The Jihad of Jesus

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This is a summary of my thoughts from Dave Andrews’ address in Dunedin a couple of weeks ago.

I found what he had to say worked in with Jihad al-madina, a suggestion for a Muslim understanding of non-violence that I heard some years ago at the Abrahamite Inter-faith Peace lecture; not just not-violence, but a positive value of civic discipleship.  The cultivation of such a discipline works for Christians as well as Muslims.

Dave Andrews identifies the following values:

  • recognise that the God of Abraham is also the god of the Other in this dialogue
  • don’t start with identifying the Other as false, or yourself as superior
  • affirm the good in the other – confront what is bad in ourselves (otherwise that beam in our eye is going to do someone an injury!)

Jihad does not equate with war in the Koran. That is a different word, qital.  Jihad is the non-violent struggle for justice.  Jihad needs to be taken back from dangerous people of both sides.

Jesus should not be the poster boy for crusade.  He is the kalimatullah, the word of God.

Andrews introduced the vow of the Kudai Khidmatgar, written by Badshah Khan, an advocate for non-violence alongside Gandhi in pre-independent India.  It deserves to be better known:

I am a Khudai Khidmatgar; and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.

I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. 

I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty. 

I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity. 

I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend. 

I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices. 

I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil. 

I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work. 

Non-violent change needs extravagant impropriety.



Is it worth voting?

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A debate hosted by the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago.  Labour Party politicians David Clark and Marion Hobbs spoke for the affirmative; university lecturers Richard Jackson and Bryce Edwards spoke for the negative.  The debate was chaired by Kevin Clements.

Politicians are in it for their own gain.  They become a political caste, serving their own interests.   They would tell us that our democracy is funded on raffles.  Voting is a civic sacrament and we should all worship it.

If voting mattered it would be illegal (I think that that is a quote from Mark Twain).  New Zealand has a democracy where real change is possible and voting matters.  We have healthcare, education, roads and the rule of law.

At the same time voting cannot meet the challenge of climate change and inequality.  Our electoral cycle is limited to three years, when we are offered the choice of accelerated neo-liberalism or neo-liberalism in soft focus: vote the bastards out or keep them in for another three years.  Until the option of voting the right lizard in is made to us again in the next electoral cycle we remain apathetic to what they do.  So long as we get some jam with our tea.  So the voter has no power, no option, except the status quo, and special interests have better access to our politicians than the average voter.  The politicians imagine that they have been given a mandate while the voters remain alienated.

Democratic institutions have lost control of neo-liberal capitalism.  Democracy is under threat to the oligarchy (the 1%ligarchy?).  It has become a celebrity contest, about personalities and not issues.

So we need to stay informed, to stay involved, to remain interested.  It’s up to you.  It’s your choice if you don’t vote.  The system is broken.  Say no to business as usual.  Don’t endorse what you don’t believe in.  Change will be made by politics on the street.  If you do vote then don’t complain; you voted them in!

Like the churches, and the sports clubs, and the voluntary organisations, the political parties are running on a smaller group of people.  We are not interested in joining up.  It’s a smaller group of people who are making policy for the rest of us.

Final questions:  Is the neo-liberal project over, like the politicians would tell us?  Is there an alternative to voting by taking the initiative, being involved and being informed?  What if voting impeeds progress?  What if we can’t move to a no-growth economic system?

Despite the argument a vote of hands made it clear that the majority of the audience intended to vote in the September election.  The chair declared that the ayes had it.  Questions from the floor made it clear that the audience wanted to hear more about the alternatives to voting:  Be involved; be engaged; be informed; be aware; learn about alternatives; question; create community.

I was glad to be part of this audience.  It was well attended and the lecture theatre was full.

The Discursive Construction of Social Processes, or, How Stories Make Our World

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I had forgotten the awful doom of the end of the university year with the inevitable result that there is less to attend.  Time becomes a wasteland.  My time is free now and that is unfortunate when I’m looking for things to spin the mind.

Fortunately Peace and Conflict Studies had an Inaugural Lecture as Pr. Richard Wells Jackson took up his Professorial post.  The second professor  of this Centre, I believe, with Kevin Clements.  The Counter Terrorism Unit from Critical Terrorist Studies in the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies let me in.  They looked very impressive in black costume.  The agents present on the doors for the X-Files Capping Show were more shouty, some years ago.  Just saying.  Everyone was let in.  They didn’t even confiscate the coconut thins that were given to the person sitting next to me.  There was a good attendance of University and Peace Studies worthies.

Professor Jackson’s personal narrative is interesting.  He was born in Africa to Salvation Army missionaries and educated in New Zealand, before teaching at Manchester and Aberystwyth.  In his education he dropped Economics in favour of Political Studies because Political Studies was more interesting.  Since then he has moved into Peace Studies, a pacifist in wolf’s clothing.

He talked about how our narratives make up our perception of our lives and world events.  Our origin stories give our nations a founding narrative.  They tell us who is included with us in nationhood, and who is excluded, both internally and externally from our national narrative.  Our scientific stories tell us about the studies of the world, what is observed, how we react as a society.

We live with the story in our fiction and media, that there is a ticking bomb in our public places.  Only the terrorists know where it is.  We don’t have time for them to tell us without coercion.  The hero in our stories of good and evil must resort to redemptive violence to extract the information from the perpetrators.  So we endorse torture and dehumanising practices.  Because we live in fear of the ‘unknown unknowns’, the threat that is always invisible to us until it is revealed.  The price of our security is paid by someone else being, and remaining, our victims.  We never ask why the terrorist acts in that way.  Our hero is always the Man of Action, not the traducer or the interpreter.

Our story leads us to torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib

The story exists.  The story changes and evolves.  We can change our stories, we can change the narratives that we tell ourselves.


Ending Holy Wars

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This was the title of Isak Svensson’s parting lecture for the National Centre for Peace and Conflict studies held at Holy Name Church on Tuesday.  By the end of the evening the church was very cold as the roof was being repaired and there was no heating.

Observations from the lecture:

When a conflict becomes a religious conflict quite often because alternative secular ideologies have been tried and exhausted.  Religion in conflict is a weapon of last resort.  Once it’s applied it’s like uranium.  There is no turning back.  Religious warriors will not back down.  They will continue the flight to the bitter resolution.  Even in the resolution of a conflict the after-affects will continue on.