The Common Good

Voices to Stop Genocide

Sojomail - September 6, 2006

Quote of the Week : 'All bark, no bite'
Building a Movement : Voices to stop genocide
Spirituality and Politics : Sept. 11: 100th anniversary of Gandhi's first public protest
Action Alert : 'Unity Walk' to mark Sept. 11
Biz Ethics : Target vs. Wal-Mart
Boomerang : Readers write
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'All bark, no bite'

"[The Sudanese government] sees the international community as all bark, no bite, and unfortunately they're right."

- Dave Mozersky, Sudan analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Source: Reuters

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Voices to stop genocide
by Duane Shank

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur is unbelievably going from bad to worse. Last week, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing up to 20,000 peacekeepers to replace the African Union troops whose mandate expires at the end of September. The resolution, however, was contingent on the approval of the Sudanese government, which promptly refused.

Instead, the government launched a new offensive against rebels in Darfur - using helicopter gunships, bombers, and armored trucks moving troops into the region. And, predictably, it is once again civilians who are suffering. After three years of fighting, an estimated 450,000 people have died from war and disease and nearly 2.5 million driven from their homes into overcrowded refugee camps. The Washington Post reported this week that "Aid workers say that in recent weeks, civilian casualties, rapes and looting have grown more widespread. Tens of thousands of Darfuris have surged into camps .... " In addition, attacks on aid workers are also increasing - according to news reports, 12 have been killed since May.

This week, the government issued a new demand to the African Union: either extend its mandate without the U.N. or leave by the end of the month. The A.U.'s response is that they will leave if Sudan does not allow the U.N. to take over. Without even this small force, the crisis would likely escalate. According to The New York Times, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in Egypt that "The international community has been feeding about three million people in camps, and if we have to leave because of lack of security, lack of access to the people, then what happens?"

In order to avoid further genocide in the near future, it is urgent for both the U.S. and the U.N. to act now. Two upcoming actions, in Washington D.C. and New York City, will seek to dramatize the crisis. We urge our readers in or near these cities to participate.

Two Years Too Many: Break the Deadlock on Darfur
12 noon, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006
Lafayette Park and White House sidewalk
16 and H Streets N.W., Washington D.C.

On Sept. 9, 2004, the Bush administration declared that genocide was occurring in Darfur. Yet two years later, it continues. Sponsored by Africa Action, this rally will call for "robust diplomatic engagement from the U.S. to break this deadlock and ensure the rapid deployment of peacekeepers. This gathering will emphasize the urgent need for concerted efforts by the U.S. to remove the obstacles to the deployment of a United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping force to protect the people of Darfur." Following the rally, some participants will walk across the street to the White House sidewalk and risk arrest.

Save Darfur Now: Voices to Stop Genocide
2-5, Sunday, Sept. 17
Central Park, East Meadow
New York City

Sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, this rally will "call on the international community to overcome the government of Sudan's objections to the U.N. peacekeeping force" so it can be quickly deployed in order to stop the genocide. The rally is planned to coincide with the beginning of the 61st U.N. General Assembly meeting.

If you are not in the Washington or New York area, the Save Darfur Coalition is also sponsoring "Ten Days of Action for Darfur: September 7-17." During these days, thousands of congregations across the country will be distributing information on Darfur, raising money for refugee relief, and holding special services and prayers.

Now is one of those times when, as Dr. Martin Luther King said about Vietnam, "Every [person] of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits [their] convictions, but we must all protest." The blood of hundreds of thousands of people is crying from the ground. We must respond.

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Sept. 11: 100th anniversary of Gandhi's first public protest
by Tobias Winright

On Sept. 11 Americans will remember the fifth anniversary of the nightmarish terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Probably unbeknownst to many, however, is that September 11 also marks, according to the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's first public act of civil disobedience.

Of course, civil disobedience is not unfamiliar to the pages of Sojourners or of the weekly editions of SojoMail. Indeed, when putting "civil disobedience" into the Sojourners site search, nearly 300 references to this practice of public protest are found. There are articles on the biblical roots of civil disobedience, the annual protests at the School of the Americas (recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the arrest of Jim Wallis and many other religious leaders who called for a moral budget, the call by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles for a church-wide commitment to acts of civil disobedience through providing hospitality to immigrants, and the arrest of Cindy Sheehan and Sojourners associate editor Rose Marie Berger a year ago for protesting the war in Iraq, just to mention a few.

To be sure, these examples are in line with Gandhi's first public protest back on September 11, 1906, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it may be appropriate for us to remember this benchmark event, especially because much of what Gandhi was protesting has striking parallels in today's U.S. society.

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'Unity Walk' to mark Sept. 11

Please join national faith leaders in New York City and Washington, D.C., to peacefully commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In both cities, faith leaders will stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a Gandhi-style "Unity Walk" to encourage people of all faiths to "know and love thy neighbor." Please follow these links for more information:

Washington, D.C., Unity Walk

New York City Unity Walk

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Target vs. Wal-Mart
from AlterNet

Shopping in a Target store, you know you're not in Wal-Mart. But the differences may be mostly skin deep. Targets are spaciously laid out and full of attractive displays and promotions. While many people associate Wal-Mart with low-income, rural communities perhaps dominated by a prison or power plant, life-size photos throughout Target stores remind you that their customers are a lively, beautiful cast of multi-cultural hipsters ...

In contrast to this image, however, critics say that in terms of wages and benefits, working conditions, sweatshop-style foreign suppliers, and effects on local retail communities, big box Target stores are very much like Wal-Mart, just in a prettier package.

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We don't believe that good Christians have to be Democrats. Nor do we believe that one religion has a monopoly on faith. But we make no apologies for rooting our identity as Democrats in our faith as Christians. And we are eager to act on our beliefs to make America more just and compassionate.


Readers write

Bobbi Dykema Katsanis writes from Berkeley, California:

Thank you so much for publishing Steve Thorngate's beautiful and powerful sermon "Witnesses to all the earth" [SojoMail 8/31/2006]. Until quite recently, I too was searching for a church home that would preach and perform both social justice and the mystery of the cross. And although some of its stances with regard to justice and equality are problematic, I believe I have found such a church. To my surprise as a cradle Calvinist, God seems to be calling me to become a Roman Catholic.


Arla writes from New Paltz, New York:

I really appreciate Steve's article on being a church nerd. I am currently in a "flip through the Bible" church, and have taken classes at a seminary, learning the importance of context in preaching the gospel. I find myself in the predicament of finding that good fit - a church that takes the Bible as the word of God and also recognizes Christ's call to love our neighbors as ourselves - to reach out to the poor and the unlovely. It is refreshing to know I'm not alone in my theology.


Claire Ryan writes from Seattle, Washington:

It distresses me that the name "Christian" in now synonomous with radical right fundamentalists. If I say I'm a Christian I am completely misunderstood today. Sojourners gives me hope that "Christianity" may no longer be held hostage by these mean-spirited forces.


Dean Ohlman writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan:

As one who is personally committed to a nonviolent lifestyle, I'd love to believe that the nonviolent approach would work in regard to religion and state sponsored terrorism ["Nonviolence vs. terrorism," SojoMail 8/28/2006]. I also agree that a government committed to justice would not want to be involved in blanket punishment of a nation - in spite of the fact that that's exactly what we and the British did by carpet-bombing German cities in WWII. There is only a slim difference between nations at war with one another, which "allows" for punishment of civilians, and terrorism that arises out of nations that give permission to its citizens to teach its children hatred and to glorify martyrdom - and to kill the innocent of other nations.

Further, pacifism and civil disobedience seem to work only with the powerless who are being threatened by nations that have at least a modicum of conscience about harming the innocent. Yes, Christian individuals should always be in favor of nonviolent resolution of conflict, but I'm not sure that works for states. We're not yet in Isaiah's peaceable kingdom, so we live with the incoherence of desiring peace more than anything else while living in states that must use violence to maintain order and protect their citizens.


Rev. Brad Harris writes from Robinvale, Australia:

I love to see the Boomerang stuff. A boomerang here is a ceremonial weapon, often used in tribal communities as a percussive instrument especially for the creation rituals and also, I think, for the initiation ceremonies. In the Mallee in southeastern Australia we have an extraordinary drought cycle in progress, with widespread crop failures breathing down our necks. The El Nino effect appears to have wiped out the spring rains, and those of us who see the global climate interruption at work are grasping this window of opportunity to get more trees planted. This strategy is to try to recover the cooling effects of native forests, cleared a century ago for cash cropping the drylands. During these few days of September the ground becomes very dry and hard, and we use scarce water to establish tree cover and some understorey. In my district about 120,000 native dryland trees are being planted by farmers and volunteer helpers. The boomerang effect is that we give back to the land we have exploited in the hope that God will sustain his creation, with our cooperation.


Want to make your voice heard? Click here to respond to SojoMail articles Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views, though we reserve the right to edit published responses for length and clarity.

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