Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: The Journey of Easter – A Season of Compassion, an End to War

Scott Wrightby Scott Wright, Director
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

One of the most dramatic signs of our time is the presence of people on the move. There are more internally displaced people or refugees in the world now than since the end of the Second World War. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the plight of the Syrian refugees, and the war which has displaced 12 million people – half the Syrian population – and killed between a quarter million and a half million people in five years of a fratricidal war.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us of “the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (GS, §4). Signs of the time are those signs that characterize a particular time of history, and we need only to open our eyes to see them: poverty and inequality, violence and war, global warming and droughts, racism and religious intolerance, migrants and refugees.

Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees

These are the signs of the time, the root causes of the pain and suffering in the world, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Ignacio Ellacuria, the martyred Jesuit from El Salvador, identified the sign of our time as “the crucified peoples” of the world. Those who unmask the dominant violence of the world, those who bear the sins for which others are responsible: systemic injustice, institutional violence, global inequality, racism and xenophobia.

Nor can we ignore the U.S. role in wars, military interventions, sanctions, and trillions of dollars that have devastated the people of Iraq for decades, and laid the foundation for a fratricidal war in Syria. The great Jewish prophet, Abraham Joshua Heschel, reminded us: “Some are guilty, all are responsible.” If guilty, then we must confess our guilt and refrain from doing further harm.

At the recent gathering of Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome, participants from around the world – many of them who bore in their flesh the wounds of war, and all who bore in their hearts the passion for peace – rejected just war and endorsed instead “a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence.” The final statement of the participants read:

“Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation and discrimination.”

Some are guilty, but all are responsible, all of us can do something to minimize the violence and to lay the foundation for a more just and sustainable peace. Signs of the time are not only the grave evils that characterize our age, they are also signs of God’s presence and compassion in the world, an invitation to mercy, a call to justice, and the urgent demand to forge an enduring peace and sustainable future: for the poor, for the planet and for generations to come.

From the very beginning of his ministry, Pope Francis has reminded us in word and deed that the heart of the Gospel is mercy, a mercy rooted in compassion but also in justice. For every sign of the time that characterizes our age, there is also a sign of God’s mercy, compassion, and justice.

Most recently, Pope Francis offered that sign at the U.S. – Mexico border to Central American and Mexican immigrants fleeing violence in the hemisphere, and at the Greek Island of Lesbos to Syrian refugees fleeing a fratricidal war in the Middle East. His message is simple: “Open your hearts, open your borders, open your churches and homes to those who are fleeing violence.” He reminded all of us, but particularly the leaders of Western nations, that Christians are called not to build walls but to build bridges.

This week we celebrate the fifth week of Easter, and we are reminded that Easter is more than a day, it is a season. Traditionally, it was a time in which the newly baptized were introduced into the mysteries of the faith, a journey of discipleship and an invitation to bear witness to the risen Christ: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Is this not the message to which the Gospel invites us today?

There is, however, always a “cost” to discipleship, as the twentieth century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hung by the Nazis, reminds us: Gospel discipleship is costly “because it costs a person their life,” but it is grace “because it gives a person the only true life.” Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker, was fond of quoting Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” John of the Cross proclaimed: “Where there is no love, put love, and there you will find love.” But, as Pope Francis reminds us, to bear witness to love – often at great sacrifice to one’s own interests and sometimes one’s well-being – is to experience the joy of the Gospel.

So we are on an Easter journey, in a season of compassion. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb; then to the disciples and to Thomas, standing before them with open wounds in his hands and in his side; then to the crowds in Galilee; then to the disciples by the lake; and today to us. In every migrant or refugee, in every hungry or thirsty child, in every prisoner or victim of war, in every girl or woman exploited or abused, the risen Christ appears to us, his wounds visible in his hands and side with a simple message: “Believe.” “Follow me.” “Feed my sheep.” “Love one another.”

Throughout this Easter season we are invited to offer signs of resurrection in a world filled with crosses. We are invited to continue this Easter journey with eyes wide open, to see the risen Christ in our midst. We renew our commitment to bear witness to the peace of Christ. We know that we are always on the road, on a Gospel journey, but we know, too, that we are not alone. We are surrounded by that cloud of witnesses who journey with us – those holy women and men, the martyrs and the saints – and we are strengthened by their presence. We are no longer afraid, we have bread for the journey, and we carry the joy of the Gospel in our hearts.

The risen Christ appeared to the disciples – and to us today – with his wounds: the risen Christ is the crucified Jesus. Like the risen Christ, we, too, bear our wounds in our hands and feet and in our hearts. But now these wounds have become life-giving wounds, wounds that bind us more deeply to Christ’s suffering in the world and to the power of Christ’s resurrection to break even the bonds of death, to heal the wounds of violence, to abolish forever the scourge of war.

AFGHANISTAN: How many global crises can a fifteen year-old Afghan take?

Dr_Hakimby Dr. Hakim

On 31st Jan, I followed Zekerullah, an Afghan Peace Volunteer who coordinates the Borderfree Street Kids School in Kabul, to visit Zuhair and his family in their rented room. Zuhair attends the School on Fridays with 92 other working and street kids, a minuscule number in the context of 6 million working children in Afghanistan.

Zuhair-740x493My heart squirmed at the unequal math of today’s economics.

In any world, children should have access to water, but in an internationally supported, ‘most-drone-attacked’ and ‘democratic’ Afghanistan, Zuhair is one person among 73% of the Afghan population who do not have access to clean, potable water.

Partly, Afghanistan and the world’s drinking water is drying up. And contaminated.

A recent analysis estimates that 4 billion people, two thirds of the world’s population, are affected by a falling water table.

I was challenged; since the Afghan and allied international governments don’t seem too bothered about resolving the root causes of the water, environmental or any crisis, what could the Afghan Peace Volunteers and I do?…

Click here to read the entire story.

GENOCIDE: Pax Christi USA signs onto Statement in Support of the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

from FCNL

[NOTE: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this statement.]

We the undersigned human rights, humanitarian, faith, anti-genocide, peace and other organizations support the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016, S.2551, introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and their colleagues.

The bill authorizes the Atrocities Prevention Board, establishes the Complex Crises Fund, requires training for Foreign Service Officers in violent conflict and atrocities prevention, and requires reporting from both the Department of State and Director for National Intelligence. These are critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives…

Click here to read the entire statement.

SYRIA: Upcoming interfaith meeting for Christian Peace Witness for Syria & We Refuse to be Enemies

by Bob Cooke, Pax Christi International

6a00d83451b5a569e20128772d848e970c

The nascent Christian Peace Witness for Syria and We Refuse To Be Enemies Interfaith group’s face to face day long planning meeting will be held on Friday, February 5th at the Methodist Building in Washington D.C. There will also be capability for people to join us for all, or part, of the day long meeting via teleconference.

So we hope you, or another member of your group, who is interested in helping to plan around the following will be able to join us that day:

  • What things are U.S. Christians and interfaith partners not doing as well as we would like concerning the war in Syria and the humanitarian devastation it is causing?
  • What things can U.S. Christians and interfaith partners do to offset the damaging narratives in both the Middle East and in the U.S. that the “other” is the enemy?
  • What can be done to stop the growing Islamophobia we are seeing in the United States?

From discussions that some of us were involved in December at an Advent Christian Peace Circles Retreat and a subsequent interfaith phone conference later that month, we do believe there are niche places,, despite the great work many faith and secular based groups are already doing on these subjects already, that can use even more voices and action to help the Syrian people, stop Islamaphobia, and turn around the narratives that indicate that the “Christian West” and “Muslim Middle East” are locked in a conflict where each side wishes to destroy the other.

So please try to join us for this planning meeting. Also, please invite others in the interfaith arena, especially Syrians, who should have a voice in deciding what we should do in regard to the questions noted above.

Time and Place – The face to face meeting will start at 8:30 am, and the teleconference at 9 am at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002 (walking distance from Union Station, Metro Red Line). The meeting will finish by 6 pm (or earlier).

RSVP – If you will be attending in person, please let us know by e-mailing cookerh1251@gmail.com and letting us know your name and any relevant organizations that you belong.

If you would like to join us by teleconference, please let us know if you will be available for the full day or part of the day and provide us with your name, relevant organization affiliation and whether you have access to Skype. E-mail cookerh1251@gmail.com with this information also.

There will be a lunch served and some light snacks and drinks during the day. If anyone would like to make a donation to help cover these expenses, please let us know.

We hope this meeting will result in fruitful new contributions to the important subjects noted above. We hope you can join us. Please invite others who you think would be interested.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the above.