PEACE FOR LIFE: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES AT THIS JUNCTURE
By Rev. Eunice Santana
The main contradiction in today’s world continues to be between the empire that seeks to colonize everyone in an attempt to gain control over everything, – furthering its own wealth and extending its own markets – and the people who yearn for Life that can flourish as a fruit of justice that gives birth to peace. In this scenario, the use of military force, as it has been demonstrated throughout the ages, continues to be the dominating instrument. The system that the empire defends and imposes by its very nature is violent: based on inequalities, exploitation, greed and profit-making; scales of superiority and inferiority, worthiness and unworthiness; and, disregard for the well being and dignity of the majority of humanity. However, it is promoted under the façade of democracy and freedom.
Ever since the fall of the USSR, the United States of America claimed for itself the right to dominate the world completely. It outlined plans to prevent the emergence of any rival, by any means necessary, and ways to discourage any advanced industrial nation from challenging US leadership. In order to deter potential competitors, the US decided to maintain and expand NATO and to extend its defense commitments. Furthermore, it continues to develop its military might and has dispersed military installations in more than 130 countries to watch over and protect its interests.
Although in the realm of political credibility and economic power it has experienced some losses, it continues to be “the superpower” and does not inhibit itself from flaunting it. To ensure its control and uncontested influence in many parts of the world, it utilizes the broad circuit of military bases and installations constructed for this purpose. Without doubt it has repeatedly revealed its intention and determination to do whatever it takes to safeguard and expand its interests worldwide. Without any hesitation it is ready to intervene, to engage in war, declared or not, “pre-emptive or humanitarian”, because it can. To achieve this it relies not only on its military production, bases and allies, but also on the use of ideological manipulation that creates enemies that must be destroyed because “they constitute a threat to peace and security” and false stories manufactured to support war and other aggressive actions. It also exerts control of mass media that serves to entertain people with trivia, to hide information, and to misinform them. Along with this, it utilizes the cooptation of language giving it new meanings (democracy, collateral damage, security, humanitarian) to serve its interests.
Recently, US President, Obama has made it clear that they will do everything that it may take to defend their interests. In the name of their unilateral decision to dominate the world, the sovereignty of nations is disrespected and trampled, Peace is mocked, and Life in all its forms is threatened.
In our world today, through this “new” process of colonization that is taking place, people’s resources continue to be coveted and plundered -oil, gas, water- and the land that people are losing as it is claimed, leased or taken over for military bases, for raising products for exportation for fuel or grabbed so that someone else can raise food to export back home. People are starving even in the midst of plenty due to unemployment, scarcity of food available to them, food prices being high, climate change, drought, floods, conflicts and war. Many are condemned to misery while a few live in luxury. The meetings in Istanbul, concerning the “Least Developed” 48 nations, twice as many as it was in 1973, reveal this. The 1 billion who suffer hunger and the almost ½ of the world’s population living in poverty attest to it. At the same time trillions of dollars are spent on armaments, wars and arms-related research and other activities.
However, the search for dignity, justice, participation, peace and life in abundance cannot be silenced nor stilled. We have been reminded of this by the people of the Middle East and North Africa and by all the different struggles that are being waged all over the world: struggles in search of reforms and a more livable environment; against poverty, climate change and corruption; for human rights, sovereignty, and respect for the basic rights of all, among others. Regional coalitions such as ALBA in Latin America, Mercosur in the Southern Cone, MENA, all represent some form of challenge to external domination and impositions.
Furthermore, the US Empire is not without its weaknesses. Its budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion dollars. Economically it holds the record for the world’s largest public debt of over 14 trillion dollars, owing, among others, over 1.1 trillion dollars to China, its greatest contender for power in Africa and an expanding global economic power. Even as we meet, Obama is in China. The US’ budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion dollars. Economically the US is not the leading power, and even the way it handled the recent economic crisis, bailing out big companies and not the people, has weakened its political influence. Its military intervention against Lybia with the use of NATO forces is raising questions about the extent to which the discontinuation of Lybia’s nuclear program seven years ago has facilitated this and, consequently, the honesty of the US and its abuse of power are under scrutiny in many circles. As information travels, its hypocrisy and self-serving propaganda are exposed. Lately, its support for unjust conditions and autocratic governments, because they serve US interests, has been better revealed. Internally, as services for the people are lowered, military expenditure is being questioned. And some European allies do not appear to be unconditional. They are restricting conditions under which their forces will fight and lowering their military budgets and troops (Germany, Italy, France and the British who have lowered their troops to 80,000).
Although still “in formation” BRICS has potential as a deterrent to the voracious ambitions of the empire. Many, however, share the fear that even some who belong to this coalition already exhibit imperial ambitions and behavior themselves.
The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa to some extent weaken the US’s most formidable ally in the region: Israel. This shall elicit direct responses in the US from the more conservative religious groups and lobbyists that will intensify efforts to uplift the defense of Israel and shall try to halt any advances in favor of Palestine. In the same manner the killing of Osama Bin Laden provides fertile ground for exacerbating fear, enmity and overall “security” issues within the US that will impact other countries: “terrorist” profiling, increased military safety measures, divisions, increased discrimination, special laws further restricting rights, impunity, glorification of the military, utilization of religion to demonize and separate, and others. The increase in conservatism at all levels within the empire, including and perhaps especially in religious sectors, as well as its repercussions outside and in our countries, poses meaningful challenges for PFL.
We aspire to a world without empire: to move from where we are today to the fulfillment of the vision that we share. How to move from one point to the other or how to collaborate so that that world moves from injustices to justice, from war, deprivation, oppression and exploitation to peace and conviviality, from hunger and want to life is a monumental challenge, a colossal task. We can only aspire to advance some steps in the right direction, for humanity to advance in that direction, bearing in mind that history is not linear.
Where are we as Peace for Life at this juncture, at this historical moment?
We are facing a financial crisis. We are also facing the challenge of reorganizing our work so that it communicates well in terms of on-going programs instead of activities and we need to define more clearly our organizational structure. In spite of this, we are encouraged to think that it is precisely from crises that movements are able to rise and take-off, which gives this meeting and future actions derived from it special importance.
We are aware of our limitations in terms of resources and numbers. Yet, we abound in talents, intelligence, vision, commitment, perseverance, various skills and goodwill, among other things. In spite of our difficulties, we have managed to capture other people’s imagination, people who see in PFL hope and possibilities to make a difference, especially at a moment when it is difficult for many people “to see the forest because of the trees”, – that is, to understand or keep up with what is happening in other latitudes due to the many issues they have to tackle at home on a daily basis – when many are losing hope and when still others, including institutions, are taking the conservative road.
Our geopolitical analysis has been correct. We have put forth an invitation that’s inclusive and attractive at the present time when more people appear to be in search and validation of spirituality rather than religions. Although not a coalition of organizations, we are people involved in various struggles with experience and capabilities. We have made some accomplishments with few resources. We have exhibited capacity to practice solidarity and to work through problems and frustrations without “injury”. Today, the vocabulary of empire and the analysis derived from it is more common, acceptable, than when we started.
At this time we are challenged to grow, to build upon our positive experiences, to honor our commitments to others and to sharpen our organizational structure without turning it into an armor that is heavy to carry and that can hold us back.
When we speak about growth, we are speaking about movement building: strengthening commitment and broadening the constituency. We need people who are committed and who exhibit their commitment through various contributions of time, resources and wisdom. For this we need to have visibility and to share our vision. Having the correct analysis is not enough if we cannot share it, expand it and translate its lessons into actions. Perhaps, we should develop a concrete campaign of sharing analysis through the internet and conveying actions of solidarity being carried out. We could also invite dialogue with people of other faiths on specific themes.
Another area is coalition building with other compatible groups: sharing analysis, invitations to initiatives and developing joint ventures. There’s always a need to build upon relationships already established without losing sight of our specificity.
The Forums are opportunities for building, for expanding the movement, adding committed individuals from other contexts, strengthening local/national initiatives, for the exchange of information, for dialogue, to sharpen analysis, uncover new challenges, and facilitate the local/national/international dimensions. They are also a space for local/national visibility and solidarity building.
The Festivals can communicate our vision while at the same time affirming identity, defending sovereignty, culture and diversity and promoting resistance to the empire.
During these two days of our meeting we need to concentrate on ways to overcome our crisis. The following week while we attend the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, we should take advantage to promote our views and to share perspectives on the various themes.
In his excellent presentation this morning, Ninan Koshy outlined for us five challenges that are directly related to the present geopolitical situation and to the tasks that we have undertaken as Peace for Life. Allow me to begin by acknowledging and reaffirming them.
1. Recover and recapture the full meaning of peace and critique formulations that do not reflect it.
2. Expose and contest the continuation of imperial policies by the Obama regime.
3. Condemn violations of sovereignty and imperial military interventions.
4. Affirm the aspirations of the Arab people for freedom and human dignity.
5. Continue to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people and actively support them as they enter a new stage in their struggle for statehood.
To these we should add:
6. Continue to build upon our commitment of solidarity to Colombia/Latin America.
7. Explore ways to reconnect with colleagues and friends in the USA for the purpose of involving them in PFL.
8. Our future activities and actions can be analyzed in light of these objectives for implementation as well as for effectiveness.
These are difficult times. We must be aware that our commitment places us against the main current of many who have power. To carry out whatever we collectively decide to assume at this meeting, we need resources: people with time, energy and commitment. We also need financial contributions and wisdom shared for the benefit of all. At this meeting we must uncover ways to raise funds for PFL’s structure and program; to communicate our common understandings with clarity; and, to attract others who may also opt for life in abundance for all of humanity.
Rev. Eunice Santana,
Moderator: Peace for Life
16 May 2011
Arecibo, Puerto Rico.