Saturday, March 31, 2007

Albert Mohler's office gets sit-in from Soulforce, an LGBT-rights group

Also, academic compares them to Osama Bin Laden

By Hannah Elliott
Published March 27, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist seminary president's recent controversial comments on homosexuality caused a gay-rights group to target his office with a sit-in March 26, leading to 12 arrests.

Members of Soulforce, a religious gay-rights group, detoured their two-month "Equality Ride" to Louisville, Ky., to sit in at the office of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler.

Police arrested the 12 for refusing to leave the office without a public apology from Mohler for his statements about a potential biological "cure" for homosexuality. In postings to his personal blog, he said Christians should support "successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation [from homosexual] to heterosexual … as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."

The ride engaged 50 college students and other gay-rights activists in tours -- modeled after the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Era -- in visiting campuses of colleges and other schools with anti-gay policies. Soulforce describes itself as being opposed to "religious and political oppression" against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."

This year's Equality Riders were aged 19 to 28. The riders planned to visit 32 institutions of higher learning between March 8 and April 26. Southern Seminary wasn't the only Southern Baptist-affiliated school to draw Soulforce's attention.

On March 14, five Equality Riders were arrested on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus in Shawnee, Okla. Six days later, six others were arrested at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Riders also were arrested at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.
But, although unplanned, the arrests were almost expected.

At Samford University near Birmingham, Ala., administrators have taken proactive measures to address the issue of homosexuality. Even before they knew about the planned visit from Soulforce, school officials and students had planned two panel discussions on homosexuality and a campus lecture on the subject during undergraduate convocation March 22. The Equality Rider bus is set to hit the Samford campus March 30.

Matt Kerlin, Samford's university minister, said he plans to show "compassion and grace" throughout the upcoming Soulforce visit, even though he disagrees with the Soulforce premise.

"Samford hosts over 100,000 guests on campus each year, and we want to handle the Soulforce visit with the same courtesy we extend to all our guests. We expect likewise from Soulforce," he said. "I pray that our community will respond to Soulforce with grace and truth, that this will be a learning experience for us all, and that we will demonstrate Christ-likeness is all that we say and do."

Samford has a policy against sexual misconduct -- defined as including homosexuality -- that administrators plan to uphold. But Soulforce members and Samford leaders do agree on at least one thing, Kerlin said: "We agree that the Bible teaches love of neighbor and that Christians should treat others justly and mercifully, even those with whom they disagree."
One Christian academic criticized Soulforce's aims far more pointedly after last year's Equality Ride -- even comparing them to terrorists.

[Emphasis mine] Reuben David, an author and professor of mass communications at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minn., wrote an essay decrying the group. He said interpreting Scripture to "accommodate one's movement is not going to convince the public." Christians worldwide hold to the traditional understanding of heterosexual-only marriage, he said, adding the ideas promoted by Soulforce set a dangerous precedent for American society and a "cataclysmic precedent for human society."
"Osama Bin Laden's threat against the West is milder compared to the movements of [Soulforce founder] Mel White and others who are eating away at the vitals of a traditional society like zombies threatening to destroy traditional families," David wrote. "This is a guerilla war against traditional human marriages."

White is a clergyman and former Fuller Theological Seminary professor who wrote speeches and books for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham before embracing his sexual orientation. He divorced his wife and announced his homosexuality in 1994. He founded Soulforce after that.

White wrote Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay And Christian In America about his struggle coming to terms with being gay.
Jarrett Lucas, co-director of the Equality Ride, said he hopes the tour will "bear witness to the compatibility" of his faith and his sexual orientation. Disowned by his family "in the name of faith," he joined Soulforce in 2005 after a friend sent him a link to the group's website. It appealed to him because it supports the notion that "neither faith nor Scripture should be used to oppress and harm," he said.

"Disciples of Christ are identified as such by the love that they show," he said. "Biblical interpretations that make outcasts of God's gay and transgender children conflict with the spirit of inclusion exemplified by Christ."

Receptions at several of the schools on the tour have been less than welcoming. The arrests in Oklahoma came when 26 riders sought to enter campus and were refused entry. The six people arrested had attempted to carry onto campus a sheet covered in Bible verses and affirmations of homosexuality.

Current policies at the Oklahoma school ban advocacy for homosexual students, although last year administrators allowed Soulforce representatives to use a single room on campus for student dialogue. The OBU student handbook lists mandatory counseling, probation or expulsion as consequences of homosexual behavior.

At Baylor, Equality riders were allowed onto campus as guests of students. Once there, a group of Soulforce riders and Baylor students wrote Bible verses and affirmations of homosexual students on the sidewalk in front of a campus building. Police soon told them to stop the chalking, in accordance with university rules against some forms of chalking. Five riders and one Baylor student refused to stop, so police arrested them and charged them with criminal trespassing. They spent the night in the McLennan County Jail and were released on $11,000 in bonds March 21.

Baylor's sexual misconduct policy says "human sexuality is a gift from the creator God" to be used for procreation and "the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond." It says misuses of sexuality include but are not limited to "sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication and homosexual acts."

At Mississippi College, police arrested five riders for walking onto campus to deliver a poster-board mosaic of pictures and Bible verses. They chose to perform three days of community service rather than stay in jail.

So far, the cold receptions have not deterred Lucas and his colleagues. The tour is about reconciliation, they say. And they plan to force the issue.

"As a gay person of color, I know firsthand the danger of prejudice and the corresponding importance of understanding," Lucas said via email. "Today, ignorance and untruth are causing the suffering of many gay and transgender people. And as a Christian, it is my moral charge to liberate the oppressed and reach out to marginalized groups."

The cost of the entire Equality Ride is about $500,000, according to organizers. Bails were paid by funds raised from donors, which also covered all other expenses for the trip. Other colleges on the tour list include: Union University, Bob Jones University, Calvin College, Yellowstone Baptist College, Covenant College and other Christian and military schools.

Friday, March 30, 2007

[This is a repost of a comment that one of the readers made. I thought it deserved its own post.]

When one takes a very close and open minded look at all of the men in high profile positions that have been outed should lead one to believe that simply condemning homosexuality does not work in stopping or preventing it. Many of these men are members of the clergy. It obviously will never work in preventing or stopping homosexual behavior or orientation given the many facts we have available if we dare look. If the clergy themselves who vehemently condemn homosexuality on the pulpit but then in private engage in homosexuality and fantasy I believe provides some important evidence. The evidence of which I speak is that homosexuality goes much deeper than simply acting out physically. There is not a gay man that I have ever talked to that hasn’t admitted to trying or wanting to change their homosexual fantasies even before they have their first experience. We, as gay people learn very early on what behaviors are considered normal and which are considered not only abnormal but abhorrent. I, like so many other young children tried with all of our might to pray these powerful yet disdainful feelings away. Many clergy members choose the clergy for the very reason of trying to rid themselves of these overpowering natural urges. They privately hope that if they join the clergy they will be closer to God and then perhaps he will rid them of these feelings. This is what is meant by “the closet”. The closet is an emotional place that many homosexuals choose to live in, in order to prevent anyone from finding out or discovering their deeply hidden feelings. Both men and woman often do this. In fact most gay people start out in the closet once they have been socialized enough to understand that society does not permit these types of activities or feelings of same sex attractions. Instead these young boys and girls are forced into pretending that they have “normal” feelings of attraction like all the other kids. Unfortunately many choose to live in the closet for long periods of time causing more emotional harm to themselves and more victims of the deception.

The length of time one chooses to live in the closet has to do with so many variables. Some choose to live in the closet for religious reasons. They may be from deeply religious and socially conservative families. They may feel that by exposing their true nature that they may lose the love of their parents, families or their caretakers and are terrified of being shut out in some way such as losing their love or being punished for their feelings. They may also choose the closet for professional reasons. They may carry fear of losing their jobs or have fear of moving up in a company. Therefore economics can be a very powerful reason for staying in the closet way into their adulthood. I believe strongly that the topic of “the closet” needs to be addressed and understood. I believe it is essential to discuss “the closet” to provide the necessary context from which to view this issue and the many scandals. Particularly now however I am speaking of men at this time. The reason being is because I believe men use the closet even more often than woman because of societies more narrow view and expectations of what behaviors are considered acceptable and “normal” for men. This discussion needs to be civilized, and our knee jerk reactions and judgments held in check. We need to discuss this subject with compassion because there is a lot of emotional pain involved in living in the closet. We have to discuss this with a very sincere desire to try and understand why so many men are seemingly suddenly becoming gay. Of course this is an impression to some but far from the truth. These men have been living extremely lonely double lives, riddled with guilt in “the closet”. Woman can be tomboys much easier than men can be sissies. Of course not all gay men are effeminate by a long shot but that is a stereotypical image of gay men and therefore many men attempt to cover up any behaviors they may have and believe may bring unwanted suspicion onto them. Therefore men, whether they be gay or straight, will practice stereotypical masculine behaviors to thwart any suspicion out of fear and/or necessity. This is especially true if they feel pressure to do so to protect their careers, career advancement, fear of social denunciation or they have difficulties reconciling their religious views with their natural inner feelings and same sex attractions etc. These are however the most common reasons for men to join the astounding numbers of other men that are also hiding in the closet.

The fear of being discovered can be enormous and absolutely terrifying. These men will often then do whatever they believe society expects from them. They will marry and have children out of desperation in an always unsuccessful attempt at suppressing these natural longings and hoping that they will eventually go away. To Gays these attractions feel perfectly normal and are. Would we rather they try and unsuccessfully continue to hide by getting married and have homosexual secret liaisons with men and feel terrible guilt in doing so. They will do their very best to compartmentalize their lives and be successful at it for awhile but not forever. However I believe and have found while researching my book that the longer one stays in the closet the more damage is done. It is generally very difficult to compartmentalize ones life for long without some emotional problems developing in varying degrees and manifesting in a variety of ways. Many closeted men develop coping mechanisms such as addictive behaviors of all sorts whether they are alcoholism, prescription or non prescription drug abuse. They may develop addictions to pornography, sexual addiction or other self-destructive ways of acting out. Once again unfortunately the longer one stays in the closet there will then also generally be more victims because of their closeted lifestyle choice. This is the only place where the word choice can be used correctly within the context of this subject. They can either “choose” to live in the closet or “choose” to live out their truth of who they really are. The victims may be their wives and children, their friends, parents and siblings. All feeling like they have been betrayed and deceived when the closeted individuals true nature is discovered as it was for ex-governor of New Jersey, Mr. McGreevy, ex-congressmen Foley and now the president of the Evangelicals, to name just a few of the staggering number of men that have also been hiding their true selves. I feel very sad for the victims as well as I very much understand the humiliation, despair, and profound depression that the closeted individual feels that soon follows once that door to the closet is flung open. For some, the shame and fear is just too unbearable and suicide seems like the only alternative to ending their unbearable pain and shame.

Society needs to take some responsibility with this matter of the closet by being more accepting of alternative lifestyles. Without the closet, try and imagine how much less pain many people and families would have to endure. Not only the ones that feel that living in the closet is their only alternative, but for the victims that find themselves feeling betrayed and the breaking up of families that soon follows. We as a culture have some soul searching to do on this matter and not be so self-righteous. There are a variety of ways of loving and living. We need to accept the fact, that which seems to be normal for some is not necessarily normal for all. However, as I said the closet can cause deep and very troubling emotional problems that can eventually manifest in abhorrent behaviors. Unfortunately homosexuality is still frowned upon by many in American culture, which in turn renders same sex marriage completely out of the realm of possibilities for especially the conservative religious right.

For gays that feel the need to come to terms with their same sex attractions, I generally do not recommend discussing these issues with clergy. The reason I feel this way is because it can cause further damage due to their religious agendas which can deepen one's guilt, shame and depression. This is a very complicated issue that society has to become more compassionate about. If we do not, we will continue to shame many people with same sex attractions enough that will perpetuate their confusion. It will also inhibit many from being true to themselves from the beginning and also prevent them from seeking the appropriate help for any specific personal issues in which they may be struggling with.

Aaron Silver
Arab leaders offer Israel guarded peace offer: Guardian

Arab leaders last night urged Israel to accept the "hand of peace" proffered by a landmark summit in Saudi Arabia but insisted that in exchange for establishing normal ties there could be no haggling over demands for a full withdrawal by Israel from occupied lands.
The Riyadh summit's statement about peace as a "strategic option" won a warm welcome from the US as "very positive".

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called on Israel not to miss the chance to end its 58-year-old conflict with the Arabs, speaking of the "sincerity of the Palestinian will in extending the hand of peace to the Israeli people" but warning of new violence if the offer were spurned.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister and leader of Hamas, sat behind President Abbas as he spoke in a vast conference hall, a reminder that Israel's government refuses to deal with its Palestinian counterpart because the Islamist movement refuses to recognise Israel.

Mr Haniyeh had made clear he would not accept any dilution of the demand for a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees affected by the 1948 and 1967 wars. But he agreed not to oppose a plan endorsed by the 22-member Arab League. Only Libya boycotted the summit.

"A just and comprehensive peace is a strategic option for the Arab nation," the declaration said, relaunching the 2002 initiative that called on Israel to surrender the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, all conquered in the Six Days war in June 1967.

Still, the messages for the government of the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, were not overwhelmingly positive. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, responded with a blunt "no we would not" when asked if his country would take part in any talks with Israel.

Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace treaties with Israel, accept privately that negotiations are unlikely to proceed if they start with a take-it-or leave it offer. But the summit's unambiguous outcome does shift the onus onto Israel to come up with a response.

King Abdullah of Jordan said: "Israel must choose - either live in a permanent cycle of war and increasing hatred, or accept the peace option and coexistence. This is the real challenge, especially [for] the US, the sponsor of the peace process.

"We call upon the US to adhere to President Bush's commitment to help establish an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side by side with Israel."

Amr Musa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said there would be no normal ties with Israel. "We need to see what they will provide in return. So far we have only received negative messages."

This formal position masks the possibilty of movement through "working groups" mandated by the summit. These will pursue talks with the US, Russia, EU and UN, and meet later with Israelis and Palestinians - if Israel agrees. Saudi Arabia, and Syria, for example, could back the process without breaking taboos by talking directly to the Israelis. The UN is expected to play a key role after the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, went to Riyadh to underline the global importance of resolving the world's most intractable conflict.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, sounded characteristically tough at the summit: "We are a nation that does not surrender to siege and aggression and does not bargain away its rights," he said.

Darfur, Somalia and Iraq were discussed at the summit but Palestine was the hottest topic. Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian negotiator, said: "This is a unanimous Arab decision: a comprehensive withdrawal for a comprehensive peace."

Right to return

Israel has spoken cautiously of the new Arab peace initiative and even before the meeting of Arab leaders this week it raised objections. Israel has focused its concerns on the issue of refugees, objecting to the principle of a right of return for the more than 4 million Palestinian refugees around the world. Shimon Peres, the deputy prime minister, said yesterday that Israel was against "predetermined" positions. "I would say this: Let's conduct negotiations. You come with your positions, and we will come with ours," he told Israel Radio.

More than 700,000 Palestinians were forced out or fled from their homes at the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. With their descendants they now number more than 4 million. The basis of their demand to return to what is now Israel lies in UN general assembly resolution 194 of December 1948, which states that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date". The Palestinians argue that a final agreement would be jeopardised if the refugee problem was not addressed.

Israel argues that to let back all the refugees into what is now Israel would fundamentally threaten the state. Over the years a variety of compromises have been discussed. The Arab peace initiative talks of finding a "just solution". The Geneva initiative suggested refugees should be given compensation and the choice of staying where they are, or moving to a future state of Palestine, or to other agreed countries. It also said some should be able to return to Israel.
Rory McCarthy


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Anglicans in Africa do not have one view of homosexuality: Bishop Mwamba of Botswana

[This is a bit long. A good summary is: on the issue of homosexuality, there are conservative, moderate, and liberal African Anglican Provinces. Within each Province, there are conservatives, moderates, and liberals on this issue. Sounds a lot like any Western church. All of us, particularly those who style themselves leaders of the Global South Anglicans, would do well to remember this.]

MAR. 26, 2007 -- The following is the text of a speech by Bishop Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba of Botswana, delivered at the January 26-28 meeting ofEcclesiastical Law Society in Liverpool, England.
Far too many preachers and speakers find themselves in the position of having too much material and too little time in which to deliver it. One such preacher began his sermon with: “My dear friends, I feel somewhat like a mosquito in a nudist camp. There is so much to do and I don’t know where to begin.”

I feel the same way. Perhaps a little story out of Africa would be the ideal way to begin.

Once upon a time in an African forest a blind rabbit and blind snake met. And since they could not make out who the other was they decided to feel each other and say who they were. So the snake went first and begun to touch the rabbit. It said, “You are furly. You have long ears. You have a short stumpy tail. Ah! You are a rabbit. The rabbit responded enthusiastically, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Then the rabbit proceeded to explore the snake. It said, “You have a forked tongue. You are long and rather cold blooded. You have beady eyes. You are slithery and you have no means of self locomotion. Ah! You must be, you must be a Consultant”!!!

I should hastily add if they are any consultants in our midst that some of my best friends are consultants, lawyers, politicians and a few bishops.

I am most grateful for having been invited to present my views on the position of the African Church on the issues of homosexuality and same sex unions that have engulfed the Anglican Communion and threaten the survival of the Communion itself.

You know this issue of homosexuality is as old as the hills. I remember reading in the Guardian Weekly (UK) some years ago that in 1957, 50 years ago. The Wolfenden Committee, when about to publish its report on homosexuality and prostitution in Britain, realized it had no collective noun for prostitutes.

The Committee approached several eminent people for suggestions. “ A tray full of tarts”, was the chef’s offering. “ A fanfare of strumpets,” said the conductor. The poet said, “ an anthology of prose” and “ a novel of trollops”.

The Committee didn’t think much of these and turned to Sir Hartley Shawcross the distinguished lawyer. “Call them anything you like,” he said, “ but not on any account a firm of solicitors”.

Now, it would be presumptuous for me to claim that I know everything that is going on in the African church regarding these issues but they are so serious that they make us ask a fundamental question “where are we heading to in the Anglican Communion?”

In this paper I shall examine what we might call “a view from Africa”. The questions asked are: “Is there a unanimous view from Africa”? or “are there different voices”? “If there are different voices, what are they saying? And, of course, one of the most important questions is “How does the future of the communion seem from Africa?

A brief history of the Anglican Communion in Africa

The Church in Africa claims to have been planted in the first century of the Christian era, during the apostolic period. If the story of the Ethiopian eunuch is anything to go by, then it can be argued that he was the first African Christian. The missionary activities of St. Mark in the streets of Alexandria and that of St. Barnabas as well ensured not only the Christian presence in Africa but its permanence in historical records. Both the Egyptian and Ethiopian Churches kept the light of Christ burning on the African continent until the missionary era began in earnest in the 19th Century.

From the perspective of the Anglican Church, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Church Missionary Society and the Universities Mission to Central Africa laid strong foundations planting churches in many parts of Africa. From its inception in the 19th Century to the present day, the Anglican Church in Africa has grown rapidly and constitutes today one of the fastest growing parts of the Anglican Communion.

Today, I can assure you that Anglican Christians in Africa speak with one voice in professing that Jesus Christ is their Lord and personal Saviour and that they have been called by God into his Kingdom. The impact of the Anglican Communion in the life of ordinary Christians and the society has been tremendous in areas of education, provision of health services, democratic values, a deep spirituality based on the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and above all the unity of God’s people across ethnic, tribal, national and regional boundaries. But beyond this, through their membership in the Anglican Communion, Anglican Christians in Africa are united with their brothers and sisters across the globe as they strive to work together to proclaim the Kingdom of God with its message of love, forgiveness, compassion and care. Some of our provinces cut across national boundaries and they create and foster a truly united spirit of all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and God. This is the unwavering spirit of our people and here they speak with one voice. We derive our spiritual strength in our unity as Anglicans in the Communion.

The Anglican Communion in Africa since the events of 2003 in America

The events that led to the present crisis in the Anglican Communion are clear to everyone and we shall not belabor the point. Our focus is on Africa where some of the strongest criticisms have come which threatens the existence of the Anglican Communion as we know it today.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams recently said that ‘ECUSA is not a monochrome body, and contains ‘a full range of conviction’. I agree but would also draw a parallel with Anglican provinces in Africa. The African provinces are not a monochrome body as popular belief would suggest. There are different points of view in the various Africa provinces. To think that there is one view is simplistic and a distortion of the truth. We need therefore to give space and credit to the diversity embraced by the African provinces.

I submit to you that there are three voices expressing different views in regard to their relation to the Communion. Here is a brief overview of some of the different voices and the theological basis on which they are based as well as the factors that seem to inform their decisions.

In trying to make sense of these voices I am reminded of some wise words that Mr. Justice Holmes, once said in regard to the life of the law.

He said, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellowmen, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.”

This judicious comment is applicable to theology. Our understanding of faith and its expression is formed through experience within a given context. Consequently, the African voices reflect their context.

1. The Conservative voice:
(a) The Anglican Church in Nigeria

The first African voice we consider is what we may call the conservative voice. The Anglican Church in Nigeria best exemplifies this voice. The Nigerian Church strongly believes that the issue of homosexuality in the Communion is a cancerous growth which needs to be removed in order to save the Communion from collapsing. It’s a voice of protest and one which advocates separation rather than reconciliation.This is the voice that many people hear coming out of Africa. If we have to put a face to this voice then it would be that of the Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, CON, DD.

The position of the Anglican Church in Nigeria is well known. It has spoken out loud and clear against homosexuality and same-sex marriages or civil unions. The Nigerian church broke relations with ECUSA after it consecrated an openly gay man, Eugene Robinson of New Hampshire, as a bishop in 2003. The Nigerian church also broke relations with the Anglican Church of Canada after the diocese of New Westminster blessed civil unions of gay couples.

This conservative voice emphasizes the Bible over tradition. It opposes anything that is incompatible with the Bible and to this conservative voice homosexuality is contrary to the Bible. The inspiration behind this conservative voice is not only the Bible but other factors kick in such as cultural, religious and legal considerations.

Homosexuality in most African societies is seen as an abomination. Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe claimed homosexuals were "worse than pigs and dogs. It is perceived to be against the order of nature. Sex is between man and woman. Not man and man or woman and woman. So in African culture homosexuality was not talked about and any expression was suppressed. In Uganda, for example, the practice – referred to as "carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature" - has been outlawed by president Museveni, it is also illegal in most African countries. "

So the conservative voice echoes the cultural abhorrence of homosexuality. The conservative voice also echoes the political and legal context in which it speaks.

For example, the Nigeria government is in the process of debating a bill which will criminalise same-sex marriage, as well as the "Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations" and "Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise", on penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment.

Archbishop Akinola has welcomed and defended this bill. In Februaryy 2006, He issued a communique on behalf of the Church of Nigeria Standing Committee stating "The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality."

The conservative voice is, perhaps unconsciously, also influenced by interfaith strife. Nigeria is a country split between Christian and Muslim population – this is undoubtedly a factor in the Church wanting to maintain a conservative position on personal and sexual morality as defense against Muslim attacks of permissiveness.

So, the tenor of the conservative voice embodies various streams of influence. The result of the conservative voice is that it has declared the existence of an impaired communion with its counterparts and talks of splitting from the Anglican Communion if the erring provinces do not repent.

The Church of Nigeria two years ago amended its Constitution by redefining its relationship to the Anglican Communion by replacing all former references to "communion with the See of Canterbury “ with "communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the 'Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church'."

The implication of this is that it rejects the primacy of the See of Canterbury which is regarded in the Anglican Communion as one of the defining characteristics of Anglicanism.

The Constitutional change also allowed the Church of Nigeria to create convocations and chaplaincies of like-minded faithful outside Nigeria. This effectively gave legal teeth to the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas (CANA).So, Akinola’s influence goes beyond Africa to the USA where he has encouraged like-minded Episcopalians to consider cutting ties with ECUSA and organizing themselves under the banner of the Nigerian Anglicans with their more literal views on the Bible.

(b) The Church of the Province of Uganda

Apart from the Church of Nigeria, the Anglican Church in Uganda has also taken a strong stand against the issue of homosexuality. In 2003, the House of Bishops officially broke communion with ECUSA and a year later the Provincial Assembly affirmed that position.

Recently, the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, stated that he will not sit together with Katherine Jefferts Schori at the forthcoming meeting of the primates in Dar-es-Salaam Tanzania next month.

(c) The Church of the Province of Tanzania

Mention should also be made here of another strong voice of protest from the Province of the Church in Tanzania. On Decemberr 7, 2006, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in Tanzania issued a statement saying that its “communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) is severely impaired in the light of the 75th General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report.

This is the conservative voice from Africa. A voice prepared to exclude those voices or views deemed incompatible with the Bible and its position. A voice relatively quiet on speaking out on life and death issues of poverty, AIDS, and responsible governance.

We must bear in mind that within this voice they are bishops, clergy and laity who do not accept all that this voice represents who are silenced and carried away by a strong undertow.

B. The Liberal Voice
The Anglican Church in Southern Africa

The second African voice we explore is what we may call the liberal voice. The Church of the Province of Southern Africa best exemplifies this voice. And the Most Rev. Njongonkulu Winston Ndungane, the Primate of the Province of Southern Africa is the face to this voice.

A statement of the Synod of Bishops of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa issued in Septemberr 2003 on the divisions in the Anglican Communion around issues of human sexuality, and concerning homosexuality in particular sums up the liberal voice.

Let me share this statement with you. Inter alia, the statement acknowledged the deep divisions of conviction and understanding in the Communion since the Lambeth Conference of 1998 and that the Bishops of the CPSA themselves were not of one mind on these important matters as well.

The statement outlined the areas of agreement amongst the Bishops. These are the areas. The bishops were of one mind in their desire to be loyal to the mind and heart of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as respect for the Scriptures as the authoritative foundational text of their Faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They were of one mind in their desire to search and interpret the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation” as well as their respect for each other’s integrity of faith, and each other’s commitment to this search together. They were of one mind in their desire to dialogue and facilitate such dialogue and listening among all their members. The bishops were particularly determined to ensure that members of both homosexual and heterosexual orientation (and practice) were included in such dialogue. They were of one mind in their belief that this is how Jesus would want them to handle this divisive, emotive, and as yet unresolved issue. Concluding the areas of agreement the statement highlighted the bishops conviction that God was leading his Church, and would in his loving way and time bring the Communion through to his light and truth.

The statement then addressed the actions already taken by some Provinces and expressed the mind of the Bishops on these actions in four clear statements.

First, that “the Lambeth Conference is, for the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the highest body which has over time helped both to reflect and evolve the teaching and policy of our Church on issues of doctrine, faith and morals. As such it behoves all Provinces to treat its decisions with solemn respect.” This is the position of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa and shares the concern of the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he said in a letter to 38 Primates, that “any individual Diocese or even Province that officially overturns or repudiates this Resolution (of the Lambeth Conference) poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion”.

The Bishops acknowledged that the Lambeth Conference is not a Legislative Body. It does not purport to lay down “Anglican Law” or “Rules” for the Provinces.

Thus, while most may regard it as profoundly regrettable, and even undermining of our Communion, for any Province to act contrary to the Resolution in question, it cannot be said that they are acting uncanonically.

Secondly, they stressed that as a Communion of Provinces it was fundamental to our life as Provinces in one Anglican Communion, that we respect the autonomy of each Province. Accordingly they endorsed the resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1988: which states “This Conference… affirms that it is deemed inappropriate behaviour for any bishop or priest of this Communion to exercise episcopal or pastoral ministry within another diocese without first obtaining the permission and invitation of the ecclesial authority thereof.” (Resolution 72.2 of 1988).

Thirdly, the bishops urged the need to respect the integrity of the processes in each Province acting in accordance with their respective Canons and Constitutions.

Finally, the bishops recommended that the issues of doctrine and morals which have arisen, and which are so disturbing to so many of our people across the Communion, must be handled through the structures of our Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates’ meeting, the ACC, and the Lambeth Conference.

The penultimate section of the statement focused on what they termed the mystery of human sexuality. The bishops were of the view that there was a great deal that needed to be learned concerning the gift and mystery of human sexuality, and therefore supported all efforts to promote further study and research. This they counseled needed to go hand in hand with deeper theological reflection on the Scriptures, as well as reflection on unfolding insights into human nature created by God.

The statement also gave support to Archbishop Njongonkulu’s call for an All Africa Conference on Human Sexuality.

In conclusion the statement called and I quote, “on the Provinces, Bishops and Dioceses, and in our Parishes, to be focusing more on God’s Mission to the poor and needy “at our gate”. We are confronted with life and death issues affecting the overwhelming number of our people. We need to be bringing the hope and healing of Jesus to God’s people. Let us look to ourselves as we ponder the challenge of Jesus, spoken to us in Matthew 25:31-46. This is how God will judge his Church, including ourselves.”

The liberal voice in Africa sees the current crisis in the Anglican Communion as diverting the attention of the Church from the major life and death issues in the world. These include, hunger across the world, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the HIV and AIDS pandemic, debt and others.

The context in which the liberal voice speaks was formed in the evils of the Apartheid era which sought to discriminate and dehumanize people. Within this context and experience arose a voice of people steeped in black and post-colonial theology, the theology of liberation, and black consciousness.

In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority.... I could not myself keep quiet whilst people were being penalized for something about which they could do nothing, their sexuality. … To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as Apartheid ever was.”

The Constitution of the rainbow nation of South Africa is based on values of dignity, freedom and equality and does not permit ordinary citizens to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Human rights and equality in South Africa’s Constitution obviously influences the churches theological thinking on gender and sexuality. There is another subtle influence that of the concept of Ubuntu which simply means that a person is a person because of others or the community. In other words all people are equal.

The liberal African voice as exemplified by the Church of the Province of Southern Africa acknowledges and gives thanks to God for the role played by gay and lesbian members and encourages the welcoming and affirmation of all members regardless of their sexual orientation, in all the churches of the CPSA.

3. Moderate voices
(a) The Anglican Church in Burundi

The third African voice we discern is the moderate voice. Nicely, snuggled between the conservative and liberal voices. The Anglican Church in Burundi is a good example of this moderate voice in the Communion. In their statement on the issue of homosexuality and same sex-unions, the church has categorically stated that they remain committed to the Anglican Communion and to endeavouring to work with all the Primates who have been entrusted with the leadership of its provinces. In the statement they also indicated that they are committed to the Gospel imperative to maintain unity and communion that is rooted in truth and love. They emphasised their theological understanding of the authentic nature of the Church as being one, holy, catholic and apostolic and affirmed their loyalty to the authority of Scripture and the traditional teachings of the Church.

They expressed their hope in prayer that ways will be found to move forward with renewed commitment to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Although the Anglican Church in Burundi abhors the events that led to the present crisis in the Communion they have expressed the need to continue to prayerfully encourage understanding and dialogue and re-assess structures and ways of drawing closer to each other rather than walking apart. Their position is one which seeks reliance on the Holy Spirit that will lead to repentance, forgiveness, revival, and healing and urge others in the Communion to work for a Church characterised by justice, and compassion that strives to be a sanctuary of care where truth can be told in love so that Christians can walk together in a way that honours the name of Christ and witness to his reconciling love in a hurting and fragmented world.

Here ends the lessons on the African voices.

Other Factors

There are two factors I seek to draw your attention to that directly or indirectly are influencing the tone and volume of the African voices. The first factor or voice is that of the Global South. The Global South as a body is concerned with a range of subjects, such as social action and economic empowerment. It came about to address some of the power imbalances between North and South that exist within the Church. So the rationale for its existence is commendable.

A worrisome development is the issuance of the Kigali Communiqué by the Primates of the Global South in September 2006 in Rwanda. This caused a theological earthquake measuring 8.6 on the richter scale. It evoked mixed feelings across the Anglican Communion reflecting both the extreme right and extreme left of Anglicanism.

The communiqué claimed to be a unanimous statement presumably speaking for a majority of Anglicans who live in the southern hemisphere!

In the communiqué, the Primates noted that they had asked the Global South Steering Committee to develop a proposal identifying the ways by which an Alternative Primatial Oversight can be set up within the Anglican Communion in order to oversee the work of some of the dioceses in the USA which are not happy with the existing Primate and other bishops. They also indicated that at the next meeting of the Primates in Februaryy 2007 some of the Primates would not recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as a Primate and that others would be in an impaired communion with her as a representative of the Episcopal Church in the USA. In this regard, they suggested that another bishop should be present at the meeting so that they could listen to the voices of the dioceses which, in their estimate, abide by the teaching of the Communion.

There are some comments i would like to make regarding this communique.

First, not all Primates associated themselves with the Statement. The Archbishop of Cape Town, for example, did not endorse it and was of the view that there was a deliberate intention to undermine the due processes of the Anglican Communion and the integrity of the instruments of Unity. He called for patience in resolving the present crisis and appealed to his brother Primates to step back from the brink at which the Kigali Communiqué had placed the Anglican Communion calling for a spirit of tolerance and grace in the face of pains of divisions among the Primates.

Secondly, the Primates seemed to have gone ahead of everybody as there was no apparent consultative process that fully engaged the laity, clergy and bishops in the debate within the Global South.This is essential in the current crisis before a final decision is taken on these weighty matters. Surely Primates do not have sole monopoly on wisdom and knowledge. Although some would like to think so!

In a presidential address delivered by the former Archbishop of Sydney and Primate The Most Revd Sir Marcus Loane, he said, “The trouble is that the Bishops are not the Church. The Church is made up of people: it is governed by an elected General Synod; when the synod is not in session, its Standing Committee acts on its behalf. That is as democratic a system of church government as can easily be devised, but it makes it impossible for the Church to speak with a single authoritative voice.

Therefore what the Primate should choose to say, or what the Bishops decide to say may be no more than a personal utterance and may command no more support than those whose views it happens to reflect.”

From this position the Global South’s pronouncement are no more than “Primates utterances” provoking deep thought. For the fundamental and indispensable element of our Anglican identity is that we are both episcopally led and synodically governed.

The other factor influencing the voices from Africa is numbers and the almighty dollar!

These factors can be seen to influence – and at times bring pressure to bear, or even manipulate the situation. Where does ‘power’ lie in the present debate? The provinces in Nigeria have collectively the largest number of Anglican members in the world – more than the Church of England and ECUSA combined! America has long been generous in its hospitality and support for African church projects and its leaders, however, in the current situation, the almighty dollar has been used to strengthen the voice and position of some African bishops who have been invited to the States and given generous incentives. Very tempting indeed for a bishop from a poor African diocese to be feted and offered funds by his American hosts, if he endorses the party line!

One of the things that amazes me in this whole debate is the manner in which lobbying, very perculiar to America, has been used to influence opinion, decisions, and relationships, which results in the creation of a culture of ‘them’ and ‘us’, ‘in’ and ‘out’, and never shall the twain meet. The success of this lobyying has been assisted mainly by the dissemination of information on the internet.

THE African Future

Well then, from this overview it is apparent that the, “view from Africa” varies depending where you stand. The answer to the question, “Is there a unanimous view from Africa”? is no. And the answer to the question, “are there different voices”? is yes. We now know what the voices are and what they are saying and now we address one of the most important questions “How does the future of the communion seem from Africa?

Here I shall share with you my “personal utterances” or reflections. A realistic picture of the future of the Communion from Africa is that it will continue renewed in faith and mission by reassing the present structures and instruments of unity.

The African Provinces are not a monochrome body and the scenario of the African Provinces spliting off as a whole from the Communion to form an alternative Communion is in my view impossible. The only likely possibility in the unlikely event of this happenning is one or two African provinces spliting to align themselves with similar minded provinces.

However the Communion will continue and these are my reasons.

The first point we must understand is that the majority of African Anglicans about 37 million of them are frankly not bothered about the whole debate on sexuality and gay bishops, impaired communion and so forth. A fact not lost on the Windsor Commission who recognized the existence within the Anglican Communion of a large constituency of faithful members who are bemused and bewildered by the intensity of the opposing views on issues of sexuality. This group embraces worshippers who yearn for expressions of communion which will provide stability and encouragement for their pilgrimage. Their voices have been eclipsed by the intensity of sounds on opposing sides of the debate.

The majority of African Anglicans are not bothered because their minds are concentrated on life and death issues of HIV and AIDS, poverty and drought, malaria, dying from starvation and not what the church thinks about sexuality or what colour your pyjamas are! The debate on sexuality is a non – issue for most of our people. And I suspect that for the millions of poor Anglicans Africans in the villages they are not even aware that this controversy is raging on! That’s the first point I want to make.

The second point I want to make is that the minority of Africans who have the luxury to think on this issue don’t what to see the Communion disintegrate, because they value the communion and its bonds of affection, and would prefer to follow the process recommended by the Windsor Report. They are also indifferent to the pronouncements purportedly made on their behalf as they are rarely consulted.

The long history of Anglicanism has only been possible because of its capacity to embrace different views on matters of faith, practice and spirituality.

The labels bandied about of conservatives, liberals, moderates are a simplification of a much more complex situation. We wear all these labels depending on the situation.

But whatever label we may wear its okay. It speaks of diversity and the unity in diversity as Anglicans is that we must all learn to live together.

The late Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, wrote in a foreword to a book, Grow or Die in 1981, that “…no single form of Christian experience, conviction or organisation is going to prevail over others. Conservative and radical, contemplative and activist, pietist and social reformer, all must learn to live together. They may and should see much to criticize in their own and others’ position. The critical faculty must not be lost. Reverence for truth must still be paramount. But all must learn to live together, for in religion, as in all else, the same things do not appeal to everybody”.

It was a wise observation that is still valid now. The learning to live together means discovering mutual respect and understanding for one another in the way we believe and see things. The crisis in the Anglican Communion gives us all an opportunity to rediscover our relationship with God, ourselves, and each other. And this is only possible by cultivating the gift of humility.

A story is told of famous old priest was being introduced to a congregation by the parish priest who waxed more eloquent by the second:

“We are about to hear from a man of such wisdom that even the most learned sit at his feet; of such kindness that even children flock to him for advice; with such a keen understanding of human problems that men and women bare to him their innermost secrets; a man of such…such…at this point, the old priest tugged at the sleeve of the parish priest, whispering, “ And don’t forget my humility”!

“Don’t forget my humility”. We need to organise an , “Anglican Communion on Humility Conference”! Think of humility as an attitude or spirit of how we see people and the world in general. Humility is seeing, knowing and understanding people with reverence, a sense of wonder, respect and appreciation. It is honouring the person and life by not imposing our ways on them. It is this humility that is a missing ingredient in the war of views on sexuality. We seem to have forgotten that in God’s grace there is no space for arrogance, the holier than thou attitude and judgemental spirit. There is however a lot of space for the spirit of humility which inspires us to be open to learning, growth and being enriched by other encounters.

In humility we must maintain the unity of the Church which is non-negotiable. It is a calling for the leadership of the Church to work hard for the maintenance of the unity of the Anglican Communion through the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council and Meeting of the Primates.

The pursuance of this unity should be done graciously. As you are aware the 75th General Convention of ECUSA in Resolution A165 affirmed their commitment to the Windsor process. I agree with the former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold’s remark in his communiqué of 28th September 2006 that such a process calls for patience and rules out actions which would pre-empty their orderly unfolding.

One is reminded of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the King sitting as a judge orders the jury to consider their verdict even before the trial has began. And the Rabbit hastily interrupts, “Not yet, not yet! There is a great deal to come before that!”

Yes, there is a great deal to come from the listening process and so we all need patience the solution will not come today or tomorrow but most likely within the next 20 years or God’s time because God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, is also here today working for reconciliation in the Anglican Communion as we embrace different views of our faith. Reconciliation is the answer.

Up to now, some strident voices in Africa have threatened the Anglican Communion with schism, insisting that some provinces be expelled from our world-wide fellowship. Yet such voices because of the very diversity and strength of the Anglican churches in Africa, should be playing a reconciling role, in which Africa’s voice is bringing about reconciliation rather than splitting the Communion.

The Anglican provinces in Africa reflect most of the Anglican traditions – Catholic, Evangelical, Liberal and Charismatic. Southern Africa is progressive, Uganda and Kenya more conservative Evangelical, Central Africa, following its UMCA and USPG heritage, traditional Catholic.

Arguing for a middle way from the extremes, which is our situation in Africa, is being true to the Anglican tradition of seeking the via media. For example, in Southern Africa, the Anglican Church has held together despite huge diversities, not just of race, but of ecclesiology and theology, culture, language – and all under the most intensely divisive political system. Whether the issue was economic sanctions, army chaplains in Namibia, or the ordination of women, they stuck together, not unwillingly but joyfully sharing in the family of the Church, the kingdom of God, to which they knew they all belonged.

They have much to teach us. Our energy should go in strenghthening the many things we have in common rather than focusing on matters on which we differ.

The African perspective also recognises that the individual finds his/her identity within the community; and the community is more important than the individual. This insight is helpful at a time of exaggerated emphasis on individualism in the west. Globalisation means that no region or province can act unilaterally – either the US or regions of Africa. The whole Body of Christ is affected by the actions of one part. In a symphony, the various instruments and sections of the orchestra are designed to play together, such that the full melody is heard. This is unity in diversity.

The wonder of God.

In humility we need to see the Mystery and wonder of God’s kingdom. The core mission of the Church is the enlargement of God’s kingdom on earth. A kingdom where everybody has a place at the table of God. Everybody is welcomed and accepted. Everybody is affirmed. So the mission of the Church is to draw our attention to the dimensions of the Kingdom of God which are immense.

In breadth and length it embraces every tribe, every nation, every colour, every language on the face of the earth.

Why do we keep thinking separation? Could it be it’s because we have lost sight of the height and depth of the kingdom which is just as great – the kingdom within, the infinity of God in us, the wonders of union with God in prayer and sacrament and the realm of silence. We think too small in our inner world just as we think too small in the world around us. We are baptised into something larger, all of us. God help us to live into that. God help the leaders of the church to see the full dimensions of the kingdom, the large picture, and deliberately set out to include, to heal, to reconcile a broken church in a broken world.

I strongly believe through initiatives of collaboration encouraging linkages amongst dioceses in the USA, UK, Asia and Africa which are different from each other; and clergy working in a different cultural context from their own; exchange of visits to create the opportunity for a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another; the issues threatening to divide us can be resolved. Understanding breaks down walls and builds love and friendship.

So, as an African I believe that the future of the Communion is good. We have heard some powerfuls voices speaking on our behalf but there is a voice of grace embraced by the majority of Anglican Africans. It is a still small voice that believes in the beauty of diversity without trying to force people to be square or round. You may not have heard it loudly because many of people go about faithfully living out their christian lives prayerfully, patiently, in a spirit of forgiveness, in a spirit of repentance and reconciliation. This is grace. The only way that can help us overcome the problems that bedevil our Communion today. It is this still small voice that in the Communion will prevail. The voice of grace.

What is vital for all of us, is in all humility, to allow the God’s grace to work in us so that we can be able to work out with patience, prayer, faith, repentance and forgiveness our own salvation and that of the Communion. This will require a tremendous amount of hope against hope and I am sure we shall succeed to hold the Communion together.

For as St. Paul says we are not people without hope. For we walk by faith, not by sight. The Anglican Communion is a great treasure to us and we carry this treasure in our earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God. It is true that we shall be afflicted in every way in this crisis, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, excluded by others in the Communion but not forsaken by God, struck down but not destroyed for we shall always carry in our bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies to the world in the imperfection of our human nature.

There is much to be thankful for to God. May our prayer be to paraphrase the late Lord Runcie that “O’ God we lose not the critical faculty. Supremely reverence the truth and all learn to live together in the knowledge that in religion, as in all else, the same things do not appeal to everybody”.

Amnesty International report on David Hicks' kangaroo court trial

Jumana Musa
Advocacy Director for Domestic Human Rights and International Justice

At a hearing in Guantánamo on 26 March 2007, in his sixth year of detention and at the start of the US administration’s second attempt in the last three years to try him before a military commission, Australian national David Hicks pleaded guilty to one specification under the charge of “providing material support for terrorism”.

This plea was made after years of indefinite detention, isolation and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and after a day in which Hicks’ legal representation was reduced by the military judge overseeing the commission. After the plea, proceedings were adjourned and were expected to be reconvened later in the week after the details of the plea had been worked out.

David Hicks was one of 10 detainees to be charged under military commissions established under President George W. Bush’s Military Order of 13 November 2001. Those proceedings were halted in November 2004 by a US District Court judge, and ruled unlawful by the US Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in late June 2006. In early March 2007, David Hicks was the first person to be charged under the Military Commissions Act, legislation signed into law by President Bush on 17 October 2006 in response to the Hamdan ruling.

On 26 March 2007, David Hicks was arraigned on charges that he had never previously faced, in a system whose rules were issued two months ago. He came into the commission room in tan prison uniform and flip-flops with his hair hanging half way down his back. At his table was Major Dan Mori, his military defense counsel, Joshua Dratel, his civilian defense counsel, and Rebecca Snyder, his assistant military defense counsel.

When the military judge, Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, asked David Hicks if he wanted to keep his current legal representation, Hicks answered that he did, and that he wanted them provided with more assistance. What followed was a direct result of attempting to create a system of justice based on a roughly 200-page manual and which will operate in something approaching a legal vacuum.

Although the afternoon started with David Hicks asking for more support for his legal team, the result was the exact opposite. First, the military judge raised a challenge to the participation of Rebecca Snyder. While insisting that he was not issuing a ruling at this time, Colonel Kohlmann asserted that under his interpretation of the rules she could not represent David Hicks as military defense counsel since she was a civilian in the reserves. He gave David Hicks a choice – Rebecca Snyder could stay and consult but not advocate on his behalf, or she could leave. David Hicks told the judge he did not want her at the table if she could not represent him.

Next, the judge raised an issue with David Hicks’ civilian defense counsel of three years, Joshua Dratel. He stated that Dratel had not complied with the commission rules because he had not signed the necessary certification. Joshua Dratel argued that the qualification of a civilian defense counsel under the Rules for Military Commissions requires that in order to appear before a commission, civilian counsel shall “Have signed the agreement prescribed by the Secretary [of Defense] pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 949c(b)(3)(E).” The issue at hand was that the Secretary of Defense had failed to issue such an agreement. Colonel Kohlmann had issued an order that could be signed in its place, but Joshua Dratel argued that, not only was this order invalid since the judge did not have the authority to issue it, but also that it would violate Dratel’s ethical obligations to sign an agreement that had not been created. Colonel Kohlmann, as he had previously with Rebecca Snyder, decided that Joshua Dratel did not meet the criteria necessary to practice before the military commission. Dratel was offered the opportunity to stay on as a consultant, to which he replied “I am not a potted plant.” When asked if he wanted Joshua Dratel to stay on as a consultant, David Hicks replied “I am shocked because I just lost another lawyer”, adding that he was left only with “poor Mr. Mori.”

An afternoon that started with a request for increased resources for the defense thus resulted in the reduction of David Hicks’ legal team by two-thirds due to regulations that had not been promulgated and rules that had not been tested.

These exchanges were observed by a room that included journalists, NGO delegates, Australian attorneys, Australian government and diplomatic officials, as well as David Hicks’ father and sister. David Hicks is the only detainee at Guantánamo to have had visits from family.

At the hearing, Major Mori challenged the military judge’s fitness to preside over the proceedings, arguing both bias and the appearance of bias. The judge ruled himself fit to serve, dealt with scheduling matters, and adjourned the proceedings.

Approximately three hours later, the commission was reconvened and David Hicks entered a guilty plea to one of two specifications of his charge of “providing material support for terrorism”. The specification alleges that between December 2000 and December 2001, Hicks intentionally provided material support for al Qa’ida, and that this conduct took place in the context of an armed conflict. Yet the international armed conflict in Afghanistan only began in October 2001. The Military Commissions Act effectively backdates the “war on terror” to make offences committed even before 11 September 2001 triable by military commission.

David Hicks pleaded not guilty to a second specification, namely that during the same time period, he provided material support or resources for an act of terrorism.

The military judge questioned David Hicks as to whether his plea had been influenced by the removal of two of his three attorneys earlier in the day. Hicks replied that it had not. However, after more than five years of virtually incommunicado military detention, and facing unfair trial procedures, serious questions must be asked about whether such a guilty plea can have been a purely volitional act.

The maximum penalty that David Hicks faces is life imprisonment, but the prosecution has said that it does not intend to argue for a life sentence. Under the terms of a reported arrangement, Hicks would serve any prison sentence in Australia. The guilty plea thus begins a process which will end in his return to his home country, some predict before the end of the year. In this regard, what transpired yesterday can also be seen as part of an exit strategy from a source of diplomatic tension rather than of judicial proceedings at which justice would either be done or be seen to be done.

Yesterday’s proceedings do not bode well for the 60 to 80 people that the government claims it will prosecute under the military commission system. The proceedings reaffirm the need to close the Guantánamo detention camp as a matter of urgency and to end the lawlessness that it has come to symbolize.

The military commissions should be scrapped. Guantánamo detainees should be charged with recognizable criminal offences and brought to fair trial before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, such as a US District Court, or else released with full protections against further abuse.

Jumana Musa observed David Hicks’ arraignment for Amnesty International. She is a lawyer and a staff member of Amnesty International’s US section. She is a fluent Arabic speaker.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

IHT: Australian detainee at Guantánamo pleads guilty
Wlliam Glaberson

[It should be made clear: David Hicks is pleading guilty to only one charge at this point, that of being trained at an al-Queda camp. He has been held for five years in appalling conditions. The author heavily implies that the military judge may be biased. The Aussie government says his confession vindicates those who are persecuting him, but I don't think I can give that confession a lot of credence. It's kind of like the 15 UK sailors confessing to invading Iran's territorial waters in an act of aggression.

Prayers for all those held at Guantanamo Bay.]

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba: An Australian who was trained by Al Qaeda and spent five years in detention at Guantánamo Bay has pleaded guilty here to providing material support to a terrorist organization.

The guilty plea by David Hicks on Monday was the first under a new military commission law passed by U.S. Congress in the autumn after the Supreme Court struck down the Bush administration's first system for trying inmates at Guantánamo.

The guilty plea is sure to be seen by administration supporters as an affirmation of its efforts to detain and try terrorism suspects at this prison camp, although the government's detention policies still face significant legal and political challenges.

In Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, whose coalition government has suffered at the polls for their support of the Guantánamo process, gave a cautious welcome to the plea.

"I'm pleased for everybody's sake that this saga has come to a conclusion," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, reflecting the widespread belief among Australians that whatever crime Hicks may have committed, the process of bringing him to trial had taken too long.An editorial in the Wednesday edition of the newspaper The Australian said the guilty plea vindicated Hicks's prosecutors. "The suburban boy from Adelaide who left his family to join the cause of violent Islamic fundamentalism has not spent the past five years jailed at Guantánamo Bay because of a youthful misadventure, but rather because he committed some very real crimes with very real consequences," the paper said.

But critics of the government said Hicks's plea represented his desire to leave Guantánamo Bay more than his guilt. "His urge to get home to Australia almost under any circumstances has overtaken him. There is no way that this can be seen as a genuine guilty plea," said Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Green Party.

The plea by Hicks came after an extraordinary day in a red, white and blue courtroom.

Earlier, the military judge had surprised the courtroom with unexpected rulings that two of Hicks's three lawyers would not be permitted to participate in the proceedings, leaving only Major Michael Mori of the U.S. Marine Corps at the defense table.

After several acrimonious sessions in which Mori contended that the judge, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann of the Marines, was biased, the judge insisted that he was impartial and the hearings came to a close.

But in the evening, Kohlmann called the court back into session, saying he had been approached by lawyers who said Hicks was prepared to enter a plea.

Hicks, a stocky 31-year-old former kangaroo skinner who has been held at the prison for five years, was accompanied by guards to a defense table. Mori then said Hicks was prepared to plead guilty to one of two specifications in the charges against him.

That charge described Hicks's stay in a Qaeda training camp where, it said, he learned kidnapping techniques and was trained how to fight in an urban environment. Prosecutors have said that Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, had never shot at Americans there, but that he had taken part in other activities, including collecting intelligence on the U.S. Embassy.

Australian officials, who have described Hicks as a "lost soul" and "soldier wannabe," had been pressing the United States to resolve the case, and a prosecutor said Hicks would probably be back there within a year. Mori had waged an unusual campaign to rally support in Australia.

During the plea, Kohlmann led Hicks through a brief session in which he asked whether the earlier dispute about whether his lawyers were authorized to participate in the proceedings had influenced his decision to plead guilty.

"No, sir," Hicks, dressed in a tan prison uniform, answered calmly several times.

The road to Hicks's guilty plea was long and fraught with legal and diplomatic strife.

The Pentagon had originally hoped to begin trying detainees in the spring of 2002, but the Bush administration's system for military tribunals has been the subject of lengthy legal challenges. The Supreme Court struck down the administration's first plan for tribunals in June, ruling that a principal flaw was that the president had established them without the authorization of Congress.

In October, Congress enacted a new law providing for military tribunals, but lawyers for prisoners and other critics have challenged it as establishing a trial system that does not afford defendants the same protections as civilian courts. For example, critics have pointed out that the rules allow for the use of evidence obtained by coercion.

In addition to the legal challenges, the policy of holding "enemy combatants" without charges for as long as five years has drawn international protest, including from U.S. allies.

The Hicks case has drawn particular criticism in Australia, where Hicks, a high school dropout, turned to Islam after unsuccessfully trying to join the army and then joining an evangelical church.

On Monday, after Hicks's guilty plea, the judge adjourned the case for further proceedings this week, evidently so that the lawyers could settle on what specific acts he may acknowledge. The sentence will be decided by a five-member military commission.

Lawyers have suggested that Hicks might serve out the remainder of any sentence in Australia. Asked whether he might be back in Australia by the end of the year, a military prosecutor said, "The odds are pretty good."

Hicks's arraignment Monday was the first public proceeding under the new tribunal rules. The hearing quickly turned fractious, especially after the judge disqualified the two lawyers.

Hicks appeared startled as his long-awaited day before the tribunal turned into something a free-for-all, rather than the orderly arraignment that had been anticipated.

"I am shocked because I just lost another lawyer," Hicks said, after the judge said that one of his two civilian defense lawyers, Joshua Dratel, had not complied with the judge's rules for handling a military commission case. Dratel, a lawyer in New York, has been a central player in the Hicks case.

"Right now you do not represent Mr. Hicks," said Kohlmann, the presiding judge of the new military commission organization, who assigned himself to the Hicks case.

Referring to the Bush administration's previous plan for military commission trials struck down by the Supreme Court, Dratel said in the courtroom before he left that the events Monday showed that the new commission process was as plagued by problems as the old one.

"You cannot predict from one day to the next what the rules are," Dratel said.

The judge rejected each assertion that he was acting arbitrarily or was biased. In an even tone, he methodically moved through the events of the day, turning aside each defense complaint. The defense claims, he said, "do not raise matters that would cause a reasonable person to question my impartiality."

Even before the hearing Monday, the case against Hicks had been marked by an unusual public dispute between Hicks's military lawyer, who has openly attacked the tribunals, and the military prosecutor.

And on Monday, Mori was also critical of the judge, saying that some of his rulings seemed aimed at helping the government prove its case against Hicks. Mori said some rulings appeared to be "fixing the rules to fix their mistakes."

Kohlmann said his rulings had been impartial, aimed only at assuring that the case moved ahead professionally and quickly.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Hershey Commits to Responsible Supplier Code -- America devours more chocolate than any other country. At the same time, candy has tasted less-than-sweet for many with the exposure of unfair labor practices used in manufacturing chocolate. In 2001, the US chocolate industry signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol that outlined the end of child slavery on cocoa farms by July 2005. In 2005, the chocolate industry asked for more time to fulfill their original agreement, and most labor activists believe more needs to be done to end child labor in the chocolate supply.

However, cocoa alone does not a candy bar make. Concerned shareholders and candy consumers are now asking for chocolate companies to work on their entire vendor supply chains, including sugar, nuts, dairy and packaging supply chains. The Hershey Company (HSY), in response to a shareholder proposal from Walden Asset Management has agreed to create a broad-based supplier code of conduct that also includes an implementation and monitoring plan.

Walden has withdrawn its 2007 proposal after establishing a constructive, on-going dialogue with Hershey’s on this issue, as well as other areas of social responsibility. Walden is the SRI division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company.

The broad-based vendor supply chain will go beyond fair labor practices to include the workplace, health and safety, the environment, food safety and quality. The code will also address implementation and auditing plans.

"We are working with the code to build compliance from inside the company as well as our suppliers," said John Long, Hershey’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs. "We plan to be transparent about the code with shareholders. Our plan is to post it on our web site, posting it as we roll it out. Our objective is to be successful."

Hershey’s plans to work with the non-profit Verité and continue their partnership with the non-profit Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to create and implement its supplier code. The goal of the new code is to expand its existing auditing process. Hershey’s calls the code a "living document" because it will grow and change as Hershey’s gains experience. This code is part of Hershey’s broader commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Verité’s mission is to make sure that workers have safe, fair and legal working conditions. Started in 1995, it works directly with companies, workers, labor unions and non-governmental organizations and has conducted more than 1,300 factory audits in over 60 countries. Helping companies gain control over conditions in international supply chains, Verité aims to facilitate sustainable improvements in working conditions through worker-focused monitoring, implementation of remediation programs, and capacity building for a variety of workplace stakeholders.

Dan Viederman of Verité spoke to generally on the role Verité plays when helping companies create fair working conditions: "Though social auditing has generally been the place that most companies start, it is just part of the process. An audit is asking questions - what you do with the answers to those questions determines whether working conditions improve or not. Our aim is for companies to ask the right questions in the right way. Part of that is helping them look at their own business practices, the management capacity of the factory, and a variety of other complex factors that guide our approach to improving working conditions."

Long points to Hershey’s unique commitment to the community from its earliest days. In 1910, company founder Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine chartered the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Milton Hershey put all of his common stock in a trust to support the school. Today, the trust controls 79% of the company’s voting shares.

"Hershey’s has always given back to the community as part of the fabric of who we are. Now we are thinking more broadly of what community means," Long said.

The largest US manufacturer of chocolate and candy, The Hershey Company has yearly revenues of $5 billion and over 13,000 employees globally. Beside the well-known candy bars and confectioneries that are branded with Hershey’s name, Hershey's also wholly owns Artisan Confections Company, which markets products under the names Scharffen Berger, Joseph Schmidt, and Dagoba.

In February, Hershey’s announced a comprehensive supply chain transformation. The vendor supplier code created with its work with Walden Asset is a separate issue than the new supply chain transformation. Hershey’s states the goals of its global supply chain transformation as reducing production lines by more than a third as it increases manufacturing capacity, outsourcing low value-added items and building a facility in Monterrey, Mexico. When the plan is completed, 80% of Hershey’s production volume will be in the US and Canada. Although Hershey’s estimates the implementation costs of the program will be between $525-$572 million over the next three years, they also expect an annual savings of $170-$190 million generated by 2010.

Another route for concerned chocolate lovers to take is to buy Fair Trade certified cocoa. Fair Trade farmers are audited annually by third party inspectors to ensure that farms meet stringent standards, including a prohibition on child labor and slavery. Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, Fair Trade Cocoa Campaigner with the Global Exchange Organization stated, "Stakeholders throughout the cocoa supply chain need to hear loud and clear from investors that shareholders will not tolerate profits at the expense of African child slaves and that investors demand Fair Trade cocoa, an established and cost-effective system for auditing cocoa production."


Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Annunciation

Icon by Dan Paulos

An Angel went from God
To a town called Nazareth
To a woman whose name was Mary.
The angel said to her,
"Rejoice, O highly favored!
For God is with you.
You shall bear a child,
And his name shall be Jesus,
the Chosen One of God Most High."
And Mary said,
"I am the servant of my God.
I live to do God's will.

"My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
And my spirit rejoices in you.
You have looked with love on your servant here,
And blessed me all my life through!
Great and mighty are you, O Faithful One,
Strong is your kindness evermore,
How you favor the weak and lowly one,
Humbling the proud of heart!

"You have cast the mighty down from their thrones,
And uplifted the humble of heart.
You have filled the hungry with wondrous things,
And left the wealthy no part!
Great and mighty are you, O Holy One,
Strong is your justice, strong your love.
As you promised to Sarah and Abraham,
kindness forevermore!"

Marty Haugen's Annunciation ... I can't find the lyrics online and am quoting from memory, so I hope I got most of it right.

If you want to buy the icon:

Oscar Romero's proper in Spanish

A proper (noun) is the short prayer that varies with the season or festival, and every one of the Episcopal Church's saints has a proper. An Episcopal priest ( translated the proper into Spanish, which I assume Romero spoke fluently. There were several world events that forced me to post and push his entry down, but Blessed Oscar is an important saint, and deserves a bit more visibility. And so,

Dios del amor, tu llamaste a tu siervo Oscar Romero para ser la voz de los pobres sin voz, y para entregar a su vida como semilla de liberación y un señal de la esperanza: da nos el valor, los que están inspirado por su sacrificio y el ejemplo de los mártires salvadoreños, para que podemos dar testimonio, sin temor, de tu Verbo, que está con nosotros, tu Verbo que es la Vida, Jesucristo nuestro hermano y Salvador. Amen
Institute on Religion and Democracy: Episcopal Church "strikes a blow at the institution of marriage."

I picked this off Kendall Harmon's blog. Christian Newswire ( has a quote from Ralph Webb, of IRD's Anglican Action:

"The bishops' March 20 statement strongly suggests that that the Episcopal Church will neither meet the primates' requests nor change the Episcopal Church's direction toward what Episcopal progressives call the 'full inclusion' of gays and lesbians. When the bishops 'proclaim [that] ... gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church,' do they mean to imply approval for same-sex blessings?

"Additionally, the House talks about the 'full and equal participa[tion]' of not only gays and lesbians, but women. Since women have been ordained as bishops, is the House implying that non-celibate gays and lesbians should be as well?

"The Episcopal Church's current stance on same-sex blessings - that official rites cannot be developed but blessings at the local level can be acceptable pastoral measures if they are permissible in the diocese - not only runs against the teaching of the Anglican Communion, but strikes a blow at the institution of marriage. Any heterosexual blessings outside of the institution of marriage have the same effect, as does the consecration of any bishop or other member of the clergy living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage.

"Some progressive Episcopalians also are calling for, and some have committed themselves to, a radical 'fast' from all marriages until gays and lesbians can also be married. So while the Episcopal Church's rite for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony - in which marriage is called a 'bond and covenant [between a man and a woman that] was established by God in creation' - has not changed, some members of the laity and clergy are determined to modify it.

"Which way will the Episcopal Church go? The bishops ended their statement by saying that they 'now determinedly turn' toward the Episcopal Church's mission. From all indications, it looks like a turn away from interdependence within the Anglican Communion, and a turn toward autonomy. Such a turn would allow the Episcopal Church to fulfill its increasingly progressive understanding of both the church's social witness and the gospel - and open the door for eventually changing its definition of Holy Matrimony."

We're trying to destroy the institution of marriage? Really? I'll go get my hammer.

Webb incorrectly makes a leap from us blessing same-sex marriages to blessing relationships outside of marriage. While a number of liberals are OK with relationships outside of marriage, or at least recognize that they happen, that's a long way away from blessing such relationships. Most of the above liberals continue to believe that marriage is the ideal, for same- and opposite-sex couples. In my experience, Christian same-sex couples who want to get married are no different from opposite-sex Christian couples who do the same. Given that, I really don't see how we're trying to destroy the institution of marriage.

But if we are, I'll go get my hammer.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Robert Mugabe: "Tsvangirai will never rule"

Morgan Tsvangirai was defeated in the 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, but many international observers expressed concern that the elections had been rigged. Tsvangirai was charged repeatedly with treason, and accused of plotting to murder Mugabe. He was exonerated of the charges.

And now, Mugabe has accused Tsvangirai (IPA: tʃæŋgə'raι) of "want[ing] to rule this country on behalf of Blair (as in, the Prime Minister Tony)." Once again, Mugabe said that Tsvangirai provoked the police to arrest and assault him to draw the attention of the international media while opposition youths were paid to start riots: "You don't go to the police with violence. If you are a violent man you get more violence." He also said that Tsvangirai provoked the police to arrest and assault him to draw the attention of the international media while opposition youths were paid to start riots.,9294,2-11-1662_2088087,00.html

Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, has called on Zimbabweans to initiate peaceful disobedience to Mugabe's regime:

“People are justified to practice non-violent civil disobedience.”

"If only Zimbabweans are prepared to stand, so am I prepared to stand ... we are not going to be bullied,”

Where is the Anglical Church in Zimbabwe? I've already profiled the heinous abuses of Nolbert Kunonga, a bishop and a crony of Mugabe's. Anglican Archbishop Bernard Malango has shielded Kunonga from previous prosecution in church court. When Kunonga closed 45 Anglican churches on a Sunday, ordering the congregations to attend his wedding anniversary and to bring a $2000 gift, Malango shielded him:

…Asked to expand on his claims of factionalism on the sidelines of the anniversary, Archbishop Malango — who was flanked by Bishop Kunonga — said there were three factions in the Anglican Church. Two of them, comprising liberals and homosexuals (both gays and lesbians), were contending against one made up of faithful adherents to the church orthodoxy and doctrine.

Bishop Kunonga singled out the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England and titular, as opposed to substantive, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, as the driving force behind the negative publicity the local church was getting.

“Williams should explain the real reasons why he is interfering and frustrating my work in my diocese. He should mind his own business.

“He has no jurisdiction over Harare, he has no authority over and above Archbishop Malango who is the overseer of Central Africa. He hates us for categorically supporting the land reform in this country,” said Rev Kunonga.
-Courtesy of Thinking Anglicans:

If it is permissible for Anglican churches to declare themselves out of communion with one another, then I hope that we will all consider disfellowshipping Malango and Kunonga, and affiliating instead with the Christian Alliance in Zimbabwe, a group of church and civic leaders who are part of the Save Zimbabwe campaign. It is inconceivable that these men can call themselves Christians, let alone bishops.

Lastly, I discovered on Mugabe's Wikipedia page that Michigan State University (the guys with the intense rivalry with my university) awarded Mugabe an honorary Juris Doctor degree in Fall 1990, and that the student government is pressuring the administration to revoke it. I hope they succeed.
Captured UK sailors allegedly "confess" to entering Iranian waters in act of aggression...

[...but we all know that's crap. Pray that the US, Iranian, and UK governments do not use this as an excuse to escalate the crisis. I have to say, though, if there is blame to be laid in this crisis, it is to be laid on the governments of the US and Iran.]

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer, posted in the Houston Chronicle

TEHRAN, Iran — The Iranian military questioned 15 detained British sailors and marines Saturday and said they had confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters in an act of "blatant aggression."

Britain has demanded the return of the sailors and marines and denied they had strayed into Iranian waters while searching for smugglers off Iraq's coast.

The eight Royal Navy sailors and seven Royal Marines were brought to Tehran for questioning, and a a top military official, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, said they "confessed to illegal entry into Iran's waters."

"The said personnel are being interrogated and have confessed to aggression into the Islamic Republic of Iran's waters," Afshar was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA and the semiofficial ISNA news agency. He did not say what would now be done with the sailors.

The British marines and sailors, who included at least one woman, had just searched a merchant ship when they and their two inflatable boats were intercepted by Iranian vessels Friday at around 10:30 a.m. near the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway, U.S. and British officials said. The Iranian vessels surrounded them and escorted them away at gunpoint.

The seizure of the British sailors came at a time of heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions and over allegations that Iran is arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq. Still, Britain was treating it as a mistake rather than a provocation.

In London, the British government summoned the Iranian ambassador for the second time, demanding the safe return of the sailors and Royal Marines.

Lord Triesman, a Foreign Office under-secretary, spent more than an hour with Rasoul Movahedian, and sought assurances about the group's welfare and consular access, the British government said.

The European Union also called for the "immediate liberation" of the captured sailors.

Iranian hard-liners called for the 15 Britons to be held until Iran wins political concessions from the West.

Several conservative student groups have called on the Iranian government not to release sailors until five Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq earlier this year are freed and U.N. plans for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program are canceled. Some 500 Iranian students gathered on the shore near where the soldiers were captured, shouting "Death to Britain" and "Death to America," the Fars news agency reported.

The U.N. Security Council was scheduled to vote Saturday on new sanctions against Iran over its refusal of U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. The U.S. and other nations suspect Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies that and insists it will not halt the program.

With tensions running high, the United States has bolstered its naval forces in the Persian Gulf in a show of strength directed at Iran. U.S. officials have expressed concern that with so much military hardware in the Gulf, a small incident like Friday's could escalate into a dangerous confrontation.

In his comments on the sailors, Afshar added a warning that the United States would not be able to control the consequences if it attacks Iran.

"The United States and its allies know that if they make any mistake in their calculations ... they will not be able to control the dimensions and limit the duration of a war," Afshar said.

In June 2004, six British marines and two sailors were seized by Iran in the same waterway. They were presented blindfolded on Iranian television and admitted entering Iranian waters illegally, then released unharmed after three days.

Earlier this week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned this week that if Western countries "treat us with threats and enforcement of coercion and violence, undoubtedly they must know that the Iranian nation and authorities will use all their capacities to strike enemies that attack."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini accused the British of "violating the sovereign boundaries" of Iran, calling the entry a "blatant aggression."

He accused Britain of trying to cover up the incursion, saying it should "refrain from putting the blame on others."

The seizure of the Britons took place in an area where boundaries between Iraqi and Iranian waters have long been disputed. A 1975 treaty set the center of the Shatt al-Arab — the 125-mile-long channel known in Iran as the Arvand River — as the border.

But Saddam Hussein canceled the 1975 treaty five years later and invaded Iran, triggering an eight-year war. Virtually all of Iraq's oil is exported through a terminal near the mouth of the channel.

Britain's Defense Ministry said the Royal Navy personnel were in Iraqi territorial waters when they were seized. Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain also said it was "very clear" they were in Iraqi waters.

"We've been on operations there for several years," Aandahl said. He said coalition vessels respect the 1975 treaty.

The sailors, from the frigate HMS Cornwall, are part of a task force that maintains security in Iraqi waters under authority of the U.N. Security Council.

The Cornwall's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he hoped the detention was a "simple mistake" stemming from the unclear border.

But the Iraqi military commander of the country's territorial waters said the British boats may not have been in Iraqi territory.

"We were informed by Iraqi fishermen after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area that is out of Iraqi control," Brig. Gen. Hakim Jassim told AP Television News in the southern city of Basra.

"We don't know why they were there," he said.

The news agency Fars said navigational equipment on the seized British boats "show that they (sailors) were aware that they were operating in Iranian waters and Iranian border guards fulfilled their responsibility."