Archive for Reconciliation

Pax Christi USA Official Statement On the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11: The Things That Make for Peace

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-42)

Ten years ago, just scant hours after our nation witnessed the tragic events of September 11th,  Pax Christi USA released a statement which said, in part:

We recognize that as the reality of the magnitude of loss becomes clear, our nation’s grief will soon move toward rage. As people of faith and disciples of the nonviolent Jesus, we must be willing, even now in this darkest moment, to commit ourselves and urge our sisters and brothers, to resist the impulse to vengeance. We must resist the urge to demonize and dehumanize any ethnic group as ‘enemy.’ We must find the courage to break the spiral of violence that so many in our nation, we fear, will be quick to embrace.

(Pax Christi USA’s Official Statement on 9-11, published on September 12, 2001)

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of 9-11, as we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together, a question will be put to us:

Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?
Can anyone refuse mercy to another, yet expect pardon for one’s own sins? (Sirach 28:3-4)

These past ten years, we have witnessed the failure of policies built on vengeance. Our elected leaders manipulated our grief and fear to justify foreign policy decisions which had little to nothing to do with the tragedy of 9-11. Our nation was ensconced in a culture of fear, where the scapegoating of peoples, the fanning of religious intolerance, and the curtailing of civil rights served the needs of political expedience.

We have been witnesses to the dark places where our government’s response to 9-11 led our nation—the justification of torture, the moral bankruptcy of pre-emptive war, the daily reports of innocent civilians killed as collateral damage, the deaths of thousands of U.S. service personnel, and the stealing of our national wealth to pay for wars abroad as our children, our elderly, and the most vulnerable are left to suffer at home.

Today, as we acknowledge the ten year anniversary of 9-11, there can be no doubt that responding with war and violence can neither console us in our grief nor achieve the security for which we long.

In the weeks following 9-11, Pax Christi USA proclaimed that very message, and challenged our political leaders to seize this moment for peace by establishing justice for all peoples throughout the world. Until we commit our own nation to the pursuit of peace and justice for the entire human family, we should not be surprised when the violence suffered by those living on the other side of the world—as well as those living on the wrong side of town—eventually engulfs us all.

Ten years have passed, but we believe that the opportunity is still with us. Let us start, now, today, in Washington, D.C. and in every city and town across this land, in our schools and our places of worship and within our own homes. Let us write a new chapter and create a new legacy for all those whose lives were shattered on 9-11. Let each one of us decide what it is that we can do to create a legacy which heals instead of harms. Let us begin with the assurance that such healing will come if we make economic, political and social justice for all our top priority.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, at the responsorial, Catholics will sing in churches throughout our nation:

Our God is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
God pardons all our iniquities, heals all our ills, redeems our lives from destruction, and crowns us with kindness and compassion. (Psalm 103)

This anniversary offers us an opportunity to reflect the values of the God to whom we have given our allegiance. Let us remember those who were lost and memorialize this day by committing our lives to “the things that make for peace”—drawing closer to those who suffer, cultivating understanding in the midst of suspicion, finding truth in the arguments of those with whom we disagree, embracing some measure of personal sacrifice today to make a better world for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

Let us gather one decade from now—not amidst the ruins of all that has been torn down—but in the midst of that new world of peace and security for all which we have built up together.

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Plymouth, MA: Thanksgiving Day, 2010

By Michael Humphrey

For the past 41 years, Plymouth, Massachusetts has commemorated its most famous day, Thanksgiving, with an argument. But it’s not the typical holiday fight between family members. The debate comes in the form of two marches, each telling its own story about those men, women and children who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. One story, the English pilgrim’s, is about survival and the birth of a nation. The other story, the American Indian’s, is one of treachery and the death of a people. For my final project at NYU, my wife Lorie and I marched with both sides and filed this report.

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Jesuit companion of martyrs speaks at SOA protest

By Jane Stoever

Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino lived with the six Jesuits who were martyred Nov. 16, 1989, at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador. A famous liberation theologian, Sobrino was in Thailand, when 26 soldiers attacked the priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. The death squad included 19 graduates of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Ga.

This past November, Sobrino joined participants in the annual rally to close the school, which Congress has renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Pax Christi USA gave Sobrino an award for his latest book Nov. 21 at a meeting held in conjunction with the rally.

Sobrino told about 400 people at the award ceremony, “The Salvadoran soldiers who killed the Jesuits and Julia Elba (Ramos) and Celina were trained here (at the SOA). Obviously, obviously, we say no to that. But no is not my last word. We say yes to something else.

“Yes to what? — to the love of the lay people, the Jesuits, the four American church women, so many others, yes to the great love so many people have who live always on the side of the oppressed even when it is dangerous, when it means to head into conflict. If behind the reality (of suffering) there is great love, that makes people say yes.

“If behind the hatred on this planet which can really move us to go crazy, which denies us human reality, if behind that there is great love which makes people work to be for others, then the last word is not a no but a yes.”

Sobrino shared these thoughts after receiving the award for No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays (Orbis Books, 2008).

“In a civilization which is contrary to the civilization of wealth, in a civilization of poverty, maybe we find salvation,” Sobrino said.

Born in 1938 in Barcelona, Spain, Sobrino joined the Jesuits at 18, went to El Salvador at 19, and helped found the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, where he directs the Oscar Romero Pastoral Center. In 2007, the Vatican reprimanded Sobrino for affirming that “the ‘Church of the poor’ is the ecclesial ‘setting’ of Christology and offers it its fundamental orientation.” Although the Vatican stopped short of prohibiting Sobrino from teaching theology, Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of El Salvador ordered him not to teach theology in the archdiocese.

Pondering current tragedies, Sobrino said at the award ceremony, “You watch on TV a mother in Africa who cannot feed with her breasts her child, and you might be moved, yes? But in general, we forget. We are not moved by the tragedies of the world.”

He smiled, slipped into his native Spanish, and then translated: “Our bowels are not moved. We are not moved to compassion.”

A few years ago, the world’s most forgotten crisis was the killing of 4 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Sobrino. “It took years to tell the world simply that people were being killed in Congo, that there were 4 million corpses in Congo. I learned that from nuns who were working there, not from the Spanish ambassador, not from the American ambassador, although they knew, but they didn’t talk about it.” The war was engineered for raw material, including coltan, a metallic ore useful in missiles, computers and cellphones, said Sobrino. “Who wants to have coltan? Not the peasants. The enterprises from the North.”

Sobrino also assailed the First World for allowing the “crisis alimentalia,” hunger, in the Third World. For the cost of one aircraft carrier, hunger among half the population of Somalia could be eradicated, he said. “We don’t want hunger to be eliminated. Every five seconds, a child dies of hunger. The child is assassinated. That is reality without makeup.”

The world of abundance bases its civilization on the nonexistence of the poor, Sobrino said. “We live in a civilization of exclusion. For example, in El Salvador, the oligarchs, the wealthy, don’t consider the peasants ‘real.’ They know they exist, and are necessary, for example, if they want to grow coffee, but their existence is not very important. In El Salvador, only 20 percent of people have what can be called a decent job. Three million people — one-third of the population — have left the country. Our poverty is appalling.”

Referring to the wall the United States is building to keep out Latin Americans, Sobrino said immigrants are denied “even the ground beneath their feet.” He added, “Don’t worry. You’re not the only ones. Europe is raising a barrier against Africa in southern Spain. All of this is iniquitous. Immigrants are ghosts — they don’t even have ground on which to walk.”

Sobrino reflected on the worldwide divide between the affluent and the poor: “We exclude people from work. We exclude people from food. We exclude people from existence. We know there are the poor, but we act and we teach as if those vast majorities of people simply do not exist.”

He called for a civilization not of exclusion but inclusion: “Our first task is to put names on everyone.”

Sobrino warned that people who live well don’t want the poor to be treated with compassion. The wealthy feel under attack and kill those who live according to a civilization of inclusion, he said, noting, “We should thank the martyrs because they are saving us from total inhumanity.” In addition, Sobrino called for people not only to work for the poor, but also to thank them.

Points from No Salvation Outside the Poor

In his new book, Sobrino attacks the “civilization of capital, which generates extreme scarcities, dehumanizes persons and destroys the human family: it produces impoverished and excluded people and divides the world into conquerors and conquered.”

The right of property is the principle that sustains capitalism, says Sobrino in his book. “As long as that principle is maintained as absolute and untouchable, every economy will be structurally configured by a dynamic of oppression, human beings will be classified according to their ability to produce wealth, their right to possess and enjoy wealth will prolong and even increase human oppression, and most certainly it will widen the distance between the haves and the have-nots.”

Assessing the mission of Christianity, Sobrino asserts, “The poor are the immense majority of humankind, and the poor are at the center of the Gospels.” Millions of poor people are persecuted, are slowly but relentlessly oppressed by injustice, and are often violently repressed, says Sobrino. “They resemble Jesus poor and overwhelmed.”

Address before funeral procession

On Nov. 23, torture survivors and family members of those killed in Latin America by SOA graduates joined from 15,000 to 20,000 North Americans in a funeral procession to the gates of Fort Benning. The day before, staff members for SOA Watch, which leads the movement to close the SOA, said 86 countries practiced torture in 1998, and more than 150 countries practiced torture by 2008, according to the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (at http://www.tassc.org).

“Any school in which violence is being taught, in which torture is being taught, should be closed,” Sobrino told the vast audience Nov. 23. “Any school in which lies and the covering up of truth are taught should be closed. Any school in which accumulation of wealth is taught as the main issue of humanity, so the few can live a life of abundance, should be closed. We have to fight for that.

“But I also think we should work that other schools be opened, schools that work hard for truth, for compassion, for justice.”

Sobrino was mindful of the victimizers who killed his companions, he said. “But more important than remembering the victimizers and their cruelty is to remember the victims and their goodness. Archbishop Oscar Romero (killed by graduates of the School of the Americas in San Salvador March 24, 1980) used to say that the victims — in El Salvador or wherever — are the historical crucified people. They are today, for us Christians, like Jesus of Nazareth present among us.

“Ignacio Ellacuria (the Jesuit president of the UCA, killed in 1989) said, ‘What do we have to do with these people? First of all, work hard to bring them down from the cross.’ So let’s fight for truth, let’s fight for justice, so that those who have committed atrocities and cruelty will be brought to justice. But never, never forget the anonymous millions of people, crucified people, and try to be compassionate to them.”

In a gesture of gratitude to the thousands of protesters, Sobrino concluded, “Thank you for remembering the poor of this earth and those eight people from the university where I live and work.”

Joy, wonder

Sobrino met with Jesuit Father John Dear, a columnist for National Catholic Reporter, several times during the weekend rally to close the SOA. In his article “With Jon Sobrino at the SOA Protest,” at http://ncrcafe.org/node/2299, Dear wrote:

“The weekend over finally, Jon Sobrino took my arm and pulled me aside. The weekend amazed him, he said. He had no idea there were so many North Americans siding with the crucified people of Central and South America. ‘This is such a good thing!’ he said with joy and wonder. ‘I’m so glad I came.'”

Jane Stoever, a freelance writer, lives in Overland Park, Kan.

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Sign of hope

The last vote in the House of Representatives to defund the School of the Americas (SOA) failed by only six votes, and 35 representatives who supported the school in that vote in 2007 lost their seats in the 2008 elections.

To ask President-elect Barack Obama to close the SOA through an executive order, sign the petition online at www.SOAW.org/petition or print the petition at http://www.soaw.org/img/pdfs/obamapetition.pdf and collect signatures. Also consider joining a gathering Feb. 15-17 in the nation’s capital to lobby Congress to close the school. For information, contact Jane Stoever at 913-206-4088 or janepstoever@yahoo.com.

Related news article

“Prelate Opposes Reopening Case” by Michael Humphrey at http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2642


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Seeking meaning in an unjust world

NOTE: Last month, a Jackson County jury found a motorist not guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Larry Gaunt, 59, and Sierra Gaunt, 14, who were hit by a the driver’s truck while biking near Longview Lake. For more information about the case, go here.

The jury’s decision left many cyclists angry and distraught for what was a perceived injustice. One of those cyclists wrote to fellow cyclist Ed Chasteen, one of the city’s most notable peace activists.

“Ed, while I believe that there is way too much hate in the world and I do my best not to add anymore, the truly personal nature of the Gaunt’s case and the seemingly obvious fault on the drivers behalf leaves me stunned with a verdict such as this. I know that [the accused] has probably suffered plenty and is probably a good person. But I’m left feeling angry and yes a little hateful toward the jury members and court system. I guess this too will pass but in the mean time my thoughts turn toward you and I wonder if you could help me understand how to turn the other cheek.”

Ed’s Response

I was angry and sad at the verdict. How the jury could render a not guilty verdict baffles me. I feel less safe out on my bike now. I ask myself what I should do. The one thing I cannot do is quit riding. Another thing I cannot do is let myself become bitter and hateful. One of my dear friends, Bronia Roslowowski, survived the Holocaust. She was beaten and starved and almost killed. All in her family were killed. For years I have taken my students to visit her. We always ask, “Bronia, do you hate anyone?” “No.” She says. “Not even Nazis?” We ask. “No.” She says. “Why not?” We ask. “Hate kills you first,” she says.

Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and felt guilty. Why had he survived when his friends and family had not? Out of his struggle to understand this, he wrote a book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a psychiatrist. Because of his experiences in the Holocaust, he contends that the purpose of life is to make it have meaning. Meaning is not out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. Meaning comes from within us. We live in an unjust and capricious world over which we have little control. The only control we have is how we respond. The world that lies behind our eyes, beneath our skull, above our chin and between our ears is really the only world there is. How we let the outside world inside and what we make of that raw material determines what kind of life we lead and how others respond to us.

Gandhi is one of my life models. In his book, My Experiments with Truth, he says, “In so far as possible, I try to agree with my adversaries.” As I read the morning paper about the not guilty verdict, I thought of Gandhi and found myself trying to imagine how those jurors could find the driver who killed two people not guilty. These were 12 ordinary people, struggling to do what was right as they understood the law. They must have been conflicted and confused. But our system of justice demanded that they make a decision. How will that decision impact the rest of their lives? They will be questioned by friends and family, the curious and the angry. I feel sympathy for them. And I wonder what I would have decided had I heard what they heard inside that courtroom.

I feel sympathy for the family of those who were killed. I can understand their anger. What meaning can be made out of two senseless deaths, I do not know. How long it will take I do not know. As I’m writing these words, my mind turns to Nelson Mandela. For 27 years he was a political prisoner in South Africa. When he was finally released, he was elected President of South Africa. He then selected some of those who had imprisoned him to help him govern the country. Long Road To Freedom is the title of Mandela’s book. No one thought Mandela could forgive his jailers and give them a place in his government. But because he did, he avoided civil war and brought to himself a moral authority greater than any living person in our world.

All of us who love biking and want to be taken seriously and treated fairly have a long road ahead as we try to help our fellow citizens understand us and accept us as equals on the road and in a court of law. Knowing Bronia, Frankl, Mandela and Gandhi help me find my way. Perhaps they might help you. I hope so.

Only when terrible things happen to us and around us do we have opportunity to discover what kinds of persons we truly are. Now is such a time. Who will we be? What meaning can we make? Will we draw people to us and our cause by the way we respond?

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Increasing your oneness

By Ryann Kuykendall

Imagine the one person you absolutely can’t stand. Now think of Jesus inviting himself to a private dinner in this person’s home. Next visualize Jesus happily sitting on a couch to talk with him or Jesus cooking dinner in her kitchen. In Luke 19: 1-10, it is written that Jesus did just this. Jesus invited himself into Zaccheaus’s house. Zaccheaus lived life as a hated man, a tax collector, but when Jesus asked Zaccheaus to follow, he did so without hesitation. With that first step towards Jesus, Zaccheaus became a new man, a man of God.

During the retreat, “Treasuring Jesus’ Examples of Healing and Justice,” this was the most difficult of the four readings for many to accept happily. The other three readings were Luke 18 1-8, Luke 7: 11-17 and Luke 18: 35-43. Denise Simone and Cele Breen led the retreat last month at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Even now my blood starts to boil thinking of my particular person with Jesus. But isn’t that the challenge He gave us? Love. It can be corny and full of good feelings or it can be the greatest trial. Jesus lived a life of love and thankfully we are left with written accounts. The rest is up to us. What do we do with His message?

During the retreat a radiant 92 year-old nun sitting next to me softly asked, “Please help to increase my oneness,” while handing me a pen and paper. She wanted my name and number. It was then that it all came together. Jesus told his parables, raised the dead, cured the blind and had dinner with the hated to increase our oneness. What a beautiful part of being. The widows in Luke 18:1-8 and Luke 7: 11-17 were alone. They were invisible outcasts. So was the blind man of Luke 18: 35-43 yet they all three kept praying, kept their faith. Then there are people like Zaccheaus who seem to not have faith, only bad attitudes. Yet they are just as much loved by God as you or I. As much as we may not like our Zaccheaus-like person, we are called to love him or her and invite him or her out of “tree” to a life with Jesus.

Our retreat leaders, Simone and Breen, asked thoughtful questions of us. They asked us what are some ways that we can, like the widow in Luke 7: 11-17, act of character for the sake of justice? Who might be desperately screaming to us for our attention or concern? Who might be “lost” and need to be returned to their place as children of God? How do we bring them back as our brothers and sisters? Who might “fall out of a tree” if we asked them for hospitality and sat down with them today?

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