Monday, August 18, 2008

How Does the Peace Movement Respond to the Russian Invasion?

This is one of those entries where I wish I had something profound and insightful to say. Unfortunately, all I have are questions.

Last week, while we were all watching the opening ceremonies the Olympics (or for those who despise the sports mania, you were doing something to distract yourselves from said event), the Russians were invading the Republic of Georgia. To many, especially people in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe who were once part of the “Soviet bloc,” this event seemed hauntingly reminiscent of Russia’s 1953 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Poland and Ukraine have made it clear that they fear they may be next on Russia’s list of projected targets. The world stood shocked at Russia’s bold move caught flat footed by their act of aggression.

To hear the Russians talk, it sounds like they are only seeking to “liberate” the oppressed people of South Ossetia. To hear the Georgian leaders speak, it sounds like a brazen move of aggression. Where does the truth lie? Of course it depends on who you listen to.

As a person committed to peaceful, non-violent means of conflict resolution, I was speechless and felt inadequate when I read about these events. The U.S. government’s response was to make strong statements of support for Georgia and to deploy “humanitarian aid” delivered by members of the U.S. Navy and Air Force. NATO seemed paralyzed. President Sarkozy of France brokered a peace agreement, which the Russians seem to be saying they would agree to while continuing to advance deeper into Georgia. However, the peace community was silent.

At times like this, I wish we peaceniks of the world were better organized. I wish we had a contingent of people whose mission it was to enter such situations to stand between the warring factions and advocate for reconciliation. During the 1980’s when the U.S. carried on its covert war in El Salvador and Nicaragua, Witness for Peace made such forays. At the beginning of the current Iraq war, Christians Peacemaker teams drove to Baghdad even as the bombs were falling. Numerous groups have sought to serve as “human shields” between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, usually such groups are small and take months to organize because they are not “at the ready” when such conflicts arise. In fact the Christian Peacemaker website asks the question: "What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?"

Part of the problem lies with the kind of people peace folks tend to be. We peace folks tend to be a bit anti-authoritarian and don’t like too many rules. We balk at too much organization (that’s why there are so many anti-Iraq war groups all bickering with each other). This divisive attitude hampers us when we need to act quickly and the people in need are halfway around the globe. We become strangely silent when there an act of naked aggression by an perpetrator who could care less about Gandhi’s concept of satygraha (truth-force) or Martin Luther King’s notion of redemptive suffering or the South African concept of ubuntu.

I have to believe that in Russia and in Georgia there are people who are committed to the ways of peaceful conflict resolution and non-violent direct action. I have to believe that there are people whatever their spiritual heritage who have found a deeper truth and personal inspiration in teachings such as Jesus’ directives on non-violence and redemptive suffering in the Sermon on the Mount. Somehow we must find ways to connect with such folks, support them and if need be stand up with them to counter the impulse to military violence that snags our leaders anytime actions like this occur. If we believe, as I do, that the way of non-violence is the way human beings are created and wired to live, then we have to find ways to creatively respond.

In the buildup to World War II the great Christian leader and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr renounced his youthful pacifism as being impractical in a world threatened by Nazism. When events such as the Russian invasion of Georgia occur many would-be pacifists silently thank their lucky stars we’ve got some big guns trained on the “enemy.” The hawks in our country, such as John McCain, feel emboldened to threaten military force on our supposed adversaries. But we peace folks, where are we?

I, for one, don’t want to go down the military road, but at this point, I have far more questions than constructive responses. Any ideas out there?

1 comment:

Victor Gimenez said...

I thought the cold War was over. It looks like it has just been hibernating. What is amazing to me is that Russia sits on the UN Security Counsel isn’t this the counsel that supposedly keeps international peace. I am wondering would this have happened under President Reagan’s watch or George Bush Sr., or President Clinton. I wonder what ideas they would have about whats happening.

You asked in your blog “Any ideas out there?”

It is interesting that you bring up the word idea. I heard a minister say that when you translate the Word logos it literally means “IDEA”. For example in the book of John chapter one it says: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

So Jesus was Gods expressed idea and his idea dwelt among us. Many times when we think of Peace making we forget that this is an idea that we have to make real. We have to put flesh on what we call Peace. That is why you will never defeat terrorism unless you challenge the ideal of Islamic radicals with the ideal of Christ love. As Christians we have not meet the challenge of the World to make peace a reality. For years now, right wing conservatives have cornered the market on there brand of Christianity. Many around the world have not seen the expressed ideal of Christ made flesh. What they have heard is that we must defeat the axis of evil. They have heard we will not leave Iraq until victory has been declared. Some have heard that peace is as an ideal of the past and we must kill and destroy all are enemies. Does this sound like Gods best ideal for the world. The sad thing is that we have let this go on for two long. We have allowed war to take the place of peace. As Christians we have wanted Blood for Blood and we are not satisfied until someone is crucified. Forgiveness and reconciliation will continue to be silent as long as Christians are silent. We need a since of urgency right now. We need PEACE right now. We need Christians who are able bodied to enter the world of political chaos and offer another perspective. To quote you “At times like this, I wish we peaceniks of the world were better organized. I wish we had a contingent of people whose mission it was to enter such situations to stand between the warring factions and advocate for reconciliation. Dr. Boyd it will be up to you and person like you to sound the trumpet. We are the ones we’ve been looking for to give the world another IDEAL of how the world can live peaceably. I know you are concerning about going down a military path. However, do we really want to go to war with Russia? The answer is no one reason they have big guns like us. America is facing a country that has weapons that are equal to ours. It is amazing to see how much diplomacy is taken place right now. Here is another reason we don’t want any parts of Russia in a word CHINA. Here is an interesting note another reason why war may not take place is because we are currently inserting missiles in Poland. Coincidence I will let you decide. I am praying for President Bush because God knows he needs it. I know some people will take offence to this but as Christians our biggest failure was not to call him on the carpet when we realize that we had been duped into war. We have given him a pass but it is my since that there is a generation being raised up who don’t mind sharing the ideal of Jesus Christ THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Well any way you asked for some ideas


Victor Gimenez