TAKE ACTION: NAACP March to DC – Our demands

from the NAACP

NOTE: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this effort.

Our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.

These are more than words. More than a tagline. They are the reason we embarked on America’s Journey for Justice yesterday—an 860-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, D.C.

They are the guiding principles for our activism.

Racial inequality is not simply the product of individual prejudice. Over the past 250 years it has been written into our laws and into the very fabric of our society. We need your support to ensure this journey results in more than raised awareness. It must result in real positive change.

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Send a message to lawmakers: We won’t be ignored. Sign and share our advocacy agenda to support America’s Journey for Justice.

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL: August 2015 newsletter now online

pcilogoThe August Pax Christi International Newsletter is now out and available! Included in the newsletter is information from Pax Christi International sections and member organizations around the world. The newsletter highlights inspiring projects for peace undertaken by our colleagues on six continents.

Click here for more from the Pax Christi International newsletter.

REFLECTION: No warlords need apply – a call for credible peacemaking in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
and Buddy Bell, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Afghan woman with childA second round of peace talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, expected to begin before the end of July, 2015, suggests that some parties to the fighting want to declare a cease fire.  But even in the short time since the first round on July 7th, fighting has intensified.  The Taliban, the Afghan government forces, various militias and the U.S. have ramped up attacks, across Afghanistan.

Some analysts say the Taliban may be trying to gain territory and clout to give them leverage in ‘peace talks.’  Taliban forces, apparently beginning to splinter since the supposed death of Mullah Omar, are now competing with a new Islamic State presence in Afghanistan  as various armed groups try to recruit new fighters from among ultra-conservative sectors of the regional population. Spectacular and frightening suicide bombings, hostage taking and a demonstrated capacity to force Afghan government soldiers into retreat or surrender might bolster a group’s claim to be effectively ejecting foreigners from Afghanistan.

However, the U.S., with its history of waging aerial attacks, using helicopters and weaponized drones, and engaging in constant aerial surveillance, along with its continued night raids and detention of civilians, effectively carries itself as the most formidable warlord in the region.

Throughout June, according to the New York Times, “American drones and warplanes fired against militants in Afghanistan more than twice as much as they had in any previous month this year, according to military statistics.”  On July 19th, 2015, U.S. helicopters even fired on an Afghan army facility in the Logar province, killing seven troops and wounding five others.  The Afghan Ministry of Defense told CBS News that “coalition helicopters were flying through the area early Monday morning when they came under fire from insurgents. After the insurgents’ attack on the helicopters, the helicopters bombed the area, and as a result an Afghan army outpost was destroyed.”

Meanwhile, top U.S. military officials have met with president Ashraf Ghani to talk about extending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, beyond 2016, in light of a possible threat from Islamic State fighters.  On July 19th, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.  Following the meeting, General  Dempsey said he agreed that the U.S. needed to have a transnational strategy against  the Islamic State. He said he would raise Ghani’s idea that Afghanistan “could serve as a hub from which the U.S., its allies and Afghanistan itself could work to prevent Islamic State from gaining followers in South Asia the way it has in the Middle East.”

U.S. military officials diminish the credibility of any proposed cease fire when they  suggest that the U.S. will, after all, consider maintaining bases and troops in Afghanistan far beyond the supposed 2016 evacuation of U.S. bases.  Confidence in a cease fire is further undermined when parties to negotiations know that the U.S. could assassinate them if they appear on a list of U.S. targets.  Consider a recent statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.   He was answering a question about whether or not the U.S. would “take out” the purported leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if the opportunity presented itself.  Carter said, “we would certainly take it.” Note, he didn’t say, “if there are no children in the way, we would certainly take it.” Not “if he wasn’t in a dense urban area, we would certainly take it.” Essentially, Ashton Carter assured people that the U.S. will kill civilians if this is a condition of being able to kill leaders of groups the U.S. designates as enemies.

Recanting such threats and removing drones from the skies of Afghanistan during peace talks would inspire respect for the idea of peace processes.  Rural populations — the “constituency” of the Taliban in Afghanistan– fear the drones and look for protection, making them vulnerable to recruitment by armed militias vowing to eject the foreign militaries.

The U.S. could  indicate that it doesn’t wish to keep military personnel in Afghanistan or maintain ongoing bases there

Yet, even were the U.S. to take these steps, a declared ceasefire between warlords who have, in the past, neglected the needs of Afghanistan’s poorest communities, whose war making has exacerbated suffering and poverty, may not be very meaningful to ordinary people living in rural areas.   Whose interests would the warlords aim to secure?

It seems that the most crucially needed ceasefire agreement, in Afghanistan, would be one that occurred among ordinary communities, agreeing to no longer cooperate with warring parties, to no longer allow warlords to use them as pawns. This kind of ceasefire might fill the need and longing for peace so often expressed by people who are weary of living through wave after wave of destruction.  But ordinary Afghans living in rural areas need to feed their children, plant crops, restore irrigation systems, replenish their flocks and rehabilitate their agricultural infrastructure in order to survive.  If they could have some realistic assurance of sustained  resolve to help them reach these goals, they’d have good reason to link up and rise up in opposition to continued war.

What source of funding and skill could possibly offer the assistance required for this kind of rebuilding?

The U.S. military doesn’t hesitate to demand sums for continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan which could instead be dedicated to rebuilding the country.  The U.S. should state that it wishes to pay reparations for suffering caused in the past.  This could be done in the form of setting up an escrow account to be administered by an NGO or agency that has not been accused of succumbing to corruption in Afghanistan.

By doing so, the U.S. could credibly begin to withdraw from warlord status in Afghanistan, and apply itself to being part of reconstruction, setting a model desperately needed throughout the world.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) and Buddy Bell co-coordinate Voices for Creative Nonviolence  www.vcnv.orgKathy is a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.

REFLECTION: Catholic Church leaders applaud nuclear agreement with Iran

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Committed to a negotiated settlement over the real possibility of armed conflict, six world powers and Iran have decided to give peace a chance.

With much patience, persistence and hard work for over 20 months, the P5+1 Group (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) have reached a nuclear agreement with Iran that is nothing short of historic.

According to the respected Arms Control Association (www.armscontrol.org), “The agreement – known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” – establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons and promptly detecting and deterring possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons in the future.”

Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, said “The Holy See views the new agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in ‘a positive light.’ ”

In a letter to members of Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, quoted an earlier statement by Pope Francis: “I express my hope that a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the P5+1 Group. …”

In his letter Bishop Cantú added, “The United States and its international partners have taken a remarkable step with Iran in reaching this agreement. … We encourage Congress to support these efforts to build bridges that foster peace and greater understanding. In the words of Pope Francis, may the negotiated framework ‘be a definitive step toward a more [secure] and fraternal world.’ ”

Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Congress-570x320But unwisely some members of Congress have signaled their opposition to the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

While this agreement is not perfect – very few agreements are – it is a solidly good agreement for the U.S. and its negotiating partners, Iran, the Middle East and the world.

According to the Arms Control Association, “Some critics of this deal in the United States may still believe that by rejecting the agreement and increasing sanctions pressure on Iran, the United States can somehow coerce the leaders in Tehran to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program or agree to better terms. That is a dangerous illusion. There is no better deal on the horizon.”

The Arms Control Association explains that the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s sensitive nuclear fuel activities. For example, Iran’s plutonium path to the bomb will be eliminated. And of equal importance, the International Atomic Energy Agency will be allowed to send international inspectors to check any Iranian facility of concern – including military sites.

The Arms Control Association is concerned that if Congress manages to block implementation of this hard-won, balanced and effective multilevel deal, the U.S.  will have broken from its European allies, and the necessary international support for Iran-related sanctions will be lost. Iran would then have the incentive to quickly and significantly expand its capacity to produce bomb-grade material.

Please urge your congressional delegation to fully support the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”  The alternative to this accord is a likely nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and probably war.

The Arms Control Association wisely puts it this way: “This is the time to seize—not squander—the chance to put in place an effective, long-term, verifiable deal that blocks Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

REFLECTION: Pope Francis – “Facts are more important than ideas”

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

“Facts are more important than ideas” is a statement from Pope Francis that one would have never heard from Popes Benedict XVI or John Paul II.

It is not that Pope Francis is dumb or an anti-intellectual. He is well-read and thoughtful, but by no stretch of the imagination can he be called a scholar. His training as a scientist and his life experience make him approach theory in a different way than John Paul and Benedict. It also helps explain his approach to the environment in Laudato Si’.

pope-francis-and-doveJohn Paul was trained first as a philosopher and then as a theologian, and as a priest, he taught ethics at a university. He wrote in a style that was not easily digested. Benedict was trained in theology and became one of the leading theologians of his generation. Both wrote scholarly books that promoted a particular perspective.

On the other hand, Francis’ initial training prior to entering the seminary was as a chemist. He never finished his doctorate in theology. He is what academics refer to as ABD, “all but dissertation.” He never wrote scholarly books. He was a wide-ranging consumer of theology, not the proponent of a particular view.

For John Paul the philosopher and Benedict the theologian, ideas were paramount. But for Francis the scientist and pastor, facts really matter…

 

 

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: The Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews – and his conversion

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment – the atomic bomb – was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people.

Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 40,000 people.

hiroshima_2651372b“Blessing” the crews and its two missions, was the Catholic chaplain to the 509th Composite Group – the atomic bomb group – Father George Zabelka.

In a Sojourners Magazine interview, the late Fr. Zabelka explained, “If a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful.”

But in 1945 on Tinian Island in the South Pacific, where the atomic bomb group was based, planes took off around the clock, said Zabelka. “Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands of children and civilians – and I said nothing. …

“Yes, I knew civilians were being destroyed … Yet I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to men who were doing it. …

“I was brainwashed! It never entered my mind to publicly protest the consequences of these massive air raids.

“I was told the raids were necessary; told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership. To the best of my knowledge no American cardinals or bishops were opposing these mass air raids. Silence in such matters, especially by a public body like the American bishops, is a stamp of approval. …

“Christians have been slaughtering each other, as well as non-Christians, for the past 1700 years, in large part because their priests, pastors and bishops have simply not told them that violence and homicide are incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.”

After years of soul-searching, Fr. Zabelka’s complete conversion from being a strong proponent of the “just-war theory” to a total pacifist was announced in a 1975 Christmas letter: “I must do an about face. … I have come to the conclusion that the truth of the Gospel is that Jesus was nonviolent and taught nonviolence as his way.”

Fr. Zabelka dedicated the rest of his life to teaching, preaching and witnessing to Gospel nonviolence.

In 1983 he and a Jesuit priest, Fr. Jack Morris, organized and participated in the “Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage” starting at the nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Washington and ending on Christmas Eve 1984 in Bethlehem.

When Fr. Zabelka reached Maryland, I had the good fortune of hearing him personally share his inspiring story of conversion.

I strongly recommend reading Fr. Zabelka’s entire Sojourners Magazine interview by going to this link http://bit.ly/1LQtdFX. And consider ordering from the Center for Christian Nonviolence (http://bit.ly/1H37EeF) the excellent DVD “Fr. George Zabelka: The Reluctant Prophet.” Or just simply go to this link (http://bit.ly/1eAT5bC) to view it.

We can either choose to rationalize and condone violence and war, or we can help God build his kingdom of life and love.

In the biblical book of Deuteronomy, the author lays out a divine ultimatum for humanity: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.”

May we always choose life!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, CA to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.