REFLECTION: My father was killed by a computer, says a 7 year-old child

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew, “Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.

Imal in front of a poster of Badshah Khan.

Imal in front of a poster of Badshah Khan.

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like….potatoes…and meat……and….rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fuelling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report,  ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”

Dr. Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a friend and mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

OBITUARY: Mary Eoloff, nonviolent activist and long-time member of Pax Christi Minnesota

Nick and Mary Eoloff

Nick and Mary Eoloff

Pax Christi USA learned last week that Mary Eoloff, a long-time member of Pax Christi USA who lived in Minnesota, passed away at age 82. All of us at Pax Christi USA mourn Mary’s passing but we celebrate her life and her witness. She and her husband Nick, who passed a few months back, lived out the peace of Christ in both word and deed.

Earlier this year, we posted an interview with Mary by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo. You can read that interview by clicking here.

Here is Mary’s obituary from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Age 82, of St. Paul died October 11, 2014. Preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Nicholas Eoloff. Survived by her six children, 14 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and many nieces and nephews. Mary’s immediate family are daughter Kristin Kramer (Dan) of St. Paul, and grandchildren Laura (Victor), Katie, Megan and Natalie; son Nicholas Paul (Anita) of Washington, D.C., grandchildren Michael (Susan), Sara, Annie; son Eric (Gina Hand) of St. Louis, and grandchildren Neil, Allison and Jill; daughter Sara Hyland (Bob) of St. Paul, and grandchildren William, Grace and Ethan; daughter Andrea of St. Paul, and grandchild Elena; son Jonathan (Itai Himelboim) of Atlanta; and great-grandchild, Olivia. Mary graduated with a valedictorian scholarship from St. Joseph’s Academy (1949) and from St. Catherine’s College (1953). Taught English at Shakopee High School (MN) in 1953-54. Mary was a tireless advocate for world peace and a champion of nonviolent resolution to conflict. She was active in the Newman Overground Railroad and co-founder of the Peace Studies Task Force (conscientious objection). She participated in protests at the School of the Americas. Mary was chair of the Minnesota chapter of Pax Christi USA and a member of Middle East Peace Now. She and Nick were adoptive parents of Israeli prisoner of conscience Mordechai Vanunu, and together they were involved in efforts to support the people of Guatemala and Palestine. Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 18, at St. Frances Cabrini, 1500 Franklin Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, preceded by visitation with family at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to Pax Christi USA (www.paxchristiusa.org) or Friends of Sabeel North America. (www.fosna.org).

IMMIGRATION: I am opposed to the use of family detention

childrenattheborderbutton-smallPax Christi USA has signed onto this letter and encourages all of our members to take action also.

Dear President Obama,

As a Catholic, I am opposed to the use of family detention.  Detaining women and children who are fleeing persecution and violence demeans the God-given human dignity of these vulnerable people.

Many of the women and children confined at new detention facilities in New Mexico and Texas are survivors of domestic and targeted community violence.  These young women and their children have endured trauma and abuse in their home countries in Central America and also have experienced abuse along their migration journey.  They are coming to the United States for protection from violence and have been subsequently detained by our government. Alternatives to detention, like community-based models and case management, are effective at ensuring compliance with immigration court proceedings.  As a person of faith and a voter, I urge you to oppose any expansion to the family detention system and to begin implementing community-based alternatives to detention.

Click here to take action now!

REGIONAL EVENT: Pax Christi Metro New York’s Fall Assembly is November 8

On Saturday, November 8th, Pax Christi Metro New York will be hosting its annual Fall Assembly. This year’s theme is “The Joy of the Gospel: The Peace Passages.” Author and editor Margaret O’Brien Steinfels will be leading us in a discussion of Pope Francis’s teachings on peace as found in his inspiring encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. To enhance our conversation, we encourage to read “The Common Good and Peace in Society,” Chapter 4, Sec. 3, 217-237, in The Joy of the Gospel available at the Vatican website, http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html. Search for Evangelii Gaudium.

In addition to this stimulating afternoon presentation, we’ll have the morning to reflect on PCMNY’s very identity as a peace community. We’ll pray together, share our stories, and lend each other support.

The Assembly takes place at the Convent of Mary the Queen, 35 Vark Street, Yonkers. The full day runs from 10 AM to 4 PM, including lunch, ($35 donation) or you can come for the afternoon only from 1 to 4 PM, excluding lunch ($20 donation). Student discounts are available. Contact PCMNY to register: 212-420-0250, info@nypaxchristi.org, or www.nycharities.org. Deadline is October 31st.

IRAQ-SYRIA: Stop the killing

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

On August 9, 1983, three people dressed as U.S. soldiers saluted their way onto a U.S. military base and climbed a pine tree. The base contained a school training elite Salvadoran and other foreign troops to serve dictatorships back home, with a record of nightmarish brutality following graduation. That night, once the base’s lights went out, the students of this school heard, coming down from on high, the voice of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

“I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression.”

Oscar Romero muralThe three in the tree with the loudspeaker weren’t soldiers – two of them were priests. The recording they played was of Archbishop Romero’s final homily, delivered a day before his assassination, just three years previous, at the hands of paramilitary soldiers, two of whom had been trained at this school.

Fr. Larry Rosebaugh, (who was killed in Guatemala on May 18, 2009), Linda Ventimiglia, and Fr. Roy Bourgeois, (a former missioner expelled from Bolivia who was later excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church because of his support for women’s ordination) were sentenced to 15 -18 months in prison for the stirring drama they created on the base that night. Romero’s words were heard loud and clear, and even after military police arrived at the base of the tree and stopped the broadcast, Roy Bourgeois, who would later found a movement to close the school, continued shouting Romero’s appeal as loudly as he could until he was shoved to the ground, stripped, and arrested.

As we approach the nightmare of renewed, expanded U.S. war in Iraq, I think of Archbishop Romero’s words and example. Romero aligned himself, steadily, with the most impoverished people in El Salvador, learning about their plight by listening to them every weekend in the program he hosted on Salvadoran radio.  With ringing clarity, he spoke out on their behalf, and he jeopardized his life challenging the elites, the military and the paramilitaries in El Salvador.

I believe we should try very hard to hear the grievances of people in Iraq and the region, including those who have joined the Islamic State, regarding U.S. policies and wars that have radically affected their lives and well-being over the past three decades.  It could be that many of the Iraqis who are fighting with Islamic State forces lived through Saddam Hussein’s oppression when he received enthusiastic support from the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Many may be survivors of the U.S. Desert Storm bombing in 1991, which destroyed every electrical facility across Iraq.  When the U.S. insisted on imposing crushing and murderous economic sanctions on Iraq for the next 13 years, these sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of a half million children under age five.  The children who died should have been teenagers now; are some of the Islamic State fighters the brothers or cousins of the children who were punished to death by economic sanctions? Presumably many of these fighters lived through the U.S.-led 2003 Shock and Awe invasion and bombing of Iraq and the chaos the U.S. chose to create afterwards by using a war-shattered country as some sort of free market experiment; they’ve endured the repressive corruption of the regime the U.S. helped install in Saddam’s place.

The United Nations should take over the response to the Islamic State, and people should continue to pressure the U.S. and its allies to leave the response not merely to the U.N. but to its most democratic constituent body, the General Assembly.

But facing the bloody mess that has developed in Iraq and Syria, I think Archbishop Romero’s exhortation to the Salvadoran soldiers pertains directly to U.S. people.   Suppose these words were slightly rewritten:  I want to make a special appeal to the people of the United States. Each of you is one of us. The peoples you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a person telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you …I command you to stop the repression.

The war on the Islamic State will distract us from what the U.S. has done and is doing to create further despair, in Iraq, and to enlist new recruits for the Islamic State.   The Islamic State is the echo of the last war the U.S. waged in Iraq, the so-called “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion.   The emergency is not the Islamic State but war.

We in the U.S. must give up our notions of exceptionalism; recognize the economic and societal misery our country caused in Iraq; recognize that we are a perpetually war-crazed nation; seek to make reparations; and find dramatic, clear ways to insist that Romero’s words be heard: Stop the killing.

* This article first appeared on Telesur English.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence http://www.vcnv.org.

CHILDREN AT OUR BORDER: PCUSA signs onto letter calling for provisions to adjust root causes of forced migration

childrenattheborderbutton-smallPax Christi USA has signed onto a letter drafted by a number of human rights, faith-based and humanitarian groups addressed to Conferees on the State Foreign Ops portion of the Omnibus appropriations bill which will be negotiated for passage next month.  The letter seeks to encourage Conferees to include provisions that would address the root causes of forced migration from Central America of children and families, specifically endorsing certain funding lines.

The letter begins:

As faith-based, humanitarian, labor, and human rights organizations, we are greatly troubled by the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America that has compelled the migration of families and children, often unaccompanied, to the United States.  This crisis deserves a response that is both compassionate and sustainable.  As you finalize your conference negotiations of the omnibus legislation, we urge you to retain provisions of the FY15 State and Foreign Operations bills that seek to address some of the factors driving children, families, women, and men to abandon their homes in the Central American region…

The letter will be delivered this week.

REFLECTION: There is a Ferguson near you

Tom Cordaroby Tom Cordaro
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

I had the privilege of participating in the “Weekend of Resistance” called by the Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) as part of their on-going two month public protest of the police killing of the unarmed African-American high school graduate, Michael Brown.  I joined with nearly a thousand other people from all over the Midwest on a march and rally in downtown St. Louis on Saturday, October 11th.

The Organization for Black Struggle (http://obs-onthemove.org/ ) was founded in 1980 by activists, students, union organizers and other community members in order to fill a vacuum left by the assaults on the Black Power Movement. THEIR VISION: To contribute to the creation of a society free of all forms of exploitation and oppression. THEIR MISSION: To build a movement that fights for political empowerment, economic justice and the cultural dignity of the African-American community, especially the Black working class. THEIR PROGRAM: is based upon the Black Freedom Agenda that was introduced at the founding of the Black Radical Congress in 1998 and ratified in 1999.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Included in their freedom agenda is a commitment to fight for the human rights of Black people and all people; to fight against state terrorism, to abolish police brutality, unwarranted incarceration and the death penalty; to fight for political democracy, gender equality and to insure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are recognized and respected as full and equal members of society, and of our communities. They are committed to the struggle for a clean and healthy environment; to building multi-cultural solidarity and alliances among all people of color and to support the liberation struggles of all oppressed peoples.

Many participants expressed their distrust of the legal proceedings in the Michael Brown case because of the lack of transparency; the perceived bias of the prosecutor in this case; and the racial make-up of the grand jury deciding if charges should be brought against the police officer that shot Michael (9 whites and 3 blacks).

Beyond the particulars of this case the OBS and their supporters point to the institutional and systemic forces that have kept people of color in Ferguson and communities of color across the country in a constant state of siege by a criminal justice system that treats them all as criminals; in a perpetual state of disenfranchisement by a political establishment that treats them as second class citizens; and in a permanent state of poverty by an economic system that has designated them as an expendable underclass.

This gathering was one the most racially diverse events I have ever participated in. Two-thirds of the participants were people of color; Black, Latino, Asian, Arab and South Asian. One-third of the participants were white. This was also one of the most youthful demonstrations I have ever attended (I estimate that over 60% of participants were under 35). The march was led by young people and most of the speakers were young people – including teens.

There was a strong showing from labor organizations, student groups, community organizing groups and faith communities. (However, there was no organized Catholic presence at the march.) I did find a few Pax Christi members; John Powell, a member from Ferguson and Heather Brouillet Navarro, a Pax Christi National Council member from St. Louis. I also had the great pleasure of meeting with members of the Kabat House St. Louis Catholic Worker Community who were planning to take part in the direction action the following Monday.

There was an amazing energy during the event. People were determined, focused and committed. People were militant yet joyful; they were disciplined yet spontaneous. Everyone understood what was at stake. This was no extra-circular activity. The people gathered at this event were not there merely to support a cause or to draw attention to an “issue.” They were not interested in building their activist resume. The people at this gathering understood that their survival was at stake; as individuals and as a people.

The situation in Ferguson is not unique to St. Louis County. It is a predominant feature of our entire society. Black and brown skin have been criminalized in our culture, within our criminal justice system, our educational system, our political system, our economic system and in the hearts and minds most people across the country. Whether white people realize it or not, there is a “Ferguson” near us. It is an invisible and unaccountable system of racial control that is every bit as deadly and disenfranchising as Jim Crow.

As a young man familiar with the history of the civil rights movement I used to imagine that if I had been older I would have answered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to religious leaders to come to Selma in 1965 to join in the great struggle. Now at 60-years-old I see that 1965 invitation from Dr. King just as relevant today in the call to come to Ferguson. And more importantly I see the importance of joining in the struggle for human liberation in the “Ferguson” outside my door.