Monthly Archives: January 2014

5 Broken Cameras

I recently attended a showing of the film “5 broken cameras” (http://www.kinolorber.com/5brokencameras/) organised by the Milton Keynes Palestine Solidarity Campaign (http://www.palestinecampaign.org/) (Congratulations to them for hosting such a great and well attended event.)

The film is made by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat and documents the building of the Israeli settlements near to his village, Bil’in.  We see the separation wall being built and the brutal sight of ancient olive trees being lifted out of the ground by bulldozers, and later being torched by the settlers.   This latter act was particularly shocking as if illegally stealing the land wasn’t enough, they also had to destroy the villagers’ livelihoods.   Of course the film is made by one side of this conflict and I am struggling understand the settlers’ perspective.

One of the themes it explores is the challenges faced by non-violent activists.   Early on in the film we see peaceful protestors being physically beaten by Israeli soldiers simply for protesting.   Later in the film the soldiers seem to regularly use live ammunition on protestors armed simply with flags and banners;  some protestors are killed.   There’s a horrible scene where a handcuffed protestor is shot in the leg at point blank range.

I was recently involved with 6 other Christians in direct action in the UK against DSEi, the world’s largest arms fair hosted in London.   Although it was frustrating that the police’s priority was to ensure the event passed off without any problems and thus protestors were not tolerated, actually the police were polite, patient and professional throughout.   I cannot imagine protesting when my health and life might be in danger, and some of the footage of conversations with the protestors family demonstrated it was not an easy decision for them either. 

And of course their protests do not succeed in being totally non-violent.   Teenage boys seem to be particularly vulnerable.   They see their fathers injured at the protests and the lack of progress on the legal front, and they resort to throwing stones at the soldiers when they come into the village.   But they are punished heavily for this, arrested in midnight raids.

Another chapter in the world’s catalogue of non-violent direct activism is being written.

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Legacy of War

At the end of last year I was deeply moved by a news article and accompanying photo which spoke to me of humanity, grief, the fragility of life and how war only ever leads to pain and death.

Soldier's Remains Returned

The photo shows a 94 year old woman from the US – Clara Gantt weeping over a coffin containing the remains of her husband, Joseph. He was an army sergeant who disappeared 63 years ago during the Korean War in 1950, and was subsequently listed as a prisoner of war/missing person. At the end of the war in 1953, returning soldiers confirmed that Joseph Gantt had been injured in battle, captured by the Chinese and had subsequently died in a POW camp of malnutrition. Only recently were his remains identified and flown back to Los Angeles for a dawn ceremony. Clara Gantt said “He told me if anything happened to him he wanted me to remarry. I told him no, no. Here I am, still his wife. Sixty-some odd years and just receiving his remains, coming home, was a blessing and I am so happy that I was living to accept him.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/21/clara-gantt-weeps-over-coffin_n_4485807.html)

In the Bible, John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

War can never and will never bring life, joy and peace. It brings death, pain and grief and as followers of Jesus and believers in Love and another way – a way of True Peace, we must do all we can to end war and to end the manufacturing, selling and proliferation of weapons of war. While there is war we can never have life in all its fullness.

 

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John Dear uses the first words of this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay in his book “Lazarus Come Forth!”. For me, the whole poem is a powerful reminder of what it would mean to reject death and to exist affirming life, and no more so than this year as we think about the start of the first world war, and how the powers lined up to participate in an almighty blood bath.  It is important to remember that in the UK alone, over 20,000 men of military age refused to go to war, and many spent time in prison, and though nowadays our means of resisting war are different (unless you find yourself in the military), the discourse of violence and death is still very powerful.

Conscientious Objector

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabout of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
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