Two pieces in the Boston Globe captured my attention recently. One, a letter from William Lambers, author of “Ending World Hunger with Words from History,” appeared on September 27;” the second, by Jeff Jacoby, on October 1, entitled “Comfort Those Who Wander.” Both focus attention on the plight of the estimated 50 million refugees who now wander our world, forced to flee homelands because of the collapse of civil society in their countries, or because of persecution and war. Faced with extreme hunger and dispossessed of all security, they now endure lives of desperation, dependent on the response of individuals and nations to tend to their basic needs. Often, they go wanting, unable to begin anew.
In these times, when war seems never to cease; when we witness the calamitous horrors of death-dealing by terrorist groups and nations daily, what can we possibly do in response to the ongoing desecration of our neighbors? How can we hasten the conversion of our hearts and minds and recognize one another as kin, even making room in our hearts for the awful ugliness of individual madness? Thich Nhat Hanh, the venerable Vietnamese Buddhist monk, once wrote about the suffering caused by war, urging us to see the web of connections between war, unjust structures, and the ideologies to which we cling. He said, “…See that the most essential thing is life – and that killing and oppressing one another will not solve anything. Meditate until every reproach and hatred disappears and compassion returns. Vow to work for awareness and reconciliation by the most silent and unpretentious means possible.”
Because none of us can single-handedly bring about a transformed world where war is recognized as an abomination, we who recognize its insanity must join together in moral protest against all that contributes to its perpetuation. This requires that we speak and act on behalf of those most affected by war whose cries are not being heard. Further, we must support efforts to rescue, feed and shelter the bereft and frightened millions who currently suffer the ravages of today’s wars.
Christian biblical tradition speaks of the Works of Mercy, delineating them from the Works of War: Mercy feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, gives drink to the thirsty, visits the imprisoned, cares for the sick, and buries the dead. War, on the other hand, destroys crops and land, seizes food supplies, destroys homes, scatters families, contaminates water, imprisons dissenters, inflicts wounds, and kills the living. May we choose to stand on the side of mercy, and say loudly and clearly, “Enough!”
William Lambers suggests donations to the low-funded UN World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services, or UNICEF, all providing on-the-ground relief and trying to save young children from malnutrition and stunted growth. Jeff Jacoby concludes his column by saying, “No one can relieve all the suffering…But surely each of us can relieve some of it.” Let’s try, together.