Sunday, February 19, 2006
Christian Peacemaking in Iraq
As you can tell, I've been reading and listening to a lot of Shane Claiborne recently. Those of you who know of Shane already may remember that he spent a month in Baghdad a few years ago right when the war began as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team. In his online Iraq journal he explains why he chose to go to Iraq, and I found his words moving and challenging:

by Shane Claiborne

I am going to Iraq because I believe in a god of scandalous grace. If I believed terrorists were beyond redemption, I would need to rip out half of my New Testament Scriptures, for they were written my a converted terrorist. I have pledged Allegiance to a King that loved evildoers so much He died for them (and of course the people of Iraq are no more evil or more holy than the people of the US) teaching us that there is something worth dying for but nothing worth killing for. While the terrorists were nailing Him to the cross, my Jesus pleaded that they be shown mercy for they know what they were doing. We are all wretched, and we are all beautiful. No one is beyond redemption and no one is beyond repute. May we see in the hands of the oppressors our own hands, and in the faces of the oppressed our own faces. We are made of the same dust, and we cry the same salty tears.

I am going to Iraq in the footsteps of an executed and risen God. I follow a Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey at Passover, knowing full well what He was walking into. This Jesus of the margins suffered an imperial execution by an oppressive regime of wealthy and pious elites. And now He dares me and woos me, come and follow, take my cross, lose my life to find it…with a promise that life is more powerful than heath, and that it is more courageous to love our enemies than to kill them.

I am going to Iraq to stop terrorism. There are Muslim extremists and Christian extremists who kill in the name of their gods. Their leaders are millionaires who live in comfort while their citizens die neglected in the streets. I believe in another Kingdom that belongs to the poor and to the peacemakers. I believe in a safe world, and I know this world will never be safe as long as the masses live in poverty so that handful of people can live as they wish. Nor will the world be safe as long as we try to use violence to drive out violence. Violence only begets the very thing it seeks to destroy. My King warned His followers, "If we pick up the sword we will die by the sword." How true this has proved to be throughout history. We armed Saddam in the conflict against Iran, and we armed Bin Ladin in the struggle against the Soviet Union. Timothy McVeigh, the most terrifying domestic terrorist in US history, was trained in the Gulf Was where he said he turned into "an animal."

I am going to Iraq to stand in the way of war. Thousands of soldiers have gone to Iraq, willing to kill people they do not know because of a political allegiance. I go willing to die for people I do not know because of a spiritual allegiance. The soldiers have incredible courage, courage enough to die for something they believe in. I pray that Christians would have that same courage. The command of the soldiers is handed down, rank after rank, from a human commander in chief clinging to the myth of redemptive violence. My mandate is straight from the mouth of my heavenly King, through the lips of the Prince of Peace - to love my enemy, and yet I still falter. May we cling to the Truth that every human is created in the image of God. Do we believe the children of Iraq are just as precious as the children of New York? A love for our own people is not a bad thing, but why should love stop at the border? We, the people of Rebirth, have an allegiance that runs much deeper that nationalism.

I am going to Iraq as a missionary. In an age of omnipresent war, it is my hope that Christian Peacemaking becomes the new face of global missions. May we stand by those who face the impending wrath of Empire and whisper: "God loves you, I love you, and if my country bombs your country, I will be right here with you." Otherwise, our gospel has little integrity. As on of the saints said, "If they come for the innocent and do not pass over our bodies , then cursed be our religion." May our lives interrupt terrorism and war, in small ways, in large ways, in moments of crisis and in everyday rhythms. These are extreme times. And I go to Iraq as an extremist for Love.

You can read more of his journal here. Especially check out the story he tells of his encounter with two conservative businessmen on a plane shortly before he left for Iraq. I've actually heard Shane tell many of the stories from his time there (you can order a DVD/CD resource put out by the Simple Way with many of Shane's talks about his experiences at and it's just gut wrenching to hear of the children and families who have suffered as a result of what our government has done in Iraq. He tells of witnessing first hand the hospitals filled with hundreds of maimed and dying children, victims of our bombs. He tells of an Iraqi father who held his maimed son as he wept and who said "If this is your liberation, we don't want it. God save us from your liberation."

There's this myth among American conservatives that all the insurgents in Iraq are coming from the outside, from Iran or Syria. No doubt some are, but why is it so hard to believe that the Iraqi people would not also be rising up against us after what we have done to their children and wives and husbands? As a father myself, I can't believe that I would welcome any violent "liberation" of my own country that brought harm to Emma or Julie. If it were my own child laying there in that hospital, I'd have a hard time not wanting to rise up against my so-called "liberators" (which shows just how far I have to come myself to live up to Christ's calling to be peacemakers). And maybe that's the problem, we American Christians haven't yet learned to view the Iraqi people as our own brothers and sisters and children and friends. We haven't put ourselves in their shoes and asked ourselves, in the words of Christ, what it would mean to "do unto these others what we would have them do unto us."

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