Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 5, 1999
Avoiding the evil of racism
Racial discrimination is far from being eradicated in Canada. But our relative lack of entrenched racial hatred can make it sometimes seem that pleas for tolerance and understanding are little more than motherhood statements. They aren't.
The recent religious celebration in Edmonton of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination drew a small crowd. Those in attendance heard aboriginal leader Michael Marrier pray, "May this country of ours be free from racial discrimination."
They also heard the startling claim - startling at least to secular ears - by Muslim representative Sal Mugrabi that "Racism is a tool of Satan to push us further apart."
Usually, we don't talk about Satan in polite company. But it is hard not to think in terms of the darkest evil when pondering the depth and breadth of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia over the past eight years. We need to be careful not to view Serbs themselves as Satanic, but the Belgrade government in particular has performed and sanctioned wanton slaughter of the innocent which must be called deeply evil.
The West has mostly watched and tolerated the slaughter, sending peacekeepers who performed valuable actions but who were powerless to stop the relentless death machine. When yet another round of negotiations failed, NATO began bombing Yugoslavia - a move which seemed only to escalate government terrorism against Albanians in Kosovo. The bombing appears to be having the opposite effect from that intended. More than ever, these people's lives need to be defended. But just as surely, we know that war only breeds more war.
Catholics cannot help but notice that the mass killings of the past eight years have been in the region near the village of Medjugorje where Mary the Mother of God has reputedly been appearing to six young people since 1981. Competent Church authorities have yet to issue a verdict on the legitimacy of these alleged apparitions and far be it from us to jump the gun on their final judgment.
But it is worthy of note that, at a time when Yugoslavia was a land without obvious civil strife, the visionaries say Mary called herself the Queen of Peace. She urged Christians to respect people of other religions; not all religions are equal, she said, but all people are. She called people to greater prayer, penance and conversion.
Whether these messages came from Mary or from some other source, they were certainly prophetic and it is a great misfortune that they have not been more widely heeded. They contain the essence of what is most needed to heal our broken and sometimes violent world.
Peace negotiations and agreements among nations are essential to preventing and halting wars. But they will be of little lasting use if there is not peace in the hearts of individual persons. Peace can only be established in a person's heart when he or she realizes that God has called each of us out of nothing. Without God, there would be nothing and we would be nothing.
Our lives only make sense when we believe that a loving God has given us life and that our lives are to be used for giving glory to God and fulfilling his purposes. In God's kingdom there can be no hatred and no murder because such actions deny the value of God's creation.
Respect for people of other races and nations is an important virtue. It is essential for our living together in peace as a human family. In the Balkans, we see the sorry fruits of denying that virtue. Perhaps it is only when ethnic tolerance is absent that we come to again appreciate how important it is for the peace of a nation.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
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