Saturday, May 16, 2009

A final note on the Tamil protests and civil disobedience

If you have been following this weblog, you will know that over the past couple of weeks, I have been discussing whether the recent protests by Toronto’s Tamils fit within the context of appropriate civil disobedience. This is a relevant discussion for the Persecuted Church Weblog since the issue of civil disobedience is a normal part of life for many persecuted Christians, though often it is expressed in a far less public ways (i.e. refusing to obey laws that call for them to stop witnessing to their faith, printing Bibles, and the like).

In today’s National Post, Robert Fulford brings up an important point for this discussion as he evaluates whether we can place these recent protests in the long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience as expressed through the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.  He suggests that we cannot for the simple reason that Gandhi and King “directed their protests against their oppressors, not (as the Tamils do) against innocent citizens on the other side of the world who might have trouble finding Sri Lanka on a map” (emphasis added). 

This is a vital point, in my opinion.  Civil disobedience must, to be legitimate, be directed against the oppressor, not against innocents who have nothing to do with it.

I think that this will likely be my last posting on this particular issue. I have found it a helpful exercise in evaluating the topic of civil disobedience. I hope you have found it helpful too.  Of course, this is more than just an academic exercise. The situation facing the Tamils in Sri Lanka is grave, as our partners there are trying to address.  May I encourage you again to write a message of encouragement to these overworked brothers and sisters who, at great risk and cost, are seeking to be Christ’s hands and feet among those fleeing from the fighting?  To be honest, the response to this earlier appeal has been rather disappointing.  Your message need not be long but I know it will be appreciated. 

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