Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Setting the Captives free? Who cares...

You ever have something jump out at you that seems to be a crushing indictment against most of the mediocre morass of Christianity? I was reading Isaiah just a minute ago. Chapter 10 starts like this:

Woe to those who enact evil statutes
And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,
So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.

The plain text reading of something like this seems to indicate that God delights in justice, in honesty and in lifting up those who are destitute. So to those of us who really want to do things Gods way, what exactly is our responsibility? Are we to sit idly by until the day of Gods wrath comes upon us? Do we try to affect change for the better? Do we just shrug our shoulders and not care? Do we drive to Washington D.C. and meet with our congress persons and demand their intervention? Should we, as many whom I've mentioned this too, just shrug our collective shoulders and pretend that the don't even care?

What would God have me to do?

Several hundred pages to the east, near the end of the bible is a book written by a guy named James. He writes:

"But become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, this one is like a man studying his natural face in a mirror;
for he studied himself, and has gone away, and immediately he forgot of what kind he was.
But the one looking into the perfect Law of liberty, and continuing in it, this one not having become a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in his doing."

So, after the barest of bible verses to act as a compass to appropriate responses, lets look at the case of Shell v. Ken Saro Wiwa.

Here is a mini-documentary about Ken Saro Wiwa and Shells involvement in the Niger Delta...

The Nigerian delta has long been a powder keg of violence against the native tribes who have lived on these native lands and farmed them for food. Part of the mechanisms driving the endless violence in Nigeria is the influence of Shell oil. Indeed, in 1987 one peaceful protest in the community of Iko involved an unprovoked police response wherein the Mobile Police Force (called by the locals familiar with their death squad style methods, the Kill and Go police force.) were transported in three Shell oil company speedboats. Two people were killed, nearly forty houses destroyed and 350 people made homeless.

Three years later in 1990, a similar incident, this time involving the Etche tribe, drew a police response that resulted in the deaths of 80 people and the destruction of 495 homes. In the ensuing investigation, it was discovered that Shell oil specifically requested the Mobile Police Force

As the next few years wore on, the various local communities of the Niger delta began to protest the occupation and seizure of Nigerian lands in a more cohesive and effective fashion. Originally serving as the spokesman for MOSOP, International writer and Poet, Ken Saro-Wiwa stepped forth to lead the burgeoning grassroots campaign for a livelihood for the Ogoni/Niger region. At a rally in 1993 that drew almost 300,000 people he said “The march is against the devastation of the environment. It is against the non-payment of royalties. It is anti-Shell. It is anti-Federal Government, because as far as we are concerned the two are in league to destroy the Ogoni people”.

As peaceful protests grew to regularly drawing 200,000 to 300,00 people, international media began to investigate some of the human rights abuses that the Ogoni people and its blanket human rights organization, MOSOP, had been alleging for years.

In a meeting in March of 95, a strategy to quell some of the grassroots human rights movement was hatched. The strategy could be described as "striking the shepherd so the sheep might scatter." A meeting took place between four senior Shell officials, the Nigerian High Commissioner and the Nigerian Army and Police at the Shell Centre in London where a strategy was planned against the protests. The decision was made to arrest Ken Saro Wiwa on false pretenses then try him, execute him and pretend that the whole thing never happened.

At a riot that appears to be staged, 4 of Ken Saro Wiwa's closest friends were killed.

Five hours later, Ken Saro Wiwa was arrested for murder.

Rather than quell the human rights movement, the protests against Shell continued and so did the violence against the protesters. Human Rights Watch argued that “Because the abuses set in motion by Shell’s reliance on military protection in Ogoniland continue, Shell cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the acts of the military … the Nigerian military’s defence of Shell’s installations has become so intertwined with its repression of minorities in the oil-producing areas that Shell cannot reasonably sever the two.” and yet, The military campaign of repression led to some 2,000 Ogoni being killed, some 30,000 made homeless; countless others tortured and raped.

For the next 9 months before his trial Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others arrested in relation to his charges were repeatedly beaten and tortured in prison.

Saro-Wiwa’s brother, Owens Wiwa, secretly met the head of Shell Nigeria, Brian Anderson between May and July in order to explore ways of securing Saro-Wiwa’s release. Anderson told Owens that “He would be able to help us get Ken freed if we stopped the protest campaign abroad”.

In November, Saro-Wiwa and the eight others were executed. Shell has always maintained that his execution was nothing to do with them. But, as the lawsuit Wiwa v. Shell outlines:

“Shell was involved in the development of the strategy that resulted in the unlawful execution of the Ogoni Nine. Shell told the Nigerian regime they needed to deal with Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP. Shell monitored Ken Saro-Wiwa, and closely followed the tribunal and his detention. Prior to the trial, Shell Nigeria told its parent companies that Saro-Wiwa would be convicted and told witnesses that Saro-Wiwa was never going free. Shell held meetings with the Nigerian regime to discuss the tribunal, including with the military president Sani Abacha himself. Shell’s lawyer attended the trial, which, in Nigeria, is a privilege afforded only to interested parties.”

After Mr. Saro Wiwa's death, an affidavit would be signed by one of the two chief prosecution witnesses, Charles Danwi. It alleged that he had been paid by Shell and others to testify. It read: “He was told that he would be given a house, a contract from Shell and Ompadec and some money … He was given 30,000 Naira … At a later meeting security agents, government officials and …representatives of Shell and Ompadec were all present”.

Several weeks after that, the other chief witness in the suit, one Nayone Akpa declared in a written statement that he was offered“30,000 Naira, employment with the Gokana Local Government, weekly allowances and contracts with Ompadec and Shell” if he signed a document that implicated Saro-Wiwa too. Shell denied bribing the witnesses.

Now, if this is true in so far as I have presented biblical mandate, and the facts surrounding the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, why is it that when I mention it to other bible believers a far away look comes into their collective eyes and they stare off into the distance and...

Mumble something about how it doesn't effect them, so they..."don't want to hear about some guy getting executed in some far off land for no good reason. I don't know him so I don't care."

Or about how they "don't want to get involved with the cares of the world, because they just don't want to get wrapped up in it. I don't know him so I don't care."

Or, the best, "Look I cant get wrapped up in politics or world affairs. I just have to stay in the Word. I don't know him, so I don't care."

Somewhere a rooster just cawed three times...


Tommy B.

*This article relies heavily on information at the site to whom I am indebted for standing in the gap, when so many who should, dont.*

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