When Tony Blair recently warned about extreme faith-based terrorism he probably didn’t have in mind an 83 year old American nun armed with a Bible and a strong sense of the obliteration of the Earth.
In another twist of historical irony, on the day which is designated to remember the Holocaust annually (January 27) candles are also being lit in a small town in Tennessee in preparation for a court-room drama the next day; on trial with veteran anti-nuclear weapon protestor Sister Megan Rice and her two collaborators will also be nuclear armaggedon, terrorism, and last but not least, Christianity and its interpretations.
Sister Rice, of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and her friends are being charged by the US authorities with terrorism and if found guilty they face up to thirty years in jail, while in the meantime the case has become an international cause celebre.
It’s worth recalling some of the stirring words of Tony Blair, star witness of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War: ‘acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith. But there is no doubt that those who commit the violence often do so by reference to their faith and the sectarian nature of the conflict is a sectarianism based on religion.’
This intriguing moral melting-pot has been stirred up by Sister Rice and friends after they penetrated the heavily guarded Y-12-national security complex plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, armed with nothing more than a pair of wire-cutters. The complex holds America’s main supply of highly enriched uranium and once inside the ‘Y-12 Three’ sprayed red paint mixed with human blood in protest and were caught sitting down surrounded by roses and Bibles.
The ‘Y-12 Three’ are members of a long-standing anti-nuclear weapon protest organisation, The Plowshares Movement, name-checking the famous passage in the Bible’s Book of Isaiah (2:3-4) that commends swords to be changed to plough-shares.
Sister Rice has had numerous anti-nuclear run-ins over the last decade, but she has never before been called a terrorist by her own Government: while the charge smacks of ‘sour grapes’ to cover a glaring – and potentially lethal in the hands of a genuine terrorist – security lapse from the world’s most heavily militarised state, the charge of terrorism is doubly potent when aimed at a clearly devout and elderly Christian.
The case of the ‘Y-12 Three’ highlights the differing perceptions between those wishing to protect the Earth and biodiversity versus the varied demands and interpretations of national security: it is a divide that is rapidly widening in scope and in violence. While the Sea Shepherd confrontational anti-whaling protests are a typically well-known example, the proliferation of protest groups pitting themselves against state authorities is adding to interpretations of ‘civic war’. Whether this could be incorporated into a reinterpretation of the ‘Just War’ theory would be interesting. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre.
Tony Blair link:
Sister Rice link: