Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2000
Society's toleration of violence
Roche tells CSS that acceptance of violence at root of assault on the right to life
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Society's tolerance of violence lies at the root of its many violations of the right to life, says Senator Douglas Roche.
"Most of us think we are non-violent. We would recoil in horror at an assault on a person before our eyes," Roche told the annual meeting of Catholic Social Services at the Macdonald Hotel June 9.
"But we tolerate violence all around us. We allow the destruction of the unborn child. We allow children to starve and die from easily controllable diseases.
"We allow the greed of the arms merchants to impede government legislation to stop the arms trade. We allow the destruction of the environment that will so desperately be needed by future generations."
In light of this, "our protestations that we are not violent ring hollow," Roche said. "There is too much suffering, destruction and death throughout the world to permit us to take refuge in the sanctity of our personal surroundings."
Roche, founding editor of the WCR, called for the rejection of violence in all its forms and the promotion of a culture of peace.
A culture of peace, as the senator defined it, is a set of values and attitudes, traditions, modes of behaviour, and ways of life that reflect and inspire respect for life and for all human rights.
"It involves the rejection of violence in all its forms, and commitment to the prevention of violent conflicts by tackling their root causes through dialogue and negotiation."
The senator gave several examples of assaults on the right to life that are tolerated by society.
Abortion is one. In 1997, there were 114,848 abortions in Canada. He said economic and social, not medical, reasons are at the root of the abortion increase.
Another is poverty, a malady that affects at least one-quarter of the world's people. In Canada, one in five children lives in poverty, there are 200,000 homeless and the use of food banks has doubled in the 1990s.
War is another obvious assault on life, the senator pointed out. Currently 36 wars are taking place, most of them between peoples of the same country. Despite the end of the Cold War, the world still spends $780 billion a year preparing for war contrasted with the $1.3 billion it spends on maintaining United Nations programs for peace.
To top it off, the nuclear states still maintain 35,000 nuclear weapons, at least 5,000 on full alert, meaning they could be deployed on 15 minutes' notice.
"At the base of these assaults (on life) is the toleration of violence that has infected the human condition," Roche said.
It is often said war is inevitable because people have been fighting through history. Roche said that's a superficial analysis.
"Human beings are not genetically programmed for war," he said. "There is no inherent biological component that produces violence.
"UNESCO points out that war begins in our minds; so too must the new idea begin in our minds: that peace is absolutely necessary in a technological age of mass destruction."
A peace consciousness, however, does not appear overnight and requires comprehensive educational, social and civil action as well as an open-minded global strategy, Roche noted.
"Mobilizing public opinion and developing new education programs at all levels are essential to promoting humanity's rejection of war (and constructing a culture of peace)," he said.
"We need to respond creatively to God's challenge to each of us to share in the continued development of the planet so that it can truly be a planet of peace, where every person is assured the reality of human dignity."
Added Roche: "The right to life is for all. And we must pursue the full development of this precious gift from God."
CSS president Al Pierog also addressed the meeting, noting the agency runs 119 programs, including individual and family counselling as well as services to children, persons with physical and mental disabilities and to immigrants and refugees.
More than 60,000 Albertans of all faiths will access these services in 2000.
The largest agency of its kind in Canada, CSS has more than 750 staff and 1,500 volunteers. Its expenditures last year were more than $34 million.
The CSS meeting was also highlighted by the presentation of the Msgr. Bill Irwin Award of excellence to Council 1184 of the Knights of Columbus for their "exemplary leadership and outstanding philanthropic contributions to the community."
As well, CSS presented outstanding volunteer service awards to the following six volunteers: Erika Evanson, Joyce O'Byrne, Bryan Jewell, Clive Rogan and Tim Spelliscy.