01 October 2021
“If You Are Not Against Us, Be For Us”: A Call from the Pacific Conference of Churches on the International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
The Rev James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches write and reflects on the recent announcement of a new security partnership between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia and where it leaves the pacific island nations in these geo-political and military movements.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes a statement that challenges the notion of closed communities and exclusiveness and instead describes inclusive, affirming relationships as the norm.
We often hear and accept the phrase “if you are not with us, you are against us.” This is a statement that challenges neutrality, that challenges dissent of views as disloyalty and alludes to a “my way or the highway” attitude. You are either an ally or an enemy. This phrase was captured in 2001 by United States President George W Bush who, following the September 11th attacks, said, “"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Geopolitically we can see this in the Indo-Pacific (Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean) theatre of engagement with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan and India on one side and China on the other. In our Pacific region this has been playing out largely in the form of development assistance and aid, to counter China’s Belt Road Initiative.
With in all this, Asia has been relegated to India and Japan and the Pacific to Australia. Where do we Pacific Islanders fit in this geopolitical chess game? Are we pawns to be sacrificed? Perhaps we see ourselves as the pawns that may eventually be made a king? It is more likely that we are seen as the chessboard.