Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Politics of Creative Peace-Making & Radical Reconciliation

(Go here for Part 2)

I wish to offer an analysis of what’s cool and not-so-cool about our present advocacy movement, after which I’d like to submit some action-alternatives.
Here goes. What’s FANTASTIC about the present civil / activist / Opposition movement?

  • Its passion for justice and righteousness
  • Its giving a voice to the oppressed, marginalized, prisoners, etc.
  • Its call for Malaysia (and churches) to ‘wake up’, not be indifferent but to be cognizant of the reality of political darkness
  • Its creative use of the media and events to generate conversation and raise awareness
  • Its holding the government accountable
Next, what are the strongest points of CAUTION about the involvement of Christians within this movement? IMO, its the tendency to identify the Church’s missional calling for justice with that of Pakatan Rakyat, all of which leads to:
  • A minimizing of cruciformed ways of approaching politics and power (the cross of Jesus – i.e. the Son of God up against the full force of human politics – is silenced and rendered almost irrelevant in the discussion)
  • A questionable use of shaming / ridiculing / rhetorical / condemning tactics against the incumbent government i.e. a tacit identification of a high ‘smear index’ with transformational potential
  • A movement publicly defined and recognised by reactive protest and anger (not much else, regardless of the actual written manifestos)
  • A never-ending sense of victimization and frustration created by the all-encompassing focus on the crimes of the incumbent government (none of which helps the ‘vicious cycle’ emerging in Malaysian politics)
  • A sense of alienation between Christians on both sides (a Christian voting BN has coffee with a Christian voting PR - what do they talk about?)

What follows are ideas and suggestions towards reversing the problematic points WITHOUT affecting the great stuff. I have to emphasize that I'm writing primarily to Christians (or those who believe that the message of the Bible should guide our lives and communities).

The below is thus an elaboration of ideas I previously presented at the Revolution of Hope (ROH) conference, grouped along four themes:

  1. Creative Peace-Making / Radical Reconciliation
  2. Automatic-Stabilising / ‘Productive Protesting’
  3. Relationship-Building (forthcoming)
  4. Clarity and Primacy of a New Vision (forthcoming)
A. Creative Peace-Making / Radical Reconciliation
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:44-46)
  • Let the FIRST AND LAST WORDS out of our mouths be full of respect and kindness even in the face of oppression
  • Since we expect the police and authorities to do over-the-top things, instead of preparing to ridicule them, we should plan in advance to creatively communicate a message of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation; this necessarily requires TRAINING and DISCIPLINE as it’s “only human” to retaliate when slapped
  • Leaders and participants can decide BEFOREHAND to balance comments about forgiveness and care with comments of disagreement and dissent ; with the goal that even the mainstream media begins to see and report a ‘difference’
  • Leaders can regularly preach forgiveness and the dignity of all ( i.e. state clearly whilst they decry the unjustified arrests, they also care about the integrity and dignity of the police and for that reason civil enforcement should be reformed
  • Perhaps - in addition to candles - virgils can include refreshments and cakes for the police? Perhaps - in addition to the colour of mourning - we can wear the colours of hope?
  • Events can be organized to redefine political ‘strength’ as not merely the ability to ‘stand up’ against bad guys but to do what the bad guys cannot do i.e. actively seek reconciliation
  • Blogs, twitters, and media should be used to nurture communities of forgiveness, support and reconciliation, NOT create demanding communities of condemnation, un-forgiveness and sarcasm (Eph 4:26!)
  • We can plot events of gentle "protest without protest" which look hard for the good in people, even the ‘bad guys’ (e.g. on May 13th every pro-PKR supporter should say one good/kind word to a BN person or a policeman or an FRU member, and make that a movement)
The ultimate goal is to slowly create a change of heart in members, to point to a better (albeit more unnatural) way of protesting, to ‘release’ PR from the sense of victimization (i.e. instead of seeing FRU-like action as shameful obstacles, they see it as ‘raw material’ for even GREATER manifestations of human solidarity / reconciliation).

As per Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message to the whites who were lynching his people and treat the blacks as sub-humans:

"We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you.”

I would like to BEG that even if you find any of the specific points above 'non-sensical' (or even an affront to the whole purpose of the advocacy movement) that you at least CONSIDER the 'heart' of the proposals (please take a look at the Cross before you object and ask yourself if it's at ALL 'relevant' to politics and how it should/must be).

If you are someone actively involved in the advocacy movement, then - unlike me - you can do so much more with the above. What's best is if you can use your own creativity to come up with like-spirited ideas.

To rephrase another famous sermon extract of King, Jr.: “If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love…historians will say, ‘There lived a great party – Pakatan Rakyat! – who injected new dignity into the veins of Malaysian civilisation.”

Throwbacks / Objections (to be addressed forthcoming posts):
  1. What about the victims? Doesn’t the ‘love-your-enemy’ approach dis-empower our voices? You do not tell an abused wife to ‘love her husband’, do you?
  2. The Opposition movement is a mix of Christian and non-Christian members – to insist on this approach might create confusion/alienation, etc.
  3. In the book of Revelations, John calls Rome a 'beast' - doesn't this show that harsh words by Christians against oppressive governments are fine?
  4. What about 'prophetic action' (and didn't Jesus fire away at the Pharisees, too?!) and wouldn't your recommendations mitigate against that?

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