Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Catholic Worker Statement to the Bishops

At the conclusion of National Catholic Worker Gathering, held from October 19-22 in Panora, Iowa, Catholic Workers from across the U.S. issued a statement appealing to the U.S. Catholic Bishops to break their silence and to call for an immediate end to the U.S. War in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also called on the Bishops to call for the eradication of the recently passed Military Commissions Act which allows for the indefinite detention for "enemy combatants", the ending of habeas corpus right for these prisoners, and the use of abusive interrogation methods which clearly constitute torture.

Over 300 Catholic Workers from over fifty houses, including from Germany and Holland, attended the Catholic Worker Gathering. The Catholic Worker was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933, and the late John Cardinal O'Connor initiated a process in the catholic Church for her sainthood.

Declaring that torture and war are sins, the group called on the U.S. Catholic Bishops to do the following:

• call for an end to the U.S. practice of torture.
• call for an immediate end to the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• offer counsel to and support for conscientious objectors.
• call for the closing of Guantanamo and all secret military prisons and torture centers.
• call on all Catholics and people of faith to engage in prayer, fasting and acts of nonviolent resistance to stop torture and to end the war.

The group also called on Catholics and other people of goodwill to join them for a nonviolent action in Washington, DC on January 11, 2007, the 5th anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantanamo, to call for its closing.

Read the entire statement

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Welcome to the No Fact Zone

I attended a talk the other night at Bethel College, an evangelical college in the South Bend area. The title was “Unmasking Terrorism,” and advertisements promised I’d be hearing from a Palestinian-former-terrorist-turned-evangelical-Christian. So it seemed like the kind of thing that would be worth checking out.

The talk that followed however, given by one Walid Shoebat, truly shocked me. I was appalled. An evening that started with vanilla praise music quickly turned into a hate-fest that had me thinking of 1984. It was horrifying; in fact, I was reminded of the Old Latin version of Psalm 95/96: “The gods of the heathens are demons.” What went on at Bethel truly put me in mind of the demonic. They were saying the name “Jesus,” but the God they described was something hideous and malformed.

The talk also put me in mind of Steven Colbert’s “No Fact Zone.” I always figured he was exaggerating the Right’s tendency to color everything with ideology (which can of course also be said of the Left). I didn’t realize he was describing certain people’s tendency to spread vicious half-truths and lies. Specifically…

Among Mr. Shoebat’s claims throughout the night were the following points (please note that these claims are written as they were communicated during his talk—he might present things differently in writing, but this was the content as heard in the audience):

  • All terrorists are Muslims; there are no Christian or atheistic terrorists. At all. Anywhere in the world. When confronted with the example of Northern Ireland, he said, “There is no longer terrorism in Ireland.”
  • Arabs had only been living in (or perhaps ruling, he used ambiguous language) Israel/Palestine for a total of 100 years prior to the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
  • Until 1948, the Zionist movement carried out the acquisition and settlement of land in Israel/Palestine entirely peacefully, without the use of arms or any kind of coercion.

Meanwhile, his plan for dealing with international Islamic extremism and terrorism seemed to be as follows:

  • Begin closing mosques. He definitely advocated the forcible closure of mosques in the US and Europe, and as far as I can recall he hinted that this would be appropriate for the Middle East as well.
  • Send Christian missionaries to the Middle East to accompany American troops. I’m drawing this from a comparison he made between a drug-infested neighborhood and the Middle East. He said that one doesn’t send Harvard professors to a drug-infested neighborhood to solve its problems. One sends ministers and Christian community workers and armed police. He emphasized that the police had to be armed. He left the audience to draw its own conclusions about how his metaphor applied to the Middle East. I think it was obvious what he was suggesting.

Most disturbing of all were the “Amen”s that came from the audience now and then as Mr. Shoebat poured out his hatred.

I don’t really know what to do in response to this kind of stuff. I’d try to bring up the excellent points the Pope made in his Regensburg address about faith and reason, but I’m afraid his quote from that Byzantine text would just encourage them. Sigh…