This Virus is Teaching is All of Us How to be Pacifists

The Time of the Virus has taught us all many things. We’re learning new words, how to cook new meals at home, and that we rarely washed our hands for twenty seconds. But I’ll bet you didn’t think that you were learning how to become a pacifist!

That’s right! You have been embracing the enemy-loving, Jesus-y ethic that is pacifism!

Pacifism gets a bad rap. It gets mixed up with passivism – doing nothing. In our present situation “doing nothing” would mean continuing on with how we used to live: meeting with friends and family, hugging or shaking hands with others, going out to work, school, restaurants, parks, and gathering in large groups for sports, weddings, or funerals. Doing all those things would actually mean “doing nothing” in the face of this virus.

However, like good pacifists, we are actively working against the spread of this virus by doing the hard work of not “doing nothing.” We are staying home, washing our hands for twenty seconds, cleaning or disinfecting more frequently, socially/physically distancing, and only making essential trips. 

Pacifism requires creativity, commitment, trust, and a whole lot of patience. It is much more than being anti-war. Pacifism also engenders criticism by those who want quick, decisive, and often violent actions. This virus can’t be defeated that way. People talk about “fighting the virus,” but there’s nothing violent about staying home. We need to be patient, creative, and actively not “do nothing.” We’re all learning how to become pacifists.

KONY 2012

(click here to watch the video on Vimeo, or click the photo to watch it on the KONY 2012 site if you have no idea what’s going on).

As Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and social networking sites have massively and virally spread the news of KONY 2012, I’m curious of how things will move from here.

This article from enough (‘The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity’, which has partnered with Invisible Children and Resolve for the KONY2012 campaign) features a Q+A with Jason Russell.  This quote is the most important thing to keep in mind, in answering, “What’s the dream for KONY 2012?”, Jason Russell answers:

“The ultimate dream for KONY 2012 is that it becomes a tipping point for conversation, and that people will make a commitment to stop at nothing by making sure Kony is known in their circle of influence, whether it’s their family or office or school. The dream would be for Kony to be captured, not killed, and brought to the International Criminal Court to face trial. The world would know about his crimes and they would watch the trial play out on an international level, seeing a man face justice who got away with abducting children, raping little girls, and mutilating people’s faces for 26 years.”

I fear of an Bin Laden-like response if his death occurs (don’t get me started) … but there is hope, because of the people behind this, that Kony will stand trial.

Giving funds to the cause is interesting though.  I’ve already seen at least one reddit commenter who is concerned with IC’s budget (see page 6).  Yes, they spend a lot on Travel, but I think that it’s worth it – there needs to be someone filming, and visiting all the villages and cities across Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central Africa in making their cause more legitimate to a North American audience.  I’d say Jason Russell has good intentions and is making good use of donated funds, unless I see something a lot more questionable.  You can also see “Where does money donated to Invisible Children, Inc. go?” on the FAQ of the IC site.

The North American-ness of the cause is also interesting…

The site features the pictures of extremely American celebrities and almost exclusively American politicians.  The site also only allows people to purchase their kits in dollars (as opposed to Euro’s, etct.).  I’ve already read of folks overseas really wishing they could help out with spreading the word and buy posters.  If they wish to succeed world-wide the KONY campaign needs to start appealing to the worldwide audience.

This cause also seems very dependant on the US military – a branch of the US government that I’m not terribly fond of.  It’s as though they need support from the US military to track down Joseph Kony.  Which, in all likelihood is close to the truth, considering how much technology they have (I’m assuming the resources of the Uganda military is slightly less than the US…).  The video glorifies these 100 US military advisors – as though they will end the conflict once and for all.  It makes the US military look like a good and upstanding humanitarian force.

Jason Russell sure likes his bazookas...

Can’t the UN assemble a peacekeeping force – much larger than the 100 US military ‘special operations forces’ – to track him down with US (or UK) surveillance help?  I like the concept of multiple nations coming together to create a joint peacekeeping force, would more people and more support really help in seizing Kony and freeing the children?

I think the cause is great.  I hope it catches on.  I hope Kony comes to trial at the ICC.

I fear of too much hope in the US military.  I fear that people want Kony dead.  I fear of things that tear people apart over bringing things to justice: like finance – but it better not be ignorance.

Here’s an article of two survivors of Kony’s Lords Resistance Army that lived alongside him.

The tracking system they’ve made is pretty legit.

This article from 2009 is a really great critique on the directors of Invisible Children and their mission.

And Visible Children has gotten a lot of hits as well.

A thought on suffering and the call for Christians

A reporter once asked Mother Teresa, “When a baby dies alone in a Calcutta alley, where is God?” She responded to him,

“God is there, suffering with that baby.  The question really is, where are you?”

This quote came up in a sermon I just read from a friend.

I don’t want to be cliché, nor do I want non-christians to be offended, I’m looking at Teresa’s response as a call for Christians.  Christians are called to a rather high standard: love your neighbour; give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back; welcome the strangers, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.

Where are we when there is such suffering?

In Tom’s sermon he discusses how we are called to the margins, called into relationship, called to equal relationships where barriers are broken down.  We are called to have reciprocal relationships where we “walk with” the other, don’t have defined rules that can stifle the spirit of Christ to work, care, and show gentleness.

I like what Tom has to say about our society, our comforts, and the call of Christ:

One of the major faults of Jesusʼ society and ours is that
we push people out. We see certain people as having more importance and others as having less. This simply will not fly for Jesus. If there is any group or individual that we devalue, that is exactly where Jesus will go. This therefore is where the church of Christ and his followers must also go in order to serve.

We like to be with those who are at the centre. We like
to be with those who we know, those who aren’t struggling with money, who are self-sufficient upstanding citizens.

So the call to be yielded to Christ is a very scary one because we very much know where it will take us.

What do you think?

A Story from Somalia

The following is an excerpt from James Orbinski’s An Imperfect Offering.  I’ve just begun the book, and I’m intrigued to read more of what he has to say: both of the extremely despairing and beautiful, his work as a humanitarian doctor, and his views on politics.

Here, Orbinski describes his first act as a humanitarian doctor.  In October 1992, after arriving in Baidoa, Somalia (known at the time as the City of Death), assigned as MSF’s (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders) medical coordinator, he noticed some movement within one of the morgue tents.  After first turning away and not wanting to know what this could mean, he looked and saw that the wind was strong enough to move a tent flap.  But then the man’s eyes fluttered.  He was laying among the dead.

He weighed less than 70 pounds, and I thought him light as I tried to catch his arm from falling.  I did this without thinking.  I acted not as I thought I should but as I had no choice but to do.

All the beds inside the medical tent were taken, so I laid him on the ground.  A helper put a blanket over him.  She was irritated and told me impatiently that he had been moved to the morgue because there was not enough time or people to look after all of the patients, and in any case, he was going to die anyway.  At that moment, I felt rage at the efficiency of placing the living among the dead.  And I felt despair – for him, for myself.  I could be him, dependent on the actions of a stranger for the hope of at least dignity in death.

His eyes opened and closed.  He shivered under the blanket, and soon he was dead.  This was the last violated remnant of a fuller life.  I didn’t even know his name, but I knew he had been someone’s son, someone’s friend and possibly someone’s husband, someone’s father.  What choices led to civil war and famine, leaving hundreds of thousands of people like this man to suffer in this way, at this time, in the last decade of the twentieth century.

These kinds of stories are atrocious.  But they also must be told.  For our world is filled with choices, Orbinski sees humanitarianism “as a challenge to political choices that too often kill or allow others to be killed”.  If we do not know the effects of such choices – the real life stories of people and their communities – we have little motivation to change political choices, to raise our voice, to speak out against injustice, violence, dehumanization, or genocide.

The Rich DO have more rights!

They have more of a right to help those who are in need, suffering, and without resources.

They have more of a right to help the poor, homeless, and hungry.

They have more of a right to help stop violence, war, and genocide.

They have more of a right to help stop pollution and protect the environment.


They, we, do have more rights, don’t you think?


Message or comment to add what rights you think the wealthy are entitled to, and what you’re doing to help make our world a better place.  – I’ll add it to the list.