Editorial – Finding the path of peace

Glenn Rutherford
Glenn Rutherford

Here we are at the start of Advent, the season that prepares us for the coming of the Prince of Peace.
And war is everywhere.

If you only count those conflicts that have existed since at least 2010 — some are much older than that, of course — then several news and foreign policy sources show that there are out-and-out wars in:

  • Syria, where war of rebellion against yet another ruthless dictator has led to a diaspora of refugees fleeing violence, killing and destruction. And it has also led to a reaction against those refugees, an unwillingness to extend a helping hand which we’ll talk about in additional detail later.
  • Libya, where a civil war wanes hot and cold depending upon who knows what. Yet that waxing and waning of violence has managed to kill about 15,000 people in the past five years.
  • Yemen, where another civil war has claimed about 18,000 people since 2011.
  • The so-called “Sinai Insurgency” in Egypt has resulted in nearly 5,000 deaths and resolved little or nothing.
  • Sudan, where the “South Kordofan Conflict” has led to more than 5,200 deaths since 2011, according to Foreign Policy Magazine.
  • The “South Sudanese Civil War” has seen more than 50,000 dead in just the past two years.
  • War in the Donbass region of Ukraine has killed nearly 8,000 people in the past two years and has seen little, if any, coverage by the Western media.

There are others, scores of others, and the numbers of those conflicts have led Pope Francis to declare recently that “the whole world seems to be at war today.”
And he added a comment of great significance. He said “there is no justification for it.”

“A war can be — quote, unquote — ‘justified’ for many reasons,” he said in his morning homily on Nov 19. “But when the whole world is embroiled in war as it is today — there is a world war (being fought) in pieces, here, there, everywhere. There is no justification. And God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

And so it is that as we begin the Advent season and prepare for the “Year of Mercy,” which begins Dec. 8, war and killing and the resulting hardening of hearts and a lack of mercy are ubiquitous.

It is the war against the so-called “Islamic State” which receives most of our attention because of its violence, its omnipresence, and its peculiarities.

The Nov. 13 Paris attacks are a perfect example — as was 9/11 in the U.S. — of the new nature of war. There is no nation state to fight; no hard targets (as the military calls them) to destroy. There is little land to conquer and hold. Some said the violence was foisted by Syrian refugees, only to learn that the attackers were Belgian or French citizens who had immigrated from the Middle East.

In fact, in this new type of war it is almost impossible to know who the enemy is. Sure, it is “radical Islam” as some commentators are quick to note, and even those who practice Islam recognize the danger posed by those on the fringe of that faith. Christians recognize similar dangers, too, or should. (Remember Oklahoma City and Timothy McVeigh?)

ISIS, as the Islamic State is called, strikes such fear into the hearts of some leaders, some politicians, that they have proposed closing our borders to anyone but Christian refugees. Some have suggested they “wouldn’t admit a 5-year-old Muslim girl” into this country.

Thank goodness the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is made of sterner stuff; thank goodness they refuse to react with the new jingoism that is so popular among some governors and others who are running for president.

Led by our own Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the bishops announced last month that church resettlement programs in the U.S. — including the one led by Catholic Charities of Louisville — will continue to assist refugees fleeing violence, social ills and war.

The church’s response is focused on people in need of food, shelter and safety and not on their particular faith, Archbishop Kurtz said in a Nov. 18 article in The Record. The bishops, he noted, “are always open to helping families who come to the United States in need of help. We have that tradition of doing it and we’re going to contribute.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, especially in the face of such world-wide violence. Thanks be for the strength and courage of Archbishop Kurtz and the bishops he represents. Unfortunately, many others are not so courageous, not so committed to the teachings of Jesus.

“We are approaching Christmas,” the pope said in his homily, “and soon everywhere there will be lights, decorated trees, even Nativity scenes.” But if all of that does not represent a commitment to follow the Prince of Peace, then “it’s all fake,” the pope said.

“The world continues to make war,” he added. “The world has not understood the path of peace.”

Glenn Rutherford
Record Editor Emeritus

Glenn Rutherford
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