REFLECTION: We must be good soil and let God’s word help our spirit grow

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

My guess is that many of us here in this church remember years ago, when we talked about our obligation to go to Mass on Sunday and we made the distinction between mortal sin and venial sin. If we got there before the priest began the offertory, you know we missed that whole part of the Mass, but it wasn’t so bad because it was only a venial sin. If you came after that, of course, you were in big trouble. It’s a mortal sin.

But since the Second Vatican Council, we don’t make that kind of distinction anymore. I don’t think any of us probably think in terms of making sure we get to the three principal parts of the Mass. Now the Mass is the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We give much more importance now to the word of God, and that’s the way it should be because God’s word, as we heard in today’s first lesson, is a powerful word. God’s word not only tells us something, but it makes something happen.

Man Placing Seeds on Dirt --- Image by © Paul Burns/CorbisIt’s a creative word, and that’s what Isaiah was telling the people who had been in exile for so long: “God is going to bring about your return.” Now, they saw no evidence of it, but Isaiah says it with firmness, and he said why: “As the rain, the snow come down from the heavens and do not return until they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is my word that goes forth out of my mouth. It will not return to me empty.”…

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ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Better than hatred – a bereaved father’s call for peace

IzzeldinAbuelaish2by Izzeldin Abuelaish
in The Plough

I was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp. As a child I never tasted childhood. I was born to face misery, suffering, abject poverty, and deprivation. However, the suffering in this world is man-made; it’s not from God. God wants every good thing for us and he created us for the good. But just because suffering is man-made, there is hope. It’s the hope that we can challenge this man-made suffering by not accepting it, and by taking responsibility. I can’t challenge God, but I can challenge someone on earth. And you can do the same.

Izzeldin Abuleish lost his three daughters when an Israeli tank shelled their apartment in Gaza in 2009.

Izzeldin Abuelaish lost his three daughters when an Israeli tank shelled their apartment in Gaza in 2009. Photo credit: WTSP

People can deprive you, imprison you, or kill you, but no one can prevent any of us from dreaming. As a child, I dreamed of being a medical doctor. Through hard work I achieved my dream. Now I fight on a daily basis to give life to others. There are others who live to fight. Is this the purpose of our existence: to fight and to end others’ lives? A human life is the most precious thing in the universe. I know from my practice as a gynecologist how hard we work to save one life. Someone else can put an end to a life in seconds with a bullet. Each human being is a representative of God on earth, God’s most holy creation. We must value human life and be strong advocates of saving human life.

This world is endemic with violence, fear, and injustice. We often mention that one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand people have been killed here or there. But people are not numbers or statistics: we need to zoom in to think of each of them as a beloved one. Each person who is killed has a name, a face, a family, a story.

I was the first Palestinian doctor to practice medicine in an Israeli hospital. Many Israelis see Palestinians only as workers and servants. I wanted them to see that Palestinians are human and that we are not so different. Medicine has one culture and one value: the value of saving humanity. Within the walls of a hospital we treat patients equally, with respect and privacy, wishing them to be healed. We don’t design treatment according to their name, religion, ethnicity, or background, but according to their disease and their suffering….

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IRAQ: Urgent need for regional political solutions

Marie Dennisby Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International Co-President

As the progression of violence in already-violent Iraq commanded the attention of the world, Pope Francis joined the call to prayer and expressed his hope for “security and peace and a future of reconciliation and justice where all Iraqis, whatever their religious affiliation, will be able together to build up their country, making a model of coexistence.” IraqCrisis-smallChaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, who lives in Baghdad, called for a day of “fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq,” and insisted that “the best solution to all these problems is the creation of a government of national unity” to strengthen “the rule of law.”

Given the history and consequences of U.S. interventions in Iraq, U.S. faith communities and peace groups spoke out quickly and clearly:

Pax Christi USA wrote: “In response to the recent unrest in Iraq and the possibility of the crisis continuing to spread, Pax Christi USA is unequivocal in its assertion that U.S. military intervention will not achieve the peace and stability that the people of Iraq deserve. A military solution—whether it include air strikes or ground troops or an increase in the flow of weapons into Iraq—will only serve to increase the suffering of the Iraqi people, not alleviate it. Furthermore, military intervention increases the risk of widening the conflict in the region. [We call] for a fully inclusive international diplomatic process to address this crisis. The crisis … is regional in nature and requires a multi-lateral diplomatic response initiated by the United Nations and including regional authorities like the Arab League. The hope for a peaceful solution lies in an effort which addresses the political concerns of all the major factions in the region. We believe that the unfolding tragedy in Iraq is a direct, if unintended, consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country…”

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, IA, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote in a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan E. Rice, “Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation unleashed both sectarian conflicts and extremism in Iraq, two tragic unintended consequences that have profound and continuing repercussions for the people of Iraq … It is appropriate that the administration is urging political leaders in Iraq to form an inclusive government. … It is critical that all ethnic and religious groups are represented at the table of governance so that the common good of all is served. Extremists have been exploiting the divisions born of exclusion and the weakening of the rule of law. In addition to seeking a political solution in Iraq, it is critical to do so in Syria. The U.S. should work with the international community … and all responsible parties in Syria … to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria.”…

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TAKE ACTION: Tell President Obama and Congress not to deport innocent children

from Presente.org

Screen_Shot_2014-07-17_at_3.22.32_PMThe situation is dire. The Obama Administration has started to deport the refugee children back to Central America. And the House and Senate are ramming through a bill, deceptively named the ‘HUMANE Act’, that would speed up their deportations. If it passes, President Obama is likely to sign it — despite a pledge not to send kids back home to their deaths.

The media needs to hear the voices of folks like you: people who will stand up to any effort to throw families and innocent children back to extreme gang violence and poverty.

Tell President Obama and Congress: Do not deport innocent refugee children. Do not pass the HUMANE Act!

Click here to sign the letter.

IRAQ: Engage the UN to counter the ISIL terrorist threat

by David Cortwright

The violent extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized major cities and swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and are seeking to create a caliphate over the entire Muslim world. The group poses a threat not only to the region but to global security. The battle-hardened forces of ISIL include hundreds of fighters from Europe and Chechnya and even some from the United States. Some of these fighters will likely take their warped ideology and violent skills with them when they return home.

ISIL has fought across two countries in its quest for an Islamic state.

ISIL has fought across two countries in its quest for an Islamic state.

Why then, in the face of this clear and present danger to global security, has the United States not joined with other countries in bringing this matter to the UN Security Council? Isn’t that why the UN was created, to mobilize cooperative action in response to international security threats? The failure to work through the UN diminishes the prospects for building an effective international coalition against ISIL. It reduces the repertroire of potential responses to the crisis and contributes to the atrophy of the UN and of multilateralism in general.

Thirteen years ago, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the response was very different. The Security Council met immediately and adopted a wide range of measures to harness international action against al-Qaeda. Most significant was Security Council Resolution 1373, which required every country to freeze the financial assets of al-Qaeda terrorists and their supporters, deny them travel or safe haven, prevent terrorist recruitment and weapons supply, and cooperate with other countries in information sharing and criminal prosecution. In its response to 9/11, the Council also expanded existing sanctions on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, created new bodies to monitor and assist compliance with counterterrorism measures, and established a wide range of counterterrorism programs that have helped, along with U.S. military pressures, to diminish the global threat from al-Qaeda…

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STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the violence in the Middle East

“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.”

~Pope Francis, June 8, 2014

As the number of dead and wounded continues to rise in Gaza, Pax Christi USA calls for an immediate cease-fire by all parties in order to open the possibility for negotiations to end the senseless violence and address the underlying causes which fuel the decades-long tragedy in the Middle East.

Pax Christi USA mourns the loss of life on both sides of the conflict. We stand with all those who have been victimized by violence. Our hearts are broken over the death and destruction which only serves to terrorize hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza, those who call this relatively small piece of land home. We join with Pax Christi International members around the world in offering “our sincere condolences to all those in mourning and pray that those who have been killed will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.”

As the violence escalates and broadens, we are witnessing, in some cases, the perishing of entire families, and the dismantling of what little infrastructure was still intact in the service of the basic human needs of the people who live in Gaza. The attack on Gaza has created a humanitarian disaster which is marked all the more tragic by the inability to provide the assistance needed because of the ongoing violence.

Pax Christi USA has been unequivocal in insisting that for peace to be possible, there must be an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, a dismantling of the barrier wall built on Palestinian land, and an end to the Gaza blockade. We have asserted that the policies of our own government have functioned to provide the support that enables the occupation and that we must continue to pressure our political leaders for a change in those policies. U.S. policy and aid must be tied to respect for human rights and the safeguards provided by international law for the human dignity of all. Even as the violence rages in Gaza, as U.S. citizens we have a responsibility to hold our own government accountable for its complicity in this conflict, as well as U.S. corporations which benefit from protecting the status quo.

We believe that even in tragedy lies hope. Our hope for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples is for a future built in recognition of their shared humanity, where the security of all is rooted in the practice of justice for all. Let this be the last of the bloodshed in this region which has suffered for so long. Let this tragedy awaken the consciences and loose the voices of the great majority of Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace. Let these be the last throes of the old hatreds and prejudices, and let the evil of this violence give way to the birth of a new day and a just peace for the Middle East.