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.

 

The Syria Series//We Haven’t Even Tried//Westin Miller//

Westin Miller is a Cortina Alumn and a former Cortina RA. He currently works as a Leadership Consultant for Beta Theta Pi.  This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

I am not a pacifist.

I follow the teaching of Christ, who was no doubt a peacemaker, but I fail to see an example from His life that definitively calls for pacifism in our conversation about Syria. The Bible never gives an account of Jesus responding to violence being perpetrated against an innocent, unarmed person (other than himself).

“But Westin, remember the most obvious example ever? The woman who was going to be stoned?”

You are right. This story teaches us a beautiful lesson that we have an ABSOLUTE OBLIGATION to preemptively intervene peacefully to prevent violence. Whenever possible, we should be challenging those with violent intentions to seek other alternatives. Our challenge should, of course, be peaceful.

In this particular example, the question I always struggle with is “What if the stones had been thrown?”

If your mind takes you to an answer even remotely related to the idea of stepping in front of them, that is our cue to move specifically to Syria. Because you can’t step in front of a missile loaded with Sarin.

The Bible never gives an account of Jesus responding to violence being perpetrated against an innocent, unarmed person.

The Bible certainly never gives an account of Jesus instructing a nation about how to respond to another nation murdering its innocent civilians. In fact, Jesus never addresses foreign policy at all.

If children are being burned alive in Syria, the international community is obligated to attempt nonviolent intervention.

If nonviolent intervention doesn’t work, I think it is possible to justly engage in violence.

The United States has not attempted nonviolent intervention.

We have not exhausted, or even attempted diplomacy. Our international efforts have been to persuade others to join us in violence and to train and arm the combatants, not to dissuade Assad.

Until we exhaust diplomacy, we cannot justly engage in violence.

We haven’t even tried.

The Syria Series//A Twisted Calculus//Tim Nendick//

Tim Nendick is a wanderer and ponderer of the world. When he was a student at Creighton, he was a Cortina Student and then a 2-year Cortina RA. This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

Violent intervention gives rise to a twisted calculus: these lives, those dollars, this many bombs.  As our country prepares to attack another, it’s a calculus we must learn to speak.  As critically conscious people, we must learn to rewrite its axioms.

The rationale for strikes in Syria is alleged use of sarin gas, a human rights violation.  I fully support my government peacefully acting in my name when such violations exist, in order to make the world a more just place.  The use of chemical weapons is a grave offense, as are the concentration camps of North Korea, the domestic spying programs of the United States, the massacre of demonstrators in Egypt.  Around the world, we needn’t look far to see our brothers and sisters dehumanized by the societies we create, attacked by a culture of violence.

Ending injustice with tools ultimately designed to destroy and kill precludes justice. Responding in kind to violence in hopes of peace is a fruitless enterprise.  As students, we must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.  As people of faith, we must collectively labor for the Kingdom of God.  As citizens of history’s most powerful empire, we must creatively challenge our leaders.

The financial cost of this intervention is not yet known — quoting a White House Staffer, “Who the f— knows how much it will cost? It depends entirely upon what happens.” We have finite scientific thinkers, natural resources, laborers.  How we chose to invest those things in the betterment of humankind is the ultimate question of justice. Investing them in war-making, destruction is to fundamentally deny our call to be co-creators alongside God.

With each B2 bomber, let us see 16000 full scholarships to Creighton. With each tomahawk missile fired from proud boats, let us see a teacher’s lifetime salary flashing through the air on its way to maim another person. With each speech to the American people, let us hear our leaders justifying killing our fellow humans in the name of peace.

Let us hear, see these things and be confused.  Let us cry out, together, no más, no more! Nonviolently, creatively, let’s speak with the violence of Love, the certainty of hope, the promise of peace.

For reflection, I offer a video I made during my own Cortina year of Kurt Vonnegut reading a favorite passage from his Slaughterhouse Five: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTsj3oISJlI

The Syria Series//Critical Perspectives

Today begins a series on the Cortina blog. Throughout the next few weeks, students, activists, & thinkers will be contributing their critical positions on the looming Syrian intervention. While some of these viewpoints may diverge or offer opposing insights, we hope that the variety of perspectives will help us be better informed and formed in our opinions and actions moving forward as citizens and inhabitants of a powerful nation.

If you are interested in contributing, please email annedimond@creighton.edu.

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks so much to the Advocacy team in the CCSJ for these reminders.

Sierra Club
No More Deepwater Horizons
Three years ago, the Gulf experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, when an explosion on BP’s Deep Water Horizon rig left an oil well gushing. The damage from that disaster will be felt in the Gulf region for years to come. But Big Oil hasn’t learned its lesson. Oil companies continue to push for dangerous, devastating drilling projects on our coasts and in our public lands. Last year, Shell Oil had to abandon plans to drill in America’s Arctic when its equipment continually failed. And just this month, an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Arkansas ruptured, releasing 157,000 of gallons of oil into a small community. Tell President Obama that we need to protect our communities, coasts, and public lands from dangerous oil drilling and spills!

Amnesty International
Urge President Obama: No more drones!
You’ve helped convince Congress to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s killer drones. Now take the next step and urge President Obama and Congress to follow Amnesty International’s 5 Point Plan for reforming the U.S. drone strike policy. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Obama administration’s so-called ‘targeted killing’ program allows for the use of lethal force, including with drones, that violates the right to life under international law.

USCCB
Health Care Conscience Rights Act
The Obama Administration’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate will begin to be enforced against nonprofit religious schools, charities and health care providers on August 1. In the days to come, Congress must decide whether to address this problem through must-pass legislation before that deadline. Members of the House should be urged to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940) in the next bill needed to keep the federal government operating. Please send an email asking Congress to protect conscience rights and religious liberty.

Upcoming Events
Omaha Together One Community
On Monday, May 6th at 7pm, OTOC is hosting a Candidates Accountability Night. The event will take place at Pius X Church at 6905 Blondo Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68104. Candidates for Mayor and City Council will be there so that the community can be educated on where each candidate stands on important issues. For more information, go to OTOC’s website.

Film Streams
A Place at the Table runs Friday, May 3 through May 16th at Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater. The film discusses food injustice-specifically food insecurity. Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite the fact that we have the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity. Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts-especially sociologists. A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it can be solved once and for all. Yet, the solution will only come when the American public decides that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all! For more information, or to watch the trailer, click here.

USCCB and Catholic Relief Services
On April 22, from 1-2pm EDT, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are hosting an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion called Promoting Human Life and Dignity in the Year of Faith: Why People Migrate. Join the online discussion for an opportunity to hear about the Church’s ongoing work to address the root causes of migration through programs and advocacy efforts that protect life and human dignity. You will also be able to ask questions and engage in dialogue regarding how Catholics in the US, through the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative, can make a difference for our brothers and sisters living in poverty.

Advocacy Alerts

Here our this week’s Advocacy Alerts from the Creighton Center for Service and Justice Advocacy team!

Sierra Club
(Climate Action)
On February 17, nearly 50,000 Americans and 168 different organizations marched to the president’s front door to demand we go forward on climate action. This wasn’t just a one-time rally, but rather it was the beginning of a movement.
Now we need to show President Obama that those marchers represented millions of us across the country. There are three steps President Obama can take right now, without waiting on Congress, to start fulfilling his promise to lead on climate. It’s up to you to help him take those steps.
Call the White House today at (202) 456-1111 and tell them that, for the sake of our future, we need President Obama to: Stop Keystone XL and other tar sands infrastructure, enact strong standards to limit carbon pollution from our nation’s dirty power plants, and protect America’s lands from oil, coal, and fracking. If the line is busy, keep trying! Help keep track of our united progress by reporting your call here!

Sierra Club
(Mountaintop Removal Issues)
For many people living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites in Appalachia, the water they use for bathing, cooking, and even drinking is cloudy, brown, and toxic. Years of mountaintop removal coal mining has buried 2,000 miles of local streams with waste from Big Coal’s destruction; many of the streams that are left are devoid of life. Well water in the area isn’t safe either, and it’s making people sick.
Tell President Obama and the EPA that everyone deserves clean water. Sign the petition urging them to act now to protect Appalachia from mountaintop removal mining!

Amnesty International
(Abolish the Death Penalty in Maryland!)
In less than a month we can win a huge victory in the fight against capital punishment. Maryland is set to become the 18th U.S. state to repeal the death penalty: a cruel, unnecessary and wasteful policy that risks executing the innocent.
The Maryland Senate may vote this week – and the vote will be very close. Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has taken a leading role in the fight to end the death penalty in his state. Your voices, along with Gov. O’Malley’s leadership and influence, can push death penalty repeal across the finish line this year.
Sign this petition to urge Gov. O’Malley to keep the pressure on both for death penalty abolition AND for funding for victims’ families; and thank him for leading the charge for death penalty repeal in Maryland. Let’s turn the tide towards abolishing the death penalty in the U.S., and make Maryland state #18!

Amnesty International
(Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers!)
On March 18 – 28, 2013 world leaders will have a Final Conference to negotiate the first ever treaty that will prevent weapons from ending up in the hands of tyrants and child soldiers. The Obama Administration bears heavy responsibility to lead efforts in establishing a strong, human rights orientated treaty during the negotiation. Tell Obama that the world needs a Robust Arms Trade Treaty.

Ignatian Solidarity Network
(February’s Ignatian Family Advocacy Month)
This past month, numerous high schools, colleges, and universities, including Creighton, participated in IFAM. IFAM is a way for groups all across the country to participate in advocacy actions in solidarity with one another. To learn more about IFAM and how you can participate next year, click here!

Upcoming Events
Empowerment Network Monthly Meeting
On Saturday, March 9, 2013 at North High School – Viking Center – 4410 N. 36th Street come to “Unite & Transform!.” Starting at 8:45 a.m., there will be networking, breakfast, and table displays. At 9:30 a.m. there will be an Empowerment Network Update, and at 10 a.m. there will be presentations and announcements. All are welcome!

Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty (NADP)
The Myth of Redemptive Violence, Who Would Jesus Execute?
On April 20 at 4:00 p.m. Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty (NADP) will sponsor an eye-opening talk at Creighton University’s Harper Auditorium (602 N. 20th Street, Omaha). It will feature three very different people who all share one perspective – that the death penalty is broken, can’t be fixed, and should be repealed in Nebraska and elsewhere.
Red Letter Christian activist, writer and speaker Shane Claiborne will address, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence, Who Would Jesus Execute?;” Curtis McCarty will share the heartbreak of spending 21 years on Death Row for a murder he did not commit; Victoria Coward, whose teenage son was shot to death, will explain why so many murder victims’ family members feel abused by the death penalty system.
“These three compelling speakers will have people questioning the death penalty like never before,” said Stacy Anderson, NADP Executive Director. “The death penalty system hurts families, risks executing innocents and has people of faith raising questions.” Admission to the event is free, however space is limited. Please register here. Register here!

Advocacy Alerts

Thanks to the CCSJ Advocacy Team for these Advocacy Alerts!

 
PICO National Network
Tell Speaker John Boehner: Renounce the hate!
A few days ago, a California congressman told 18-year-old aspiring American, Jessica, that he “hates illegals,” and threatened her and her family during a meeting in his office.
None of God’s children deserve hate – especially from our elected leaders. In response, the PICO National Network is calling on U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to publicly condemn the behavior of his colleague, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48). We have Jessica’s back and we’re looking out for the 11 million other aspiring Americans like her who deserve a roadmap to citizenship from Congress. Ask John Boehner to renounce the hate.
Immigration Reform
On February 14 2013, the U.S. Jesuit Conference, JRS/USA, and the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) released a joint report that examines the experiences of Mexican and Central American migrants deported to Northern Mexico by U.S. immigration authorities. The comprehensive report highlights the stories of migrants needlessly separated from family members as a result of U.S. detention and deportation policies. The study also details incidents of denial of rights, physical and verbal abuse suffered by migrants at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol and Mexican police, as well as attacks on migrants perpetrated by criminals, human traffickers, robbers and gangs in Northern Mexico.
As our elected officials attempt to craft a viable immigration system, we urge them to place family unity, human dignity, transparency and accountability at the center of their debates.
We ask you to contact the Obama Administration and your representatives in Congress, and urge them to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Justice for Immigrants
Send a Justice for Immigrants postcard to Congress!
Show your U.S. Senators and Representatives that Catholics and other supporters of immigrants want our elected officials to enact meaningful and compassionate immigration reform legislation. Send a postcard now!
 
Sierra Club
Robust Weatherization Assistance Program for Low-income Americans
The government’s Weatherization Assistance Program is a remarkable success story. It has increased the comfort and reduced the energy bills of more than one million low-income families. Families receiving weatherization services see their annual energy bills reduced by an average of about $437, depending on fuel prices. Tell President Obama to make sure the Weatherization Assistance Program has adequate resources to continue its important work.
 
Interfaith Worker Justice
The United Mine Workers of America
The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) represents coal miners working in some of the most dangerous and demanding jobs. Workers in this industry endure daily peril which takes a heavy toll on miners’ bodies and their health, in order to help provide our nation’s energy needs. Through decades of collective bargaining, the UMWA has negotiated contracts that placed great emphasis on the health and safety of active miners and health care security for retired miners; they sacrificed wage and pension increases to secure these protections.
Today these collective bargaining gains made by working miners are threatened by Patriot’s bankruptcy proceedings. As persons of faith and from a moral perspective, The UMWA are committed to a public witness of justice and peace, and in that spirit they call on Patriot Coal, Arch Coal, and Peabody Energy to honor their contractual obligations to the current and retired UMWA workforce. Sign this petition to show your support for coal miner worker justice.
Nebraska Appleseed
LB 577 Support
Hard-working Nebraska families need the security of quality health care. A bill in front of your Senator could help 54,000 Nebraskans gain that security. 100% of the cost for this care is covered by the federal government thru 2016 to expand Medicaid to uninsured working Nebraskans, gradually decreasing permanently to 90%; the bill would returned $3 billion to Nebraska’s economy as a result of increased economic activity in the health sector due to federal funds from 2014-2020; expanding Medicaid eligibility will save the state over $128 million by 2020 and create thousands of jobs across the state; and increasing health coverage will make more Nebraskans healthier, give them access to the health care they need when they need it and save all of us more health care costs down the road. To support LB 577, call your Senator right now and ask them for their support to expand Nebraska’s Medicaid program. Find your senator’s phone number now.
 
Amnesty International
An Inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Passage of an inclusive VAWA would protect and support women throughout the U.S. from acts of violence and exploitation. VAWA in the 113th Congress must specifically include provisions addressing jurisdictional issues that currently make combating violence against Native American and Alaska Native women nearly impossible, provide greater protection to immigrant women who are survivors of domestic violence, and protect LGBT survivors of violence from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Passage of an inclusive VAWA is a critical step towards protecting and supporting Native women, immigrant women, and LGBT people. Reauthorizing an inclusive VAWA would help end the unacceptable levels of violence faced by all women and allow them the access to the justice that they deserve.  Please cosponsor the re-authorization of VAWA today!
Upcoming Events
Center for Service and Justice
Green Bag Lunch
On March 4th from 11:30-1pm in the CCSJ Multi-purpose room, Dr. Soraya Cardenas of the Creighton Sociology and Anthropology department will give a talk entitled, “Facing Environmental Challenges: Marginalized Peoples at Risk.” Join us to hear about how environmental changes in today’s world affect those who are poor and marginalized in society. Bring a simple lunch if you’d like; dessert will be provided. With questions, please contact Haley Warren at haleywarren@creighton.edu or Ken Reed-Bouley at krb@creighton.edu.
Restore Omaha Conference
This conference will take place this weekend, March 1-2nd, at the Metropolitan Community College. It opens with a reception Friday, March 1, and the conference is Saturday, March 2nd, 8am to 4 p.m. and includes a keynote lecture, three educational sessions, live demonstrations, exhibitors, lunch, and the Restore Jam where all interested attendees are invited to share their current restoration projects in five minutes or less. For more information click here!

Monday Meditation: On Beautiful Speech

In my last year in College
I set out
to write an essay on
the Art of Rhetoric. I had yet to find
the country already lost to me
in song and figure as I scribbled down
names for sweet euphony
and safe digression.
And when I came to the word insinuate
I saw that language could writhe and creep
and the lore of snakes
which I had learned as a child not to fear —
because the Saint had sent them out of Ireland —
came nearer.
Chiasmus. Litotes. Perphrasis. Old
indices and agents of persuasion. How
I remember them in that room where
a girl is writing at a desk with
dusk already in
the streets outside. I can see her. I could say to her —
we will live, we have lived
where language is concealed. Is perilous.
We will be—we have been—citizens
of its hiding place. But it is too late
to shut the book of satin phrases,
to refuse to enter
an evening bitter with peat smoke,
where newspaper sellers shout headlines
and friends call out their farewells in
a city of whispers
and interiors where
the dear vowels
Irish Ireland ours are
absorbed into Autumn air,
are out of earshot in the distances
we are stepping into where we never
imagine words such as hate
and territory and the like—unbanished still
as they always would be—wait
and are waiting under
beautiful speech. To strike.
—Eavan Boland

We have been talking about language. Good Language. Bad Language. Language that engineers in. Language that engineers out. But, though language creates a portion of our reality, it is not everything, Boland insinuates. Do you ever hide behind your language? Where do you feel fear, hatred, pain, intolerance, or violence where you communicate confidence, love, pleasure, tolerance, or peace? How will you begin to deal with your own issues that are hidden beneath your language? How can you become cognizant enough to not hide from yourself underneath your own beautiful speech?