Making Peace in Times of War: Adventist Responses to Violence

Peace Conference

Sponsored by Adventist Women for Peace and La Sierra University

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hole Memorial Auditorium
La Sierra University
4500 Riverwalk Parkway
Riverside, California 92515
951-785-2257 or 2120
  • 9:30-10:00 am Registration and light breakfast, Welcome
  • 10:00-10:45 am Keynote Address: “The Present as History: SDA Peacemaking in Times of Violence” – Ginger Hanks-Harwood
  • 10:45-10:55 am Discussion/ Q & A
  • 10:55-11:10 am BREAK
  • 11:10-11:45 am Peace at Home: “Peace Medicine: Healing from War in Our Homes” – Akivah Northern
  • 11:45-12:20 pm Peace in the Community: “Amid the Gangs…Peace” – Bernadine Irwin
    • 12:20-1:30 pm LUNCH
    • 1:30-2:05 pm Peace in the Community: “Peace and Justice as Evangelism In Hollywood” – Ryan Bell
    • 2:05-2:40 pm Peace in the Nation: “Civic Education in the United States after 9/11” – Tiffany Hunter
    • 2:40-2:55 pm BREAK
      • 2:55-3:30 pm. Peace in the Nation: “Fondation Espoir:The Different Pieces of Peace” – Florence Bellande-Robertson
      • 3:30-3:50 pm Peace in the World: Reports Students in Free Enterprise: Yorlenis Aguirre, Social Justice Club: Zulema Ibarra
      • 3:50-4:25 pm Peace in the World: “International Peacemakers: Women in Conflict Zones” – Trisha Famisaran
      • 4:25-5:10 pm Peace in the World: “In Praise of a Modest Patriotism” – Ronald Osborn
      • 5:10-5:15 pm Peace prayers and readings
      • 5:30-6:30 pm SUPPER (Cactus Room)
      • 7:00 pm Film: “God Sleeps in Rwanda” with Norah Bagirinka (Alumni Pavilion)

      A Used Bullet

      From Nathan Brown

      It’s a small, rusty piece of metal, but it gives me a chill when I look at it. While visiting Cambodia last year, my wife picked up this used bullet-not the casing, the actual pointed projectile-amid the gravel on a road through an area that was known as a “blood field,” a place of mass killing and mass burial.

      It’s a sobering thing to hold in one’s hand and contemplate its probable history. Given its location and the gruesome modern history of Cambodia, it may well have been the means by which someone was killed. This tiny piece of metal tearing through his or her body with horrific speed and shattering impact probably destroyed the life of a unique person, someone who had a family, who had hopes, dreams, and fears; someone who was loved immeasurably by God. All this was ripped away– –extinguished–with the crack of a gun and the sickening thud of this bullet, another nameless victim among the millions in the evil and tragic madness of our world.

      Still more disturbing is the realization that this act of brutal and evil destruction is at the heart of the many wars, conflicts, and assorted violence taking place in the world at this moment. This lethal fragment of metal and the many, more diabolical, military “technologies” are the means by which the grand causes of the day are “advanced.” This is the currency-we are told-with which our freedom and prosperity are bought. Contemplating the cold reality of this artifact of a forgotten and horrifying death, we must ask ourselves whether the soul-destroying and life-smashing price is worth the too often self-centered result. Add a single used Cambodian bullet, and the arguments for “just war” seem even more hollow.

      At our various days of war remembrance we ostensibly honor those who have died for their respective countries, and this is valid-if that is what we are really doing. But these days are marked most enthusiastically by those in the “victorious” nations. The commemorations would be more awkward if we would label them as days honoring those who have killed for their countries. That is what we have asked and continue to ask the young people of our various nations to do. With political-speak, media spin, denial, and ignorance, we gloss over the stark reality of one group of people using high-powered pieces of metal to tear to shreds another group of people, and vice versa. War is death.

      Albert Camus summed it up well: “There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.” He was borrowing heavily from a teacher named Jesus. Jesus said-and showed-there are causes worth dying for. He told His disciples that “the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13).

      Jesus was not interested in His disciples killing to protect Him from arrest and death (see Matt. 26:51-54). In Jesus’ teaching, not only did He affirm the commandment against killing; He said we should not be angry or hold a grudge (see Matt. 5:21-26) and that we should love our enemies (see verses 43-48), meaning that we should take active steps to seek their good. This world-changing command was echoed by Paul’s instruction that we should “conquer evil by doing good” (Rom. 12:21).

      If we are to take Jesus seriously, we need to recognize the power of goodness, the strength of weakness, and the force of humility. It seems, ironically, that if more people were prepared to die for goodness, there would be less need for killing in the name of the various causes employed to justify armed conflicts.

      Holding the cold Cambodian bullet brings a fresh understanding as to why “those who work for peace . . . will be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9).

      “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

      —Abba Eban

      Where are we headed?

      I admit that I loved to sing “Onward Christians Soldiers, Marching off to War” as a child. We all really got into the military movements with foot stomping and arm swaying, imagining ourselves as God’s little soldiers. But, as a more aware adult, many of the old favorites have lost their appeal. This quote is from John Shelby Spong–

      “We Christians are pilgrims walking into the mystery of God, not soldiers marching off to war. There is a great difference.”

      Victoria Bresee

      Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870

      Code Pink, posts this piece written by 19th Century abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which she composed to inspire those fighting against slavery–“Arise then…women of this day!
      Arise, all women who have hearts!
      Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

      Say firmly:
      ‘We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
      Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
      For caresses and applause.
      Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
      All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
      We, the women of one country,
      Will be too tender of those of another country
      To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’

      From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
      Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
      The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
      Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
      Nor violence indicate possession.

      As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
      At the summons of war,
      Let women now leave all that may be left of home
      For a great and earnest day of counsel.”

      MORE. . .

      Victoria Bresee


      “Mission Accomplished”

      This summary is from a post at Think Progress.

      “On May 1, 2003, President Bush stood underneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner and announced that ‘Major combat operations have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.’

      Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the situation then, compared to the situation now:

        May 1, 2003 Today
      U.S. Troops Wounded 542 24,912
      U.S. Troops Killed 139 3,351
      Contractors Killed 69 916
      Journalists and Media Assistants Killed 11 167
      U.S. Forces in Iraq 150,000 146,000
      Size of Iraqi Security Forces
      7,000-9,000 334,300
      Number of Insurgents less than 5,000 ~70,000 (Sunni only)
      Insurgent Attacks Per Day 8 148.9
      Cost to U.S. Taxpayers $79 billion $421 billion
      Approval of Bush’s Handling of Iraq 75% 24%
      Percentage of Americans who Believe The Iraq War Was “Worth Fighting” 70% 34%
      Bush’s Overall Job Approval 71% 32%

      Victoria Bresee

      When, if ever, should Christians Support Warfare?

      Highly Recommended–The Spectrum Blog article, by Alex Carpenter, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” (4/13/07) His initial statement is provoking an huge reaction from many sincere, yet sometimes opposite Adventist viewpoints. There is a wealth of historical, Biblical, economic, philosophical, etc. information presented in the comments, so take your time to read all of them.

      The first comment, by Elaine, starts it off–

      “There are those who say that the last “Good War” was WW II. It was the last one where our country was actually attacked. All the others were given different reasons. Good reasons? Ask the surviving families of those killed in those futile wars.

      As Adventists and Christians, we have long claimed to uphold the Ten Commandments, one of which is “Thou shalt not murder.” What part of killing an unknown person is not murder? How can a Christian support such killing when he is certainly not “defending” his country?. . . . .” MORE. . .

      Victoria Bresee