Category Archives: War

INTERVIEW: Words lie at the heart of poet’s worldwide social justice ministry

Interview with Luke Nephew, poet

by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo

Luke Nephew

Luke Nephew

SR. CAMILLE: Luke, a mutual Jesuit friend alerted me to your stupendous talent as a poet and added that this gift is one way you live your faith. Please tell us what that means.

LUKE NEPHEW: That was generous of him. I am guilty of being a poet. And I think our poems are often our promises. I recently sat on a stoop in Brooklyn to rest my legs. As I sat there in the shade of a huge oak tree, I spoke to an old woman about God. We laughed and debated for an hour. At the end of the conversation, she said, “Yes, God is love in action, but what pushes us into action is words.” Exactly. My poetry is my push. It comes from the same place within me that my courage and my compassion live. When words emerge from there, they take the shape of a map. If I rap about the need to stop mass incarceration, then I hear about a protest of solitary confinement or the school-to-prison pipeline, well then, that map tells me right where I need to be.

SR. CAMILLE: Can you identify the source of your concern for others?

NEPHEW: I was raised by a tradition of Catholicism that is all about compassion leading to this kind of action. That said, my relationship to organized religion has had enormous changes over the years. While I became disillusioned by a hierarchy that abused power and maintained oppressive structures of patriarchy, I could always hold on to the courageous action that was taken by some in the name of their faith. From Jesuit priests who put their lives on the line to organize and fight for justice to the Missionaries of Charity who dedicate their entire lives to joyfully loving our brothers and sisters who are in severe pain and danger, I have worked with people who live their faith. And so, while my relationship to anything that might happen in Rome faded away long ago, my spiritual and revolutionary practice of love continues to be informed by mentors, teachers and friends who practice Catholicism past the dogma and into the gritty challenges of a world full of war and oppression….

To read the entire interview, click here.

REFLECTION: Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States’ fault, that is, at least not entirely.

The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their interests after World War I, and that ruthless dictators past and present have often oppressed their people are major reasons why much of the Middle East is broken and bleeding.  

But the U.S. has made several bad situations in the Middle East far worse.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

In Egypt, according to the Congressional Research Service, since 1987 the U.S. has given that nation $1.3 billion per year in military aid despite the fact that it was long ruled by the dictator Hosni Mubarak.  

Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, its refusal to allow subjugated Palestinians to form an independent nation, and the strangling blockade and brutal invasion of Gaza would not be possible without the approximate $3 billion in annual American aid and the United States’ refusal to demand that Israel reverse course here.

While it is a sad truth that under the dictator Saddam Hussein many Iraqis suffered, it is an even sadder truth that the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq, caused even greater suffering to countless Iraqis.

After nearly nine years of war, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, women and men are dead, over 4,480 American troops were killed, and Iraq overall is in a far worse state.

Furthermore, the U.S. war with Iraq unleashed deadly Islamist attacks upon thousands of Iraqi Christians.

In a CBS 60 Minutes segment, Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican priest who has a long history of ministry in Iraq, said the situation there was clearly worse for Christians than under the Saddam Hussein regime.

And according to a Fox News report earlier this year, Fr. White said that in the past five years 1,096 of his own parishioners were killed.

He said that out of the 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003, only around 200,000 remain.

And now with the Islamic State controlling a large part of Iraq, the remaining Christian population is suffering even worse.

There can be no doubt that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made a bad situation far worse. 

Please help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ by giving a generous donation to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (www.cnewa.org).  

And urge your congressional delegation and President Obama (www.whitehouse.gov) to grant emergency asylum to at least 300,000 Christians and other minorities fleeing the barbarism of the Islamic State. Yes, this would be a major undertaking, but the U.S. is capable of doing it. It’s mostly just a matter of will – good will.

To its credit, tiny Lebanon, with a population of approximately 6 million people, has according the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, taken in well over 1 million mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers – with over 500,000 more expected by year’s end. That would be equivalent to the U.S. taking in over 50 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

Three years ago, the U.S. led an aerial attack against the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi leaving that nation awash in weapons which continue to help fuel the warring militias that have since been unleashed.

While U.S. bombing helped end Gaddafi’s brutal reign, it didn’t stop the suffering of the Libyan people.

Bombs kill. They do not address the root-causes of conflict. Rather, they perpetuate the cycle of violence. Knowing that full well, and in response to President Barack Obama’s threats to bomb Syria last year, Pope Francis called on people of faith to observe Sept. 7, 2013 as a day of prayer and fasting.

On that day the Holy Father said to over 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to all of us, “Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!”

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 Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Columban Fathers leadership statement on the violence in Gaza

from the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

israel-palestineviolencebutton-smallHONG KONG (August 5, 2014).  As an international Catholic Missionary Society, we have lived and served for nearly 100 years in many countries around the world that have been scarred by war, dictatorships, military oppression and low-grade conflict.

We know the devastation that violence causes in all its forms as a result of political intolerance and ideological aggression.  Through our ministry with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced peoples, we encounter in a particular way the human suffering as a result of systemic violence.

Therefore, it is with deep sadness we watch the on-going and escalating killings, destruction, and repeatedly broken ceasefires in Gaza.  We condemn the use of military force. We mourn the loss of so many innocent lives, especially children.  We pray for the families who have lost their loved one and for the countless injured due to the bombings.

We join with Pope Francis, partner organizations like Pax Christi International, Caritas Internationales and with millions of people around the world when he implored during his recent Angelus speech from St. Peter’s Square on July 27, “Brothers and sisters, never war, never war!”.  As a member organization of Pax Christi International (PCI), we endorse this statement from PCI of July 11, 2014…

Click here to read the entire statement.

REFLECTION: Refugees and Christians in Middle East need our help and support

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

The news around the world is tragic and depressing.

The fanatical fighters of the ​Islamic State are gobbling up land and murdering those who believe differently than they do. They are now armed with the American weapons left behind by the Iraqi army, which turned tail when Islamic State fighters arrived in Mosul. So much for years of American training and advice.

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad appears incapable of making the compromises that could forge a government of national unity. And will the Iranians make matters worse by intervening to protect their allies and co-religious?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin appears poised to invade eastern Ukraine. Neither the downing of MH17 nor Western sanctions have slowed him down. This will not be the walk in the park like his takeover of Crimea, but he does not seem to care if thousands die.

Israel and Hamas have worn each other down with fighting that has caused thousands of deaths and injuries but did not move the region any closer toward sustainable peace….

Read the entire article by clicking here.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Watch this powerful video, a plea for peace in Gaza

Watch this powerful video from Jewish Voices for Peace. Share it on your Facebook pages, through Twitter, by email…

The email which accompanied the video reads, in part:

“In short, the people in this video represent the human family, standing on the side of freedom—for Palestinians and Israelis alike. And we say ‘No’ to this unspeakable carnage wrought by one of the world’s most powerful militaries, dropping explosives on an imprisoned and defenseless population…  [T]ake in just some of the names and faces and ages of the children, mothers and fathers, and entire families who have been killed in this horrific assault on the captive population of Gaza. And take in our message, one that truly comes from a place of love for justice: that a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians will never be possible until we address decades of Palestinian dispossession, statelessness, inequality, exile, occupation and siege…”

IRAQ: Patriarch Sako – “Iraq won’t remain a single state”

from Zenit

The patriarch spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on June 28. The patriarch spoke from Ankawa, near Erbil, the Kurdish capital in Iraq, where the Chaldean bishops had been for a synod to discuss the crisis in their country.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Q: Have you any hope that Iraq can remain a single state?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: No. Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist. But de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies.

Q: What are the consequences of the disintegration of the state for Christians in Iraq?

Patriarch Sako: That is the question. To be honest we bishops are somewhat at a loss at the present time. The future may lie in Kurdistan. Many Christians are already living there after all. But there are also many who live in Baghdad, and there are also some in Basra in the Shiite south. We must wait and see how things develop.

Q: On Friday the synod of the Chaldean Church in Erbil came to an end. Did you decide on any measures in view of the crisis of Christian refugees from areas occupied by ISIS or otherwise under threat from them?

Patriarch Sako: We have been closely concerned with this. We also assigned a commission of five bishops from the areas affected whose task is to ensure initial aid for the refugees. The American and French consuls were here to help us and to develop a vision. But everything is still in a state of flux. I and other bishops are of the opinion that the situation will deteriorate. At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up. If this is the case it will be better to sit down together and find a consensus in order to prevent further fighting and loss of human life.

Q: Is this the darkest hour for Iraqi Christianity?

Patriarch Sako: It is the darkest for everybody. There is no persecution of the Christians. Many more Muslims have fled from Mosul and the surrounding area. But what worries us greatly is the fact that the exodus of Christians from Iraq will increase. When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week 20 families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious. We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history. Our identity is threatened.

Q: Should western countries give Iraqi Christians a visa or not?

Patriarch Sako: The tragedy is that the families are split up. Many are already in the west. The children are constantly asking their parents why they are still there and not following them. You can’t stop this trend. It’s impossible.

Q: So there’s no hope?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps the older ones will return when the situation has stabilized. But the young ones will stay outside the country. In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left. Prior to 2003 this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful. We don’t have exact figures.

Q: What can we Christians in the west do?

Patriarch Sako: The Christians in the West are very weak. There are good Christians there who support us with their prayers and in material terms. But their influence is slight. On the whole the West is doing nothing at all. We are very disappointed. They are just uninvolved observers. They find football more interesting than the situation here or in Syria. Western policy only pursues economic interests. The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity.

Q: Can you, as someone who is not directly involved, play a mediatory role in the present situation? When you were Archbishop for the town of Kirkuk, which was the subject of contention between the Arabs and the Kurds, your house was open to all parties.

Patriarch Sako: I have continued with this in Baghdad. All the important decision-makers are based there. For example, I visited the president of the Parliament. But the time for this is now past. The divisions are worse than ever. How should I get to Fallujah in the Sunni Anbar Province? The problem is that the Sunnis do not have a real leader in Baghdad who can speak for them.

Q: Do you think that the majority of Arab Sunnis support ISIS?

Patriarch Sako: Yes. Quite clearly. They do not necessarily share their ideology. But they support the political goal of regime change and the foundation of their own state. ISIS intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to islamicize the world.

Q: Is this also a danger for the West?

Patriarch Sako: I think this is a danger for all.

Q: There are calls for American intervention to stop the advance of ISIS. What do you think?

Patriarch Sako: No. I don’t view it like that. The Americans have been here and they made a lot of mistakes. The current situation is their fault. Why replace a regime by something even worse? This is what happened after 2003. The Americans deposed a dictator. But under Saddam Hussein at least we had security and work. And what do we have now? Confusion, anarchy and chaos. The same thing has happened in Libya and Syria. If you want to change the situation here you have to educate the people in the schools, media and mosques in matters of freedom, democracy and the construction of their own country. It is impossible to install a democracy on the Western pattern here. Under the old regime prior to 2003 we had no denominational problems. We were all Iraqis. Now we talk about Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs and Kurds.

Q: But wasn’t it only like that because Saddam held the different groups together with an iron fist?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps in the present context we need in the Middle East a strong leader who is at the same time just and not only looking out for his family or tribe.

Q: This strong leader isn’t there at the moment. But do you still see a chance of stopping the disintegration of Iraq and finding a political solution?

Patriarch Sako: Such a possibility will still exist if the west and our neighbors such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia want it to.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi International statement on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

article 9Pax Christi, the International Catholic Peace Movement, regrets very strongly the decision of 1 July 2014 of the Government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in approving changes to the Japan’s post-war security policy that could lead to the Self-Defence Forces’ use of military force in overseas missions and to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence.

Pax Christi International and many of its Member Organisations, including the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace (CCJP), have been campaigning for many years in keeping the original wording of the Constitution which reads:

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised.”

Now, with the changes to the interpretation of Article 9, a Cabinet-approved document allows for the use of force as a means of self-defence not only when Japan comes under military attack, but also when a nation with a close relationship to Japan comes under attack. This move taken by the present Japanese government means a historical turning point in post-war Japan and a weakening of its commitment to constitutional non-violence.

Pax Christi International is deeply concerned about this decision to revise Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 has been a sign of hope for a world that yearns for deep, inclusive and lasting peace. It has encouraged dialogue and diplomacy, helping Japan to become a stabilising factor in East Asia rather than a threat to neighbouring countries. We strongly encourage the Japanese government to address “territorial disputes” in accordance with the spirit of Article 9 rather than to revise such an important and visionary article from the Japanese Constitution.

Read the entire statement by clicking here.

For more information Pax Christi USA’s work on Article 9: