Considering Peace in Syria

Pope Francis invited Catholics, people of other faiths, and all people of good will (I like that!) to join him yesterday in prayer & fasting.  He held a vigil at the Vatican to pray for peace in Syria.  Yesterday I attended a friend’s Ordination to the Deaconate.  This joyous occasion and the celebrations that followed were in stark contrast to the prayer vigils going on in Rome & around the world.  Today and every day I will offer my thoughts and prayers for peace.  Peace in our homes, in our schools, our workplaces, our nations, and especially peace in our own hearts.  So often I hear fatalists say, “What’s the point?  People are always going to hate, kill, and find reasons to go to war.  You’ll never have world peace.”  I believe that’s a cop-out for doing nothing while maintaining the status quo.  I choose to “picket & pray.”  I also agree with Pope Francis (and everyone else who has ever uttered these words), “Violence only begets violence.”

Fr. John Dear just posted a reflection, in response to the Syrian crisis, on the Pax Christi USA blog on living nonviolently in a violent world .  [Ignore the part where he plugs his new book!]  He talks about being nonviolent with ourselves first.  Always an excellent place to start if we want to change the world for the better.  I recently picked up Fr. Dear’s other book Put Down Your Sword; Answering the Gospel Call to Creative Nonviolence, and in Chapter 2 he offers the “anti-Beatitudes.”  The list is a real slap-in-the-face to our culture of violence, imperialism, and our consumer driven mentality.   The one that hit me is what he calls the “motto of every warlike culture:  Blessed are the violent and the invincible, the proud and the powerful, the domineering and the oppressive.”  Jesus says, the meek, the gentle, and the nonviolent will inherit the Earth.  This “anti-Beatitude” suggests that the violent will “inherit nothing but blood and destruction.”  Personally, I’d rather be labeled a “bleeding heart liberal” who advocates for peace & justice, than a war-monger who causes hearts to bleed in the name of homeland security or some twisted idea of peace in the Middle East.

In the next couple of weeks many people all over the world will be preparing to celebrate International Day of Peace on Saturday, September 21st (my school marks this day with the Pinwheels for Peace project).  With the 12th anniversary of the attacks on 9-11 coming up this week, in the shadows of yet another International debate over possible war in yet another country in the Middle East, my heart is heavy & torn.

As the world considers war in Syria, I consider her refugees, her victims, her dead.  I consider the many victims of wars & conflicts in the last 100+ years.  I want to inherit a world of peace, but I also want to bequeath one to the next generation.  If war begets war, & violence begets violence, then shouldn’t it hold true that peace begets peace, & nonviolence begets nonviolence?  We seem to have mastered the ways of violence; when will we ever learn the ways of peace?

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