By Jim Wallis
In his speech this summer on the war in Afghanistan, President Obama pledged that U.S. combat troops will all leave by the end of 2014.Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan.
In the latest news, however, U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps General John Allen, said that “while some folks might hear that we’re departing in 2014 … we’re actually going to be here for a long time.”
In fact, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has reported that the strategic agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and Afghanistan would allow thousands of troops to remain until 2024.
Sojourners produced this video to highlight the moral, human and financial costs of the war:
If the moral and financial costs weren’t enough to end the war, public opinion has turned against it, and its strategic importance has long been in question.
Tomorrow, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be more than $1.259 trillion.
Tomorrow, almost 14 million Americans will still be unemployed.
Tomorrow, the homes of more than 2,500 new U.S. families will enter foreclosure.
Tomorrow, one in seven U.S. households still won’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Tomorrow, one in four American children under the age of six will still be living below the poverty line.
Tomorrow, three billion people around the globe will still be living on less than $2.50 a day.
Tomorrow, 400 million children will still lack access to clean water.
Tomorrow, 300 children under the age of five will die in the Horn of Africa because of famine.
People are feeling crushed from all sides.
Parents who aren’t sure where their kid’s next meal will come from, and the college students who have tens of thousands of dollars in loans and can’t find a job.
Families that have lost their homes in bank foreclosures, and the tens of millions of people who live below the poverty line even though they HAVE jobs.
Problems in our nation and around the globe are huge, and the odds for overcoming them seem insurmountable.
The institutions and systems — whether business or government — meant to serve the people, seem beyond the reach of basic human kindness and completely unaccountable.
And the ever-widening gap between the very top one percent who control more wealth than the bottom 99 percent is a recipe for disastrous social instability and unrest.
The new movement called Occupy Wall Street now has spread across the country, from the very seats of our political and financial power and our largest cities, to suburbs and small towns. In some communities small groups of a few dozen have formed, and in some cities thousands have gathered.
In each instance, no matter the size, people’s frustrations, hurts, and feelings of being betrayed by our nation’s politicians and economic leaders are clear. They want to be heard.
We will likely see images and hear things from Occupy Wall Street demonstrators that will offend us and some that will inspire.
We’ll hear demands that we agree with and some that we don’t.
And that’s OK.
The Occupy Wall Street protests make some people nervous, while others scratch their heads, and more than a few grab their sleeping bags and join in.
There is a lot of speculation as to who the “Occupiers” are and what they might accomplish. There is much I still don’t know about the movement, but undeniably it has caught the imagination of a generation — and that matters.
Here are a few things I do know about the Occupy Wall Street protesters:
When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand with the hungry, they stand with Jesus.
When they stand for those without a job or a home, they stand with Jesus.
When they are peaceful, nonviolent, and love their neighbors (even the ones they don’t agree with and who don’t agree with them), they are walking as Jesus walked.
When they talk about holding banks and corporations accountable, they sound like Jesus and the biblical prophets before him, who all spoke about holding the wealthy and powerful accountable.
Pray for those out on the streets.
Think of ways that you or your church can be Jesus to them.
And do one of the things that church folks do best: Bring them a covered casserole!
Take your church potluck down to the occupations. Sit, eat, and talk with the protesters. Offer them the sacred gifts of hospitality, company, and friendship.
Or a hot cup of coffee.
Or send them a pizza. (Think of it as a peace-za.)
The Occupiers’ desire for change and willingness to take action to do something about it should be an inspiration to us all.
It is for me that, even after 10 years of war, we can still act and pray for peace.
For as Isaiah 2:4 says: “[God] will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Tomorrow I’ll be in New York City, where I will head to the financial district to visit with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, because they are carrying on the most interesting conversation going on in that city — or any other — right now.
Besides, I love a good potluck or pizza party where people imagine a better world.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis