Faith in the Face of Militarization
Indigenous, Feminist, and Interreligious Voices
- ISBN: 9781725283985
- Published By: Wipf and Stock Publishers
- Published: April 2021
In Faith in the Face of Militarization: Indigenous, Feminist, and Interreligious Voices, Jude Lal Fernando has assembled a refreshingly diverse and prophetic collection of scholar-activists who not only envisage but also work towards forming a more just, inclusive world. From the perspectives of “trampled women” (112), the powerless, Dalits and other indigenous advocates, and academics across the globe, this collection of essays is clear and consistent on what its authors see as the structural evils and injustice committed by neo-colonial powers, especially as embodied in the United States. While a few essays can sometimes slip into manifestos, there is a reason for the urgency and emotion. Our world—especially post-COVID and in the midst of ongoing, rampant conflicts, both those currently receiving the media spotlight (Ukraine) and many overlooked (as in Ethiopia or Yemen)—continues to suffer from grave economic inequalities. There is a minority living fairly comfortably while a majority struggle for basic human rights, including sufficient food, medical care, and shelter. Hovering over everything is the reality of climate change, mostly caused by the actions (or inactions) of the so-called first-world but borne mostly by the poorest of the poor. It is with this sense of desperation that Fernando and these authors, speaking also from religious and spiritual standpoints, ask: “What does believing mean in the face of empire and militarization?” For Fernando, “the practical aim of this collection is to help the reader journey towards that non-imperialist alternative world” (24).
The collection begins with a foreword by Colin Cowan, general secretary of The Council for World Missions (CWM), and a preface by the global Indian activist Sudipta Singh, a key figure in CWM’s 2018 conferences on “Resistance to Empire and Militarization,” from which many of the volume’s chapters are derived (xiv). Following Fernando’s thorough and passionate introduction of the book’s key themes and arguments, are eleven essays divided into four main, but thematically overlapping sections: (1) Empire, Militarization, and Indigenous Voices; (2) Wars, Women, and Feminist Voices; (3) Struggles for Just Peace and Interfaith Dialogue; and (4) Solidarity as Liberation. Of the four sections, I found the essays in section 3 to be the least cohesive. Nevertheless, Dan González Ortega’s call to end systemic violence in Mexico, Young-Block Kim’s analysis of the legacy of minjung (the masses) theology in Korea, and Erin Shea Martin’s analysis of the work of Enrique Dussel and Raimon Panikkar in light of Afro-Brazilian capoeira, are all worth reading. In the same section, Mark Braverman, though committed to Jewish-Christian dialogue, bravely takes a vehement stance against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. While such a position has value, Braverman’s fervor regarding who are the perpetrators could still benefit from more nuance and political contextualization (i.e., castigating the moral failures of not only Israel, but also of other governments in the Arab World, including Palestinian leaders, whose policies continue to crush or ignore the common people under Israeli occupation).
As noted, the United States is often deemed the main perpetrator of global crimes in these essays. While this position could make some (American) readers become defensive, the perspectives and accusations are worth heeding. Michael Lujan Bevacqua contributes an eye-opening essay on US colonialism in Guam. Too often US interests trump the freedom and future of Guam’s people, according to Bevacqua. This was exemplified in 2017 when Guam was a focal point of North Korean vitriol for its US military base while the Trump administration responded to the nuclear threat with more bluster. According to Bevacqua, “The Chamoru people and other inhabitants of Guam could only comment, as if they were mere spectators, on the dire and absurd sequence of events unfolding” (43). The essay should be required reading for all US citizens.
Wati Longchar, moreover, highlights the oppression and struggle of the indigenous people of North East India, while Nidia Arrobo Rodas convincingly testifies to the ongoing genocide committed against many indigenous groups in Latin America, still with the explicit (or at least implicit) approval of the United States. Longchair writes: “The people’s struggle in Latin America is an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-militaristic one that is aimed at stopping neo-colonial violence” (85). She sees hope in the renewal of liberation theology and in its committed practitioners, like Msgr. Leonidas Proaño of Ecuador. Other powerful essays include Rasika Sharmen Pieris’, which uses witness testimonies in the genocidal war committed against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka where women, especially, suffer in all sides of the conflict. Despite the death and misery, Pieris writes: “Hope lies in the fact that the war widows have begun organizing themselves autonomously to make their voices heard” (110).
The book closes with two exemplary essays, Joshua Samuel’s linking of black and Dalit suffering in light of the reconciliation suffused in the Christian image of the cross, and journalist Phil Miller’s meticulous and groundbreaking investigative journalism uncovering British collusion into mass atrocities committed in Grenada, Belize, Bahrain, and Sri Lanka. Such work not only reveals how a scholar and journalist can contribute to the call and flourishing of justice through work in archives and libraries, but also reveals the web of the imperial project, as places often linked to one imperial power (the US in the case of Grenada) were also restrained and unduly shackled by another imperial country, England. To cite another example, Miller outlines how the repression (and genocide) committed against indigenous peoples in Guatemala was also supported or emboldened with British support. According to Miller, the Kew archive shows that in Guatemala at the height of the “severe 1982/83 repression . . . the UK response was to secretly collude with the Guatemalan military and help them crush the revolutionaries” (255).
Taken together, Fernando has succeeded in producing a challenging and inspiring collection of essays that can help us formulate, and work to establish, a “non-imperialist, alternative world” (24).
Peter Admirand is lecturer in theology and director of the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue at Dublin City University.Peter AdmirandDate Of Review:June 29, 2022