Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Building a Future of Peace"

I have rarely, if ever, focused on political issues on this blog. But today I feel called not to remain silent on one issue affecting our world right now.

On October 4, 1965, the late Pope Paul VI, addressed the United Nations. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

And now We come to the high point of Our message: Negatively, first: the words which you expect from Us and which We cannot pronounce without full awareness of their gravity and solemnity: Never one against the other, never, never again. Was it not principally for this purpose that the United Nations came into being: against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man, the late John Kennedy, who declared four years ago: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." Long discourses are not necessary to proclaim the supreme goal of your institution. It is enough to remember that the blood of millions of men, numberless and unprecedented sufferings, useless slaughter and frightful ruin are the sanction of the covenant which unites you, in a solemn pledge which must change the future history of the world: No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind. Our thanks to you, glory to you, who for twenty years have labored for peace and who have even suffered the loss of illustrious men in this sacred cause. Thanks and glory to you for the conflicts which you have prevented and for those which you have brought to an end. The results of your efforts on behalf of peace, including the most recent, even if they are not yet decisive, are such as to deserve that We, presuming to interpret the sentiments of the whole world, express to you both praise and gratitude.

This section of the late pope's speech has been resonating within me these last few days as the leaders of several countries of the world contemplate an attack on Syria. The UN has not yet completed its report on the alleged chemical attack and yet we seem on the brink of an attack on Syria. Certainly those who allegedly launched this horrific chemical attack must be brought to justice, but is an assault on Syria the answer?

I, for one, want to echo the words of Paul VI and, as a Roman Catholic, join my voice to the voice of Pope Francis, who is calling for negotiation:

To the international community, besides the pursuit of a negotiated solution to the conflict, I ask for the provision of humanitarian aid for the displaced and refugees, and Syrians who have lost their homes, showing in the first place the good of each human person and guarding their dignity. For the Holy See the work of various Catholic charitable agencies is extremely significant: assisting the Syrian population, without regard for ethnic or religious affiliation, is the most direct way to contribute to peace and to the upbuilding of a society open and welcoming to all of its different constituent parts. To this also the Holy See lends its efforts: to the building of a future of peace for a Syria in which everyone can live freely and express themselves in their own particular way.

"Building of a future of peace." I humbly submit that launching an attack on Syria is not the pathway to this future; my conscience on this issue is being guided by our Catholic tradition and our current pope. I am praying fervently that no attack occur. Human lives have become too dispensable in these conversations among leaders. Yes, something must be done, but do we need to kill more?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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