Public Perception of Drone Warfare

As drone strikes become all too common, the Church of the Brethren has taken a leadership role in the faith community’s response to drone warfare. Our 2013 Annual Conference Resolution on Drone Warfare makes it clear that the use of drones is at odds with our commitment to peace.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo

“All killing mocks the God who creates and gives life. Jesus, as the Word incarnate, came to dwell among us (John 1:14) in order to reconcile humanity to God and bring about peace and healing. In contrast, our government’s expanding use of armed drones distances the decisions to use lethal force from the communities in which these deadly strikes take place. We find the efforts of the United States to distance the act of killing from the site of violence to be in direct conflict to the witness of Christ Jesus.” -2013 Resolution on Drone Warfare

One of the biggest battles to be fought in the campaign against drone warfare will happen right on U.S. soil- in the hearts and minds of U.S. citizens. In 2015, Pew Research found that only 35% of Americans disapprove of the use of drones in warfare (link). An AP-GfK poll the same year found that only 13% of Americans opposed drone usage (link).

Numbers like these are disheartening, considering the tremendous ethical concerns and transparency issues that arise in the United States drone program. Humans on the ground are labeled as “targets” based not on proven crimes, but because they fit a profile of possible combatants. Children experience fear for their lives and families when they hear the telltale buzzing of a drone overhead. Soldiers operating drones face emotional and mental trauma. The use of drones even contributes to anti-American sentiments around the world- increasing the chances of more conflict later down the road.  

If the public had a greater understanding of the true impact of drone warfare on civilians, soldiers, and even American security, we believe that the percentage of Americans opposed to drone warfare would increase dramatically. If public perception of the drone program reflected the true moral, ethical, and security concerns, it would be much easier to get the U.S.

This is why it is so important to work towards increased public awareness of the U.S. drone program. Our government will not take steps to increase transparency and limit the use of drones without the American public speaking out for justice and peace.

Fortunately, there are ways to get involved in changing the public perception of the U.S. drone program! The Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare, one of our partners through the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare, has put together five 30-minute documentaries that can be used in congregations to start the conversation on drone warfare.

Two of the documentaries feature Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, who provides a Peace Church perspective.

We need individuals from congregations to host showings of these documentaries in their congregations. We will provide access to the documentaries and an easy-to-use discussion guide. These videos and discussions are a great way to engage your congregation in deep discussions about peacebuilding and the ethical problems with the drone program.  If you are interested in more information or if you decide to host a screening, please contact vbateman@brethren.org.

By helping the public understand the drone program, we can work towards a more just and peaceful world. Please join us in this effort by hosting a documentary viewing and discussion in your congregation!

 

Dr. Rebecca Dali named for Sergio Viera De Mello Award

What is the Sergio Vieira de Mello Award?

Sergio Vieira de Mello was a man with a long career in the United Nations. He was deeply involved with humanitarian issues and a strong supporter of those working to achieve peace in conflicts and war situations around the globe.  The Foundation started in his name has decided to give an award every two years. The award is intended to draw world attention to the unnoticed efforts made by an individual, group or an organization that has done something special and unique to reconcile people and parties in conflict. Candidates must be authentic, verifiable, community-based entities operating in areas of conflict and as such could be refugees, internally displaced persons or persons affected by conflict. The 2017 Award is being given to Dr. Rebecca Dali and her Non-profit agency, Center for Caring, Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). 

Partner Profile

Church of the Brethren began working with Dr. Rebecca Dali, Executive Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI), in January of 2014. Missionaries from the United States church, Carl and Roxane Hill, were teaching with Dr. Rebecca in Nigeria when she began distributing food and clothing to displaced persons living around Kulp Bible College.

Providing prayer and support for Nigeria at Annual Conference 2014

In the summer of 2014, Dr. Rebecca was a guest representing the Nigerian church, Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), at Annual Conference of the U.S. Church of the Brethren.  She spoke powerfully about the plight of her fellow Nigerians and the crisis in Nigeria. Following her spirit filled plea, the Church of the Brethren pledged support and aid to  the Nigerian church, NGO’s working in Nigeria (like CCEPI), and those affected by the violence in Northeast Nigeria.

When EYN headquarters was overrun by Boko Haram in October of 2014, church leadership was relocated to Jos.  Dr. Rebecca accompanied her husband, Samuel Dali, then EYN President and she immediately began helping those displaced. A much-needed food distribution was held at the EYN Annex Headquarters in Jos.

Food Distribution in November 2014

Early in the Crisis, CCEPI concentrated on providing food and household supplies. Soon it was evident that there was a great need for the numerous widows and orphans created by the violent crisis. Under Dr. Rebecca’s leadership, CCEPI has created three Skills Acquisition Centers that teach a skill and provide each participant with the materials to start their own business. Through her organization, Dr Rebecca has also provided trauma healing, housing repairs, education for orphans, livestock for widows and moral support to those in need.

Wall of Healing displayed in Tampa Florida

 

Dr. Rebecca and CCEPI have been tireless in collecting data from the families affected by the violence. Although this is time consuming, it helps tell the full story of this crisis and honors the dead and their families. At the 2015 Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Rebecca’s data was displayed as a “Wall of Healing”. This wall consisted of 17 large banners with the names of over 10,000 victims of the violence sweeping through Northeast Nigeria.

Graduation at one of the Skill Acquisition Centers

Dr. Rebecca has been able to mobilize and organize CCEPI to provide food and supplies to the most vulnerable often at great personal risk. Her passion, and the quality of her work has attracted the attention and support of numerous sponsors to continue and expand these efforts. Her boundless energy and tireless work alongside her staff has provided assistance to men, women, children, Muslims, Christians, and especially widows and orphans. It is a privilege for Church of the Brethren to be in partnership with Dr. Rebecca and her outstanding organization as she pours her life into helping her fellow countrymen during this challenging time.

 

June Disaster Projects

In June, the Disaster Response Ministry of EYN was busy.

Food Distributions

They delivered food to 400 families in some of the hardest hit districts. A pastor in the area shared, “Last week, EYN headquarters gave us fertilizer and seed which we distributed to our members, today they brought us food items, this gives us joy! Truly, our main problem here is that we are prevented from farming, so no food and people are suffering.”

 

Rescued Mom and baby

After being rescued, a family held captive for several years was relocated to one of our newly built villages. The family consists of a mother and four children (ages 17, 8, 6, and 4 months.)

In addition, medical help was brought to a camp in Maiduguri where there are over 500 children under the age of 5.

Soybeans were planted as part of the special project designed to produce income along the value chain.

 

 

Solar panels were installed at Yola camp providing free water for them.

Please continue to pray for the EYN Disaster Ministry as it helps its people in many ways!

Peacebuilding in Tense Times: The Church of the Brethren and Russia

The Russia-U.S. relationship has become increasingly complicated over the past few years. The Syrian conflict has attracted both U.S. and Russian involvement, becoming a proxy war between several international actors. Accusations of cyber- and information warfare between the nations persist, and complex questions of global leadership have arisen.

The tensions should concern all who seek international peace. In one recent example of conflict, the United States shot down a Syrian warplane. In response, the Russians suspended the use of a military communication program that helped to prevent accidental in-air collisions in Syrian airspace. They also threatened to shoot down any U.S. plane that traveled west of the Euphrates River.

The dissolution of communications structures like these, combined with military action and general posturing on the part of each national actor, does not bode well for regional or international security.

When suspicion clouds the relationship between nations, it is often difficult to see past our national allegiances and fear. However, peacebuilding requires us to build relationships where others only see conflict.

Quote from 1947 Annual Conference statement on Russia, referenced in the Brethren Encyclopedia.

The Church of the Brethren has a fascinating peacebuilding history in relation to Russia. During the Cold War, in which tensions ran high and peace was fragile, the Church of the Brethren maintained connections with the Soviet Union in hopes that relationships could prevent nuclear war.

As part of this work, the Church of the Brethren participated in two cultural exchanges in 1963 and 1967. While in the United States, Russian church leaders ate, talked, and joked with their American hosts, and were especially interested in visiting with the youth. Their American counterparts, while visiting Russia, were fascinated by the unfamiliar political ideology and relationship between the Church and State.

A 1967 Messenger article on the cultural exchange

At these meetings, delegates were able to experience each other’s culture, learn about their religious beliefs and structures, and gain new perspectives on the other nation. These were not meant to be high-level religious or political discussions- rather, they were meetings of Christians from different countries, earnestly seeking to understand one another and forge a peaceful future.

The work done by the Church of the Brethren during this era is strikingly relevant to modern interfaith connections in U.S. and Russia. The same general distrust and military posturing that occurred during the Cold War has resurfaced in more modern contexts. As the political rhetoric once again heats up, it is essential that the faith community works to discern its role in the U.S.- Russia relationship.

There are many relational and advocacy opportunities for churches, including the Church of the Brethren, to work towards greater interpersonal understanding and large-scale investment in peace. Like the leaders of the Church of the Brethren during the Cold War, we can, and should, use our faith commitments as a powerful platform for international dialogue and peacebuilding work.

While we recognize that there are many ways in which the current tensions are different from Cold War tensions, we believe that it is important to adapt the Church of the Brethren’s historic peacebuilding mindset to the modern context. At the Office of Public Witness, we hope to continue the Brethren legacy of peacebuilding in this region, and will be working to discern our role in the relationship over the next few months.

***

A huge thanks to the staff at Brethren Archives for their research assistance!

Interested in reading more about these cultural exchanges? Check out these Messenger articles:

https://archive.org/stream/messenger1967116126mors#page/n823/mode/2up/search/%22Russian+Orthodox+Church%22%22

https://archive.org/stream/gospelmessengerv112mors#page/n83/mode/2up/search/%22Russian%22

https://archive.org/stream/gospelmessengerv112mors#page/n1243/mode/2up/search/%22Russian%22

 

Update from Pam and Dave Reist (volunteering in Nigeria)

Pam Preaching in Mubi temporary church

Since the church building was destroyed in the insurgency of 2014, a temporary building sits in its place…tree-trunks for posts, rough-cut timbers for rafters, cinder block gable ends, plastic chairs and wooden benches accommodate a congregation of over 700.  On the floor behind the speakers’ seats is a nest of chicken eggs just days from hatching, and a lizard is visible underneath the plexiglass lecturn.

On Sunday morning, May 28, we celebrated worship with the congregation at E.Y.N. No. 2 Mubi.  In spite of the violence they have suffered and the damage that was incurred, the congregation was overflowing and the spirit and the weather were warm!  The almost three-hour service included dynamic singing by six choirs accompanied by drums and a variety of instruments, congregational singing, numerous announcements, a detailed financial report, collection of offerings twice (tithes and building fund), introduction and dedication of the new youth membership class, reception of new members, and many, many prayers, including prayers for a bumper harvest from the crops being planted.   Dave was asked to give a greeting and pray, and I was honored to preach.

new church Mubi 2In the churchyard outside the temporary building, a new one is underway – the walls are going up as the funds come in. They were pleased to share that they had qualified for one of twenty $5000. grants from the CoB U.S.

Before the day was over, we had visited several more church buildings in the Mubi area alone that had been burned by the insurgency.  All are now rebuilding with great anticipation!  These lovely resilient people are full of hope as they “press on.”

A few more highlights of the last two weeks:

Bringing greetings from U.S. to pastor training event at E.Y.N. Conference Center.

Greeting at PDPDave presenting the keys to the second tractor (for use in the Kwarhi area) on behalf of the CoB U.S.) to E.Y.N. President Joel Billi.

Dinner with E.Y.N. leadership and presenting the E’town banner to Brother Joel.

IMG_8758Demonstrating popping corn at E.Y.N. Headquarters.

Dave making popcornDinner and discussion with Kulp Bible College leadership – hosted by KBC President Dauda Gava.

Hanging with new friends at the C.oB. house at K.B.C.Hanging at the house

We miss those who are absent from us and pray for you daily!  Much love from Nigeria!

Pam & Dave Reist

Skills Acquisition Centers help widows and orphans

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Dr. Rebecca Dali is the Director of Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative (CCEPI). Her Non-profit runs three Skills Acquisition Centers in Jos, Yola, and Michika. They specialize in training widows and orphans by teaching them for 3-6 months in either sewing, knitting or computers.

As part of the computer training, the students worked on vivid Power Point presentations about their own lives. After giving the presentations to the other students, they discussed their stories; this sharing of trauma is an important part of healing.

Sewing practice

In the sewing section, students work on mastering the manual treadle and are learning to sew various dress styles. Knitting students are making baby sweaters and caps which will be used during the “cold” season in December and January.

Another group learned to make women’s purses. A widow named, Lella, said for the first time in three years her life was beginning to have meaning and it brings her joy each time she learns and makes something new.

Lella learning to make a purse

Knitted garment

Keep Dr. Rebecca and each team of workers in your prayers as each center faces its own challenges. Some do not have enough chairs, others have no camera to document the work, transportation to and from the center is challenging, and there are always more who need help than the centers can accommodate.

 

Trust and Obey

contributed by Pam Reist

Our Nigerian experience began yesterday, with a deeply meaningful and moving full-of-life worship service of about 500 at the EYN Church in Abuja: a modern worship team,  woman’s choir with drums, consecration of church leadership, awards presented to youth, and recognition of others for special service, all in addition to preaching and singing and praying – Alleluia! Amen!  While much of the music was new to us, when we sang When we walk with the Lord,’ we couldn’t help but think that just a few weeks ago, we sang that very hymn around the tables at Love Feast in Elizabethtown, with our beloved community.

And now, in this “land of many possibilities,” we are imagining that “trust and obey” may take on new meaning during these two months that we will be serving with our Nigerian sisters and brothers.  The hospitality has been overwhelming, even these first few days.  “You…are…welcome!” is a greeting we hear over and over.  And we do feel welcome to this land of many possibilities!

Dave Reist at Abuja church with Ayuba and Nancy Gwani

Salam alaikum,

Pam and Dave Reist

Workcamp Reflections

Carol at the workcamp

Carol at the workcamp (photo by Pat Krabacher)

by Carol Goss (participant in the January Workcamp in Nigeria)

When I read in the Messenger about Nigerian Workcamps, I knew I wanted to go. As a child I became enamored with Nigeria when my pastor Bob Bowman and his young family left to serve in Nigeria. And then along with many others, my heart went out to the EYN brothers and sisters in their ongoing crisis. But when I read, hard physical labor in a hot climate, I knew that was my  calling.

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

Scaffolding at the new church (by Carol Goss)

And so, 9 of us from the US melded together in our desire to serve. The hard work was present as cinder blocks and pans of concrete passed from ground level up the scaffolding, and the tall gabled ends of the church were completed. But as we were often reminded, it was the relationships that became the most significant experiences.

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled. (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Sign advertising the new church at Pegi, where many from Chibok have resettled (photo from Pat Krabacher)

Here are 4 reflections on my experience:

  1. We went to visit our first IDP, Internally Displaced Persons, camp, children excitedly ran behind our van. As we descended, the children eagerly gathered around us, thirsty for our attention.
Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

Children at the IDP camp (by Carol Goss)

No toys or planned activities were seen on the site. We were shown a small tin roof school with a few desks. We crowded inside. There was not enough room for all to sit. But the saddest part, there was no longer a teacher at the camp.

Some of our Workcampers visited the adults in their dwellings. I stayed with the children. I started throwing a frisbee but couldn’t get across the concept of forming a large circle. All wanted to be close to me and the frisbee. Soon we broke into groups and the older boys took the frisbee. I began tossing a ball with some others when a noticed a group of toddlers and shy older kids standing alone. I started singing children’s songs with them. The words were primarily sung by me in English, but the motions were shared by everyone.  It was hard to say goodbye to these children.

  1. One day during a break in the physical labor, I began singing songs with the children
    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    Happy children learning songs (by Carol Goss)

    close by. To my surprise, it was the mothers, with varying degrees of English, who were anxious to learn the songs. They wanted to sing them with their children and teach them at children’s church activities. We shared many songs.

  2. My repertoire of children’s songs were called upon another day as a group of mothers and children sat under the canopy. After singing many of our songs, we asked the women to teach us one of their songs. We learned it in Hausa and English. “I must go with Jesus anywhere. No matter the roughness of the road. I must go. I must go!” Literally and figuratively, these women have traveled many a rough road.
  1. On our last Sunday, we traveled the hour to worship with our new friends in Pegi.  Sitting within the newly completed block walls with the roof overtop, we unified our voices. Choirs sang and praises were expressed. As I sat, I silently prayed that I could be particularly aware of God in our midst.
Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Carol and Mary during the last worship service. (photo from Carol Goss)

Before long, a young child came and stood near me. I had not seen this child before and wasn’t sure if the child was a boy or girl. Later I learned her name was Mary. There she stood, looking at me. I asked if she wanted to sit on my lap. She did. I retrieved two granola bars I had with me. She ate those as well as finished my water. I put my arms around her and she pulled them tighter. We finished the service                                                                                                 sitting in God’s presence.

Accomplishments in 2016

2016 Nigeria Crisis Summary  (Total $1,525,082)

Thank you to everyone who supported the Nigeria Crisis work in 2016. It is amazing to see what we have accomplished together. May God continue to work among us.

317 818 853 903 1220 eyn-food-distribution2

Home Repair and Rebuilding                                                                                             30 new units with kitchens and toilets                                                                                       Provided Water sources and 2 solar powered pumps                                                          260 homes re-roofed (4 zones)

Peace Building and Trauma Recovery                                                                            18 basic workshops                                                                                                                 3 advanced workshops                                                                                                             3 Training of Trainer                                                                                                                 Leaders sent to Rwanda for Alternatives to Violence Program                                               2 Healing and Rebuilding our Community Workshops (Maiduguri and Damaturu)                 Training for 14 women’s leaders by Children’s Disaster Service USA                                     10 Children’s Trauma  Training workshops (155 trained)

Agriculture & Community Development                                                                             6 leaders attended ECHO conference                                                                                     5 leaders attended a soybean innovation lab                                                                           Goat trial project started for 10 workers                                                                     Vaccinations for 10,000 chickens                                                                                            Seeds and fertilizer to 8500 families

Livelihoods                                                                                                                            2 women’s projects for 200 widows & orphans                                                                        Empowered 587 families to established their own businesses                                               3 Skills Acquisition Centers provided training and businesses for 152 widows &                   orphans

Education                                                                                                                           Kulp Bible College renovations/repairs                                                             Comprehensive Secondary School wall built for security                                               School fees paid for 420 students                                                                                       120 orphans housed, fed and school provided                                                                       3 Learning centers providing schooling for 2,180 students

Food, Medical & Home Supplies                                                                                      35 distributions to 12,500 families                                                                                  Medical assistance at 19 locations serving 5000                                                           Medical refresher course held for 16 dispensary workers

EYN Strengthening                                                                                                         Unity house in Jos furnished                                                                                           Kwarhi staff housing and offices repaired                                                                      Conference center repaired                                                                                              Conference assistance for Majalisa, Peace conference for pastors, Minister’s conference, Devotional materials printed                                                                                             Hosted 42 US visitors during the year                                                                                     Joint Workcamp – EYN and 9 US volunteers began building a church for IDP’s

Hope in Starting Again – A visit to Yola IDP camp

Contributed by Pat Krabacher

Salamatu Billi singing with the women at the Yola camp

Salamatu Billi singing with the women at the Yola camp

We arrived at the Yola camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) and Salamatu Billi (wife of the EYN President, Rev. Joel Billi) seemed very happy to be with the women and she joined them in energetically singing warm songs of welcome to our Fellowship Tour. I could not help but wonder how many of the women were widows (as there were noticeably fewer men in the camp). The women’s choir, nonetheless sang with great joy. )

Michelle Gibel and Palace

Michelle Gibbel and Palace

Michele Gibbel of the Litiz, PA church shared the following “take-away” experience: “During the worship/introduction time at the IPD camp in Yola, a young girl named Palace sat on my lap.  She kept playing with my hands, trying to scratch off my freckles, noticing the small blister, and looking at my uneven fingernails.  And then she started to count my fingers.  She touched each one.  And then she touched each of her fingers. 10 – the same number. For me, this moment was so profound.  Our lives could not be any more different.  BUT, we are both created by the same loving God, who has formed each of our fingers, and calls each of us by name.  And so, we are really not that different after all.  My heart will forever remain with my new Little Sister, Palace.” hands

After the welcome singing and the remarks, we toured the camp and saw the sparse living conditions, but the concrete block homes at least were sturdy and permanent. The children were so excited to show Michelle the new water well which seemed to be a symbol of great hope.  We played games and left some mementos of our love (soccer balls, crayons and paper, Frisbees, etc.) with the camp director, Rev. Jerry Tizhe.)

Children around the well

Children around the well