South Sudan

Hope Deferred

I remember looking down on the village in South Sudan as we made our second approach to the dirt landing strip. The first fly-by was to chase the cows off the ru21205107313_9bf6b3512a_mnway. As we pulled up I saw anti-aircraft guns and several soldiers guarding the strip. At that time it was not yet South Sudan but functioned as an quasi-independent country. Fighting between the north and south had mostly stopped, but official recognition by the UN would only come later.

What ISIS Really Wants

the Atlantic
March 2015

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The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.


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Hedayah Helps Counteract Violent Extremism

The Washington Post
October 21, 2014

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Based in the UAE, Hedayah was formed in 2011 to research and counter violent extremism.  David Ignatius describes four methods they use to do so.

  • They work within the educational systems to prevent violent extremism
  • They work to de-redicalize prisoners
  • They tell the stories of victims of terrorism as a counter-narrative
  • They use social media to monitor and combat violent extremism.

Ignatius concludes;

“Let’s be honest: It’s too late to stop the radicalization of Islamic State fighters. The battle to “degrade and ultimately destroy” those recruits, unfortunately, will now be waged with Apache gunships and drones. But maybe their younger brothers and cousins can be deterred from violent extremism by programs like the ones that Hedayah is promoting.”

Is there a caliph leading ISIS?  What does that mean?

As we sat in the mosque talking about the differences between the approach of Muhammad and ISIS, our conversation turned to this self-appointed caliph, Al-Baghdadi.  The imam made it clear that Al-Baghdadi is acting from political motives and does not speak for Islam. He referenced hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Islamic scholars who have rejected the man. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a similar statement condemning ISIS and advocating rights of minorities in Muslim majority countries. You can see that statement at this link S2S statement on rlgs minorities.  This four minute video is just part of an insightful conversation.  For more videos click here.

Imam Wasif, with other Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders in Louisville, called a press conference on August 25, 2014 to condemn the actions of ISIS. Afterwards we sat in his mosque and I asked some clarifying questions. In this video Imam Wasif says that press statements are necessary because people are not sufficiently informed about Islam. He references respected Islamic scholars that oppose ISIS and explains how orthodox Islam opposes groups like ISIS. Dr. Muhammad Babar also wrote an editorial for the Courier-Journal on this same topic.

Some Christian Thoughts on Fear

If you were to ask Muslims about the events in Iraq and Syria, you would get many different answers as to why these things are happening, which implies there is no single grand conspiracy that all Muslims have to “take over the world.” Sure, there are some who have grand designs to rule the world under a single caliphate, but most Muslims would never follow the radical leader of ISIS. The deeper question is, “Why would anyone follow a self-proclaimed spiritual and political leader who advocates such violence as God’s will?” Imam Wasif Iqbal asked the same question in a recent video interview that I did with him. According to the imam, this “caliph” has no appeal or legitimacy to most Muslims.

Many Muslims would like to see the world submitted to God. Christians would say the same thing. This world would be better off if we were submitted to God, but that should lead us to a neglected conversation between Muslims and Christians about what it means to submit to God and just how are we supposed to get to that point.

The Problem With Fear

1 John 4:18 Perfect love casts out fear. As long as we are fearful, we are not loving perfectly.

With people’s heads getting sawed off with knives, it is easy to become fearful and/or angry. That is what the terrorists want. I’ve watched the news reports calling for war. Now, on this 13th anniversary of 9/11, the President vows to “destroy” the militants known as ISIS. Seems like we have been here before. Trying to bomb our way to peace seems misguided without a longer-range plan or asking ourselves, “How did we get here in the first place?”

Following the collective “we,” the masses, the majority, frequently get us into trouble. As Brian Zahnd recently wrote in his book, A Farewell to Mars, “the crowd is nearly always wrong,” or at least suspect. The crowd wanted to return to Egypt. The crowd wanted to crucify Jesus. The crowd has elected and followed some terrible leaders throughout history.

Balancing Hard and Soft Power (Part 1)

The war drums are beating again. “ISIS is just one airline ticket away from attacking the United States,” a senator said on the morning news. The President was to announce another round of policy changes in a speech that night. “We hope the President, in his speech tonight, does not tie our hands and get into what the US will and will not do.”

It seems the “go-to” tool is the military. If things begin to boil out of control, it must be time to bomb the pot. In between bombings, we ignore the pot as it simmers on the stove. Some say it is too expensive to invest in development programs abroad. We even have laws that prevent us from engaging. You have probably heard, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” At some point, to resolve issues, somebody has got to talk.

Remembering What the Quakers Were Saying the Day After 9/11/2001

Friends Committee on National Legislation
September 12, 2001

 

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Do you remember the ire silence in the skies on September 12, 2001.  No planes were flying.  No jet streams criss-crossed the skies. America was in shock trying to figure out what happened and who was responsible. Here is what the Friends were saying then.

Our hearts go out today to the victims of Tuesday’s terrible attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the people in the four civilian aircraft. We call on Friends and others across the U.S. to offer prayers, solace, friendship, and aid to the survivors, families, and friends of the victims.

We are concerned, however, about how the U.S. government responds now. First, we are concerned that the U.S. not avenge these attacks with attacks upon other innocent people who may happen to be of the same nationality, faith, or ethnic group as the alleged perpetrators. This concern extends to protecting the safety and rights of people here at home. Many in this country of the Islamic faith or of Middle Eastern descent are worried that they may now become the unwarranted focus of suspicion in their communities or, worse, the subjects of unjust persecution.

Kurdish areas

I have been working on setting up an opportunity to get to know your Kurdish neighbors for several months.  Long before this ISIS group came into the mainstream news, I was talking with local Kurdish people about a Peace Feast.  I would thin with all the news coming from Iraq and Syria, you might want to hear what the local Kurds have to say. As a special treat, we will have Kurdish musicians performing for us.

This event will be at Little Jerusalem Cafe.  Sami always does such a wonderful job preparing our meals. The buffet meal will cost $10.  Please make  reservation now to help us plan for the event. We will need to limit this event to about 80 people. I hope you can join us!

Benchmark Events

Date: September 6, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Event: Kurdish Peace Feast
Topic: Our Kurdish Neighbors
Sponsor: Peace Catalyst International
(502) 424-5162
Venue: Little Jerusalem Cafe
(502) 614-6465
Location: 5312 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40214
Public: Private
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

Palestinian Friends Are Starting Over

My Palestinian friend just posted pictures of his bombed apartment in Gaza. An estimated 65,000 Palestinians are now homeless with 1.8 million people displaced. Fortunately, my friend was not home at the time of the shelling. Just in case you are wondering, he was not a part of Hamas. He was an English teacher and loyal to Fatah, although that is becoming increasingly dangerous in a place like Gaza. He was so disturbed when Hamas won the elections in 2006 that he resigned his government teaching position and began looking for ways to study abroad. He was offered a full scholarship to study English Literature at a school in England, but he was not permitted to leave Gaza to receive that scholarship.

Oil, Cows, and Benevolence

I remember sometime in my educational process becoming aware of and wrestling with the term “benevolent dictator.” As a western, independent child of the enlightenment, I had assumed all dictators were bad dictators. I had only heard the word used in a negative context. But there are those in power who see it as a sacred honor and obligation to care for the people under their authority.