to Iraq after fleeing over the past few years when the US invasion made life for Christians very dangerous:
    "

    Read more »

    Religious leaders decry violence in Gaza

    Religious leaders have issued statements on the war in Gaza, calling on participants and world community to cease the violence and return to negotiations for the sake of innocent civilians, especially children and their future:

    Read more »

    Israel cannot bomb its way to peace

    As the war rages in Gaza, it is hard to find pieces that are neither cheerlead nor stir up hatred toward one side or the other. Here are some perspectives we've seen that shed light on the Israeli action in Gaza.

    Rosa Brooks wrote in the Los Angeles Times on New Years Day that "Israel Can't Bomb Its Way to Peace."

    But if there is no reason to doubt Israel's ability to pulverize Gaza, there's also no reason to think this offensive will improve Israeli security. Destruction of Hamas' infrastructure may temporarily slow Hamas rocket attacks, but sooner or later they'll resume.

    The Israeli assault may even strengthen Hamas in the longer run and weaken its more moderate secular rival, Fatah. As Israel should know by now (as we all should know), dropping bombs in densely populated areas is a surefire way to radicalize civilians and get them to rally around the home team, however flawed.

    Ironically, it's precisely this psychological phenomenon that Olmert, Barak and Livni are counting on among Israelis, but they seem to assume it doesn't exist among Palestinians. (Or, worse, they're too cynical to care, as long as they profit politically.)

    Israel has no viable political endgame here: There's just no clear route from bombardment to a sustainable peace. But the damage caused by this new conflagration won't be limited to the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel's military offensive already has sparked outrage and protests throughout the Arab world. The current crisis also may destabilize some of the more moderate Arab governments in the region -- in Egypt, for instance -- where leaders now face popular backlash if they don't repudiate Israel.

    Ann Fontaine said in her sermon yesterday:

    I read the news from all sides in the conflict and do not know who is more righteous. The Palestinians, confined and barricaded in small bits of their former lands, the Israelis under siege by those who would eliminate them from the region? Perhaps it is the Israelis who even now are protesting the actions of their own government or the Palestinian medical and aid workers desperately trying to save all lives in hospitals with broken windows and few supplies?

    Our hearts cry out for wisdom and finding another way. The Magi had the wisdom to look for the Christ child. They discovered that God appears in the most unlikely of places. When they returned home it is said they went "another way." The powers of the world do not seem to have the will nor the wisdom to find answers. Perhaps there are none when both parties want the same land and sovereignty. The strategy that is being pursued has not worked so far and does not seem likely to produce anything but a constant cycle of revenge and violence. I remember times of hope along the way during this conflict. The Oslo accords, the meetings at Camp David (where President Jimmy Carter was able to get each side to see what they needed beyond the cycle of violence), the truces, the leadership that rose up in new ways but was soon cut down often by their own people. It is not often that leaders arise, like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu who can see a larger picture and encourage all of us to see one another as children of God where all children can find safety and a life of peace.

    What is our call in the midst of this and other tragedies around the world? Support those who work for peace, those who call for new ways of relationships. Give to the Anglican hospital that cares for all regardless of nationality and ethnicity. It all seems too small in the face of the overwhelming and seemingly intractable issues but I take heart from the infant lying in the manger and from the wise ones who knew enough to be humble and giving. It is the only thing I know.

    Give to Episcopal Relief and Development here to assist the hospital in Gaza.


    Read more »

    Bishop Jefferts Schori's statement on Gaza fighting

    Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the fighting in Gaza:

    We are deeply saddened by the first-hand reports we are receiving from Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza about the casualties they are treating under the most horrific circumstances. Not only do they lack basic medical supplies, but with windows blown out they are even struggling to keep patients warm. The high number of civilian deaths and injuries, which continue to include noncombatants, women, and children, will only prolong the violence years into the future. Israel’s disproportionate response to the rockets being fired into its cities may well encourage violence beyond Gaza and Israel. The first steps toward peace will only come if all parties unite behind an immediate ceasefire. Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded the world that “an eye for an eye soon leaves the whole world blind.” May we seek to end this blinding violence.

    January 5, 2009

    Israeli-Hamas conflict: Just war?

    Israeli is accused of using disproportionate means, and the toll on Gazan civilians is weighed against the civilian casualties in Israel from Hamas' homemade rockets. Hamas fighters use their own civilians as involuntary human shields, and fire their rockets indiscriminately and triggering the end to the ceasefire. These issues have got bloggers thinking about just war theory.

    Andrew Sullivan begins: "How does just war theory defend the deaths of many innocent civilians as a means to increase "deterrent strength"?"

    Noah Pollak requests in response: "Increasing “deterrent strength” against an enemy is simply another way of saying that you intend to fight them until they stop attacking you. As far as just war theory is concerned, I invite Andrew to cite chapter and verse, or even vague tenets, which might guide us toward his claim of the illegitimacy of the ground operation."

    Sullivan, after checking his Catholic Catechism accepts Pollak's invitation:

    The loss of life this past week has been huge - far greater than any other stage of the conflict, and out of all proportion to the damage Hamas has inflicted on Israel. In terms of casualties, we are talking about ratios of roughly a hundred to one. That makes this far from a close call morally. There is a reason, in other words, for many Europeans' horror. This is an extremely one-sided war, with one side essentially being attacked at will in a way that cannot avoid large numbers of civilian deaths. It is all very well understanding and sympathizing with Israel's dilemma in tackling Jihadist terror, as we should and must; it is another thing to watch women and children being terrorized and killed as they currently are in Gaza, with very little tangible gained as a result in terms of Israeli security. Maybe the long-term gains will shift the balance here. But those now arguing for exactly that proposition are those who believe the Iraq war has been a great success.

    I need to repeat: There is no "just war" excuse for Hamas' murderous terrorism or for its refusal to acknowledge or peacefully co-exist with Israel. But there's no reading of traditional just war theory that can defend what Israel is now doing and has done either. Maybe I am missing an element here. Or maybe just war theory cannot account for modern terrorism. But if that is the case, then an argument must be made for a new framework of just warfare that can account for that.

    Pollak responds:
    Andrew has fallen for one of the great deceptions of the current age. In Andrew’s telling, and in the current faddish European one, proportionality requires that a military’s response to aggression must not exceed in violence the original provocation. This idea is not just a foolish and morally benighted concept of warfighting — it represents the complete repudiation of the actual doctrine of proportionality.
    Pollak takes his understanding of proportionality from Michael J. Totten who wrote earlier this month:
    The Law of Armed Conflict “arises from a desire among civilized nations to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction while not impeding the effective waging of war. A part of public international law, LOAC regulates the conduct of armed hostilities. It also aims to protect civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked.”

    Proportionality, in short and according to the law, “prohibits the use of any kind or degree of force that exceeds that needed to accomplish the military objective.”

    In other words, if a surgical strike is all that is needed to take out a Grad rocket launcher, carpet bombing the entire city or even the neighborhood isn’t allowed.

    Hamas is still firing rockets; therefore, the IDF is not using more force than necessary to disrupt the firing of rockets. ... nd the IDF, unlike Hamas, does what it can to minimize injury to civilians. “Militants often operate against Israel from civilian areas,” the Associated Press reported last week. “Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.”

    Ross Douthat (who has, independently, consulted the catechism on just war) has this punchline:
    if it's important not to stretch the theory to justify any goal or end you seek, it's also important not to narrow it to the point where it seems so unrealistic and disconnected from the realities of war that policymakers will feel comfortable ignoring it. Which is why I find the widespread tendency to label Israel's current tactics as unjust - as opposed to labeling the war as a whole unwise, and unjust in its unwisdom - to be a somewhat troubling development: If you find yourself saying that a modern state cannot take the fight to a terrorist regime if doing so unavoidably involves civilian casualties, you're advancing a theory of jus in bello that no state can accept - and ultimately, I suspect, you're giving ammunition to the side of the debate that wants to do away with moral restraint in the struggle against terrorism entirely.
    Douthat was reacting to these words of Peter Hitchins: "[T]he bombing of densely populated areas, however accurate, is certain to cause the deaths of many innocents. How then can it be defended? In what important way is it different from Arab murders of Israeli women and children?"

    Statement of Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem on the fighting in Gaza

    Statement of Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem on the fighting in Gaza:

    JERUSALEM, January 7th, 2009 – At a time when great tragedy is occurring in the Holy Land in Gaza, I want to share some insight into what we are experiencing on a moment to moment basis. Our Diocese has one of 11 hospitals serving a population of 1.5 million residents in the Gaza Strip. The Al Ahli Arab (Anglican) Hospital has been in operation for over 100 years and has a very dedicated medical staff of doctors, nurses, technicians and general services personnel.

    During the best of times they are stretched to their maximum meeting the medical needs of this populous community. Now, during the current military conflict with its heavy toll on human life and material, the hospital faces even greater responsibilities and challenges. The result is growing strain on the hospital’s resources. Every day since the beginning of military operations, the hospital has received 20-40 injured or wounded patients. A large proportion of them require hospitalization and surgery. These patients are in addition to those with non-conflict-related illnesses. About one-fourth of the patients are children.

    In addition, the conflict has brought new type of medical and surgical conditions. For example, patients with burns and acute, crippling psychological trauma, are being seen more frequently. Because it is not possible for aid workers to enter Gaza at this time, the hospital’s staff is working around the clock, struggling with the effects of exhaustion and against limited resources in a conflicted area of ongoing military operations.

    Many medical items are needed, especially bandages and supplies for burns and trauma. The hospital’s windows have all been blown out or shattered from rocket and missile concussion and cold permeates the entire premises. Plastic sheeting to cover the windows could alleviate some of the cold but is unavailable now. Food supplies are scant throughout the Gaza strip and maintaining patients’ nutritional needs at the hospital has been difficult, especially for the most vulnerable. Some medicines and supplies for the hospital have been generously donated by US AID, but it has not yet been possible to deliver the items.

    Efforts to help alleviate some of the shortages are underway and we hope that the shipments will arrive quickly. Through the ICRC limited amounts of diesel fuel are being delivered to keep the electrical generators functional for life saving and other essential equipment. We are working with a number of related governmental and international voluntary agencies to speed up the delivery and steady supply of needed medicines and food. We are also working to ensure to the fullest extent possible the physical safety of the Hospital staff and campus.

    On a “normal” day, approximately 600 life line trucks a day bring supplies to the Gaza Strip. Many are under the auspices of UNRWA and international relief agencies because about two-thirds of Gaza’s residents are Refugees and living in UNRWA Camps. During this time of conflict, that number of trucks is not seen in a week or more. Because of the reduced deliveries, medical items, nutritional food, and other basic supplies are now scarce items, if available at all, for our brothers and sisters in Gaza.

    I ask you to join with me in prayer and by offering whatever financial support you can for our Hospital and heroic Staff of the Al Ahli Hospital - and other such humanitarian endeavors. Thankfully the Hospital plant remains intact at this time. While several among our Staff have suffered loss and injuries within their own families, they are representing all of us as a witness of God’s love to all people - “come unto to me all you who are heavy laden and I will refresh you”. As we continue to pray for communal Palestinian and Israeli PEACE, we especially remember these dedicated individuals who cannot leave, but most importantly do not want to leave, but continue to do all they can to help.

    Our Lord’s imperative in St. John’s Gospel during this Epiphany season gives each of us the new hope for a new dawn of light, life and communal conciliation - "I have come that you may have Life and have it abundantly”.

    Refer to the Diocese of Jerusalem's Web site for previous statements on Gaza from The Bishop. Donations can be made online through Episcopal Relief and Development or by mail to:

    Gaza Relief
    Episcopal Church House
    Mount Saint Alban
    Washington DC 20016
    Attn: Bishop Chane

    A report from the Diocese of Jerusalem on Al Ahli Arab Hospital

    From the Diocese of Jerusalem:

    Saturday, 10 January 2009. Al Ahli Arab Hospital continues to receive and care for many patients each day who are injured, wounded, or burned from the current conflict. Up to 40 new patients are seen each day and many of them require hospital admission and surgery. This increased surgical load places strains on related hospital departments – anesthetics, suture material, operating room linens and equipment, bandages, and surgeons themselves. Until relief is available from additional healthcare personnel, the hospital staff works long intervals without rest and struggles against exhaustion. Some hospital staff are now staying in the hospital around the clock, adding to the hospital’s obligations.

    In addition, Al Ahli is now receiving patients referred from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City – up to 15 per day. Patients are also being seen, especially children, who are experiencing the effects of fear and psychological trauma.

    Large-scale efforts are underway to deliver needed material assistance to the hospital, but the procedures required for safe delivery impose security-related limitations on the amounts of supplies that can be delivered and the time required to get them to the hospital. The hospital is short of fuel which is required to continue operating the electrical generator because little electricity is available in Gaza. Without the fuel for the generator the hospital would have no electricity, which would greatly impact its ability to operate.

    Glass in windows and doors at the hospital was shattered by nearby rocket and missile strikes. Glass is unavailable in Gaza at the present time for permanent repair, so the windows are temporarily covered with plastic rubbish bags until plastic sheeting becomes available for better protection from the cold.

    Food is in increasingly desperate need. Our efforts at this time are focused on providing nutritional products for the most vulnerable people; for example, children and nursing mothers.

    An additional scarcity in Gaza is cash. Many banks are closed for lack of cash. During this time, the Diocese is providing the cash necessary for the hospital to carry out its work and is also providing assurance that any debts incurred by Al Ahli Hospital will be honored.

    The latest from the Anglican hospital in Gaza

    The latest from Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza:

    Today (Wednesday 14 January 2009) brought more injured and wounded patients to Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, as each of the last 18 days has. One patient who came to Al Ahli recently was Mohan’nad, a 9 year-old boy whose leg was badly injured when a building near his home was damaged. Thankfully, the doctors and staff at Al Ahli were able to save his leg.

    But this day also brought hope and much needed assistance for Al Ahli in the form of several trucks filled with medicines, medical supplies, blankets, and food that arrived in convoys coordinated by UNRWA. The hospital to date has received some limited assistance through various aid agencies, but the trucks arriving today represent a huge boost to the hospital’s ability to continue its urgent humanitarian mission of medical care for anyone in need, even under the current dire circumstances. The hospital’s location in the very heart of Gaza City is now placing added responsibility on its work, which is being carried out so bravely and selflessly by the hospital staff.

    Religious leaders praise torture ban

    Religious leaders are celebrating President Barack Obama's executive order banning torture. Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe is on it.

    Presiding bishop laments latest atrocities in Sudan

    Read the entire statement at episcope:

    Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a statement on the attacks by the “Lord’s Resistance Army” in the Sudan.

    It is with great sorrow that I have received, in recent days, reports from brother bishops and other Episcopalians in the Sudan of the latest round of humanitarian atrocities committed by the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Since the beginning of this year, several parishes and villages in the Dioceses of Mundri and Ezo have fallen victim to LRA attacks that have included killings, child abductions, executions by decapitation and other unspeakable crimes. Tragically, the violence appears only to be spreading, with reports now coming that LRA activity has spread across southern Sudan to Torit, Kajokeji, Lainya, Yei, Yambio, Ibba, Maridi, and Lui.

    Bishop of Jerusalem denied entry to Gaza

    The Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that includes Gaza, after two hours of waiting was denied entry into the Gaza Strip at the Israeli EREZ security Crossing Point this morning along with Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan according to a Press Release received today from the Episcopal Diocese in Jerusalem:

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    Alison Des Forges, rest in peace

    Writing at The Revealer, Jeff Sharlet says:

    Among the dead of Continental Flight 3407 was a 66-year-old historian and activist named Alison Des Forges. In a short essay about the Rwandan genocide for The Revealer in 2004, I referred to Des Forges' 1999 book on the subject, Leave None to Tell the Story, as "a painful masterwork." That did not do the book justice. It is a modern scripture, a designation it deserves not just for its exposure of the fact that the genocide had roots in bad biblical scholarship, a misreading of Genesis applied to ethnicity in Rwanda. I first encountered Des Forges and her work while researching a story about debates between scholars of the genocide for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I wrote then that:

    Ms. Des Forges, also an activist for Human Rights Watch, is the main author (with eight other researchers) of the most comprehensive study of the killing: Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda (Human Rights Watch, 1999). At nearly 800 pages, it is less a narrative or an analysis than a horrifying collage; with the instincts of a novelist and the precision of an architect, Ms. Des Forges collected and compiled eyewitness testimonies, diplomatic dispatches, minutes of local meetings, datebooks of murderers, radio show transcripts, inventories of weapons. On one page she reproduces a receipt for 25,662 kilograms of machetes to be delivered to one of the genocide's conspirators nearly half a year before the killing began.

    Violence in Sudan: the LRA strikes

    I just had a call from Tom Bair, who is married to Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island. He and his wife visited the Diocese of Ezo in southern Sudan in December to begin a companion diocese relationship with the Church there. They've been in close contact with people in that diocese since their return.

    This morning Tom got a call frmo Ezo saying that on Friday the Lord's Resistance Army attacked a village nine miles from Ezo, killing nine people and taking six hostages. This is the latest in a series of attacks that began late last year and have continued sporadically since then.

    We've been able to locate a couple of media reports about the situation in the southern Sudan. Additionally, the Church of Sudan has a Web page with information about recent attacks. And here are some photos from Ezo.

    Archbishop Daniel Deng has appealed to the government of the United Kingdom and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion of help. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's statement is here. The Episcopal Public Policy Network has also been active on this issue.

    The war on terror and women's rights: the connection?

    Religion Dispatches interviews Michelle Goldberg, author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World. In the book Goldberg tackles issues like population control, female infanticide, genital cutting, HIV/AIDS, and global poverty. She makes the convincing case that women’s oppression is at the heart of many of the world’s problems; that, as she puts it, "underlying diverse conflicts—demography, natural resources, human rights, and religious mores—is the question of who controls the means of reproduction."

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    South African religious leaders say let Dali Lama in

    Writing as chairman of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa has asked President Kgalema Motlanthe to reconsider the decision to deny a visa to the Dali Lama:

    The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum wishes to express its serious concern over South Africa’s decision to deny a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the occasion of the proposed conference to celebrate world peace and the 2010 Football World Soccer Cup in South Africa. We raise our voice alongside the many others of our civil society expressing anger and disappointment, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s clearly stated unhappiness with the action and its underlying causes. ....

    We note that speculation surrounding the motivation for this decision has provided a stark reminder of the need to separate the functions of the ruling political party from those of Government and Head of State.

    More fundamental is the question of the relationship between domestic and international human rights norms and values, and policy-making.

    Click Read more to see the full letter.

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    Anglicans providing respite for other Anglicans

    News today of an attempt to support the work of the Anglicans in Sri Lanka:

    "Clergy from the Church of England are being invited to provide respite for Sri Lankan priests in the war-torn country.

    CoE clergy will be asked to take over from Sri Lankan clergy in safe regions, so that those clergy can provide respite for their countrymen in conflict zones."

    Read the full news report here.

    Civilians and Combatants: is there a difference in war?

    The New York Review of Books addresses the argument for assassination and preventative killing found in an article by Kasher and Yadlin.

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    Refusing the cycle of hate

    Ekklesia reports on a Palestinian family standing up for their rights but refusing to hate.

    "A land is nothing without people, and people are nothing without a land." That's the maxim followed by Palestinian farmer Daoud Nassar. And when he speaks of the intimate connection between people and their land, he is talking from hard-won experience.

    Nassar, a Palestinian Christian, lives with his family on 42 hectares (100 acres) of fertile land west of Bethlehem. His grandfather bought the land in 1916 and the Nassar family has farmed there ever since, growing olives, almonds, grapes, pears and figs.

    In 1991, Daoud Nassar learned that the Israeli authorities were planning to confiscate three quarters of his land – a practice that is illegal under international law, but nonetheless widespread on the West Bank.

    Since then, the family has been locked in a costly legal battle with the Israeli government, despite possessing all the land registration documents and other paperwork necessary to prove ownership, Daoud Nassar told a visiting ecumenical delegation on 10 March.


    Although suffering harassment, threats and attacks, the family has chosen to follow a reconciling path:
    The Nassar farm is already surrounded by Israeli settlements, and like many Palestinians, the Nassars have endured harassment, threats and attacks from nearby settlers. In one such attack, Daoud Nassar's mother was threatened with a gun. In another, settlers uprooted 250 olive trees from the property.

    It is acts like this, Nassar says, that may easily fuel violence among Palestinians. For many others, the only possible options seem to be to resign themselves to the situation, or to emigrate.

    The Nassar family decided there should be another option – to refuse to be enemies. So they established on their land a project called the Tent of Nations. Its overarching aims are to build bridges between people of different backgrounds and between people and land.

    "We wanted to move away from a circle of blame, and channel our frustration into something positive," Daoud Nassar told the Living Letters team.


    Read more here.

    Remembering the fallen

    This Memorial Day will be marked in many different ways across America, some traditional, some brand new. In addition to local parades, memorial services and civic observances, there are a growing number of specialized websites that are creating a virtual memorial to the men and women who have lost their lives in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Read more »

    The psychic and spiritual cost of war

    On Memorial Day, it is especially important to remember the toll of war is also psychological and spiritual. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have required multiple and extended deployments in a type of combat where there is no front line or escape from repeated threat.

    Bob Herbert wrote in the NYTimes last week about the psychic toll of war.

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    Episcopalians launch new non-profit to care for troops

    From the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs, a new program for military families:

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    PB, other Christians leaders praise Obama's Cairo speech

    From Episcopal Life Online:

    A diverse group of U.S. Christian leaders has written to President Barack Obama following his historic June 4 speech in Cairo saying they stand ready to support "robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace."

    Signed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and more than 50 Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical and African American church leaders, the open ecumenical letter to Obama noted that "after decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace, yet with your determined leadership we believe the promise of two viable, secure and independent states can be realized."

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    Bishop Allen writes from Honduras

    Bishop Lloyd Allen of the Diocese of Honduras has written to the other bishops of the Episcopal Church assuring them that “so far” he, his clergy and lay leadership and their families are safe, in the wake of the military coup on Sunday that deposed President Manuel Zelaya.

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    The service of soldiers

    Liz Essley in The Washington Times:

    Shrapnel, swords and bayonets crown Christ's head in the small side chapel, tucked between the expansive Gothic nave and another small room, the Children's Chapel. Stained-glass figures of war heroes - from Richard the Lion-Hearted to Nathan Hale - look down on Linda Strating as she addresses her tour group on its last stop, the War Memorial Chapel of Washington National Cathedral.

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    CANA and the coming campaign against Islam

    Last March, in an article about Archbishop Peter Akinola and the 2004 massacre of 650 or more Muslims in the Nigerian town of Yelwa I wrote:

    It is sometimes said that in electing Gene Robinson its bishop, the people of New Hampshire "exported" the American argument over homos

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    9/11 remembered online

    There are a number of posts remembering the events of Sept. 11th appearing around the web today - and many of them are found on websites of the Episcopal Church blogscape.

    Read more »

    Churches make prayer beads for troops

    Beads link prayers
    Women create strands of comfort for troops

    From Tulsa World

    Strewn across a large table are clear bags filled with beads in multiple shades of blue, purple, green and red. Every Thursday, a group of about six to eight women at St. Luke's Episcopal Church sits around the table and strings the beads together to make prayer beads to send to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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    Tomorrow is Gandhi's birthday

    Amitabh Pal says, in advance of the observance of Mahatma Gandhi's 140th birthday on October 2nd, that the spirit of nonviolence lives on around the world, including in Muslim societies.

    Read more »

    Church honors veterans' "quiet" service

    White Bear Lake church honors veterans' 'quiet' service
    The city's oldest cemetery adds a memorial to the nation's veterans to honor their service at war and at home in civilian life.
    From TwinCities.com - Pioneer Press

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    'Just War' (im)morality and the Cafe

    As President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo last week, he invoked the "Just War" formula theorized by Cicero and Aristotle, and theologized over by Augustine and Aquinas.

    Read more »

    Episcopal Peace Fellowship on the war in Afghanistan

    Episcopal Peace Fellowship issued a statement on the strategy for war in Afghanistan:

    Read more »

    Pope Pius XII moves closer to sainthood

    Despite criticism from Jews and other groups, the Vatican continues to move the WWII Pope Pius XII toward sainthood:

    Read more »

    Ending torture at Gitmo & for good

    The Rev. Mary Higgins and Bishop Gene Robinson write and editorial in the Concord (NH) Monitor, calling for an end of torture.

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    Anti racism trainers work with Sudanese

    Lou Schoen, Province VI Anti-Racism Network Coordinator reports that Anti-racism trainers for the Episcopal Church, Lelanda Lee (also a member of the Executive Council, representing Province VI of The Episcopal Church) and JoKatherine Holliman Page undertook a special training challenge recently in Denver for a group working for democracy in Southern Sudan. Following is Lee's report:

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    Egypt will restore synagogues on its own dime

    Although Egypt's population of Jews has dwindled to but a handful, the government has extended help in an offer to restore the country's synagogues.

    Read more »

    During Holocaust remembrance week, liberators gather in Washington

    Concentration camp liberators gather at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington in honor of Holocaust Remembrance week:

    Read more »

    40 years ago: Kent State

    Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the Kent State shootings. The Gather web site reports:

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    Honoring the dead: a son's proposal for peace

    The Rev. Donald Heckman, director for external relations of Religions for Peace International wrote this Memorial Day essay for the Huffington Post:

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    Church leaders respond to the situation in Gaza Strip

    In a letter to President Obama, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori "expresses deep concern for the circumstances surrounding Israeli forces’ interception of a flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week." Other church leaders have issued statements including The Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, and the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

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    Southern African Archbishop on Palestine/Israel conflict

    The Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Reverend Thabo Makgoba, addressed the conflict in the Middle East at a United Nations meeting this week:

    Read more »

    Fewer attacks on aid agencies in Afghanistan

    IRIN reports:

    Humanitarian agencies are seeing promising signs of regaining space and acceptance from Taliban insurgents while attacks against NGO workers have reduced significantly over the past six months.

    Read more »

    The plight of Iraqi Christians

    The New York Times:

    QOSH, Iraq — A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them.

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    Assorted updates from abroad

    New developments in three stories we have been following:

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    How would Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last Sunday sermon play today?

    Martin Luther King gave his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. Some of that sermon is reproduced below, but we urge you to read it all. Read it all and ask yourself how a man who says the kinds of things that Dr. King said would fare in the era of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

    Read more »

    "Just War" and Libya

    The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, in the Huffington Post writes on whether or not the attacks on Libya is an example of "Just War:"

    Read more »

    Is the US involvement in Libya "just"?

    There's an old Christian line of thinking that allows for the moral use of limited violence in certain specific situation. The concepts are usually collected under the heading of the "Just War Theory" which had its Christian roots in the writings of Augustine of Hippo though the ideas are first found in Cicero.

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    Familiarity breeds something more than mere contempt

    Russell Jacoby says violence is more often found between parties more at home with one another than it is between strangers.

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    Waging war unjustly

    In an op-ed essay for the Providence Journal, the Rev. Paul Zahl writes:

    Read more »

    For Heroic Service

    O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Book of Common Prayer

    South Sudan in jeopardy as north stages attacks

    From Ecumenical News Service via ENS:

    Escalating violence against civilians in Sudan's disputed South Kordofan State is leading to a major humanitarian catastrophe with an estimated 300,000 people besieged, cut off from relief aid, and unable to escape fighting, according to a number of aid agencies and witnesses in the region.

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    Wartime chaplains working through 'compassion fatigue'

    The New York Times profiles Maj. David Bowlus, a chaplain to Army Rangers.

    Read more »

    Prayers for Libya

    On our side of the planet, a darkening sky. Meanwhile, the Arab Spring descends in full force in Libya. It is now early Monday there, and the rule of Moammar Gadhafi, without which the world has not known itself for 42 years, appears to be on the crest of collapsing while rebel supporters are converging upon a main square of Tripoli.

    So remember North Africa, and remember Libya, and remember The Rt. Rev. Bill Andrew Musk, area bishop of North Africa in the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt.

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    Religion links from all over

    Riazat Butt, religion reporter for the Guardian, is traveling in Afghanistan with British army chaplains. One chaplain said to her:

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    Religion on the frontline of Afghanistan

    Riazat Butt, writing for The Guardian, spends 2 weeks traveling in Afghanistan with army chaplains and reports on religion and military service in harm's way.

    Read more »

    In Libya, a focus on reconciliation

    Tom Heneghan of Reuters has some hopeful news:

    Read more »

    9/11 Changed nothing

    Did "the world" change after 9/11? Perhaps yes, perhaps no:

    Why 9/11 Changed [Everything] Nothing
    From Religion Dispatches

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    10th anniversary of U.S. war in Afghanistan: make jobs not war

    Pat McCaughan writing in The Episcopal News of the Diocese of Los Angeles reports on an interfaith rally on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan:

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    A year later: The attack on the Cathedral in Baghdad

    A year ago a horrific attack on Iraqi Christians by a group associated with al-Qaeda killed 46 men, women and children and wounded 60 more. It was the worst attack on Christians in the region since the war began in 2003 and started an exodus of Christians from the region that has not stopped.

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    Top Marine: End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell no big deal

    The Associated Press is reporting that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is thus far causing less unrest than, say, allowing them to serve as bishops in the Anglican Communion.

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    Magdalene, the one who showed up

    Garrett Keizer offers a fresh, not especially ideological take on Mary of Magdala.

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    Archbishop of Sudan appeals for peace

    Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, is appealing for peace as the Sudanese army marches into South Sudan.

    Read more »

    War, heroism and the followers of Christ

    Gary Hall, rector of Christ Church, Cranbrook, has written an excellent reflection on Memorial Day. I invite you to add link to other Memorial Day reflections in the comments.

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    Israel, Palestine and General Convention

    The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians aroused some of the more passionate testimony in hearings at the recently completed General Convention of the Episcopal Church, even though it seemed clear from the outset that the church was not going to take action strong enough to satisfy those who believe it has not spoken out strongly enough against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

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    United Church of Canada will boycott goods from Israeli settlements

    One of the larger denominations in Canada has taken a different tack than the Episcopal Church took at its General Convention on issues relating to Israel and Palestine. Haaretz has the story:

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    Fraser to Tutu: Morality is not about having clean hands

    We carried an item on Saturday about Desmond Tutu's contention that former President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their role in the war in Iraq. Tutu has also written an op-ed essay for the Guardian in which he says:

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    Pilgrimage of remembrance and healing for veterans

    Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly presents a Pilgrimage of Remembrance and Healing

    Read more »

    Veterans Day salute to women in military

    The Episcopal Church Bishop for Federal Ministries, the Rt. Rev. Jay Magness salutes women in the military on this Veteran's Day:

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    Council of Churches expresses deep concern over violence in Gaza/Israel

    Episcopal News Service reports on the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches statement on the violence in Gaza and Israel:

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    Cease-fire in Gaza

    Word of a cease-fire has been reached concerning the Gaza conflict.

    CNN reports:

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    An Abrahamic solution in the Middle East?

    Mark Silk calls our attention to a sermon by Guy Strousma at the Oxford University Cathedral that proposes that a reinterpretation of sacred scriptures holds the key to catalyzing progress toward peace in the Middle East. Silk writes:

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    Soul repair: wounds of war

    Rita Nakashima Brock's work with moral injuries is featured in the New York Times.

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    Fear and hope for Christians in Middle East and North Africa

    Harry Hagopian, an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant who also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris, writes about the fears and hopes of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa for Ekklesia

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    Letter on TEC's Middle East policy stirs controversy

    From Episcopal News Service:

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    Tutu, Anderson, others urges Executive Council to "hold Israel accountable"

    Last night the Cafe published a story from Episcopal News Service that began:

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    Desmond Tutu: 'God is weeping' over the plight of Syrians

    Desmond Tutu today issued an impassioned plea to the international community to take action on behalf of Syria. From the Elders Blog:

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    Memorial Day: losses

    James M. Lindsay keep the blog "The Waters Edge" at the Council of Foreign Relations website. For Memorial Day, he writes:

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    Memorial Day: death in the sky

    The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
    By Randall Jarrell

    From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

    Memorial Day: being there

    Iraqi war veteran Brian Turner reads two of his poems, including The Hurt Locker, which you can read along with him here.

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    Memorial Day: coming home

    Shut Out the Lights, a taut, evocative song about a Vietnam vet returning home by Bruce Springsteen

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    Memorial Day: remembrance

    For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell is a meditation on the memorial to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, who fought and died at Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The 54th was one of the first regiments composed entirely of African American soldiers.

    Below is an excerpt, but by all means, read the whole thing.

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    Memorial Day: Ike

    Memorial Day is a time to honor those who have died fighting in our nation's wars. It is also a time to reflect on where the United States has been and where it is heading. These speeches by President Dwight Eisenhower, perhaps the most significant U. S. military leader of the 20th century, are essential reading in any such enterprise.

    The D-Day Speech

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    Memorial Day: I had a simple impulse to cut into the earth

    The Vietnam War Memorial, designed by Maya Lin when she was a 21-year-old senior at Yale University, sparked controversy when it opened in 1982, but in the 31 years since then, it has become a site of pilgrimage, and perhaps the cherished of all the monuments and memorials on the National Mall.

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    Are this week's Middle East talks already in jeopardy?

    Abby Ohlheiser reports for The Atlantic:

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    "Just War" Theory and Intervention in Syria

    Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for "human intervention."

    RNS:

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    National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack

    The National Council of Churches (The Episcopal Church is a member) has issued a statement about Syria:

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    Syria conflict perspectives

    Syria continues to dominate the news:

    Jonathan Merritt, on RNS, offers thoughts from three different Christian leaders

    In the National Catholic Reporter, Thomas Reese collects what moral theologians say about getting involved in Syria.

    Meanwhile, the United States Conference of Bishops has sent an Action Alert to urge Congress to "choose dialogue and diplomacy" in Syria.

    Bishops speak out on prospect of war with Syria

    Bishop Stephen Lane of Maine decries the use of chemical weapons in Syria, yet emphasizes that waging retaliatory war is not God's path. He writes:

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    Forming an opinion on Syria

    If someone asked you for resources to help him form an opinion on whether we should bomb Syria, what would you suggest? Assume this person is not persuaded by pacifism and is familiar with the thinking of the usual pundits on the left and on the right. Asking for a friend.

    Lending a hand in Syria

    Episcopal Relief and Development is working to provide humanitarian aid to Syria. Here is the latest from the staff of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) and the Rev. Canon Robert Edmunds, Middle East Partnership Officer for the Episcopal Church.

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    Syria accepts oversight of chemical weapons, prayers continue

    UPDATES:
    USA Today reports on the latest news on Syria and its chemical weapons:

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    Is justice finally coming to Salvadoran war criminals?

    Justice may finally catch up with the men who perpetrated two of the most infamous crimes of El Salvador's civil war, the massacre at El Mozote in 1981 and the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in 1989.

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    Memuna McShane in war and peace

    A girl who lost an arm during the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s is thriving at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. ESPN and The Washington Post sports section both recently featured articles on Memuna McShane, a soccer player. And while I've never seen her play soccer, she and my son Chris were in a couple of dance recitals together, and I can confirm that she's an amazing child.

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    A poem for Veteran's Day: 2008, a solider in Iraq dreams of home

    The poet Brian Turner was an infantryman in Iraq when he had the experience described in this poem, which comes courtesy of the National Public Radio website. NPR recorded this story in December 2008.

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    News from South Sudan

    Jesse Zink reports on a conversation with Bishop Ruben Akurdit Ngong in Bor, South Sudan

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    Bethlehem Wall in London

    From Electronic Intifada

    St. James’ Church in central London unveiled an eight-meter-high replica of the Israeli-built concrete wall that entirely surrounds the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. It is an effort to bring to London some of the reality of what it is like to live in Bethlehem in 2013.

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    Swords into Plowshares

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of nonviolence took new form today at a church in New York City.  Mike Martin, in a service at Middle Collegiate Church, pounded a Remington rifle into a farming tool. 

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    Prison term for 84-year-old nun who broke into nuclear weapons complex

    An 84-year-old nun was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a U.S. nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws.

    CBS News has the full story of Sister Megan Rice.

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    Bishop Mouneer Anis: End violence against Muslims

    Bishop Mouneer Anis joins call for an end to violence by Christians against Muslims in the Central African Republic. Anglican Communion News Service has the story:

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    A call to peace and prayer in Ukraine

    A call to peace and prayer for Ukraine

    From the heads of The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


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    John Kerry warns of genocide in South Sudan

    From CBS News:

    JUBA, South Sudan -- In a stern warning, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging South Sudan's warring government and rebel leaders to uphold a months-long promise to embrace a cease-fire or risk the specter of genocide through continued ethnic killings.

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    Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope active in seeking peace around the world

    The Diplomat Magazine notes that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope are both using their office to promote peace in conflict situations:

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    Turning back immigrant children: the shame of our era

    President Obama has asked for $3.7 million to address the crisis on the Mexico-US border. From NBCNews:

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    9 things to know about Israel/Palestine

    Vox answers 9 questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict that may help you know what is going on:

    Everyone has heard of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Everyone knows it's bad, that it's been going on for a long time, and that there is a lot of hatred on both sides.

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    National Cathedral commemorates start of WWI

    Yesterday, the National Cathedral marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War with a service of atonement. The whole service, said on July 27th, was constructed around the need for repentance for war, and the horrors it inflicts on humanity.

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    Why Central Americans are fleeing their homeland

    "Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — has risen steadily as violence has increased. Mary Small of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Shaina Aber of the United States Jesuit Conference explain what is driving people to flee for their lives." Jesuit Refugee Services

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    Bishop Whalon on the situation of Iraqi Christians

    The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, spoke on France24.com about the situation of Iraqi Christians:

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    Following the news with the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association

    If you haven't heard of the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association, now would be a good time to familiarize yourself.

    The situation of Christians in various parts of the Middle East is desperate at the moment, and the JMECA news page is a good way to learn about the situation from an Anglican point of view.

    Current stories include:

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    Anglican child 'cut in half' in Iraq, Vicar of Baghdad reports

    Canon Andrew White, the "Vicar of Baghdad," knows firsthand the dire situation faced by Christians in Iraq. From Anglican Communion News Service:

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    Tutu calls for boycott of Israel

    In an article for Haaretz, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called for an international boycott of the nation of Israel.

    Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa writes:

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    Book explores U.S. chaplain's ministry to Nazi criminals

    From Religion News Service:

    He was a minister to monsters.

    That’s what Tim Townsend writes of Henry Gerecke, the unassuming Lutheran pastor from Missouri who shepherded six of the most notorious Nazis to the gallows in “Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis.”

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    Is the war against ISIL a "just war"?

    Here is the full text of the speech in which President Obama outlines his plan "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL."

    "First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. ….

    Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. ….

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    How do you observe the 9/11 anniversary?

    Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that we now refer to simply as 9/11.
    It is the sort of day that people want to commemorate, even if widely-practiced commemorative customs and rituals haven't quite fallen into place yet.

    How do you mark 9/11?

    I listen to this song, and, if the day permits, the entire album.

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    Can we learn to love our enemies, even ISIS?

    Can we learn to love our enemies, even the evildoers who are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?The Rev. Philip DeVaull, rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Costa Mesa Calif., argues that with God's help, we can. He writes in the Orange County Register:

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    ABC backs airstrikes against ISIS

    The Anglican Journal reports

    Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has thrown his support behind the military airstrikes against the Islamic State (known also as ISIL or ISIS), a radical organization of insurgents in Iraq and Syria attempting to create a “caliphate,” or Islamic government ruled by a single individual in accordance with Sharia law.

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