Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 18, 2002
Love your enemies, even terrorists, says priest
By WCR Staff
Christians are called to resist violence by non-violence, says Father Stefano Penna, a Saskatoon priest who is studying in the United States.
And that includes resisting the bombing in Afghanistan, an act which he believes can only beget more violence.
Penna, who led a workshop at the March 8-10 Catholic Conference, was in Connecticut on Sept. 11 when the World Trade Centre was attacked by terrorists.
He helped at St. Mary's Cathedral in New York for two weeks after the attack.
The reality of war hit him as he saw the faces of victims posted in the walls of the armory, where an emergency centre for those searching for loved ones was set up.
He met the families who were convulsed in grief. "They filled in the little details of life that had been wiped from the fabric of these people," he said.
In the days following the attacks, conversations were angry and sad. Penna himself was angry and torn by the events. He was even fascinated by what was going to happen in terms of the military program.
But then he opened the Gospel of Luke which says, "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also."
Churches were filled for two weeks after the attacks. Penna didn't know what to do with this Gospel and invited his congregation to listen to it. After the Mass, people were upset with him and with the Gospel.
But he says the Gospel "invites you to resist the violence by non-violence."
We have become so desensitized, killing the enemy has little effect on us. The general running operation Anaconda in Afghanistan recently said on the news, "These people have come back and we will oblige them by killing them."
When the bodies of one of eight Americans recently killed in Afghanistan were brought back to the U.S., they said, "The cost of the war has come to America."
We who are always hanging before us the image of Christ dying as a victim are also called to feel for the Afghan, Palestinian and Israeli children who die as a result of the violence, he said. "We are called to see in them the image of Christ."
But North American society is convinced the war is just and has thrown its full support behind the military operation. They are using what Penna calls a "scapegoating mechanism," that allows people to use violence against those they see as the cause of their problems.
This is highly problematic for Christians because they are called to see the image of Christ in the other "and how can you kill that," Penna said in an interview.
What's worse is that the American military "completely controls the images" that we see on television.
Military technology increases the depersonalization and also insulates people from the deep reality of war. "We don't see them as persons," lamented Penna.
"For six months, The New York Times had stories on every person who was killed in the World Trade Centre. But we don't hear any stories about the Afghanis who have been killed, or the Taliban who have been killed because they are the enemy."
The role of the Catholic is to be "resistors," the priest said. "We have to be resistors to the logic of violence. We have to stand with the Holy Father who said from the start, 'Violence cannot do anything else but beget more violence.'"