Section II: What, then, is the Church in the United States to Do?

Read the introduction to the full document.

Read the previous section: The Islamic State and the Events that Have Brought Us to this Point

 

A. Shine the light on the wrongfulness of the approach followed to date; do all that we can to stop it.                      

  • Emphasize that military responses cannot bring the conflict to an end. Especially in conflict-filled situations such as this, violence only begets more violence. 
  • Confess the complicity of the US in bringing about the current conflict through its one-sided support of Israel, its exploitation of oil resources, and its heavy emphasis on military responses.
  • Confess the Church’s complicity in its failure to challenge the US government and the nations of the world. 
    • Too often the church endorses the State rather than confronting it. We must challenge false ideologies that mislead Christians into supporting militarism, nationalism, and us-vs-them mentalities, justifying violence while dehumanizing “the other”.
    • Our economy and churches have benefitted from the current world order.
    • We have allowed a focus on personal salvation to blind us to corporate sin in which we participate.
  • Beseech the U S government and all other countries to cease to supply any military support or equipment to any participant in the conflict. Our government must avoid adding fuel to the fire, making the problem worse through force-based solutions backed by an on-going inflow of weapons.    
  • Take steps to curtail the flow of funds to finance terrorism.

 

B. Develop and present forms of non-violent action to replace the current militarized approach                   

Hold up for honor and respect our church partners who are working day by day in non-violent approaches to overcome the violence that surrounds them. Commit ourselves to supporting and encouraging them in any way we can: financially, through moral support, through visits and in seeking opportunities for accompaniment or similar engagement.

Recognize the work of many others, secular and of other faiths, who are engaged in nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience in the Middle East. [1] Remind people that, over many years, non-violent approaches have had great success in confronting and overcoming powerful dictatorships.[2]

Provide care for victims through direct assistance (through church channels, other non-governmental organizations and governmental non-military aid programs).

Encourage investment by churches and our government in schools, hospitals, and other civic institutions that contribute to welfare and economic growth.

Pray: for clarity of purpose and approach, for changes of heart that can lead to reconciliation, for wisdom, courage and persistence in addressing suffering and for reconciliation grounded in restorative justice.

                                                                                               

C.  Demonstrate engaged patience.            

What is required includes a change of heart for people intent on gaining domination over others. Just as minds and hearts cannot be changed through violence, peacemakers cannot force reconciliation and restorative justice on others. That change of heart is not ours to bring – but by our actions, we can either push people into harder insistence on their own position or lead them towards outcomes where people with multiple views can live side by side.

We recognize that non-violent approaches can be slow-acting and that innocent people will suffer in the meantime.  That is painful but unavoidable.  In making the case for non-violent approaches, we must remind people that many innocent people suffer in the context of the on-going violence-dominated approaches.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that, as of mid-2014, of Syria’s population of 22 million, nearly 10 million have been displaced by the conflict (6.5 million displaced internally and 3 million becoming international refugees); in Iraq, with a population of 33 million, nearly 2 million are internally displaced, while more than 400,000 have fled across international borders.  Economies have been shattered, leaving many in desperate straits, with few opportunities for self-support.  All of this suffering has emerged in the wake of on-going military campaigns that have no prospects for leading to a new world based on restorative justice. 

We must search for those engaged in non-violent actions challenging injustice, seeking to develop a truly shared, strategic engagement with the reality of extremism, accompanying victims and embodying Christ’s presence among those who suffer.

Read the introduction to the full document.


[1] See the report by Maria. J. Stephan in the April 2015 edition of Sojourners entitled “Resisting ISIS”, where Dr. Stephan reports on many examples of civil disobedience currently being used to challenge and resist ISIS (http://sojo.net/magazine/2015/04/resisting-isis).  Our PC(USA) mission workers in the region have reported that they are seeing many such actions on the part of our partner Christian churches and partner  organizations which we need to hold up as examples, supporting and encouraging them in any way we are able.

[2] See, for example, the study, A Force More Powerful (Ackerman and Duvall, 2000), which documented many cases where non-violent approaches successfully challenged violent dictators.  A more recent study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Chenoweth and Stephan, 2012) (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/isec.2008.33.1.7) assembled  comprehensive information about 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns between 1900 and 2006. They found that campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals.