Genocide: The Modern Religious War

When one hears of genocide, most often The Holocaust comes to mind first.  Some of us are old enough though to remember such atrocities in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda in the 1990s.  The latter marked 20-years just last week.  Each time that we hear of such things we always say, “Never again.”  But each time that it happens, we tend to turn a blind eye to it as if ignoring the situation will make it better or go away.

In Rwanda, it was the Hutus and Tutsis that were trying to eradicate the each other.  In Kosovo, it was ethnic Albanians versus ethnic Serbs.  And in Bosnia, there were Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslim Bosniaks all fighting each other. With history as hindsight, it was our first glimpse of the larger Christian vs. Muslim conflict that was playing out around the world… something we would be brought into more directly with the attacks on September 11, 2001.

With each of those instances we still stated, “Never again.”  And yet, even today we turn  a blind eye to the genocide of our world.  Now it’s happening in the Central African Republic (CAR) and has Christians (anti-balaka) and Muslims (Seleka) attempting to wipe out each other.  This conflict has been going on since December 2012 and has largely been skipped by western media outlets with the exception of a few scattered reports.

Courtesty: cia.gov

Courtesy: cia.gov

In December 2012, the mostly Muslim Seleka forces began a coup against the government which culminated in a seizure of power in March 2013.  They would remain in power for 10-months and during that time, according to Amnesty International, they “were responsible for massacres, extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, looting, and massive burning and destruction of Christian villages.”

The President of the new government, Michel Djotodia, declared the Seleka disbanded in September 2013 though most of the militias refused to disband.  But as such atrocities mounted, he resigned in January  2014 due in large part to regional pressure.  A new interim government was formed and a new interim president was elected on January 20th.  US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has flown to CAR to meet with the interim president who still has very little power or control of the situation.

With the Seleka forces now in retreat, the Christian forces (Anti-balaka) are now committing the same offenses against the Muslim communities as had been done to them.  And the Seleka forces are still committing the same attacks on Christian communities as they retreat.  It’s a slaughter running right down the religious divide of Muslim vs. Christian.

In February 2014, Amnesty International released a report that stated, “International peacekeepers have failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians int he western part of the Central African Republic.”  It went on to further criticize the tepid response from the international community to the situation.

My father, Soba Tibati, could hardly walk and could not run away when the anti-balaka attacked our village.  They decapitated him in front of my eyes as he sat on a straw mat under a tree outside our hut.  Twelve other members of my family were also massacred in the same attack.  The youngest was a baby girl who was just six months old.
Dairu Soba, survivor of an attack by anti-balaka fighters on January 8.
Courtesy: Amnesty International

On April 10, 2014, the United Nations passed Security Council resolution 2149 which authorized the deployment of a multidimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation (MINUSCA) with the protection of civilians as its top priority.  Other tasks include, “support for the transition process; facilitating humanitarian assistance; promotion and protection of human rights; support for justice and the rule of law; and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation processes.”

Regardless, the world can no longer ignore and turn a blind eye to the ongoing situation in the Central African Republic.  Genocide is still genocide regardless of who is committing the atrocity.  We should never utter the words, “Never again” as we should put a stop to genocide at any moment that it arises.  Instead we should look to the motto, “Not now; not ever.

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After Iowa

So the Iowa caucus has come and gone for the 2012 election.  Does it really mean anything in the overall grand scheme of things?  Not really.  The Iowa voters don’t necessarily pick the candidate that will eventually be the nominee.  And when it comes to the voting demographic in Iowa, it does not come close to being an accurate representation of the overall national voting demographic.  Regardless, though, Iowa goes first… as it has since 1972.  And though it might not pick the winner all the time, it can definitely derail campaigns and make other soar.

Remember then-Senator Barack Obama (Dem) and former-Governor Mike Huckabee (Rep) in the 2008 primary?  Both of them were largely unknown and won their party’s caucus.  The difference, Obama, though losing in New Hampshire, was still able to ride his Iowa win to victory in other states and eventually to the nomination and to a general election victory.  Huckabee failed in New Hampshire, too, but wasn’t able to mount a successful campaign to stop John McCain from getting the nomination despite winning a few more states.

The Republican Presidential Candidates

What hurt Mike Huckabee then might play out again here in 2012.  Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney beat Former-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 8-votes in Iowa.  Texas Congressman Ron Paul came in third.  Santorum nearly pulled off a Huckabee-style win getting the majority of his votes from the Christian conservatives/Evangelical Christian voters.  The Republican voting bloc in Iowa is overflowing with them.  The problem for Santorum is going to be the next battle… New Hampshire where Christian conservatives just aren’t very abundant.  If he can somehow survive a beating in New Hampshire, he has a chance in South Carolina and maybe parts of Florida (northern Florida).  But when the contest moves to Nevada, it’s again unlikely that he will win with those that aren’t his main voting bloc.  If he hasn’t derailed by then, that should be the mark.  His virtual-tie in Iowa only means he gets more media attention for now, but it doesn’t mean that he can get the nomination.  The Republican voting bloc sees him as to religious and too-far right wing.  He can get the Tea-Party and Christian conservative votes, but he won’t get the independent and moderate votes that he would need to win in November.

What about some other candidates.  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has withdrawn after coming in 5th place.  Texas Governor Rick Perry went home to think about it but has now decided to fight to South Carolina.  Without a strong showing there, it will be over for him.  He might make it to Florida, but no chance after that unless he can make a huge comeback.  Former-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is on life support.  Unless he can show that there is some life in his campaign in New Hampshire and/or South Carolina, it will be over for him, too.  Again, he can’t get passed Florida without something bigger… and South Carolina is going to be his best bet to beating Mitt Romney and where he should concentrate (since New Hampshire is not possible for him).  After coming in third place, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in a good place to make a difference.  He gets a very different demographic of the Republican party and even the independents.  It remains to be seen how far he can go.  His supporters are usually fairly faithful to him.  But his main downfall is that he doesn’t appeal to the core Republican voters.

Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might have been left holding the victory torch by those 8-votes after Tuesday, and though Iowa doesn’t necessarily pick the eventual nominee, he is sitting pretty good right now.  In New Hampshire, he has a double-digit lead.  Though in 2008, Obama had a lead in Iowa but Hillary Clinton ended up winning the Democratic primary there, so nothing is set in stone in this last week.  Who could upset Romney? Congressman Ron Paul could surge up in the independent-minded state.  But there is one other candidate that has put everything at stake in New Hampshire.  He came in last in Iowa, but didn’t really campaign there at all.  Former-Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. He’s a moderate and has been campaigning hard.  Though it will be hard for anyone to take down Romney’s double-digit lead in a week, Huntsman needs to have a good second-place finish to stay in the race.  If he doesn’t, I fear that his campaign will end.  If he can, and then can survive until Nevada in February, he might be able to best Romney.  The two Mormon candidates battling it out for that vote in the West where they are on Huntsman’s home turf.  All of that depends on his finishing in New Hampshire, though, and if he can pick up some momentum so he doesn’t get trounced in other states.  Again his biggest drawback is going to be that he’s a moderate and not a party extremist.

With Iowa now over, the nomination is Romney’s to lose.  He didn’t campaign there very much and wasn’t making a big play for it.  Yet, he still edged out a win.  And with New Hampshire being in his political back yard, the ball is in his court. It will be interesting to see now how long this race might go on.  It could all be “theoretically” over with Florida or Nevada… though mathematically, he’d still be far short of the number of delegates needed for the nomination.  It’s all about money to mount the campaign in each state, and he’s the one candidate sitting on it and the campaign infrastructure to keep going.

UPDATE: (1/19/2012)
Upon certifying the Iowa caucus votes from January 3, Rick Santorum won the state by 34-votes over Mitt Romney.

SIDENOTE:
President Obama was not challenged in the Democratic Iowa caucus and will receive all of his party’s delegates.

SITE NOTE:
Have you checked out the Election 2012 pages yet?  Start HERE and go through them.  And don’t forget to “like” us now on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Out of Africa

The other week President Obama announced that he was sending 100 US Military Advisors into Africa to assist a few nations deal with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and it didn’t take long for some of his opponents to jump at this.  However, it was probably radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh’s comment that probably got me to address this issue.  His comment that Obama had sent our troops in to “kill Christians in Africa.”  (I encourage you to read the Washington Post article HERE that includes a video response from a woman that was kidnapped by the LRA.  I warn you that the video is a bit strong, but the message is clear, and I encourage you to watch and listen.)

So let me deal with this first… what is the Lord Resistance Army (LRA)?  And where does it operate?  For most Americans, this is the first time they’ve ever heard of it.  The LRA is a militarnt group with Christian and traditional African religious ideology.  It operates in South Sudan (see post on this new nation), the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and has its headquarters in northern Uganda.  It is led by a man by the name of Joseph Kony who sees himself as a “spokesman” for God and a spiritual medium of the Holy Spirit.  (You can read all about the LRA on Wikipedia, and I encourage you to do so.)

The reason why I’m letting you look into the LRA is because I’m focusing the post on Rush’s comment.  He’s acting like this is a Muslim vs. Christian conflict, and it’s not.  This is a situation where we have a militant group, the LRA, that is committing crimes against humanity which include murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children in hostilities.  We’re basically just a step off complete genocide taking place.  It just so happens, though, that this militant group (or terrorist group… as it is terrorizing the local populations) is based on Christianity instead of Islam.  It makes me wonder what Rush would have said if the group was Islamic-based rather than Christian-based.  It’s no surprise that Rush Limbaugh is anti-Obama… anti-Democrat… the left is always wrong and the right is always right.  Unfortunately, that kind of political thinking can usually get someone into more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s no surprise that even Rush, himself, hadn’t done any research on the LRA before foaming off at the mouth.

Rush still thinks that Obama is a Muslim and is pro-Muslim despite the fact its been proven time and time again that the President is a Christian.  So that would make us a Christian-nation with a Christian-President going off to help other countries (that may or may not be Christian-based) kill other Christians.  Make sense?  He acts as though this is the first time we’ve gone up against other Christians or something.  I would encourage Rush to take an American History class… or just let me teach him a few things.  In recent years, our wars have been against Muslim nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, etc.), but in the majority of our history, we have fought wars against other Christians.  We have fought two world wars against countries in Europe that were Christian-based, though we might not have acknowledged it at the time (with the exception of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and Japan in WWII).  We have fought wars with Spain and Mexico that are both Christian-based nations.  We fought two wars against England, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and England is still a Christian nation.  And we even fought a civil war amongst ourselves… two different sides of the same Christian nation.  So this is not something new.  And just like those wars that I just mentioned, this new action of ours against the LRA has nothing to do with its religion but rather the actions this group is taking.

I know some of this can be difficult to fathom.  In the last decade, we’ve been led to believe that all Christians are good (which includes Christian-based nations) and that all Muslims (or Islamic-based nations) are bad.  And it’s hard to think outside of this realm that has been beaten into our subconscious by our politicians and the media.  But when we allow ourselves to go beyond what we are made to believe and look at history and look into each situation as it arises (and do your actual research), one can quickly discover that there are good and bad on every side.  Yes, that means there are good Christians and there are bad Christians.  In this case, the LRA would be an example of bad Christians… twisting the belief to fit them, and its leader making himself a false medium of the Holy Spirit.  Its leader, Joseph Kony, needs to captured (not killed) and hauled in front of the international court to answer for his crimes against humanity.

Stephen R. Covey once said, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”  This issue of sending US military advisors to central Africa to help battle the LRA and bring Joseph Kony (amongst others) to justice has nothing to do with religious ideology.  It has to deal with morality and our sense of humanity.  If we sit here and speak out against others that attempt to bring terror upon us, then should we not hold others to the same account who are wishing to bring terror among other people?  Are we to wait until actual genocide is taking place before we act and then admit that we should have acted sooner?  Truth be told, we’ve waited too long as it is already.  International action should have already taken place.  We’ve made baby steps over the years toward some kind of involvement, but this is the first step that has actually put “American boots” on the ground.  This is an affair that the United Nations should also be involved with as it is pertaining to four sovereign countries.  Once again, because this is Africa, the world is dragging its feet and turning a blind eye.  The old motto “Out of sight, out of mind” continuously comes back into play in regards to anything happening on the African continent.

This is a moral issue for me… a human issue, and it is one that I believe cannot be ignored any longer.  The LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, need to be stopped and brought to justice before the international community (and before the people in the nations they have continually terrorized) for their crimes against humanity.  And as for Rush Limbaugh and his comment on this matter, I would suggest that he do some research before he starts foaming off at the mouth on a particular subject.  It might help save some embarrassment later.

VIDEO LINK:

http://vimeo.com/30727317  Warning, the video is quite strong and for a mature audience.  This is the video response from a woman that was kidnapped by the LRA, and she recorded this in response to Rush Limbaugh’s comments.  (You can also see the video in the Washington Post article HERE.)

Radicalism

As the week draws ever closer to the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is not difficult for me to sit and ponder.  The main problem is that there seems to be no answer to the questions I seek answers to.  In the aftermath of the attacks, we launched a war on terrorism and now find ourselves embroiled in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and several other places around the world.  This is all in the name of fighting terrorists.  And any time there is an attack of some kind here at home…. whether it be a shooting rampage or something even more severe, we immediately start asking if this was an act of terrorism.  I find it interesting how are mind jumps to the conclusion immediately and then settles back into other possible answers as more information usually becomes available.  Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ), the media was already wondering if the shooter was linked to al Qaida.  Now this isn’t to say that there haven’t been times when there has been a domestic terrorist attack in the US.  I’m sure most of us remember the Fort Hood shootings.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks (and it still takes place today), Muslims and Muslim Americans face discrimination based on nothing more than stereotypes.  As if they all had something to do with it or even condone it.  They seem to have had the stereotype fall upon them that we would put on the radical fundamentalists that carried out the attacks.  But I don’t believe in such stereotypes, and it still amazes me how many people can just toss out rational, logical thought and believe in such things.  That would be the same everyone thinking that all Christians are terrorists out to destroy those who don’t agree with them because of The Crusades.  And has anyone stop to think for a moment that the guy who blew up a federal building in Oslo, Norway and then went to an island full of kids and starting killing them unmercifully was an extremist Christian? Yeah… the extremes go both ways.  But you don’t manage to still hear the same rancor that came after the attacks on 9/11.  Maybe that’s because it was done in another country.  But what about the Oklahoma City bombing?  That was done by an American on American soil… and had no religious affiliation to it whatsoever.

Most people in the world hold their personal religious beliefs close to themselves.  And most people with even half a brain don’t follow every word to the last letter of their religion.  There is usually some discrepancies when it comes to each individual.  And most are willing to let others have their beliefs so long as it doesn’t inflict upon anyone else.  Sadly, though, it’s the radical fundamentalists on the extreme wings of the religions that have the loudest voices and have the ability to manipulate those parts of the population that are not educated or at least not wanting to think for themselves.  And as a result, all people that follow that religion are grouped into that stereotype even if they haven’t and never would do anything to the extreme and just want to live the simple lives with their neighbors as they have been doing.

Does that mean their aren’t religious fundamentalists out there that are willing to harm us?  Not at all.  We must always remain ever vigilant, but we must also remember that it’s usually not the average person that we must watch out for.  Rather, it’s those that can’t think for themselves and must be told what to think and when to think it… and how they should feel.  Yes, it is hard to identify such people from the average person, but that still does not give us the right to treat any group of people under an umbrella stereotype.  We all know that we wouldn’t like it if it was done to ourselves, and it’s always possible for us to be lumped into something simply because of an overreaching stereotype.

Hate can be a powerful tool… and even more so with the tools of religion.  Anything can be drastically warped to fit into the minds of those people who are looking for someone to blame their problems on.  The problem is that the population has to be willing to step up, ask questions, and not believe everything that they hear and read.  The radical fundamentalists that are trying to hijack people’s minds and use it then to terrorize the general population are betting on us not being able to do it.  When we lose the ability to think for ourselves… when we lose that ability to ask questions… when we succumb to grouping an entire group of people (based on religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, etc) into one generic, overreaching stereotype, then we have fallen into the abyss that the extremists have wanted us to fall into.  And it’s at the moment that the leaders of those movements can warp minds and bend any information to fit their overall goals.

So let me ask you this as we are now in our tenth year in our ‘war on terror’.  Is it actually possible to win this war or is it just to make the general population feel good that something is being done?  And how do we know that we’ve won or lost?  Is it possible to root out and defeat all terrorism in the world?  Is the previous question a sign that we are bringing terror to a part of the world?  And this leads to the ever-bigger question… What is terrorism and a terrorist?  How do we define these two broad words?

As we approach the tenth anniversary, we need to take a good long look at how the past ten-years have unfolded.  Are we a fair and just people?  Have we made the right decisions along the way (even if we have killed the al Qaida leader that orchestrated the attacks)?  Have we developed our communities and our society in a way that we are inclusive of those that aren’t just similar to us but to also those that are different?  Do we attempt to broaden our understanding of those things that are different from our own… whether it be other religions, other countries, or other cultures?

And though we must remain ever vigilant against those that would do us harm, I still feel that it is important to not lose our overall core values.  Each of us has the right to be judged on the person we are and not by the actions of others.  The radical fundamentalists want to group everyone into two categories… for or against.  There is no middle ground.  In regards to religious fundamentalists, this doesn’t just come from those that are Muslim.  It also comes from Christians and Jews.  Fundamentalism is never based with one group and not another.  All groups have their fundamentalists that are willing to go to the extremes to get what they want.  It’s up to those of us that can think for ourselves… those of us they consider moderates (or just the average person) to make sure that our voice gets louder so that their evil messages can’t gain any ground.

So let me leave you with one last question through all of this.  How can we protect ourselves from any and all radical fundamentalists, or is it even possible?  As I said at the beginning, there are no easy answers to the questions that I am asking.  But then again, maybe there aren’t supposed to be easy answers in this situation.  For there to be then there would be no overall conflict and no reason for this entire entry.  As we continue to move forward, we must always be willing to ask ourselves the tough questions, to not follow blindly, to shape our society in a way that we can be inclusive, and we must not hate.  For as it has been said by Buddha, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

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