Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Disturbing Time of Year - A Very Personal Perspective

I just came home from Church. I went to an alternate than my usual one, since I knew that 'Rememberence Day' would at my home church would also be a call to support our troops in Afganistan, something I cannot do. The theme at the church I was visiting was 'Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God' (Mathew 5)'. I thought that this was a safe theme to support, since I am a pacificist. On the whole, it was good. However, I was also very disturbed. It happens to me every 'Rememberence Day'.

This is the source of my disturbance - As Christians, and as Canadians in general, many still seem to believe that our troops are engaged in peace-keeping, and that Canada continues in its strong tradition as a 'peacekeeper'. In the sermon, references were made to Lester B. Pearson, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace and our former Prime Minister. He was lauded, appropriately, as the conceptualizer of the initial UN Peacekeeping forces which were effective in the Suez, Cyprus, and other places of conflict. He IS one that we, as Canadians, should be proud to admire and follow.

However, from the description of L.B. Pearson, the sermon went immediately into 'remembering' our soldiers in Afghanisan, inferring that they, in the Canadian tradition, are following a peacekeeping role. This is totally and absolutely incorrect - Our troops were and are stationed in Afghanistan as one of the allies, against the 'enemies' of democracy; we are an aggressive fighting force with the goal of killing the enemy. THIS IS NOT PEACEKEEPING --- Peacekeeping has at it's core, neutrality. The role of a peacekeeper is reconciliation and cessation of fighting. The text is not, "Blessed are those who choose the right side in war, for they shall be called the children of God." Our government has long ago left our traditions and the will of the majority of Canadians who support a neutral stance in conflict, identifying multiple 'enemies' of Canadians - the Tamils in Sri Lanka through the identification of the Tamil Tigers as 'terrorists', the Palestinians, through the blind support of Israel, to name a couple more, over-and above Islamic extremist groups. What I find most disturbing is that this direction seems to be initiated by 'Christians' in politics, and largely supported by the Christian church.

When will the Christians begin to follow the teachings of Christ who said, "blessed are the peacemakers; love your enemies,...bless them that curse you, ... if you are asked for your coat, give two, .... if you are struck on one cheek, turn the other, ...." and so on??? More and more, as I work in areas of conflict, as I attempt to follow the values of Christ, I find myself believing that there is NO justification for war. What recent war has led to a better world? ....Vietnam, Israel-Arab conflicts, Iraq???

Am I a voice 'crying in the wilderness' - where are 'the others', both Christian and non-Christian who are truly peace-keepers? When will our views be represented in foreign policy? I remained disturbed and disillusioned.


GobalMuslimWomen said...

Great piece of writing. Exactly everywhere it seems we are taught to hate other religions or support wars to kill others in the name of religion. I am part of GNRC global network where the UNICEF has supported a program to teach ethics education. I am in the proces of formulating a training programme. Please have a look at GNRC website. I have to be careful how it is designed in the context of Islam to be acceptable to Maldives.

timb111 said...

I guess I always knew that Canadians were in Afghanistan as part of NATO and not as peacekeepers. The idea that they can subject the populace to accept democracy is ludicrous to the extreme.

When I think of 'peacekeepers' it reminds me of 'peace officers' (police), and my concept of the two roles is similar: People whose job it is to keep the peace and impose order. The problem is that the power inherent both roles can easily be abused. While police officers are generally part of our society sometimes peacekeepers are often imposed from outside. When that happens they are not very effective and the difference between what our troops are doing in Afghanistan and imposed peacekeepers (in Georgia for instance) do is minor.

I agree that Peacemakers do not just attempt to suppress violence, but bring about reconciliation, understanding and lasting peace to warring parties, however, I do not agree that war cannot bring about a better world. The 1990 war against Iraq was used to stop the invasion of Kuwait. Stopping that invasion was a good thing for Kuwait. That it was followed up by further and, probably, worse aggression is beside the point. Stopping Iraq’s aggression in 1990/1991 was a good thing and required violence after Iraqi troops deployed. Just as you would call in the police (who will use violence) to save your children from a kidnapper, violence was necessary to save Kuwait from violent invaders.