Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 28, 2002
Children offer ways to peace
Events of Sept. 11 traumatize children more than we realize
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
I recently received a package of letters from a group of Grade 5 and 6 students who shared their thoughts about peace and strife in hopes that their comments would be important to me.
On the one hand, I was more than a little taken aback when confronted by their fears. For example, one of them wrote:
"I fear the world might be at an end if this war continues. My family might get tortured if the war came here. The skies would be full of smoke and our clean atmosphere would be ruined. I am scared I will suffer from anthrax and die. I feel scared and paranoid. I want to hide. It is frightening knowing hundreds of people die every day right now. I am scared, really scared. This is not peace."
I am afraid that many of our children are more traumatized by the events surrounding Sept. 11 and its aftermath than we realize. We need to listen and talk with them.
On the other hand, I really appreciate their straightforward and concrete insights as to what constitutes peace and how to be a peacemaker.
"It is important to listen to others' opinions. Peace is a choice."
"I share peace by sowing kindness."
"We should talk or vote on what to do: if that doesn't work, we could work together and find a settlement."
"Hatred is a really powerful word. Peace is respect, love, self-control, quiet, beauty and hopefulness."
"Our world would be a better place if we all play and get along as one big family."
"I think that we make a difference if everyone gives a little. Everyone should be allowed to say his or her opinions. People should be treated equally, even if they have a different religion, different colour of skin."
"No matter how bad or mean the other side is, we should forgive them and apologize."
"I don't want people to die by being killed, but by old age or when God wants them. I keep praying that this war will stop."
"Peace can be as simple as a hug, kiss or smile."
"I've learned that I can create peace just by simply not fighting with my brother or sister. I can also spread peace by letting my light shine and do good things."
Perhaps, without being aware of it, they echo many of the sentiments of Pope John Paul in his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness."
True peace is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and legal guarantee that ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities and the just distribution of benefits and burdens. But because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egotism of individuals and groups, it must include and be completed by forgiveness that heals and rebuilds troubled human relations and their foundations.
This is true in circumstances great and small, at the personal level or on a wider, even international scale. Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice as if to forgive means to overlook the need to right the wrong done. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquility of order that is much more than a fragile and temporary cessation of hostilities. It involves the deepest healing of the wounds that fester in human hearts.
Terrorism springs from hatred and it generates isolation, mistrust and closure. Violence is added to violence in a tragic sequence that exacerbates successive generations, each one inheriting the hatred which divided those who went before it. Terrorism is built on contempt for human life.
Terrorism is often the outcome of fanatical fundamentalism which springs from the conviction that one's own vision of truth must be forced on everyone else. Instead, even when the truth has been reached (and this can happen only in a limited and imperfect way), it can never be imposed.
Respect for a person's conscience means that we can only propose the truth to others who are then responsible for accepting it. To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against human dignity and ultimately an offence against God whose image that person bears.
It is a profanation of religion to declare oneself a terrorist and do violence to others in God's name.
To pray for peace is to work for justice, for a right ordering of relations within and among nations and people. To pray for peace is to open the human heart to inroads of God's power to renew all things. To pray for peace is to seek God's forgiveness and to ask for the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us.
So many children throughout the world, too many, are condemned from birth to suffer through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts. Let us save the children in order to save the hope of humanity.
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