On concepts of War and Peace (Part 2)

An Interview with Dr Wayne Lavender by Aras Ahmed Mhamad:

Dr Wayne Lavender

Dr Wayne Lavender

Dr. Lavender is a university professor who taught for 18 Months in Slemani.

AA: The US imposes its language through media, its culture and currency all over the world and it has the most destructive types of atomic bombs and weapons. Do you think people will ever believe in the ‘peaceful’ message that the US leaders claim that they will bring about?

WL: The United States is today’s global empire, with power and authority unprecedented in world history.  The US dominates the world through its military prowess, its economic clout and cultural influence.  But like other empires that rose and fell through human history, the US time at the top will come to an end: that decline is already evident in the decaying infrastructure, the growing poverty and national debt plaguing America today.

The US is an enigma: it stands for liberty, freedom and democracy but often exports death and destruction through its military operations and weapon transfers to other nations.  My research indicates that this is the result of a belief in the US in the myth of redemptive violence, i.e. the power to make the world a better place through the use of war and violence by killing the “bad people” and helping the “good people” to win.  We call this a myth because it is not true.  War does not determine who is right: instead, war only determines who is left at the end.

The US has an opportunity to create a truly Pax Americana (Peace of America) if it will use its vast resources to unite humanity in a struggle against the greatest obstacles to human prosperity, these being 1) pandemic poverty, 2) global climate change and 3) a world filled with weapons, both great and small.  It is my hope and prayer that the US will re-direct a portion of its military expenditures to improve the human condition in life-affirming ways.  But this transition will not be easy and has never been accomplished by a major power / empire in world history.

I believe the world’s people will continue to look at the US through the eyes of hope and despair, knowing that the US is capable of creating a world of peace with justice but aware of the reality that the US will readily use war to meet its own needs.

AA: There are millions of NGOs, Institutions and organizations for humanitarian aid and protecting humanity and they are increasing daily. Doesn’t that seem ironical?

WL: I have always said that humans have two basic, instinctive motivations: cooperation and competition.  These two drives exist within us as individuals and within us as members of any group.  Although competition will always remain a part of what it means to be human, cooperation is essential to meet the complex and dynamic issues facing humanity at the start of the 21st Century.

We humans cooperate on many levels and need each other to survive.  We cooperate with members of our family, our extended families, our tribes, regions and nations.  At the United Nations we have leaders who cooperate to solve global issues.  This cooperation brings out the best in humanity as it both builds bridges between different peoples and helps individuals and groups gain perspectives and new insights into solving problems.

The growing list of NGOs is an indication that millions and millions of people are fed up with governments and their inability to get anything significant accomplished.  The NGOs and INGOs reflect the people’s need and demands to build a better future across boundaries that separate people, like Doctors without Borders.

I don’t see their growth as ironic but instead as an indication that the vast majority of people want peace: it is becoming increasingly clear that if the political and national leaders will not give us peace, that citizens of the world’s nations themselves must rise up and create the citizen diplomacy necessary to obtain this elusive prize.  With the threat of humanity’s future in the balance I applaud all of the efforts of those involved in INGOs to create a better future.

AA: Victims of war undergo severe emotional damage and physical loss. Children are particularly affected as they are ripped from their parents’ love and care. From your experience as the director of the Foundation 4 Orphans, what should be done for these children and how was your experience when you visited Halabja and Chamchamal? How do you reflect on it and are there equivalents in history you want to talk about?

WL: There are many people in the US and around the world who believe that war is a necessary evil – that, while no one wants war, sometimes it is necessary to wage it.  This helps us forget the most obvious reality of war: that war and the making of war is evil.  Once we ignore this reality it is easy to rationalize and make excuses for continuing to wage war – but unless humanity is willing to accept this central tenet, war and war-making activities will continue.

Orhpans 2Children have always been victims of war.  As the director of the Foundation 4 Orphans I have seen too much and for too long the pain children experience from war – from the untimely deaths of their parents to their own physical and emotional wounds from war.  I have seen the toll war takes on the children in Mozambique where we have established orphanages for the children of war, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Kurdistan and regions of Iraq.

Children deprived of their parents, for whatever reasons, have a gaping hole in their lives.  Think of the emotional, spiritual and physical ways your parents supported you and now think of what your life would look like without a mother or father to care for you.  Children who lose parents in war related deaths often experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Severe Attachment Disorder.   They are less likely to receive a good education, less likely to have a safe, warm and dry place to live, less likely to have enough food to eat and less likely to be successful in life.  They are the victims of war – the collateral damage war inflicts – the physical embodiment of war’s evil nature.

I know that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have this in common: we are called to care for the orphans and relieve their suffering.  The best way to do this would be to stop the process that makes orphans, of which one would be to eliminate war.  If Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders would be more concerned for the welfare of children and less concerned with their own personal and national power we could reduce the causes of war, thus reducing the number and pain of the orphans.  This is a direction we should all be moving towards.

Wayne Lavender is a United Methodist pastor dedicated to creating a world of peace and justice for all people.  He is an author and has published “Counting Ants While the Elephants March By,” “Evelyn and Damon: A Story of Love and Peace” (his newly published children’s book) and soon to be published “Worldview and Public Policy: From American Exceptionalism to American Empire.”  He is a teacher – this past year working as a professor at the University of Human Development in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq, and the director of the Foundation 4 Orphans (F4O), an international, interfaith and intergenerational organization whose mission is to serve the emotional, educational, physical and spiritual needs of the orphan.  He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

 Aras Ahmed Mhamad is a freelancer. He is the Founder and Deputy Editor of SMART magazine, an independent English magazine that focuses on ‘Literature, Language, Society’. He is the Top Student of College of Languages at the Department of English/ University of Human Development, 2012.

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