Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peace: The Way it Has to Be.

As some of you may know, I will be going to Palestine/Israel in 2 months with an organization called Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT). This organization, as the name suggests, works as peacemakers in areas of the world that are engaged in large-scale conflicts.

As a result of my application to serve with this organization, I had to read their policies regarding a situation of kidnapping or hostage-taking. This may seem a bit over-the-top, but it’s not. In 2003, following the shock and awe campaign in Iraq (which must be up there for the most horrible name for a military campaign in history), CPT had peacemakers on the ground in Baghdad. 4 of their members were kidnapped and the leader was executed.

In the unfortunate circumstance that one of CPT’s people is kidnapped or taken hostage, there are very strict guidelines about what CPT will and will not do. In summation, CPT will not respond violently or support any form of violence in order to have the kidnapped released. This also means that CPT will vehemently reject any action involving force by the United States or United States military. That’s pretty intense. I can imagine that if a US citizen was kidnapped, especially with the threat of execution, that the US military would respond. It’s crazy to think that CPT would tell United States forces, “we do not support the recovery and release of this individual through the use of force. We would ask you to not be involved in efforts to have this person released because your strategies will ultimately include the use of coercive violence.” My initial reaction to that is, “thanks a lot, CPT.” It’s scary to think that probably the most sure-fire way to get released without suffering harm will be strongly rejected. But then I start to think about it, and that’s the way is HAS to be.

Why does it have to be that way? Because that’s the way that God would respond. Because that is the way that God DID respond. God refused to save the world through violence. As Christ was taken captive and threatened to be executed, he did not respond violently. Most called his actions foolish, especially those who believed he was the Messiah. He could save himself, he could save Israel, if he would bring himself down from the cross. Rather, through his actions, Christ undercut any previous notion of human power or human authority. Christ remained there on the cross to save Israel, to save the world.

As Hauerwas has helped me to understand, the words, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are so profound to us because Jesus seems to be abandoned. Hauerwas says that “we do not want Jesus to be abandoned because we do not want to acknowledge that the one who abandons and is abandoned is God.” It is seen as abandonment because we understand power and authority in the terms of the world. We are frightened when we find God to be a God who refuses to save us through violence.

By deferring to the desires of the United States government in a situation of kidnapping or hostage-taking, we are succumbing to the world’s notions of power and authority. Nation-states see power as an advantageous amount of arms, troops, and force. Authority is seen as a demonstration of strong hegemony that supercedes any ideology or authority previously in place. As a witness to God’s plan to redeem the world, CPT must take a policy of non-violence. For this world will not be saved through violence, but through a peaceful redemptive revolution, through the Kingdom of God brought in Christ.