Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: Jesuit Refugee Service brings help to a Syria in crisis

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by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR

Jesuit Frs. Peter Balleis and Michael Zammit were in Washington in April, making the rounds of nongovernmental organizations and government offices to inform policymakers of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Balleis is the international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and Zammit works with refugees and internally displaced people in Syria. They were also visiting JRS-USA, which is based in Washington. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

NCR: What is the Jesuit Refugee Service? What does it do?

Balleis: Jesuit Refugee Service is an organization around 35 years old. Today, we are working in 46 countries and last year reached out to around 760,000 people.

We move according to the crises in the world. Thirty-five years ago, during the Cold War, it was Asia-Pacific, helping refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.

Then in the mid-1990s when Africa exploded, we continued in Asia-Pacific and other places like San Salvador, El Salvador, but the main focus became Africa with the Rwanda crisis, the Great Lakes crisis, Sudan and so on. More recently, the conflicts in Africa are more in the Sahel Zone. We work in the Central African Republic, Chad, and we have started in Cameroon. We are going to engage with the refugees who are victims of the Boko Haram...

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: The forgotten voices of war crying out in the dark

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

The power of the 24-hour news cycle is that sometimes we hear a story so often that we stop hearing it at all. Unless it comes leaping off the screen at us. Unless it breaks through the headlines for some reason, appears again after its few seconds on Twitter and comes alive outside itself. In us.

I have just had that experience. Out of nowhere, a story that had become dimmed appeared in front of me: I got a letter from a Yazidi woman.

YazidiI had met Ummaya in a women’s interfaith peace program in New York City in 2003. The Global Peace Initiative of Women brought Iraqi women to the United States to meet with American women from across the country. The hope was, of course, that we would make personal connections between us that would advance interfaith understanding and build bridges between two countries locked in a senseless war. More than that: Women, we thought, might be able to reach across the ethnic boundaries there, too, soften the anger, and forge new bonds in a country seriously divided and dangerously entrenched.

Now, 12 totally silent years later, I was holding a letter to us from one of the women in that first meeting whose face I could barely remember but whose voice came through loud and clear. It made real that day so many years ago in New York. It read in basic and sometimes inverted English and took careful interpretation…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA signs onto faith leaders’ statement on Iran Framework Agreement

missile_2353892bPax Christi USA has signed onto a new statement initiated by Sojourners regarding the April 2nd Framework Agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Leaders of the faith community are playing significant roles in helping to give this diplomatic process a chance to succeed. The statement is titled, “Hope but Verify: Christian Leaders Support the Iran Framework Agreement”, and was run as a full-page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper catering to Members of Congress.

The statement begins:

As Christian leaders in the United States, we welcome and support the Framework Agreement, announced by seven nations on April 2, to dramatically restrain the capacity of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We believe this diplomatic path and process should be ardently pursued and given a chance to succeed. We do so not as politicians but as those whose deep faith commitments compel us to speak clearly, with moral and practical wisdom, about any possibility that restrains the threat of war and opens pathways toward peace. Indeed, the One whose words and life we follow said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Mathew 5:9).

As followers of Christ, we begin with the things that Jesus instructed us to do. Whenever Christians are responding to situations of conflict, to issues of war and peace, Jesus must always be our starting point. On matters of both personal relationships and public policy, we must start with the question, “What can we best do to make peace?”…

Click here to see the ad and read the entire statement.

REFLECTION: Do military recruiters belong in Catholic schools?

by Pat Elder for US Catholic

mil_recruiting_flickr_rdecomDuring the 2nd Battle of Fallujah in November of 2004, 1st Lieutenant Jesse A. Grapes saved the lives of three wounded Marines in his platoon by entering a burning house, where he encountered the enemy soldier who had been firing at his troops. Six years later, when Grapes was named headmaster of Benedictine College Preparatory, a Catholic military school in Richmond, Virginia, the school’s newspaper, The New Chevron, called him a “patriotic war hero” in their June 2010 issue.

In describing the new headmaster’s Iraq War exploits, Benedictine’s student newspaper dismissed the fact that Grapes was accused of ordering marines under his command to shoot four captured prisoners. Grapes was discharged from the Marines after refusing to talk to government investigators, citing his Fifth Amendment rights, and declined to take a polygraph test to disprove allegations made against him. “If my word isn’t good enough,” The New Chevron quoted him as saying, “nothing would be.”

It’s quite a lesson for students at Benedictine, which is kind of a poster child for the modern militarized Catholic school. Every year Benedictine requires all juniors take the military entrance exam. The school operates an Army JROTC program and has a student organization that teaches small arms. Of course, these are expected activities in a military school. The question is whether these activities are appropriate in a Catholic school…

Click here to read the entire story and take the survey that accompanies it.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi International on the violent conflict in Syria – ending the war and saving lives must be top priority

pcilogonewfrom Pax Christi International

Syria’s popular uprising started in the city of Dara in March 2011. The merciless actions of the Syrian Government – whose campaign of violent repression against what were originally peaceful protesters began four long years ago – have now morphed into wave upon wave of pitiless assaults by all sides. The Syrian conflict has killed well in excess of 200.000 people, and continues to kill more every day. It has involved the torture and ill-treatment of countless others; forced millions to flee; and deprived even more of the basic conditions for a decent life, including the rights to education, food, healthcare and housing.

iraq-syria-buttonThe conduct of an ever-increasing number of actors is characterised by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law. Human rights are being violated to a shocking degree. The State, which is responsible for the security of its citizens, has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against its citizens; radical non-State armed groups are doing the same.

Humanitarian aid has been instrumentalised for military gain. In many cases, aid to civilians living in areas under the control of non-State armed groups is not delivered. The conditions imposed by the State and by some armed groups on the delivery of humanitarian assistance use civilian suffering as a retaliatory measure, which is immoral…

Read the entire statement by clicking here.

NEWS: Pax Christi USA endorses Spring Rising actions

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Pax Christi USA has endorsed Spring Rising: An Antiwar Intervention in D.C. March 18-21. Spring Rising is four days of creative resistance; theater, teach-ins; rallies and marches marking the anniversary of the United States’ “shock and awe” attack on Iraq and its invasion and occupation in a completely illegitimate, immoral war.  Together we will use this time to oppose the plans and calls for growing military intervention.

Click here for more information.

REFLECTION: Beating swords into plowshares

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

“In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills,” writes the prophet Isaiah. “Many peoples shall come and say: Come, let us go up to the Lord’s mountain … that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. … They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

Swords-into-plowsharesThis prophesy will certainly be fulfilled when Christ comes again and his kingdom is totally established. There’s no stopping it. But it could happen even before then. If only we would go up to the Lord’s mountain and allow him to instruct us in his ways, and wholeheartedly walk in his paths.

But instead it seems like so much of the world, and so many people in power, are committed to going down into the dark valley of violence and war, ignoring the Prince of Peace’s way.

As I write, the U.S. Congress is poised to grant President Obama’s request to use expanded military force – including boots-on-the-ground – to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

In his request known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” Obama is asking Congress to approve the deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq for “enduring offensive ground combat operations” for at least three years.
Didn’t the nearly nine years of war in Iraq teach us anything?

Military action against the Islamic State is playing into their hands. They want to draw the U.S. into a ground war, so they can trumpet the message that “Christian crusaders” have launched an invasion upon Islam. Such a scenario would flood their ranks with radical Islamists from around the world.

After the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. John Paul wrote, “No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.”

It can be strongly argued that the devastation caused by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq largely set the stage for the birth of the Islamic State and several other Jihadist groups.

Instead of fueling more war and terrorism, we need to pressure our government to provide far more humanitarian assistance to our fellow Christians, and all others, who are suffering from the barbarism of the Islamic State.
Also, we need to kindly consider making a generous donation to Catholic Relief Service’s emergency fund for the Middle East (http://bit.ly/17YCZ8g).

In his famous 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Rev. Martin Luther King said, “Our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”

And the same is true with terrorism today. If we will muster up the faith and courage to redirect the vast resources dedicated to war, and instead put them at the service of removing “those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are fertile soil” in which the seed of terrorism grows and develops, we will have then finally beat our swords into plowshares.

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.