My Introduction To My Church’s Drone Overture

Given at the November Meeting Of The Albany Presbytery

On the 24th of October in 2012, the day before the Islamic high holy day of Eid al-Adha, Rafiq ur Rehman was arriving home from a trip to the local bazaar and mosque for evening prayers. In the distance he saw a sight that caused chills to envelop his body. He saw members of the village were preparing to bury someone in a small graveyard nearby. As he grew closer Rehman  queried a nearby boy as to what was going on in this scene to which the boy responded of the death and imminent burial of Rehman’s mother. She had been in the garden and watching over Rehman’s son when all of a sudden she was blown apart by a bomb that had been dropped by an unmanned aerial vehicle while she was working. In addition, two of Rehman’s children had also been injured, though they had survived. Since that time, Rehman has engaged in a fruitless search for answers to why his mother had been killed. His search took him to the halls of congress where Mr. Rehman testified before members of congress about his experience in Pakistan and to ask those members why it is that his children had to be injured and his mother killed. Thus far he has received no remotely satisfactory answer and until we can sufficiently answer his question, we should halt all bombings of areas in which grandmothers tending to gardens can be incinerated.

The story of his experience is chilling and should cause every citizen of the United States to pause and consider whether it is ok for the United States to derive some degree of temporary security on the backs and lives of relatively poor members of the Pakistani society, or of those in Yemen, or Somalia. In areas of the world already destabilized by violence and terror does it advance the cause of freedom to ratchet up the violence and greatly reduce the stability. As Christians are we not to imagine a world tomorrow that is better than the one we have today and then are we called to work for that world?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were used by the previous administration but their use has greatly expanded over the course of the current administration and while the administration has been reticent to release numbers of civilian versus combatants killed in drone strikes, independent studies have suggested that the loss of noncombatant life due to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to be moving towards, if not already crested 1,000, many of those, children. In addition, the use of these weapons of war creates terror and de-stability among civilian populations in areas of the world already wracked with poverty and struggle. It is harmful to those who pilot these unmanned aerial vehicles who struggle with the devastation they wrought from half a world away never knowing the full extent of the damage done. We need to find another way to work towards peace and justice as the followers of Jesus.

The session of United Presbyterian Church of Amsterdam, NY overtures the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to both call for a halt to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as weapons of war as well as instruments of surveillance aimed at impeding the migratory movement of peoples across borders, by the United States. We request that the denomination, through their various offices work with the United Nations to end the use of UAVs in all cases excepting where warfare might be thwarted through surveillance as well as lobby the leaders of this country to end the use of UAVs for all military and surveillance by all military, paramilitary, and private contracted workers. In addition, we request that the denomination, through its various offices of social witness, develop electronic resources targeted at assisting those faith communities that wish to engage in nonviolent protest against the production and use of drones. Together, as the church of Jesus Christ, we must again ask ourselves, “What does the Lord require of us, but to seek justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.” Thank you.

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