EthicsDaily.com asked international Baptist leaders to share their thoughts about the state of the Baptist world six years after 9/11.
ED:How did 9/11 change the Baptist community?
Accad: “Baptists have become divided between pro-war militarists who believe that western powers are called to police the world, and a humbler anti-war stance that, on grounds of principle, cannot believe in the use of force to impose the values of peace, freedom and democracy. Sadly, the second position is still far too weak to stand in the face of the former. It is much easier to delegate–or should I say abdicate–our civic responsibilities to a government of military power than to seek out and support grassroots peace movements.”
Benson: “The events of 9/11 changed Australia’s geopolitical perspective and led to significant changes to our national policies on immigration and security, but they have made no identifiable change in our Baptist community. What has changed is that church-related agencies are more forthright and divisive in addressing religious and ethnic tensions in the community.”
Carro: “I do not think so much has changed since 9/11, except that it made U.S. citizens more aware of what kind of world we live in…. September 11 tore down the essential naivetÃ© in which much of the U.S. culture had been nurtured.”
ED: Have Baptist efforts at peacemaking, seeking justice and advancing the common good made a difference in a world at war?
Accad: “Only at a very small scale. Baptists in the Middle East have been involved in relief work, essentially cleaning microscopic portions of post-war disasters. But we are far from having made any significant contribution in the promotion of peace and justice at any national or regional levels.”
Benson: “In the last 10 years, Australian Baptist World Aid has grown considerably, and has championed not only aid and development but global justice and peace. The Baptist Union of Australia has sought to maintain a strong focus on national and global issues of justice and peace, while at the same time advancing a thoughtful perspective on so-called personal/private morality.”
Carro: “With rare exceptions, Baptists have not been much interested in peace advancement. Baptists see ‘peace’ as a political agenda and do not want to alienate people from their own communities by putting ‘peace’ as something to be sought.”
ED: How have U.S. Baptists done (or not done) to help/hurt the cause of conflict resolution?
Carro: “I do not see U.S. Baptists doing too much for stopping the war…. [M]ost Baptists of the world see the war in Iraq as something incomprehensible. Some would not know what to do with it, and some others might say it is only a war for the control of oil. But all would agree that the U.S. would be much better without a war in Iraq.”
Accad: “Every time a U.S. Baptist supports the cause of war, he or she is hurting the cause of conflict resolution and contributing to the disastrous decline of our world into self-destruction and global conflict.”
ED: What do you think global Baptists ought to say/do about the war in Iraq?
Benson: “I would want Baptists around the world, and specifically the president and general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, to do the following: (1) Acknowledge that preemptive war is a fundamental abrogation of Christian principles of justice and peace. (2) Acknowledge that the current Iraq war is both flawed in purpose and failing in execution and should end. (3) Pray for God to bring a swift end to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims. (4) Call on leaders of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to agree on and implement a reasonable exit strategy. (5) Call on our Baptist community to do all we can to alleviate the suffering and loss caused directly or indirectly be war. (6) Urge world leaders to eschew any involvement in preemptive intervention/war except in response to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council.”
Carro: “The Baptist World Alliance has managed … not to make a resolution on the war in Iraq. There were two resolutions on the Middle East (Israel-Palestine conflict in 2002 and 2003), one on Africa (2003), one on the Korean peninsula (2004), one on Burma/Myanmar (2006), one on Sudan (2006), one on Darfur (2007), but not even a mention of Iraq in any resolution.”
Accad: “A good place to start would be a call to repentance. We must repent concerning the more than 2 million Iraqi refugees (among whom over 400,000 are Christians) in Syria and Jordan who are living in desperate and irremediable conditions as a result of this military engagement. We must repent for being active agents of war, rather than being true children of our God of peace and of the Prince of peace. In short, we must repent for indulging, actively or passively, directly or indirectly, in playing God; or for encouraging and voting for politicians who consider the world to be a chessboard and a stage for their political whit. Global Baptists ought to start calling for a politics of humility, for a politics of engagement and dialogue, against the widespread politics of colonialist-style arrogance.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. Accad, Benson and Carro all write columns for EthicsDaily.com.