Archive for the ‘News’ Category
From the Desk of the Board Chair
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
Dear Friends of the Parliament,
The news from the interfaith movement across the globe is increasingly positive and ever more promising. And I am extremely pleased and proud that the Parliament of the World’s Religions is at the very center of this historic movement that is building momentum day by day.
Thank you for your support, confidence, and prayers.
We have some exciting news of our own about the Parliament that I want to share with you. After a period of developing organizational focus and strength, and proceeding with a careful and lengthy selection process, we are thrilled to announce and welcome our new Executive Director, Daniel Hostetler.
Daniel, we are confident, brings the kind of experience, abilities, and commitment that we believe is required to lead both the Parliament and the wider interfaith movement to new levels of visibility and relevance.
Let me explain. The interfaith movement has tripled in size over the last decade. With that growth comes responsibility to be organizationally stronger and well-positioned for the role we are to play in human affairs. That involves developing measurable goals and demonstrating achievements both in mutual understanding and cooperation among faith communities as well as creating a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. Our fiscal foundation for this kind of work must also be stronger if the Parliament and the interfaith movement it is leading is to realize its promise.
Daniel Hostetler is exactly what we need at this juncture.
- He brings a commitment to peace as a Mennonite
- He brings a deep serving culture as Director of Operations & Finance at World Relief Aurora-Dupage
- And he brings a long business executive experience.
Dan co-founded and functioned as CEO of Legacy Analytics which was recognized by Inc.’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. Dan’s experience includes being the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George S. May International Company Southern European Division (SED) and for ten years lead 300+ employees. He was also Co-Founder of Strategic Business Partners which reached national prominence winning one of the highest awards in the consulting industry.
And Dan is just as pleased to join the Parliament as we are to have him:
“I am extremely excited to have been selected as Executive Director and for the opportunity that lies before us! When I moved out of my for-profit business background and into the not-for-profit world, I wanted to serve a vision which touched my heart with a worthy mission that I could adopt as my own while working for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. I believe I have found this amazing dream job to which I am ready and willing to dedicate myself to completely. So thank you Parliament for this opportunity to serve.”
Dan will start April 20, 2015.
You can read more about him here.
Dr. Mary Nelson, who has served as Executive Director for the past 2.5 years and chaired the selection committee for the new Executive Director, welcomed her successor with these words:
It is a great delight to welcome Daniel Hostetler as the Parliament’s new Executive Director. He brings skills of management and a heart for the interfaith movement that bode well for the future. As I transition into a consultant role, it is a great joy to have someone so capable of stepping into the leadership role. He will build on a strong foundation of a hardworking and committed staff – which is succeeding in bringing enthusiastic registrants and exciting program proposals for the Salt Lake City Parliament – and a wise and involved board of directors.
I want to express my profound thanks to Mary Nelson for her outstanding service as Executive Director at a crucial time in the life of the Parliament and for chairing our selection committee, constituted by the Rev. Bob Thompson, Chair Emeritus of the Parliament, our two current Vice Chairs, Phyllis Curott and Dr. Larry Greenfield and myself.
Mary herself served as the Vice Chair of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees with me before we requested her to serve as Executive Director while we sought a permanent leader. Mary will be working with Dan as a consultant during the transition phase.
We – the board, the staff, and the volunteers – are so thankful for her leadership and her service to the cause of the interfaith movement. We know you share our gratitude.
Please extend your welcome and support to Daniel Hostetler as he begins his work as our new Executive Director.
Abdul Malik Mujahid
Board of Trustees
P.S. There are six major exciting announcements that are coming about at the Parliament which we will share with you soon, God willing, one at a time.
The Parliament strongly expresses support for Interfaith foundation Carpe Diem in presenting Mexico’s second Multicultural Universal Dialogue coming May 6 – 8 in Guadalajara, Jalisco. An international roster of speakers will explore spiritual, scientific, academic and intercultural perspectives on enhancing cooperation across cultures. Many will hail from across Mexico’s religious and indigenous landscape with international guests traveling in from other countries.
One such speaker will be Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.
With congratulations to Carpe Diem on its significant achievement for interfaith within Mexico, the Parliament regards this gathering as a benefit to the entire global interfaith community. “I am very much looking forward to being there,” Mujahid says, adding that he sends his best wishes to the organizers of their third major event.
Chair Mujahid will bring a flavor to the conference tying in with values close to both the organizers of DMU and the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City.
Mourning the Passing of Tonya Frichner, Heroine of Indigenous Rights and Parliament Women’s Task Force Advisor
It is with heavy hearts the Parliament shares news of the February 14 passing of Tonya Frichner. A Monumental Figure in the Indigenous’ Rights Struggle, Frichner spoke at the 1999 Cape Town and 2009 Melbourne Parliaments, and recently began serving as an Advisor to the Parliament Women’s Task Force.
- Women’s Task Force Chairwoman and Parliament Vice-Chair, Phyllis Curott, says,” “She was an extraordinary and great-hearted woman, an Advisor to our Women’s Task Force and President and founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, an NGO in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic & Social Council. She was an activist attorney who played an essential role in the campaign against the Doctrine of Discovery and so many more efforts on behalf of Indigenous peoples and women. Tonya was a great woman and her passing is a great loss. We will miss her wise counsel, her radiant presence but her spirit and inspiration remain in our hearts, and in the Women’s Initiative.”
- Official statement from the Onondaga Nation: http://bit.ly/1Mu6u2v
- The United Nations will hold an event in memory of Frichner later this year
Ms. Gonnella Frichner was a lawyer, activist and professor of American Indian history and law, Federal Indian Law, and anthropology and human rights for over twenty years. Ms. Gonnella Frichner taught at the City College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and Manhattanville College for eight years, as well as CUNY Hunter College and New York University. Ms. Gonnella Frichner also served as an Associate Member of Columbia’s University Seminar on Indigenous Studies.Ms. Gonnella Frichner, worked closely with global Indigenous leadership, as well as the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee. She devoted her life to the pursuing of the right to self-determination, sovereignty, treaty rights, and individual and collective rights for Indigenous Peoples.Ms. Gonnella Frichner was appointed as the North American Regional Representative for a three year term from 2008-2010, to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), an advisory body to the ECOSOC. In that position, her mandates included: human rights, economic and social development, environment, health, education and media. Ms. GonnellaFrichner was nominated by Indigenous Nations, Peoples and Non-Governmental Organizations to the position for her work in the international arena. During that time, Ms. Gonnella Frichner served as Vice-Chairperson as well as the Special Rapporteur for the “Preliminary study of the impact on indigenous peoples of the international legal construct known as the Doctrine of Discovery,” (E/C.19/2010/13), submitted to the UNPFII, Ninth Session, 2010. She has served as an active participant and legal and diplomatic counsel to Indigenous delegations in virtually all United Nations international fora affecting Indigenous Peoples especially during the drafting, negotiations and passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), overwhelmingly adopted in December 2007 (A/RES/61/295) by the UN General Assembly. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) sets the minimum standard for the survival, dignity and individual and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples globally.
Ms. Gonnella Frichner has received many distinguished awards for her service. Most recently, she received the Drums Along the Hudson award in June 2014, shared with the Honorable David N. Dinkins, the 106th Mayor of New York City. Other awards include the Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Award, the Thunderbird Indian of the Year Award, the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the American Indian Community House International Service Award, the SilverCloud Singer Outstanding Service Award for advancing Indigenous Youth, the Ms. Foundation Female Role Model of the Year, which was shared with author J.K. Rowlings and others, The Mosaic Council, Inc. Visionary Award for Making a Difference, which was shared with entertainer Queen Latifah, the New York County Lawyers Association Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa O’Peqtaw Metaehmoh – Flying Eagle Woman Fund for Peace, Justice, and Sovereignty Award, the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team Recognition, a City of Philadelphia proclamation in honor of United Nations Day and Ms. Gonnella Frichner’s work to “promote the rights for native people around the world,” recognition from the Temple of Understanding, recognition from the Beacon Two Row Wampum Festival, and the Alston Bannerman Fellowship.
Ms. Gonnella Frichner co-founded the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus, together with Ms. Tia Oros Peters (Zuni), Executive Director of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, and Ms. Esmeralda Brown, President of the Southern Diaspora Research and Development Center.
Ms. Gonnella Frichner served on several boards of directors including serving as the Chairperson of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, the City University of New York School of Law Board of Visitors, the Interfaith Center of New York, the Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action, the Seven Eagles Corporation, the Flying Eagle Women Fund for Peace, Justice and Sovereignty, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, the Boarding School Healing Project, and the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team, the official national team of the Haudenosaunee since 1984. It is a Federation of International Lacrosse member nation and World Lacrosse Championship medalists. Ms. Gonnella Frichner authored a number of articles and papers on Indigenous Peoples and was working on two books, including an autobiography. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John’s University of New York and graduated magna cum laude in 1980, she earned a Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law in 1987 and a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Colby College, Waterville in Maine in 2012.
In September 2014 United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon quoted Ms. Gonnella Frichner in his remarks: “A longtime indigenous activist and former member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Tonya GonnellaFrichner, once said, “Indigenous peoples all speak many different languages but in our meetings, we are speaking one language. Our relationship to Mother Earth is identical.”
Ms. Gonnella Frichner, 67 of Union City, New Jersey began her journey to her Creator on February 14, 2015 and is survived by her loving husband of 42 years, University Professor and Fashion Institute of Technology HerbFrichner, and their son Jason M. Frichner (Eva), Assistant Vice-President of Marketing for the Hanes Corporation. Ms. Gonnella Frichner is also survived by her sisters, Nannette Gonnella (Carol), Jacquelyn Gonnella Thomas, and Kimberley Gonnella Tobian (Brian); brothers, Henry Gonnella, Jr., Michael Gonnella, Thomas Gonnella (Lucia) and Christopher Gonnella; her beloved nieces, Betty Lyons (Tadodaho Sidney Hill) and Maya Thomas; nephews, David Tobian and Matthew Gonnella and several nieces and nephews. Ms. Gonnella Frichner held dear to her heart the AILA staff that supported her work, Chief of Staff, Murrielle Borst-Tarrant (Kuna/Rappahanock Nations) and Research & Policy Adviser, Roger Drew. She was predeceased by her father, Henry L. Gonnella in 1993 and her mother, Maxine Nolan Gonnella in 2003.
Donations can be made to the American Indian Law Alliance to carry on Tonya’s important work. For more info on donations email email@example.com.
To express sympathy please visit ballweg-lunsford.com
Council on Foreign Relations to Hold Religious Environmentalism Conference Call with Mary Evelyn Tucker
CFR Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series on Monday, February 9, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. (ET) will feature Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of Yale University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology. Tucker will lead an on-the-record conversation on the role of faith-based organizations in global efforts to address climate change. Read more…
Dr. Tucker is a senior lecturer and research scholar at Yale University where she teaches in a joint master’s program between the university’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. She has organized a series of ten conferences on world religions and ecology at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions. Dr. Tucker is the author of Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase and Ecology and Religion as well as co-editor of the volumes on Confucianism and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, and Hinduism and Ecology.
If you would like to join the discussion, you may contact Council on Foreign Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Georgia Kinsley at 212.434.9837, and we will send you the toll free dial-in number and password. This invitation is transferable, but limited to religious leaders and scholars; we invite you to forward it to any colleagues who might be interested.
The Charlie Hebdo incident: we cannot not sight it and refrain from all comment. It would be redundant to revisit here the obvious aspects of the incident.
Thus, obviously, the murderers at the office of the French satirical magazine were simply evil.
Obviously, the killers were motivated by their obsession with their version of Islam to do the evil act.
Obviously, haters of Islam could be counted on immediately to call for hateful counter-action. They did not disappoint.
Obviously, obsessive critics could be expected to trace all the evils to “their” holy book and to discount descriptions of and calls for holy wars in other people’s holy books. What was expected has occurred.
Obviously, anyone who spoke up for patience, tolerance, understanding, and positive responses to the evil had to be ready to be dismissed as vapid, naïve, and blind excusers of evil.
Five “obviouslys” should suffice. Some other voices revealed how difficult it is to go beyond the obvious, but they tried. The most interesting of these were those who addressed some rationales and motives of the killers and their spiritual kin. Thus Bill Donahue of the Catholic League issued a release captioned, “Muslims Are Right to Be Angry.” To the point: “We,” he wrote, should not “tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked the violent reaction.” Donahue was predictable, but one can understand his emotional response.
“Charlie Hebdo” wanted to taunt and outrage believers in other faiths than Islam, notably Judaism and Catholicism, both of which have their own defense leagues. You don’t have to be a Catholic or to be offended by the paper’s cartoons picturing nuns masturbating or popes wearing condoms.
Rabbi David Lerner of Tikkun took a different tack: the incident should remind “us” in the West of other kinds of dehumanizing in our media. Alas, “we tolerate the kind of endless put-downs that the ‘humor’ magazines and even supposedly liberal comedians like Bill Maher perpetrate, not realizing how much damage all of this does to our souls.”
Becoming concerned with evils that do “damage to our souls” might be one positive response to come out of the crisis in which we measure “their” evils against ours. Anyone who reads “Comment-section” responses to internet coverage of this topic will encounter myriad vengeful, hateful, also-blasphemous verbal swings at reverent citizens minding their own business. Some who comment do express proper gratitude for the non-lethal or, at least, less lethal expressions, and credit Western democracy for providing us with forums which protect blasphemers.
The moment calls for new appreciation for those polities we enjoy which have encouraged inter-group civility, threatened though that may be in these days of hyper-polarization. But people in our citing and commenting vocations can also use the moment to recalibrate our measures of outrage.
In 1988 when we were chartered to begin a multi-volume, multi-year, multi-religious study of fundamentalisms, a historian of the domestic versions of such helpfully reminded us editors that, as we study militant and belligerent religious movements and forces, we should remember that “there are no guns or bombs stored in the basement of Moody Bible Institute.”
The MBI, a stronghold of latter-day American now-moderating fundamentalisms, is visible from my windows. I never feel threatened and do feel welcomed. “We” cannot solve all the problems at the core of the present tragedy, but those who ask us to begin at home to promote understanding do serve the cause. They may sound weak. They are strong.
Author, Martin E. Marty, is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at www.memarty.com.
Donohue, Bill. “Muslims Are Right To Be Angry.” Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, January 7, 2015, 2015 News Releases. http://www.
Ohlheiser, Abby. “#JeSuisCharlie: Cartoonists react to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.” Washington Post, January 7, 2015, Comic Riffs. http://www.
Lerner, Michael. “Mourning the Parisian Journalists Yet Noticing the Hypocrisy.” Tikkun, January 9, 2015. http://www.tikkun.org/
Cole, Teju. “Unmournable Bodies.” New Yorker, January 9, 2015, Culture. http://www.newyorker.
Saffa, Ozzie. “‘Dangerous Moment’ for Europe, as Fear and Resentment Grow.” Ozzie Saffa Blog, January 8, 2015. http://ozziesaffa.
Schuessler, Jennifer. “Charlie Hebdo Attack Chills Satirists and Prompts a Debate.” New York Times, January 9, 2015, Arts. http://www.nytimes.com/
Kristof, Nicholas. “Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?” New York Times, January 7, 2015, Opinion Pages. http://www.nytimes.com/
Krule, Miriam. “Charlie Hebdo’s Most Controversial Religious Covers, Explained.” Slate. Accessed January 11, 2015.
Calamur, Krishnadev. “‘Charlie Hebdo,’ A Magazine of Satire, Mocks Politics, Religion.” NPR, January 7, 2015, International. http://www.npr.
“Paris attacks: Millions rally for unity in France.” BBC News, January 11, 2015, Europe. http://www.bbc.com/
Alderman, Liz. “Huge Show of Solidarity Against Terrorism in Paris.” New York Times, January 11, 2015, Europe. http://www.nytimes.
Martin, Marty E. and R. Scott Appleby, eds. The Fundamentalism Project. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994-2004. http://press.
To read previous issues of Sightings, visit http://divinity.
Parliament Board Condemns Violence in France and Nigeria; Invites All Faith Communities to Issue Joint Statement
“The Parliament of the World’s Religions vehemently condemns revengeful attacks killing 12 journalists and four Jews in France, and an estimated 1500 women and children in Nigeria. Now this cycle of revenge has engulfed the French Muslims with more than 20 attacks on Islamic buildings. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to all of France and Nigeria as they grieve.
The Parliament believes that use of religion or any other socio-political ideology to “justify” violence is simply not acceptable.
The Parliament urges the global community to remember that such acts violate the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and asks that faith communities stand together to break this cycle of revenge by speaking out and organizing programs which enhance positive human relationship of compassion and forgiveness.
The Parliament plans to organize special programing in the forthcoming 2015 Parliament in October 15-19th on the cycle of war, violence, and hate. We invite all faith communities to participate in a joint declaration with a clear resolve to do our utmost to develop a movement against war, violence and hate.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Via The National Office of L’Association Coexister/The Coexist Association/Interfaith Tour:
“After the attack to the Paris office of the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo, Coexist interfaith youth movement, wishes to express its shock, fear and sadness at such an act of barbarism. We are deeply affected by what has happened.
This odious act affects not only journalists, police officers, their families and friends to whom we offer our condolences. It affects our national community. It undermines social cohesion of our country, our citizenship, France. Freedom of the press and opinion are part of the foundations of our democracy. And this freedom is not negotiable.
We seek to promote respect for all, all faiths, all convictions. We also defend the right to criticism, caricature and derision. Freedom is a precious asset is our common heritage.
Extremism, wherever it comes from, must be fought and put out of harm’s way. Against all fundamentalism, against fanaticism that disfigure the image of the communities they claim to represent. It is urgent to work for national unity. The intolerance must be fought, ignorance defeated.
“They wanted to put France on her knees, instead let us send them a message. We are here in solidarity and united. The goal of terrorists is to divide a population that is the victim. Panic, division, or denouncing a culprit in our national community would prove them right. ” said Samuel Grzybowski, Chairman of Coexist
It is time for the Republic to emerge.
For freedom of expression, brotherhood among citizens. ”
By Abdul Malik Mujahid
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions
“We have avenged the Prophet Mohammad,” the gunmen shouted after killing 12 at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, yesterday. The publication is known for lampooning the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
Well. The Prophet banned revenge as he built his peace sanctuary in seventh-century Madinah, establishing instead the rule of law.
He never killed anyone. Only, after God’s command to defend his peace sanctuary, under attack by the non-Muslims of Makkah, did he picked up arms. These defensive battles lasted a total of six days in his life and the number of dead from both sides was less than 300.
Peace was his goal, which he achieved by developing alliances between Madinah’s non-Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
Violent extremists who accuse others of disrespect, then consider this a license to kill have nothing to do with the Islam taught by the Prophet they claim to be avenging. They have nothing to do with the message of forgiveness and mercy which Allah revealed to the Prophet; nothing to do with the law and order the Prophet established and upheld, which led to him being considered one of the world’s greatest lawgivers by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Muslim love for Prophet Muhammad is unquestionable. God’s peace and blessings be upon him. It does hurt us when people are abusive towards the Prophet.
It is, however, the ignorant, who do not know the loving path of mercy and forgiveness taught by the Prophet; they are turning into violent extremists and committing crimes in his name.
This is not love. This is hate.
The Prophet would be horrified at what is being done in his name to avenge disrespect to his honor.
The non-Muslims of Makkah tortured the Prophet and his followers. He did not retaliate. He preferred to move away, first encouraging migration to Abyssinia, which was ruled by what he described as a “just king”, who was a Christian, Najashi or Negus.
When some tribes agreed, he established the peace sanctuary in Madinah via constitution and consensus. He built a society that promoted inclusiveness, freedom, rule of law, and peace.
Respect for other faiths was a key element of Madinah society. Muslims, are by Scripture and Prophetic practice, ordered to accept God’s revealed books, as well as His Prophets and Messengers. We are also ordered to never insult the cherished beliefs of others, for humor or in retaliatory anger. This is why even today, throughout the Muslim world, you will not find newspapers being disrespectful of other religions. The terrorists are not the norm. They are the exception.
Muslims in France, America, and around the world are sick of terrorists perpetuating violence that is a violation of their faith in their name. We are against war and hate. We are also tired of the abuse of freedom of speech to spew hatred, mistrust, fear, and misunderstanding.
War, terrorism, and Islamophobia are a nexus, connected to each other and condemnable. They feed off of each other, perpetuating violence and fear. We Muslims condemn terrorism, war as well as hate. We must strive against them all.
We need to understand this abuse of the Prophet for what it is: a form of psychological violence intended to hurt and harm. Our response when we encounter such attacks must be to seek God’s forgiveness and respond with what is better: prayers on the Prophet and Duas for him.
Our Prophet was a mercy to all human beings, regardless of their religious, racial, cultural or ethnic background. We, as his followers, must live and spread this message today at a time when hatefulness and ugliness towards each other has become the norm.
It is abusive to partially quote the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, thus distorting what he said.
Via Parliament Vice-Chair Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield in response to data released by Pew quantifying the racial wealth gap in the United States:
“Black Lives Matter” can have more than one meaning. We know the meaning, because of recent events, as it relates to life and death. But an article in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday (12/14//14) reveals another meaning–or should. It’s about the “expanding racial wealth gap” since the Great Recession. Virtually everybody experienced an erosion of wealth at that time (nearly 40% for the “typical American” between 2007 and 2010). But during the recovery it is a different story. For whites wealth leveled off between 2010-2013, but for blacks and Hispanics there was continued decline. “Now whites have 13 dollars for every dollar held by African-Americans” and it’s 10-1 for Hispanics. “For blacks, the decline between 2010 and 2013 was precipitous–more than 33 percent” (median income dropped 9 percent for minorities during that period). Why? Higher rates of unemployment for minorities than for whites. Also, whites tend to be more invested in the stock market, which has soared during this period. And then there is the value of homes: it fell by 4.6 percent for whites, 18.4 percent for African American households. We have to ask ourselves as a country whether this kind of disparity reflects the value we attach to not just life but the quality of life as reflected in economic well-being. And if we find that this is true and unacceptable, then we have to ask how we can change not just the dollars but also the values.
About Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Vice-Chair of the Board, Parliament of the World’s Religions:
Larry Greenfield is the executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he received his B.A. degree from Sioux Falls College. He received his B.D., M.A., and Ph.D. (in theology) from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he subsequently taught and served as dean of students. Later he served as president of Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York, where he also brought the Roman Catholic St. Bernard’s Institute to the campus. He served as vice president for research at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics in Chicago, where his own research, funded by foundation grants, focused on multi-faith understandings of sexuality, science, and civil discourse. He has served pastorates and campus ministries in Chicago and Ann Arbor. He is also the co-founder (and currently chairperson of the board of directors) of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. His continuing concentration on religion and justice receives expression in his bi-weekly essays (published locally and nationally) entitled “Thinking Theologically about the Common Good.” He is an ordained clergyperson in the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. He is the past president of the American Theological Society/Midwest. He serves on the boards of numerous ecumenical and interfaith organizations and chairs the board of trustees of the Baptist Theological Union at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Since June 18, 2004, the first day U.S. drones killed people in what has been called the U.S. “global war on terror,” people of faith have questioned whether the use of lethal drones is justifiable.
Since then, the CIA has conducted an estimated 400 or more drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Drone strikes are continuing in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, including women and children.These “targeted” killings are conducted remotely in countries against which we have not declared war. Lethal drone strikes occur without warning, target for death specific individuals who are secretly selected, and are operated remotely by individuals thousands of miles away.
The U.S. religious community questions the morality of such drone warfare.
Many people of faith who are not pacifists adhere to the “Just War” tradition as enshrined in international law, which assumes that war is always an evil, but that sometimes there is a greater evil that requires military force.
The criteria for that “sometimes” include: that the war be waged by a legitimate authority; that it is clear who is a civilian and who is a combatant; that civilians should always be immune from direct attack; that there be a reasonable probability of success; that the use of force be proportional to the goals of the conflict; that military force be used only in the face of imminent danger; and that war should always be a last resort.
Applying these criteria to the use of drones raises a number of disturbing questions.
What kind of authority from Congress does the Administration have to use lethal drones? Does this authority extend to targeted killings outside active war zones? Is it clear what the geographical zone of this war is? Should lethal drones be implemented by the CIA, as they are now, given that the CIA is by its very nature secretive?
Are lethal drones sufficiently capable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants? Why is the rate of civilian casualties so alarmingly high? Do drones cause more civilian casualties than traditional military methods?
What are the current and long-term goals of the use of lethal drones? Are drones likely to accomplish these goals or does their use create more hostility and serve as a recruiting tool for terrorist extremists? As other nations acquire the capacity for drone warfare, does that change the likelihood of accomplishing these goals?
Is the damage caused by drones to human life and property really proportional to the goals sought? Is the possibility of an attack on U.S. personnel sufficiently imminent to justify the use of drones?
Is the use of drones a last resort — have other options such as financial restraints, cooperative law enforcement, encouraging people to not join extremist groups, economic incentives, and mobilizing public opinion been fully exhausted? War should always be a last resort, but drones make it easier to rush into war. For the time being, the use of drones has very few up-front risks for the nations that use them. They are controlled several thousand miles from the battlefield and do not require any use of ground troops.
The use of lethal drones, therefore, raises questions of conscience for the religious community. People of faith including myself have a responsibility to shine a bright light on this doubtful means of conducting war. We are among those who must raise the questions, and we are doing just that by organizing the first ever Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, which will be held Jan. 23-25 at Princeton Theological Seminary. People from a wide range of religious backgrounds — including myself — will address these questions, and much more. All people of faith are invited to register for the conference.
The goal of beginning this conversation in the religious community is to study the use of lethal drones and then make policy recommendations to the U.S. government. We will call on religious communities to advocate that these policy recommendations become reality.
The Rev. George Hunsinger is Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Published with Permission.