Peace

Pope condemns death penalty and possession of nuclear weapons

by Tony Magliano

Pope Francis is a determined man with a mission – to lead the church to best reflect Jesus’ call to be the light of the world!

Within the course of just one month, he has dramatically moved the Catholic Church forward in two major ways. On Oct. 11 – the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – before an international gathering of church leaders and ambassadors from many nations the pope declared that the death penalty is “contrary to the Gospel,” and indicated that there would be a revision in the catechism to reflect this change in church teaching – or more accurately, this development of doctrine.

The Holy Father said that “No man ever, not even the murderer, losers his personal dignity, because God is a Father who awaits the return of the son who, knowing that he has done wrong, asks pardon and begins a new life.” For this reason, he declared “life cannot be taken away from anyone” (see: http://bit.ly/2g2nXoZ).

Then, on Nov. 10, Pope Francis not only denounced the use of nuclear weapons – as his recent papal predecessors have done – but declared for the first time ever that even the possession of nuclear weapons is to be condemned.

Speaking before a high-profile Vatican sponsored international symposium – attended by 11 Nobel Peace Laureates (see: http://bit.ly/2AKiP1P) – titled “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament,” the pope said we cannot fail to be “genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices.

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned,” said Francis (see: http://bit.ly/2zJAIxD).

“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

The U.S. has approximately 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads capable of being delivered via land, sea and air, and plans to spend over $1 trillion during the next 30 years on modernization (see: http://bit.ly/2cmL8v4).

“The escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations,” said Pope Francis. “As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.”

And this is exactly what is being reflected in the national budgets of many nations – especially that of the United States.

Congress is poised to pass the astronomical $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act which is even far larger than the $603 billion in military spending proposed by President Trump (see: http://reut.rs/2jdP5py). And these huge military spending increases will largely be paid for by slashing non-defense spending programs like Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP (food stamps).

So, now that Pope Francis has officially declared that capital punishment no longer has any part within Catholic doctrine, and that even possessing nuclear weapons is to be condemned, what are faithful Catholics, and all people of good will, going to about it?

Well one thing is for sure: In good conscience, we cannot ignore these challenging historical papal developments.

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.

Peace, Refugee Stories

Over 20 million people facing starvation – and we should care!

by Tony Magliano

Think to a time when you were hungry. Remember how it felt, a bit uncomfortable, right? You may have even said, “I’m starving!” But you knew that in a short time the next meal would be there for you. Knowing that a good meal was awaiting you allowed your slight hunger to actually whet your appetite.

Now imagine that you are very hungry and have no idea where the next meal will come from for you and your family. In this case your hunger is physically painful and terrifyingly stressful.

Imagine now that there is no work to be found, the drought has dried up your crops. Your livestock is dead. And you and your family have eaten the last seeds that were meant for next season’s planting.

Now how are you feeling?

This is how many Africans are feeling, especially those in South Sudan, Somalia, Northeast Nigeria, and nearby Yemen. In these nations over 20 million people are facing famine and starvation. Armed conflict and severe drought are the main engines driving this emergency – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Peace

No back-to-school fun for child laborers

by Tony Magliano

It’s that special time of the year again when kids start heading back to school. And for those who have discovered the fun of learning, school is an adventure!

But for millions of working children worldwide, the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Sadly, these children will never learn to read or write. They will not acquire computer skills. They will not experience singing in chorus, going on field trips or playing at recess. Their classrooms will be sweatshops, farm fields, and battlefields. Their days will be filled with long, dirty, dangerous work. And the lesson they will learn is that life is cruel and unfair.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) there are 168 million child laborers – ages 5-17 – worldwide…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Nonviolence

A world awash with weapons – there’s a better way

by Tony Magliano

If someone’s house was on fire would you pour gasoline on it? Well the answer is obvious: Of course you wouldn’t. Yet that is very similar to what the United States and many other more economically developed nations are doing.

Despite the tragic fact that approximately 40 current armed conflicts worldwide are causing over 150,000 deaths annually, countless serious injuries, untold destruction and 28,300 people per day fleeing from their homes, many of the wealthiest countries continue to pour flammable weapons into these volatile conflicts. And the U.S. is leading the pack (see: http://bit.ly/2ufpP5Y).

Accounting for 33 percent of arms exports to over 55 nations, the U.S. is by far the world’s leading arms merchant, followed by Russia, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

And worse yet, according to the Congressional Research Service, poorer nations continue to be the primary focus for weapons suppliers. The value of all arms agreements in 2014 with economically developing nations was over $61 billion.   And as always, the poor suffer.

The U.S. ranked first in worldwide weapons sales in 2015 with $40 billion in deals signed. Of the six largest weapons manufacturers in the world, five are American, with Lockheed Martin ranking first.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the 100 most profitable weapon producing companies in the world raked in over $400 billion in arms sales in 2013.

Weapons are big business – a bloody business followers of the Prince of Peace should have nothing to do with. Moral courage is needed here. The Gospel demands it!

Imagine the good that would be accomplished and the goodwill that would be established if we converted our weapon plants into factories that construct goods that protect and enhance life – especially the lives of the poor, vulnerable and the life of our common home planet Earth.

Instead of producing instruments designed to kill like M-16s rifles, F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, M1 Abrams tanks, and abortion vacuum aspiration machines – which are instruments of war against unborn babies – we could massively produce humane products like low-cost house building kits, water pumps, water filtering kits, modern latrines, farm tools, wind turbines, solar panels, mass transit trains, affordable electric cars and mobile hospitals.

For those who think this is naïve, consider that the reverse happened during World War II. According to historian John Buescher, no American cars, commercial trucks, or auto parts were made from February 1942 to October 1945. “The auto industry retooled to manufacture tanks, trucks, jeeps, airplanes, bombs, torpedoes, steel helmets, and ammunition under massive contracts issued by the government” (see: http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/24088).

Please email and call your members of Congress (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to significantly reduce funding for the weapons industry and creatively funnel that money into needed peaceful enterprises. And urge them to seriously undertake initiatives aimed at multilateral disarmament.

Since history has proven that we can quickly retool industry from building peaceful vehicles of transportation and commerce to constructing instruments for war-making, let’s do the right thing and turn all of this around.

Let’s make history, good history! History that future generations will thank us for.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, let us finally beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks; so that nations will no longer raise the sword against one another, nor train for war again.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.

Nonviolence

My personal story as a Catholic conscientious objector

by Tony Magliano

As I was trying to discern what God wanted me to write about, I walked into my 16-year-old son’s bedroom to discover a military calendar hanging on the wall. It highlighted young men and women in combat fatigues, fighter jets, an aircraft carrier battle group and plenty of American flags.

I knew from personal experience and deep soul-searching that hidden behind this calendar of military glitter was centuries of death and destruction. And as I removed this calendar, I knew exactly what God wanted me to write on.

Many years ago as young man in my 20’s I found myself in the midst of U.S. military basic combat training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

While firing my M-16 weapon at life-like pop-up targets, it occurred to me the army was not training me to hit pop-up targets, but was training me to kill some poor guy like me in a far off country who got caught up in the propaganda of his own country’s war machine.

I came to realize this was all wrong. And I knew that in my desire to imitate the nonviolent Jesus, I could kill no one. …

Read the rest of this column online here.

Refugee Stories

World Refugee Day: Did you miss it?

by Tony Magliano

World Refugee Day, June 20, came and went with hardly a notice. I almost missed it.

Sadly, little mention was given in the secular and even religious world to the unprecedented refugee crisis endured by countless fellow human beings who have fled their homes with little more than the shirt on their back.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) latest report titled “Global Trends,”  as of 2016 over 65 million people worldwide – a record high – have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, violence, conflict or human rights violations (see: http://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2016).

Every single day 28,300 brothers and sisters are forced to flee from their homes.

Especially sad is the fact that children account for over 50 percent of the refugee population.

In just the last six years the number of displaced persons throughout the world has increase approximately 50 percent – from 45.2 million to the current 65.6 million.

Armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Sudan continue to be the major driving force for this dramatic increase in displaced persons according to UNHCR.

Although the humanitarian need is tremendous, only less than 1 percent of all refugees are resettled worldwide.

According to CNN, at least 2,859 migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2016.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, “At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year. On land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed doors.”

And while not entirely closed, the United States’ refugee doors are barely cracked open.

In fiscal year 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. under the Obama administration only allowed 84,995 refugees into the country. And from war-torn nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, the U.S. only permitted the entry of 16,370 and 12,587 refugees respectively.

To make matters worse, President Trump is proposing lowering the total number of refugees permitted into the U.S. in fiscal year 2018 to just 50,000.

Granting such small numbers of desperate refugees permission to enter the U.S. is gravely immoral.

In contrast, according to the UNHCR, the tiny nation of Lebanon is host to the largest number of refugees relative to its national population – where one in every six persons is a refugee. That’s equivalent to the U.S. taking in 55 million refugees!

Please sign this UNHCR pledge (see: http://bit.ly/2qPBMdT).

Let’s tirelessly work and pray to be a part of the refugee solution, and not a part of what Pope Francis calls the “culture of indifference.”

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.