Monday, April 2, 2007

Religious and Civil Liberties and the War in Iraq

As we go into the fifth year of our military intervention in Iraq, it has become increasingly impossible to ignore its implications not only in terms of our nation's relationships with other countries, but in terms of its implications for religious liberties here at home. Whether it is the virtual gutting of our constitutional rights to due process and equality before the law under the USA Patriot Act, the vilification and persecution of Muslims in America under the Special Registration provisions of the immigration codes, the stifling of dissent as "unpatriotic", the authorization of detentions without charge or trial at Guantanamo or the trumpeting of the United States as a "Christian nation," and the breakdown of the separation of church and state, it is clear that this war is a cancer that has metastasized into all aspects of our national life and body politic.

The circumstances of war, particularly a "war on terror" that has been described by the President of the United States in starkly apocalyptic and religious terms, lends itself to the kinds of abuses of civil and religious liberty that have become all too common in the past few years. It is not a surprise, then, when military commanders openly speak of the war in Iraq as a battle between "our god and their god," or that we are also seeing scandals related to the repression of minority religious faiths in our service academies as well as in our armed forces, or that Muslim American high school students are detained by the federal government for writing school essays critical of US policy in Iraq, or that efforts to undermine the separation of church and state,( a separation that has helped this country to become not only the freest, but the most vitally religious nation in the western world) are being undertaken in many cases with the sympathy, if not the full support of politicians and government officials.

That is why the Interfaith Alliance of Long Island is taking a strong stance for peace in Iraq and why we hope that you will join with us and our sisters and brothers of faith and conscience in advocating a withdrawal of US forces even as we continue to advocate for religious and civil liberties here at home. Please join us.

Abusing the Memory of the Holocaust

The recent reports of the Holocaust Denial symposium in Teheran point to a dangerous trend that is poisoning our world, a kind of disease that, once seen as on the wane, has grown like a malignant tumor in recent decades here in America and all over the world, The disease of religious and racial hatred is a epidemic that reached a zenith in the unspeakable atrocity of the Shoah and the efforts of the Nazi regime in Germany to annihilate an entire people while most of Europe looked away or even joined in the slaughter, is still alive and rearing its ugly head in the Holocaust denial movement. The world has reaped the harvest of such denial in the stubborn pervasiveness of neo-Nazi and fascist movements in former eastern bloc countries, in the rise of anti-semitism both in Europe and the Muslim world and also in genocides and ethnic cleansing from Bosnia, to parts of India to Rwanda and the Sudan.

To deny either the complicity of one's religion or culture in sowing the seeds of the Holocaust, to worse, to deny that the most despicable acts in human history happened at all is to deprive humanity of the means to fashion something redemptive from the ashes of this ultimate example of human depravity. To ignore the danger of this kind of denial is to once again turn our heads away from the suffering of our fellow human beings and to fail to learn the lessons of the Shoah that evil lives, not just "out there" in the hearts and beliefs of others, but in every human heart.

Those of us who profess the Christian faith are called especially to look fearlessly at ourselves and to recognize that the Holocaust was perpetrated in a nation whose majority professed our faith, by men and women who claimed to be Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, (as were the perpetrators of the "ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia Herzegovina and Rwanda), and to take a leadership role in naming this evil, as well as in working for justice for Jewish, Muslim and for any and all people persecuted and oppressed on the basis of their faith. None of us can allow the kind of outrageous exploitation of this unparalleled human tragedy that Teheran's recent denial conference represents to go unanswered.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

First entry

First entry