Category Archives: War

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.

REFLECTION: Pushing up

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Last weekend, about 100 U.S. Veterans for Peace gathered in Red Wing, Minnesota, for a statewide annual meeting. In my experience, Veterans for Peace chapters hold “no-nonsense” events.  Whether coming together for local, statewide, regional or national work, the Veterans project a strong sense of purpose. They want to dismantle war economies and work to end all wars. The Minnesotans, many of them old friends, convened in the spacious loft of a rural barn. After organizers extended friendly welcomes, participants settled in to tackle this year’s theme: “The War on Our Climate.”

They invited Dr. James Hansen, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, to speak via Skype about minimizing the impacts of climate change.  Sometimes called the “father of global warming”, Dr. Hansen has sounded alarms for several decades  with accurate predictions about the effects of fossil fuel emissions. He now campaigns for an economically efficient phase out of fossil fuel emissions by imposing carbon fees on emission sources with dividends equitably returned to the public.

Dr. Hansen envisions the creation of serious market incentives for entrepreneurs to develop energy and products that are low-carbon and no-carbon. “Those who achieve the greatest reductions in carbon use would reap the greatest profit. Projections show that such an approach could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by more than half within 20 years — and create 3 million new jobs in the process.”

NWNWimageSteadily calling on adults to care about young people and future generations, Dr. Hansen chides proponents of what he terms “the fruitless cap-and-trade-with-offsets approach.”  This method fails to make fossil fuels pay their costs to society, “thus allowing fossil fuel addiction to continue and encouraging ‘drill, baby, drill’ policies to extract every fossil fuel that can be found.”

Making fossil fuels “pay their full costs” would mean imposing fees to cover costs that polluters impose on communities through burning of coal, oil and gas.  When local populations are sickened and killed by air pollution, and starved by droughts or battered or drowned by climate-change-driven storms, costs accrue for governments that businesses should repay.

What are the true costs to society of fossil fuels?   According to a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, fossil fuel companies are benefiting from  global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, $10 million per minute, every minute, each and every day.

The Guardian reports that the $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

Dr. Hansen began his presentation by noting that, historically, energy figured importantly in avoiding slave labor. He believes some energy from nuclear power is now necessary for countries such as China and India to lift masses of their populations out of poverty.  Many critics strenuously object to Dr. Hansen’s call for reliance on nuclear power, citing dangers of radiation, accidents, and problems with storage of nuclear waste, particularly when the radioactive waste is stored in communities where people have little control or influence over elites that decide where to ship the nuclear waste.

Other critics argue that “nuclear power is simply too risky, and more practically speaking, too costly to be considered a significant part of the post-carbon energy portfolio.”

Journalist and activist George Monbiot, author of a book-length climate change proposal, Heat, notes that nuclear power tends to endanger “haves” and “have-nots” equally. Coal power’s   deadliest immediate effects, with historic casualties clearly outpacing those of nuclear, are linked to mining and industrial areas populated by people more likely to be economically disadvantaged or impoverished.

Climate-driven societal collapse may be all the more deadly and final with grid-dependent nuclear plants ready to melt down in lockstep with our economies.  But it’s crucial to remember that our direst weapons – many of them also nuclear – are stockpiled precisely to help elites manage the sort of political unrest into which poverty and desperation drive societies.  Climate change, if we cannot slow it, does not merely promise poverty and despair on  an unprecedented scale, but also war – on a scale, and with weapons, that may be far worse than dangers resulting from our energy choices.  Earth’s military crisis, its climate crisis, and the paralyzing economic inequalities that burden impoverished people are linked.

Dr. Hansen thinks that the Chinese government and Chinese scientists might marshal the resources to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, including nuclear powered energy.  He notes that China faces the dire possibility of losing coastal cities to global warming and accelerated disintegration of ice sheets.

The greatest barriers to solution of fossil fuel addiction in most nations are the influence of the fossil fuel industry on politicians and the media and the short-term view of politicians. Thus it is possible that leadership moving the world to sustainable energy policies may arise in China, where the leaders are rich in technical and scientific training and rule a nation that has a history of taking the long view. Although China’s CO emissions have skyrocketed above those of other nations, China has reasons to move off the fossil fuel track as rapidly as practical. China has several hundred million people living within a 25-meter elevation of sea level, and the country stands to suffer grievously from intensification of droughts, floods, and storms that will accompany continued global warming. China also recognizes the merits of avoiding a fossil fuel addiction comparable to that of the United States. Thus China has already become the global leader in development of energy efficiency, renewable energies, and nuclear power.

What’s missing from this picture?  The Veterans for Peace earnestly believe in ending all wars.  Deepening nonviolent resistance to war could radically amend the impact of world militaries, especially the colossal U.S. military, on global climate. In order to protect access to and global control of fossil fuels, the U.S. military burns rivers of oil, wasting the hopes of future generations in the name of  killing and maiming the people of regions the U.S. has plunged into destabilizing wars of choice, ending in chaos.

Corruption of the global environment and compulsively frantic destruction of irreplaceable resources is an equally sure, if more delayed, manner of imposing chaos and death on a mass scale.   The misdirection of economic resources, of preciously needed human productive energy, is yet another.  Researchers at Oil Change International find that “3 trillion of the dollars spent on war against Iraq would cover all global investments in renewable power generation needed between now and 2030 to reverse global warming.”

John Lawrence writes that “the United States contributes more than 30% of global warming gases to the atmosphere, generated by 5% of the world’s population.  At the same time funding for education, energy, environment, social services, housing and new job creation, taken together, is less than the military budget.”  I believe that “low carbon” and “no carbon” energy and energy efficiency should be paid for by abolishing war. Lawrence is right to insist that the U.S. should view problems and conflicts created by climate change as “opportunities to work together with other nations to mitigate and adapt to its effects.”  But the madness of conquest must end before any such coordinated work will be possible.

Sadly, tragically, many U.S. veterans fully understand the cost of war.  I asked a U.S. Veteran for Peace living in Mankato, MN, about the well being of local Iraq War Veterans. He told me that in April, U.S. veteran student leaders at Minnesota State’s Mankato Campus, spent 22 days gathering daily, rain or shine, to perform  22 push-ups in recognition of the 22 combat veterans a day – nearly one an hour – currently committing suicide in the U.S. They invited the Mankato-area community to come to campus and do pushups along with them.

This is an historic time, posing a perfect storm of challenges to the survival of our species, a storm we can’t weather without “all hands on deck.”  Whoever arrives to work beside us, and however quickly they arrive, we have heavy burdens to share with many others already lifting as much as they can, some taking theirs up by choice, some burdened beyond endurance by greedy masters.  The Veterans for Peace work to save the ship rather than wait for it to sink.

Many of us have not endured the horrors that drive 22 veterans a day, and countless poor in world regions that U.S. empire has touched, to the final act of despair.  I would like to think we can lift hopes and perhaps bring comfort to those around us by radically sharing resources, eschewing dominance, and learning to join courageous others in the work at hand.

This article was first published on Telesur English.

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

EVENT: August 6th peace witness commemorating the U.S. nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker

hiroshima_2651372b

Seventy years ago the U.S. government did the “unspeakable” and dropped atomic bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Please join in a nonviolent witness as we seek to remember the pain, repent the sin and reclaim the future.

When and Where: Thursday, August 6, Anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and the feast of the Transfiguration: Nonviolent witness at the Pentagon. Meet on corner of Army-Navy Drive and Fern St. 6:45 a.m.
Witness from 7:00 – 8:30 a.m. (8:15 a.m. was the actual time of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima)

Please Join Us!

For more info contact: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker at 202-882-9649, artlaffin@hotmail.com.

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

reeseHeadshotWeb

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.