Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 21, 2006
Dialogue is the true realism
At this writing, an uneasy ceasefire has brought at least a temporary end to weeks of brutal fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist organization. May that peace hold and long-term solutions be found to the 60-year crisis in the Mideast.
Dialogue is always better than war. This is a human truth that Pope Benedict and other Catholic leaders have stated repeatedly during the long weeks of senseless killing. Indeed, Pope John Paul II often forcibly stated that truth during other conflicts, only to be ignored or dismissed as naïve. Passionately, he pleaded with the world to avoid the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq invasion of 2003.
But there are always those who want to pick a fight and who believe "the other side" can never be trusted. Too often, these bellicose instigators occupy seats of political power as arms manufacturers quietly watch in anticipation.
In the Iraq wars, it is readily apparent (as it should have been from the beginning) that the late pope was the realistic one while the invaders were the naïve ones, foolishly believing they could impose peace and justice with the force of arms.
Iraq is now a country torn apart by violence, is divided like never before and is ruled by a sham government, the fruit of phony democracy. Saddam Hussein had ruled the country with violence for decades; now that violence has escalated and threatens to become a permanent fixture of Iraq society.
In the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah, both sides believed they were fighting a righteous battle - Hezbollah to rid itself of the "Zionist entity"; Israel using a "measured response" to protect itself from relentless, cowardly attacks on its people. You can pick your side and make your case as to how it is justified in lashing out at the other. Meanwhile, hundreds of innocent people die, a massive oil slick has been created in the Mediterranean and the whole region may yet be drawn into this conflagration.
The Vatican's repeated calls for good sense and a ceasefire have been entirely realistic. "Justice cannot be reestablished, a new order cannot be created and an authentic peace cannot be achieved when one takes recourse to the instruments of violence," Pope Benedict said in his July 30 Angelus talk.
The guns of war cannot solve the problems of our age. Only reconciliation and greater mutual understanding can lead to lasting peace. This is especially true in the Middle East where mutual understanding is in chronically short supply.
Many will brush this way aside, claiming that reconciliation is impossible. But our age alone has seen the impossible achieved with the end of apartheid in South Africa, the collapse of Soviet-style communism and the peaceful surrender of power by Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In each of those cases, the Christian Church played an instrumental role.
Our age labours under the illusion that religion is only effective in creating conflicts, not in ending them. Yet, there is much evidence to the contrary.
The Community of Sant'Egidio, based in Rome, began as a group of high school students seeking a place to pray and help the poor in 1968. Years later, this seemingly insignificant group helped negotiate lasting peace in Mozambique and Guatemala and has since been involved in other world trouble spots.
"We Christians are people of the word," says Sant'Egidio founder Andrea Riccardi. "We don't have a different weapon. I believe in the power of dialogue till the very last moment. It is not easy. Dialogue means a conversion towards the other person: you have to try understanding him, and at the same time help him to change his agenda."
What is realistic? Using bombs, guns and rocket launchers to foment hatred that will last for centuries? Or, to dialogue toward the uncertain ideal of peace with God as our guide?
- Glen Argan
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