Formation Time – Business Ethics and CST

Friends,

I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed our conversation during Formation Time on Sunday. A vocation in the business sector can be for the common good and create positive change in the world. I would be remiss in this statement if I did not admit that the society in which we live poses many challenges to maintaining such a posture toward the world. However, in and through collaboration—community—and an understanding of the human person as one who is integrally connected to others, change is possible.

Let’s add some feet to the challenge Madi posed at the end of our time together: What practices on campus and in your life as a consumer frustrate you? What makes you angry? What can we work to change? Let’s start the dialogue and do something about it!

Here’s the link to the document that guided Dr. Kelly’s presentation.

If you want to do some further research, I suggest these articles:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/03/04/for-catholics-the-vocation-of-business-is-the-main-hope-for-the-worlds-poor/

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/economic-justice-economy/upload/catholic-framework-economic-life.pdf

Peace and all good,

Kate

Come to “Pastries and Postcards” for Immigration Reform

Postcard%20Signing

 

The Cortina Community has been invited to be a part of the movement to pass immigration reform in the United States. An event called “Pastries and Postcards” will take place on Monday, Feb. 10 in the Deglman lobby from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Students will have the opportunity to sign a postcard for immigration reform and enjoy baked goods from the International Bakery.

Additional tabling on campus will occur on Tuesday, Feb. 11 in the Skutt Student Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All signed postcards from the week will be presented to U.S. Congressman Lee Terry when he visits Creighton’s Center for Service and Justice on Feb. 18 to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with students.

The tabling is a part of February’s Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM). A group of Creighton students attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C. last November, and this month is intended to educate the campus about important social justice issues and continue the conversations with elected officials that were started at the event.

Kelly Sullivan, one of the organizers of Pastries and Postcards, explains the importance of needing reform for our country’s immigration system.

“Well first, coming from a Catholic institution, we see that Catholic Social Teaching tells us that it is our ‘duty to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the dignity and rights of the human person.’ There are many ways our current immigration system does not uphold the human dignity of immigrants that we think needs to be fixed.”

The Ignatian Solidarity Network gives several examples as to why our system is broken:
1. Families are torn apart: There are ways on paper that allow family members to be united, but backlogs of up to 22 years force families to decide between separation or illegally entering the country.
2. Talent is wasted: Approximately 1.8 million individuals currently residing in the U.S. were brought here at a young age, but their lack of legal status prevents them from reaching their dreams and puts them at risk of deportation to a foreign country.
3. Workers are exploited: Migrant workers are consistently exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions.
4. Suffering is ignored: Our asylum and refugee system is under threat, and rather than treating these oppressed peoples with compassion, the system treats them as potential terrorists and subjects them to lengthy delays.
5. An increasingly militarized border: The misguided border militarization of the last decade has cost $100 billion, doubled the size of the Border Patrol without sufficient screening, training or accountability, led to over 6,000 dead and murdered immigrants, and allowed widespread civil and human rights violations.

Sullivan also emphasizes the importance of acting now.

“Waiting will only continue to tear families apart, and the numbers crossing the border will not change. The Senate passed a bill (S. 744) in 2013. A similar comprehensive bill (H.R. 15) was introduced in the House, but has not been put on the floor to vote. We recognize that no bill is ever going to be perfect for both sides, but inaction is not the answer. We would like to see humane immigration reform passed this year before other issues become the center of discussion and the immigration reform is forgotten while the problems are exacerbated.”

Rep. Lee Terry’s visit to Creighton will allow him to hear what his constituents are asking for and give students the opportunity to have direct interaction and voice their opinions. If you are interested in being a part of the meeting, contact Cat Keating at CatherineKeating@creighton.edu.

For more information and resources about immigration, visit the websites below. You can also visit and like the CU for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Facebook page.

Justice for Immigrants Campaign – a campaign under the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Interfaith Immigrant Coalition
United We Dream – immigrant youth building a movement for justice
Ignatian Solidarity Network, response to House Republican Perspectives

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks to the CCSJ advocacy team for these incredibly helpful and informative Advocacy Alerts:

Sustainability-Sierra Club
The Warming Arctic
Sadly The Polar Bear Seas, off the coast of Alaska, are in danger: America’s Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the nation. Polar bears now must swim for miles to find food, and Alaska Native communities are finding it harder and harder to maintain their way of life. And Shell Oil, once again, is trying to drill in America’s Arctic. Also, the Obama administration is considering allowing even more oil and gas drilling in the Polar Bear Seas for years to come. This would move us away from a clean energy future that decreases our reliance on dirty fuels. Tell President Obama to protect the Polar Bear Seas.


 

Economic Justice-Network
The Farm Bill
In the past month, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received cuts. A bipartisan Conference Committee with both senators and representatives are now negotiating the combination of the House’s Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (H.R. 3102) and the Senate’s Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954). Please urge your Senators and Representative to make the right choice for the families who rely on SNAP, 76% of whom are children, people with disabilities, or seniors.

 

Migration-Network
Farmworkers
Many farmworkers in our country are immigrants, and with H.R. 1773, the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act) in the House of Representatives, seasonal farmworkers, or “agricultural guestworkers” could see many of their already fragile worker protections stripped. Specifically, H.R. 1773 would promote wage theft between immigrant farmworkers and employers, eliminate employer certifications and their inherent worker protections, and keep families apart because, under the AG Act, guestworkers could not petition to bring their families with them while they are in the country.
 Please advocate against H.R. 1773 here.

 

Peace-Amnesty International
This may be our last best chance to free Yorm Bopha. She is a powerful voice for the rights of the Boeung Kak Lake community in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where thousands of people have been forcibly evicted since 2007. The Cambodian government has tried to silence her, convicting her of fabricated charges as a result of her peaceful activism defending the rights to housing and freedom of expression. This Friday, November 22, she has an appeal hearing before the country’s Supreme Court, which could be her last chance for release. Time is short — send a message to ask Cambodian officials to release Yorm!

 

Upcoming Events
Temple Israel, OTOC, Nebraska Appleseed, CCSJ, various other organizations
Rabbi Ariyeh Azriel of Temple Israel, leaders of Omaha Together One Community, Nebraska Appleseed and other organizations will hold a celebration of the 7th day of Hanukkah on Tuesday December 3rd 6:00-6:30 pm on 18th Street between Dodge and Douglas (outside the Federal Building). We will light the seven candles of the menorah to signify that we are bringing light into the world rather than cursing the darkness. We will pray that our members of Congress will be enlightened about the need to pass comprehensive immigration laws that include a clear, inclusive path to citizenship for aspiring Americans. All are welcome to join!

The Possibility of Halloween

If you’ve walked through Deglman lobby recently, you’ve seen photos from CU Boulder’s Campaign:

culturenotacostume3

culturenotacostume1

culturenotacostume4

Students have been having a written conversation in the lobby about their thoughts on this campaign:

cu boulder

What are your thoughts??

Formation Group Leader Natalie sent an e-mail with this link and some comments. It addresses this idea from another angle:

Captain America in a Turban

This article beautifies the strides our country is taking in the movement of accepting people of all kinds. No one, young or old, male or female, should be limited in their costume choice just because of their race or religion. Who ever said Captain America couldn’t be a Sikh with a turban and a beard? 

From these two campaigns/articles, we see that Halloween has the capacity to bring up a lot of statements, hurt, sensitivities, triumphs, beliefs, et cetera.

How can you use Halloween as an opportunity challenge stereotypes instead of play into them? How can we become CREATIVE instead of DESTRUCTIVE? What are your thoughts about dressing up for Halloween? Is this a big deal?

A Call for Consistency: A Reflection on the Macklemore Controversy

A really startling thing has been happening around me in the past couple of weeks.

Perhaps it has always been going on, but being in Cortina, for a second year, constantly surrounded by hopeful discussion and work towards human dignity for all, has really illuminated this issue for me.

Perhaps it is because I hate the hypocrisy within myself so much that hypocrisy becomes for me the most heinous kind of action to observe in the world around me.

I’m sure someone will read this as SUPER preachy, obnoxious, and prying, and you should know that I’m totally open for discussion. Please come talk to me about this if it strikes any sort of chord with your soul, whether a pleasant one or not.

But I am going to say this now, because this issue has really become frustrating and confusing for me, and I want to say something about it to all of you, and maybe someone who agrees with me and wants to preach to the choir will read it, and I will make a new friend. On the other hand, maybe someone who totally disagrees with me will have the respect and courage for me to talk to me about it, and I will see something new from the opposite side that I never saw before. Or maybe I won’t, and we will agree to disagree. Hopefully we would be able to respect each other as people, outside of what we think of each others’ ideologies.

That last paragraph I wrote is coming from the best possible version of myself. I regularly become annoyed with people who do not see the world the same way I do, and only in my wildest dreams could I perfectly live up to the ideal I set for myself there.  AHHH!!! This illustrates so perfectly the very thing that I needed to verbalize, and please know that it means I trust and respect all of you A LOT to be actually submitting this to the blog.

HERE’S THE ACTUAL POINT OF THIS BLOG POST:

(nervous Brooke)
The reactions to the Creightonian editorial letter from the Macklemore protestors, and a ton of Facebook comments that random ultra-conservative blog posts get when my friends post them to Facebook, just look like a complete lack of coherence in claims for tolerance and actual treatment of those different than us.

If we claim that we are fighting for the equality and dignity of all people, how does that give us any right to treat those who seem to oppose us in our “fight” as any less than whole people?

When racist, sexist, homophobic opinions are found by those around me, either on the Internet or elsewhere, they are thrown down with such fervor that the line between the opinion and the person who holds it is lost.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the Macklemore letter-writers’ opinion on gay marriage, and I want to make that clear, because any vagueness on my part would make you question my motives for writing this. But when a very diplomatic and well-written letter calling into question Creighton’s support of an artist on moral grounds was published by the Creightonian, some of the people that I love and respect, and most of the time agree with, responded in mean, spiteful, and personally insulting ways. Of equal importance, in my opinion, was the way that those students’ right to write about and publish their opinion was dangerously questioned and slammed down. Whenever a change is being implemented in society, there are going to be a wide range of opinions about it. Some may be blatantly wrong. Personally, again, I disagree with what they were asking Creighton for and why they were asking it, and I know that some super hypocritical stuff  was found on that guy’s Twitter. But I’m not here to talk about that.

This is not an isolated event. Sometimes, when we live in the bubble of a Midwestern, justice-focused, liberal arts university, we forget just how much of the world of ideas lives outside this bubble. It’s been increasingly common for people I love (on BOTH sides of the polarized political spectrum), as well as generally fantastic websites like Upworthy, to use the Internet to post an article, blog, or piece of art made by someone of a very different worldview than their own, and then absolutely vilify that person for stating their opinion. Obviously, many of the people who comment on it are also shocked at the “backwardness” or racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. of the original writer. While I do think it is totally appropriate and necessary to discuss and even debate controversial and emotionally-charged topics that are often the focus of these articles, we cannot claim to be in support of human dignity and equal treatment when we dehumanize the people behind the opinions. It’s a matter of consistency, as well as just common decency (something that is increasingly lost in our social-media-crazed, politically polarized world).

People! We seriously don’t have to be a part of this craziness! We can be different. We can start something within our community where we don’t just have respectful discussions within our community, but have actually well-thought-out and respectful answers to opinions we don’t agree with. Diplomatic and sincerely kind but educated and strong. Isn’t that who we want to be in the end? There’s a balance there, and it hangs delicately. That’s certainly who I am hoping and trying to become. Because a world full of people like that is a world that’s actually going to move in a positive direction.

-Brooke F.

The Government Shutdown: Who it affects

The government has closed, and 800,000 federal employees are out of work. To most people, this is compelling and disturbing. At the very least, it is worth discussing.

Many political figures (some in office, some in the media) have been spewing the argument that the government shutdown is “not really that big of a deal.” Typically this comes in the same breath as the statement “I haven’t felt any effects.” Rather than identify these individuals as the ignorant fools they are (John Stewart does a pretty good job, if you’re interested),  I think it is more important to identify some of the people this government shutdown DOES affect. If you are somehow not compelled by the loss of 800,000 jobs, then I urge you to read on. This is about a lot more than jobs.

People affected by the shutdown: People dying of cancer.

Clinical trials are on hold. (Photo: Al Jazeera America)

Clinical trials are on hold. (Photo: Al Jazeera America)

Watch the report from Al Jazeera America here.

People affected by the shutdown: Native American Tribes.

Native american tribes

The federal government plays a critical role for the 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 566 federally recognized tribes, providing key services that include health care, schools, social programs and law enforcement protection, all supported by its long-standing treaty obligations made with Native Americans.

Some essential services will continue during the shutdown, such as law enforcement and firefighting, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the 176 Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics will stay open.

But the shutdown means freezes have already been placed on nutrition programs, foster care payments, financial assistance for the poor and anti-elder-abuse programs. Some tribes risk losing all their income in timber operations if federal employees aren’t there. Vital contracts and grants will be stalled.

Read the rest of the article here.

People affected by the shutdown: Hard-working parents who rely on early educational programs. Not to mention their children.

Head start

Watch the video here. If you only watch one, pick this one.

People affected by the shutdown: Victims of Colorado flooding.

A road destroyed by flooding. (Photo: LA Times)

A road destroyed by flooding. (Photo: LA Times)

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday morning he authorized the use of state money to pay Colorado National Guard troops so they can continue with flood recovery. Under the shutdown they would not be paid, according to the governor’s office.

“We can’t afford to lose one day in rebuilding areas destroyed or damaged by the floods,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “Our National Guard troops are an invaluable part of the team working on the recovery. We need them to stay on the job.”

Read the rest of the article here.

People affected by the shutdown: Pretty much everyone in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico

A protracted shutdown of the U.S. government would hurt many states but would have an outsized impact on the debt-ridden territory of Puerto Rico, where federal funding provides nearly 40 percent of all government revenue, economists said on Tuesday.

Read the full Reuters article here.

People affected by the shutdown:  70% of people employed by, protected by, and in love with The CIA, the NSA, the DIA.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he has tried to keep on enough employees to guard against potential threats, but may have to call more back if the shutdown continues. (Photo: Reuters)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he has tried to keep on enough employees to guard against potential threats, but may have to call more back if the shutdown continues. (Photo: Reuters)

Some politicians ignorantly trivialize the shutdown as a “cutback on welfare.” Either they are wrong, or the CIA is a welfare program. Read the full article here.

People affected by the shutdown: Low-income mothers trying to feed their children.

WIC

About 9 million Americans are enrolled in WIC, which is limited to low-income pregnant, postpartum or breast-feeding mothers, infants, and children under 5 who are at nutritional risk.

WIC is a $7 billion-a-year program that provides low-income mothers across the country with food vouchers — for specific items such as baby formula, milk, bread, cheese, fruit and peanut butter — as well as nutrition and breast-feeding counseling, and health care referrals. It is widely regarded as a successful, cost-effective social program that prevents nutrition-related health problems like anemia, low birth weight, preterm births, fetal mortality, and childhood obesity and diabetes.

The program falls under the USDA, whose website went offline shortly after the shutdown. But a Contingency and Reconstitution Plan, released by the USDA last week, stated: “No additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs.”

About 9 million Americans are enrolled in WIC, which is limited to low-income pregnant, postpartum or breast-feeding mothers, infants, and children under 5 who are at nutritional risk.

Read the rest of the article here.

It doesn’t matter if you are Republican, Democrat, a Tea-Partier, or confused. We can all begin to establish some common ground by ridiculing and criticizing the fools who claim this shutdown “doesn’t really affect people.” This shutdown is a symptom of deeply-entrenched, systematic injustice. Let’s not further perpetrate evil by ignoring our neighbors who are suffering as a result.

Thanks for reading. Spread the word.

Westin

Ignatian Advocacy Alerts from the CCSJ

Thanks to the CCSJ Advocacy Teams for consistently laboring on behalf of many important local, national and international issues. Check out some Advocacy alerts below!

Migration: Presente.org

Support Immigration Reform
Since the Senate passed an immigration bill in June, it seems the House of Representatives has put immigration on the back burner. By failing to even allow an up or down vote on immigration reform, Speaker of the House, Representative John Boehner, risks squandering the summer’s momentum towards providing real relief for as many as 11 million immigrants. Ask Rep. Boehner to schedule a vote on immigration reform within two weeks of raising the debt ceiling here.
 

Sustainability: Sierra Club

Protect our communities from radioactive waste
For decades, nuclear power reactors all over the country have been able to operate without consideration to what would happen to the highly radioactive waste they produced. This put communities and the environment at risk across the nation. Now, federal courts are requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to study the environmental and health impacts of storage if the plant cannot find a permanent repository. Tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect our communities and environment from radioactive waste by adopting rules that look at each nuclear plant closely.
 

Upcoming CCSJ Events

 
St. Francis’ Feast Day!!
Come celebrate in many ways! On October 4th, Fr. Lannon will preside at noon Mass in St. John’s Church. Following Mass, enjoy a complimentary lunch, discussion, and sustainability fair in Lower Saint John’s Church. We will be highlighting the opportunity to sign the St. Francis Climate Pledge found here.
 
OTOC: Cultural Night
On Saturday, October 5th, from 5-7:30pm, OTOC is hosting a cultural night at Creighton Prep in the commons. The night will include snacks and refreshments, time to speak with the performers, and dance and other performances in traditional dress. Tickets are $10 for individuals and $20 for families. Profits from the night will be used to support other activities in the refugee communities. To reserve a ticket, call 402-344-4401 or email iplomaha@gmail.com.
 

Creighton Students for Life: March for Life Trip to Washington, D.C.

In January Creighton Students for Life is taking a trip to Washington D.C. for the March for Life. This march is in support of the fight against pro-life issues such as abortion, the death penalty, stem-cell research, and euthanasia. As a club, CSFL advocates for the preservation of life because it believes each person, no matter how small, has inherent human dignity. You do not have to be a member of CSFL in order to attend this event! The trip costs $220/person. If interested, contact Bianca De Sousa at biancadesousa@creighton.edu with your full name, and a time you can meet at Skutt Fireplace on Friday, October 25th with payment!

Alta Gracia on Creighton’s Campus

On Thursday, September 26 at 8:15am, 2 workers from the Alta Gracia Factory in the Dominican Republic will be on Creighton’s campus in Lower St. Johns. If you are interested in hearing about the effects on lives and communities when workers are offered a living wage and good working conditions, this will be an event you won’t want to miss. As a campus who purchases tens of thousands of pieces of apparel each year, this is not an issue to take lightly.
Underneath this poster, you will find reflections by Selina Marshall, a Creighton Student studying in the DR who has had the opportunity to go and visit the Alta Gracia factory!
WorkerTourFlyerComunidad 16 recently traveled to Alta Gracia, located in Villa Altagracia, here in the Dominican Republic, where we got to tour the factory, got to know the workers, and saw how Alta Gracia is impacting the lives of its workers. Alta Gracia, which translates to “High Grace,” is the only factory in the world that supplies U.S. university bookstores with union-made apparel. The workers at Alta Gracia all receive a living wage, which is more than three times the minimum wage in the Dominican Republic; thus, providing the workers a pathway to get out of poverty. This “living wage” is the equivalent to $2.83 per hour in U.S. dollars, and the Dominican minimum wage is only $.84 per hour.
It was personally difficult to accept that the wages these workers receive are so little in U.S. standards. It was even more disheartening to learn that the conditions and wages of Alta Gracia are far from the norm in factories here in the Dominican Republic, especially in the Free Trade Zones. Before the creation of Alta Gracia, the factory was home to far worse conditions, where many of the workers were unable to provide for their families because the wages were so low. Workers also suffered because of the conditions in the factory. They were unable to get water as they pleased, or even go to the bathroom at their own will. When the workers tried to unionize, the previous company closed down operations and moved to another area, leaving those workers unemployed. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many workers around the world because the demand for jobs is so high. Companies know they can go somewhere else if employees begin to fight for better conditions and wages.
Thankfully, Alta Gracia came into the lives of these particular workers. We were able to meet with the workers and learn about their stories of hope and thankfulness due to Alta Gracia. We were welcomed into the homes of two women who were able to build homes for their families, something that would have never been a reality without the living wage they now receive. One of these women even revealed to us that before Alta Gracia, she was not even able to promise her children more than one meal a day. The workers at Alta Gracia are now able to save some of their earnings, which is allowing them to emerge step by step out of poverty.
It was amazing to see the impact of Alta Gracia in these people’s lives, and it is something that is seen in the smiles of everyone in the factory. They are all happy to do their work because of all the blessings they are receiving from Alta Gracia. It was so encouraging to see this type of business model function, and be successful, selling apparel in over 450 U.S. university bookstores. Even more encouraging is to know that Creighton is among these universities, and that we can all do our part by sharing the good news of Alta Gracia on campus, and by encouraging everyone to change lives with the purchase of Alta Gracia clothing.

The Syria Series//From My War to Theirs//Jelena Pjevic

Jelena Pjević is a senior majoring in Justice & Society and English with a specialization in Creative Writing. She is a Formation Group Leader for the 2013-2014 Cortina Community. This is where she stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

“Think well about this, dear brothers and sisters, and you will see that we should have been in a state of terrible chaos, in a fratricidal war, in a country which would no longer be Yugoslavia, but be only a group of petty little states fighting among themselves and destroying each other. But our people do not want that to happen.” – Josip Broz Tito

Whenever I hear or read about any current war, I can’t help but think of the civil war that destroyed my homeland, the former Yugoslavia, and resulted in the tragic numbers of death or displacement among the general population. I can’t help but compare my war to their war. I can’t help but compare my experience to their experience. I have, however, come to realize that there isn’t really a distinct me or a distinct them, no matter whether the current suffering and marginalized are Iraqis, Afghanis, or Syrians. Essentially, what matters is that people like us don’t matter to people like them: Assad, Obama, or Putin.

Now, I know that some, or maybe even most, of the people reading this blog post may think I’m judging politicians too harshly, that I’m not taking into account the positive acts that they carry out, or how difficult it must be to perform well as a leader on the world stage. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct. I definitely am biased, as we all are, but I’m not ashamed of saying that I know my opinion is worth damn more than the totality of these politicians’ games and lies. My own experience and my parents’ experiences with war and the consequences of it, however, have shown me that what we believed in and what we thought never really mattered in the eyes of the elites. In my grandma’s words, “They declared war and sent my son [my own uncle] to the frontlines to be slaughtered, while they hid behind their high walls, toasting each other in private, and fueling hatred among us in public with their words.” All in all, the politicians never fear, lose, nor die. The people do. We all do.

What both infuriates and depresses me the most is the fact that whenever war is discussed, it’s all about sides. Who’s right or wrong? Evil or good? Americans or terrorists? Capitalists or communists? The Syrian government or the rebels? If you haven’t already guessed my answer: the world isn’t so black and white. So, I can’t tell you if the United States should intervene in Syria. But, I can tell you this:

Because of War:

Because of the Yugoslav Wars, I was forced to leave my homeland as a refugee, along with my parents, and come to live in a new country without my entire extended family. My uncle was killed. My grandparents now live alone. My mama couldn’t have another child for years after the war, because she fell into such a deep depression and lost so much weight. I almost lost the ability to communicate in my native tongue. I disrespected my parents’ cultural values. I was constantly made to feel inferior and like an outsider by my American peers during my entire childhood. I lack an understanding of self-identity and I can never truly call one single place home. Please understand that I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone else, not even the politicians who are responsible for my nafaka (fate, destiny, or draw of luck).

At the end of the day, I know that neither Assad, nor Obama, nor Putin, can understand my pain or the pain of the people that are continuously cast aside as mere pawns in their political schemes. There is no need for us to debate so much about what should be done, because we aren’t being asked for our opinions. There is no need, because we are the people, not the politicians. What we can do, however, is pray for the Syrian people and actively show love and respect the dignity of every life, especially those of the many immigrants and refugees that live with us in the United States of America. Listen to their stories, question your own beliefs, and don’t let Big Brother convince you that everything will be fine.

The Syria Series//Intervening to Lay Groundwork//Dr. Jay Carney//

I should start off by advising you to read Tony Homsy’s prayer/blog below rather than mine…it’s perhaps the most eloquent and theologically honest response to the Syrian crisis that I’ve come across. And he speaks from out of Syria’s experience, which counts for far more than my outsider view…

Given my extensive studies on Rwanda, I can’t help but see Syria through the prism of Rwanda, Burundi and the Great Lakes region of Africa (the ethnic/political/colonial similarities themselves are striking). Perhaps this is why I find myself hesitating in a full-throated call for U.S. non-intervention (which seems to be the dominant voice in this conversation). This puts me in an odd position, as I opposed the Iraq War, had serious reservations about the Afghanistan War, and am generally skeptical about U.S. foreign intervention. And deep in my heart I think faithful followers of Jesus Christ should take the Sermon on the Mount more and not less seriously, which means engaging the pacifist vision that emerges from that narrative (and all of Jesus’s life and death for that matter). But I also think about April 1994, and the fact that a rapid international military intervention could have made a tangible difference in halting the genocide…and no one did anything. And I wonder…if our country would have had a “full debate” in April 1994 on intervention in Rwanda, would people be saying the same things as they do now…about the failure of U.S. Intervention in Somalia in 1993, about Vietnam, about how war never stops war, about the atrocities on both sides (the genocide closely followed a civil war), about equating peace with a decision that Congress makes? I find myself frustrated with this rhetoric, perhaps because so few of us have experienced the brutality of war on the ground in places like Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Eastern DRC, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. So it all seems like pious wordsmithing to me. That’s why Tony’s blog had such an impact on me…it seems real. He speaks from the complicated and real violence that has left over 100,000 people dead in a country that registered little in American popular consciousness until Obama threatened to launch missiles 2 weeks ago…

On one hand, war ultimately doesn’t resolve war, and violence doesn’t ultimately resolve violence…but do military interventions never help lay the groundwork for longer term peacebuilding? Without delving into the overused WWII examples, I will note that late 1990s British intervention in Sierra Leone made a tangible (not exclusive) contribution to ending a brutal war in that country, as did French intervention in Mali last year (the jury is admittedly still out, but Mali is in a much better place than a year ago). I’m not sure the Kosovo intervention was wholly without merit. The ongoing U.N. Intervention in Eastern Congo is not without deep problems, but most of the local Congolese leaders I met in January lamented first and foremost the Congolese army’s failure to protect their people…through force of arms as necessary. The worst phase of the Rwanda genocide itself ended in July 1994 when the rebel RPF militia took over the capital and sacked the genocidal government. As much as I would like to think that nonviolence can stop violence, I’m not sure that’s true, esp. in the face of brutal and massive human rights violations perpetrated by the state. Perhaps we’re still called to faithfully follow nonviolently, but in the words of one of my mentors Stanley Hauerwas (himself a pacifist), “people will die for the sake of your convictions.” This is hard.

I agree that war is not ultimately the answer, but would a Congressional vote to oppose Obama’s military strikes be the answer? Will peace come any sooner to Syria’s long-suffering people? Does the outside world have a role to play in this, or do we just sit back and allow nation-state identity to be the sole determinant of our ethical obligations? I fear that if Congress votes “no” this week and Obama holds off, there will be celebrations in churches (and libertarian political gatherings) across the country…and Syrians will continue to die by the thousands as Americans go back to their NFL games. Regardless of what the U.S. decides this week, peace will not immediately break out in Syria. And so the question that I am grappling with…and to which I don’t have a good answer…is how do we hasten peace? How does the bloodshed slow down? How are leaders held accountable for using chemical weapons on their own people? The Syrian war didn’t need to happen if Assad had heeded the largely non-violent calls for change in 2011…instead he brutally cracked down on protesters and inflamed the previously non-violent opposition. The rebels have been guilty of atrocities, but this is Assad’s war. And it is awful.