Conference encourages peacemaking, opposes drones

Organizers see a 'prophetic responsibility'

Jul 18, 2016 by

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LANSDALE, Pa. — A conference critiquing drone warfare drew about 100 participants to Christopher Dock Mennonite High School June 24-25.

Harold Penner of 1040 for Peace and Melissa Elliot from the Brandywine Peace Community hold a “cease and desist” order signed by many of the conference participants in front of the Horsham Air Guard Station during the public witness. — John Lien/Coalition for Peace Action

Harold Penner of 1040 for Peace and Melissa Elliot from the Brandywine Peace Community hold a “cease and desist” order signed by many of the conference participants in front of the Horsham Air Guard Station during the public witness. — John Lien/Coalition for Peace Action

“Faithful Witness in a Time of Endless War: Drone Warfare and God’s Call to Peacemaking” featured presentations by religious leaders, activists, academics, a former chaplain and a former CIA operative, culminating in a public witness at the nearby Horsham Air Guard Station. The base is the site of an armed drone command center, which recently became operational.

Several Mennonite congregations supported the conference through planning and financial contributions.

“Mennonites in our area need to have their eyes opened to the reality and true impact of drone warfare, to repent of silence and apathy and to seek guidance of the Holy Spirit as to our role in speaking truth to power,” said Lynelle Bush, a member of the planning committee.

Author and activist Medea Benjamin has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Gaza to meet with family members of drone attack victims. She said drones kill many innocent people and turn terrorists into martyrs. She urged faith communities to speak to the issue of drone warfare or lose their moral voice.

Former CIA analyst Christopher Aaron began his presentation with a moment of silence to remember the people he participated in killing. Aaron joined the CIA after 9/11, believing it was his opportunity to do something that mattered. He noted that despite “successes” in killing high- profile terrorist targets, security in towns and villages worsened. He resigned from the drone program after realizing he was part of a series of continuous conflicts with no discernible goal.

Former Mennonite Central Committee peace educator Titus Peachey offered a reflection on Luke 9, comparing the disciples’ impulse to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village with armed drone warfare. He noted that Jesus rejected this call and changed the paradigm by telling the story of the Good Samaritan several days later.

Priest for empire

One of the speakers, former Army chaplain Chris Antal, resigned his commission on April 12. While noting that he is not a pacifist, he believed his chaplaincy role had become that of priest and morale builder for empire. He was disturbed by the lack of transparency or accountability in the drone program, noting that it does not meet the criteria of protecting the innocent.

Kelly Denton Borhaug, chair of the religion department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., analyzed the language of sacrifice in war culture and Christian theology. Borhaug said peace is not a commodity purchased with blood but a way to live.

Several presenters discussed strategies for building a culture of peace. Muhammed Malik, co-founder of Muslims for Ferguson, discussed his practice of sitting with Christian communities to listen, build trust and begin dialogue. Shane Claiborne, an author and founder of The Simple Way community, described initiatives that create “holy mischief,” including street theater or symbolic acts such as beating guns into garden tools.

“Just because Mennonite [Church USA] delegates affirmed the Faithful Witness resolution last summer doesn’t mean we have completed our prophetic responsibility in our own generation,” said Preston Bush of the planning committee. “The monthly witness at the Horsham Drone Command Center is our opportunity to really be who we say we are.”

The conference was initiated by 1040 for Peace of Lancaster as a way to act on the MC USA resolution.


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  • Dale Welty

    I support any effort that minimizes risk of military or law enforcement personnel and yet achieves the desired results of dealing with law breakers. I am disappointed that this conference does not employ the Christian Peacemaker Teams to confront international and domestic law breakers as an alternative to drones which they oppose. Regarding “the criteria of protecting the innocent” why did this conference not provide strong opposition to the abortion clinics that house weapons of mass destruction against the murder of 58 million innocent unborn babies? Dale Welty

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