Thursday, March 27, 2003

Liberation Theology and the Iraq War:

First, an article in the Irish Catholic newspaper by one Seamus Murphy, SJ on that very subject

While liberation theology does not encourage violence, it acknowledges the right of people to defend themselves against murderous repression. Uprisings by Kurds and Shi'ites in 1987-89 and in 1991 were put down in large-scale massacres, sometimes with chemical weapons. If they were to rise again, they would have the world's sympathy. Liberation theology would say that the Lord, who breaks the rod of the oppressor, was with them. But unaided rebellion would have no prospect of success, and our bystander sympathy, our distant indignation (if we even noticed) would not prevent it being crushed with great slaughter.

Yet amazingly, when their liberation rides on the probable success of US arms, much of the world is totally opposed. As the prophet Isaiah recognized in Cyrus the Persian Ð Israel's hope of liberation from Babylon Ð so today Iraqi exiles cannot wait for the US to overthrow Saddam's regime. But, sadly, Christian solidarity with them is overwhelmed by pacifism, neutralism, and anti-Americanism.

Pacifism absolutises peace at the expense of justice, and neutralism turns fence-sitting into moral superiority. Anti-Americanism, like Saddam's torturers, drowns the cries of the victims and silences the tongues of the exiles. To wonder whether there is sufficient justification for war is not unreasonable. But to claim, as have some senior clerics, that there is no justification at all is to close one's eyes to the historical record and one's ears to the victims. Liberation theology would say: God is with the victims, and failure to stand in solidarity with them is a betrayal of the Gospel.

The people of Iraq want peace and an end of oppression. They want neither Saddam nor war. But given Saddam's addiction to war (against Israel in 1973, Iran in 1974 and 1980, Kuwait in 1990, and near-misses with Syria in 1976 and Kuwait in 1994), he is likely, if left in power, to provoke more wars. That, coupled with the oppression and terror, far outweighs the burden of the US/UK invasion. At worst, the US/UK invasion is the lesser evil, at best a liberation. So say Iraqi exiles and those protected in the 'no-fly zones'. Liberation theology says: let their voices carry more weight in our moral discernment, for theirs is the voice of the voiceless, the voice of God.

And then, blogger Tony Adragna's response, in part:

There is certainly room for justifying our instant war along the lines of the church's theology on liberation. But, let's be careful to distnguish this from what the Latin American authors taught...

Go read both comments and come back and tell us what you think. But not before you consider all the nasty things you said about Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutierrez back in the day, okay?