Nonviolence, Peace, Peace Spirituality

The courageous witness of Saints Oscar Romero and Paul VI

by Tony Magliano

Two very different men, facing different sets of dire challenges with prophetic courage, faithfully journeyed along two different paths to the same destination: sainthood!

Who would have predicted it?

Who would have imagined on Feb. 23, 1977, the day of his appointment as Archbishop of San Salvador, that the highly conservative Oscar Romero – who was suspicious of the Catholic Church’s involvement in political activism – would die a martyr’s death for courageously defending his people against the murderous assaults of the Salvadoran government, military and right-wing death squads?

Romero’s appointment was welcomed by the government, but many priests were not happy. They suspected their new archbishop would insist they cut all ties to liberation theology’s defense of the poor.

However, as Romero started getting to know the poor and how they were oppressed by the government and rich coffee plantation owners, his conscience seemed to gradually awaken.

But the most important event affecting Romero’s decision to wholeheartedly stand with the poor and oppressed was the assassination of his close friend Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande; who was promoting land reform, worker unions, and organizing communities to have a greater voice regarding their own lives.

Romero, who was deeply inspired by Grande said, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.’ ”

In a letter to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Romero warned that continued U.S. military aid to the government of El Salvador “will surely increase injustices here and sharpen the repression.” Romero asked Carter to stop all military assistance to the Salvadoran government.

Carter ignored Romero. And later, President Ronald Reagan greatly increased military aid.

During his March 23, 1980 Sunday national radio homily, Romero said, “I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army … You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters … The law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God … In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people … I beg you … I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”

The next day while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the hospital compound where he lived, Saint Romero’s loving heart was pierced with an assassin’s bullet.

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: “No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and of all mankind.”

Unfortunately, in 1965 the world did not heed Paul VI’s prophetic words. And sadly, it has not heeded them since.

Saint Paul VI in his prophetic encyclical letter Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”) wisely said, “When we fight poverty and oppose the unfair conditions of the present, we are not just promoting human well-being; we are also furthering man’s spiritual and moral development, and hence we are benefiting the whole human race. For peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Nonviolence, Peace, Peace Spirituality

Active Nonviolence: rediscovering a central teaching of Jesus

By Tony Magliano

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

“To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (see Luke 6: 27-35).

Do we really take Jesus seriously here?

His first followers certainly did.

Christian literature from the first three centuries affirms that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ completely rejected all forms of violence and bloodshed – no abortion, no euthanasia, no capital punishment, no war.

But this drastically changed when Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 A.D., making Catholic Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. This marriage of church and state swung open the doors for Christian participation in the military of the Roman Empire. And sadly, Christians have been fighting for empires ever since. But not every Christian…

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Refugee Stories, Social Issues

I was a stranger and you took my child from me

by Tony Magliano

In the last judgment scene of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sends a severe warning that hell awaits those who ignore meeting the essential human needs of the poor and vulnerable – and thus likewise, ignore him.

And in reference to those who display a lack of hospitality toward migrants and refugees, Jesus warns “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” Now … just imagine the indignation expressed in his words “I was stranger and not only did you not welcome me, you took my child from me!”

The Trump administration’s inhumane and unchristian immigration policy of “zero-tolerance” –  stepped-up apprehension and detention of migrants/refugees often fleeing armed conflict and drug gang violence, mass assembly-line criminal court trials, jail sentences imposed, and deportation back to the violence refugees were fleeing – was started under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama (see: https://bit.ly/2OZwYye).

Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for Kino Border Initiative (see: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/) told me the U.S. practice of criminally charging refugees for entry into the country is against international law as defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol – of which the U.S. is a signatory. The Convention states that refugees have “the right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State [nation],” and that they have the right to work, education, public relief and assistance (see: https://bit.ly/2Ndn8IR).

But the Trump administration’s policy of systematically separating refugee families was a new and even lower attempt to fearfully deter fleeing families from entering the U.S.

Children as young as 18-months-old have reportedly been forcefully taken away from their parents and placed in government-run caged facilities (see: https://bit.ly/2t83fuO).

But a federal court ordered the Trump administration to end its policy of family separation and to reunite all children with their parents.

Advocacy Officer Esmeralda Lopez of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (see: http://refugees.org/) told me that 2,654 migrant children were separated from their parents in total, and according to a recent federal report 565 children still remain separated from their parents (see: https://nyti.ms/2MT7Yf3).

And to make this sad unjust situation worse, the Trump administration appears to have no idea how to reunite the more than 400 parents it has already deported with their children who are in U.S.

While the court order now bans family separation, it will not keep the Trump administration from continuing its heartless “zero-tolerance” policy toward suffering refugees. That will only come from massive political pressure from us.

Adding injury to insult, the Trump administration cut $300 million in funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency which provides emergency assistance and basic human services to Palestinian refugees (see: https://bit.ly/2PuKvzf).

But the U.S. is not the only economically developed nation to turn its back on most of the world’s 25 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced people and 3 million asylum-seekers (see: https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/statistics/).

Bulgaria, Hungry, Slovenia, Macedonia, Austria and France (funded by the U.K.) have all recently built barriers to keep out refugees (see: https://bit.ly/2d3jscf).

War, drug gangs, the flow of weapons, militarism, individual and corporate greed, poverty, lack of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, nationalism – as in “America first,” and a secularism that has little place for God are among the root-causes that are forcing our brothers and sisters to seek safer havens.

Let’s us commit ourselves to up-rooting these poisonous weeds and sow seeds of true Christian welcome.

* Photo from the Dallas Morning News.
Peace, Peace Spirituality

Praying for peace at the Pentagon

by Tony Magliano

Every Monday morning for the past 30 years, members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C. have been making their way across the Potomac River to pray and nonviolently witness for peace in front of the most symbolic war planning, war-making headquarters on earth: the Pentagon.

Just days ago on August 6 – the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan – I joined them, along with 19 members of several other mostly Catholic faith-based organizations.

Facing the Pentagon, we held signs calling for an end to all nuclear weapons. And we prayed to the God of peace (see: 1 Thess 5:23) for the full conversion of all hearts and minds from war-making to peace-making (see: https://dccatholicworker.wordpress.com).

Together with the Holy Spirit, we were hoping to awaken the consciences of military and civilian workers walking toward the Pentagon. But nearly everyone tried to ignore our Christ-centered message of peaceful nonviolence.

One member of our group was arrested for bravely moving outside of the Pentagon police designated protest zone, and onto the sidewalk used by workers entering the Pentagon. Her purpose was to make it harder for Pentagon employees to ignore her sign saying “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A butchery of untold magnitude.”

That statement was taken from soon to be canonized Pope Paul VI’s World Day of Peace Message in 1976, in which he clearly condemned the nuclear bombing of Japan. He wrote, “If the consciousness of universal brotherhood truly penetrates into the hearts of men, will they still need to arm themselves to the point of becoming blind and fanatic killers of their brethren who in themselves are innocent, and of perpetrating, as a contribution to peace, butchery of untold magnitude, as at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945?”
On that day over 70,000 people – mostly civilians – were killed when a United States Boeing B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on that Japanese city.

Then on August 9, 1945 the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing at least 60,000 people – again mostly civilians. Nagasaki was the center of Japanese Catholicism. An added tragic irony here is that the U.S. crew that dropped this atomic bomb was “blessed” by a Catholic chaplain – the late Father George Zabelka, who later had a total conversion, spending the remainder of his life as a nonviolent Catholic peace activist (see: https://vimeo.com/48820359).

Today, nine nations possess approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons. And especially dangerous is the fact that the U.S. and Russia have hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at each other on high-alert status ready to be launched within minutes.

On July 7, 2017 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations. But unfortunately, the U.S. and the other eight nuclear weapon countries refuse to sign and ratify it. However, Catholics should prayerfully consider that the Holy See was equally the first nation to sign and ratified it.
To learn more about this immensely important treaty, and how you can help abolish nuclear weapons, visit the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize (see: http://www.nuclearban.org/). And please visit the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/) and Nonviolent Peaceforce (https://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/).

As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, let us form our lives by the words of the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton: “The God of peace is never glorified by human violence.”
Challenging world oil executives to recognize the urgent environmental need to quickly transition from fossil fuel extraction and burning, to clean energy production, Pope Francis called them to take to heart that “Civilization requires energy, but energy must not destroy civilization.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

* Photo credit: Tyler Orsburn/CNS.
Peace

Historic gathering of pope and patriarchs for Middle East peace

by Tony Magliano

Pope Francis has not only inherited, but continues to earn the title pontiff – “bridge-builder.”

His latest major effort to oppose divisive walls and instead construct unifying bridges was his hosting of a July 7 unprecedented ecumenical gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders in Bari, Italy.

Pope Francis, together with patriarchs and representatives of several Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, Eastern Catholic churches, and representatives of the Lutheran church and Middle East Council of Churches, prayed for peace and discussed possible paths toward peace, in the war-torn land of the Prince of Peace.

In his introductory address, Pope Francis denounced the large indifference displayed by so many individuals and nations to the long suffering of so many brothers and sisters in Christ along with other persecuted people of the Middle East.

Using powerful words he said, “Indifference kills; and we desire to lift up our voices in opposition this murderous indifference. We want to give a voice to those who have none … for the Middle East today is weeping, suffering and silent as others trample upon those lands in search of power or riches.”

Just think how much worse off the Middle East is since the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 – to eliminate weapons of mass destruction which were never proven to exist.

And to that catastrophe, add the catastrophes of outside military interventions into Libya, Syria and Yemen – where Saudi Arabia’s bombing using U.S. aircraft has caused what the U.N. is calling “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” (see: https://news.un.org/en/focus/yemen).

Yes the pope is absolutely correct, “indifference kills.” Where is the outcry from the comfortable on behalf of the miserable? Where is the outcry – especially Christian outcry – for serious sustained negotiations and dialogue on all fronts? Instead of military surges, we need multi-front diplomatic surges.

After a closed-door meeting with the Middle Eastern Christian leaders, Pope Francis in a very powerful, prophetic closing address said, “Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue.”

The pontiff’s remarks here call to mind the coldhearted indifference of walls and various barriers along the borders of some European nations, the Israeli separation barrier – mostly in the West Bank occupied territories – the U.S. wall/barrier along its border with Mexico and many other such walls around the world (see: https://usat.ly/2J6jHEX).

In his closing address (please see: https://bit.ly/2Jg4YmW) Pope Francis added, “War is the daughter of power and poverty. It is defeated by renouncing the thirst for supremacy and by eradicating poverty. …

“Violence is always fueled by weapons. You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a most serious responsibility weighing on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful.”

Tragically, leaders of the most powerful nations seem to have lost touch with their conscience.

According to the highly respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. is the world’s top arms supplier, exporting 34 percent of major weapons to at least 98 countries, with 49 percent of U.S. arms exports flowing into war-torn Middle East nations (see: https://bit.ly/2Dpn3vQ).

And U.S. arms manufacturing corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics are making bundles of blood-soaked money in the process (see:  https://nyti.ms/2NMZOCu).

How can anyone who claims to be a disciple of the nonviolent Jesus be indifferent to all this?

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Photo by Vatican Media.
Peace, Social Issues

Why are people poor?

by Tony Magliano

It’s not because there aren’t enough resources to go around. For one thing, the world produces enough food to adequately feed every single person.

Well, then what are the reasons?

Among the major reasons poverty exists are unemployment, underemployment, lack of health care and education, hunger, homelessness, undocumented immigration status, climate change and war.

But a strong case can be made that the tremendous income and wealth inequality that exists between the haves and the have-nots is the most serious reason poverty exists. It has such a powerful negative influence that it also greatly fuels all the other causes of poverty.

Just last year alone, four out of every five dollars of wealth generated globally flowed into the wallets of the richest one percent, while the poorest half of humanity received nothing.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, “It reveals how our economies are rewarding wealth rather than the hard work of millions of people. … The few at the top get richer and richer and the millions at the bottom are trapped in poverty wages” (see: https://ti.me/2DoaHEV and https://bit.ly/2zXLTWw).

And in the U.S. wealth inequality is at near record levels .

“Servant of God” and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day, said “We need to overthrow this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system.”…

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