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Monday, May 25, 2015

REMEMBERING THE FUTILITY OF ALL WAR, AND THE INFINITE PROMISE OF GOD’S NONVIOLENT LOVE


REMEMBERING THE FUTILITY OF ALL WAR, AND THE INFINITE PROMISE OF GOD’S NONVIOLENT LOVE

 

Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,

let us call on the name of the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing…

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own:

give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,

and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will put down the arms of war
and live in the harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones:
in our hearts let your healing be our hope.

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.

Amen.


By Fr. Austin Fleming, Concord, MA

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

IT’S WAR THAT PERSECUTES CHRISTIANS, AND EVERYBODY ELSE


A couple of weekdays ago at mass I heard a sermon that concentrated on the great pain and suffering being visited on Christians in many places around the world recently, particularly in the Middle East.  The emphasis was not on the evil of the perpetrators, but on the need for courage in the faith, and to become more conscious of the real threats of evil around us.   The need to inform ourselves, and to pray.  Yes, amen.
The reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, during his first public appearance at a mosque in the center of Mosul, Iraq, on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video - Reuters

I looked into the source for much of the information, mentioned as Open Doors.  Visiting the website and it's map is revealing.  They are sounding an alarm that Christianity is facing lethal challenge in many countries.  This is certainly so, but the numbers are small when compared to the total carnage and misery being inflicted.  There is no analysis of the fact, that in most all of these worst countries, the worst wars since World War II have been fought on their soil, and the deepest poverty continues to reside.  War and persecution are deadly partners.  You can be persecuted for your faith, you can be persecuted for just being in the way.


Taking the terrible example of Iraq [one of the red zone nations], the total new number of all refugees displaced in 2014, alone was reported 2.2 million in the current conflict with ISIS.  And no one knows the total casualties in Iraq since our first Gulf War there to the present, but it is certainly in the millions, with more than 6 million displaced.   Back at the end of that first war there, in a Mar. 311991 National Catholic Register article, “Chaldeans See Cost of Gulf War,” Christians and experts expressed grave concern as to what would be the fate of Christianity in their country if Saddam Hussein was removed.  He was, by our Iraq War, and the 1.2 million Christians who lived in Iraq at the start of that war, were down to 600,000 by estimate of their Catholic Chaldean Bishop Audo in the 12-7-2007 Michigan Catholic report, “Bishop: War may have caused end of Christianity in Iraq.”  His prediction becomes daily more true, as estimates of Christians still in Iraq now are some to 300,000 to 200,000.
Muslim scholar, "the man behind the hood" Ali Shalal - tortured at Abu Ghraib, Iraq - 2004

The casualties of protracted war in Iraq are in the millions for all, and in the hundreds of thousands for Christians.  War is no respecter of person, war is no respecter of faith.   It is the same in all of these nations that are high on the persecution of religions list.  They are ravaged by war and poverty.  And those countries not on the list, like many in Europe, Russia, the USA and Israel, they are major exporters of weaponry and military expeditions to the theaters of war, persecution, and misery.



hose of us who are Christians, irrespective of our countries, are persecuted brothers and sisters far and wide—persecuted by our own reliance on war and violence.   Let us pray for healing of our blindness to the parts we all play in persecuting each other, in persecuting our enemies, in persecuting the all-encompassing body of Christ.   Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful—enkindle in us the fire of your love and mercy.






Monday, May 11, 2015

WILL SAUDIS FOLLOW OUR WMD FOOTSTEPS?

150510-People fleeing in Sana on Sunday after [Saudi coalition] airstrikes hit the home of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's former president--photo- Mohamed Al-Sayaghi--Reuters

The May 6, 2015 WSJ headline stated, Saudi Arabian City of Najran Hit by Mortars.   This was a minimal reversal, of a concerted bombing campaign by the Saudi coalition supported by the USA, against one of the factions in Yemen {Saudis next door neighbor}, a country already devastated by recurrent war.  This threat of mortars flung by desperate people contributes to a Saudi desire just announced, that mirrors similar historical actions taken by the USA, and Israel.  Saudi Arabia Considers Nuclear Weapons to Offset Iran, WSJ, May 8, 2015.  Will we help our friends the Saudis acquire nuclear bombs, as we did Israel, and this now after having fought a terrible war that persists in Iraq, ostensibly to rid an Arab state of weapons of mass destruction?


The message of the nation states with the deepest pockets: if one doesn't think one is powerful enough to withstand conflicts with other nations, then go get more and bigger weapons.  The country with the most lethal armaments wins.  Go nuclear, if you have to [that manner of thinking has already brought Iraq, Iran, and even Israel lots of trouble, and is endemic in our own society].  But wins what?  The kingdom of God?   The all loving, all merciful God sent His Son to say—every violence brings meaningless false victory.
 
There is no Jesus the Warrior.   The Son of God has already won the eternal battle, defeated all evil, with the cross of merciful forgiving love, and not with the sword.
  


ow do we Christians teach the Middle East world this way of Jesus’ nonviolent love, creative generative work, and respect for all life, if we don’t yet truly believe it?   
  




The richest Arab state, Saudi Arabia, has been bombing the poorest, Yemen.  The U.S. bombing Haiti, in our hemisphere, would be comparable.   Hearts and minds are never won over by bombs and bullets.  Only tough informed negotiation truly ends the carnage.   The Saudis will have no more success in Yemen than we did in Iraq, and Libya by proxy.   The best they can do is bulldoze over the flaming embers of resentment.  We should stop sending them, and all others, weapons.  We must go learn what it means, "I desire mercy not sacrifice."  Mt. 9:13   East and West, Muslim Jew Christian we've a lot to learn.



 Illumination by Kathy Brahney

REFERENCES


Monday, May 4, 2015

STORIES OF NONVIOLENT SERVICE—FORMATION FOR SALVATION

{Hoping you can begin something similar in your faith community}


Jesus Washes the Feet of the Apostles
In the summer of 1966, when 19 years old, I came to Capac, MI to work with Fr. Joe Melton from the Detroit diocese in migrant farmworker ministry.   He spoke fluent Spanish having accepted the invitation of Cardinal Dearden to live in Puerto Rico and learn the language to be able to better serve the growing number of Hispanic Catholics.

That first year I made frequent visits to the camps, forming some young adult discussion groups, with the help of members of the local parishes, volunteer groups from Marygrove College, and a Quaker service agency.   It was an ambitious project with high enthusiasm and little experience to guide us—the meeting of different cultures in their small shacks, and the town’s church, was the tortillas y frijoles of the project.  Two and a half months of stretching across language, life style, and economic barriers.  Fr. Joe was a constant encouragement, and I’d come often to daily mass for the prayer with him and other members of the parish, and to then go over our ongoing activities.

It was such a good summer, with great hopes in shared service, just sitting down with young people who were always on the move, learning how we were alike and different.   I returned the two following years.  Those times I lived in the migrant camps, and got up at 4:30 am with them to travel in old school buses to often distant fields to pick pickles, or hoe sugar beets, from the cold dew before daylight to dusk.   I contributed my scant earnings, they invited me into their homes, coffee, warm tortillas, and more always offered.   For me money wasn’t an issue.  Fr. Joe had arranged for support from the local Deanery of Catholic Women, enough to cover my college tuition the following year.   Fr. Farrell and Fr. O’Neill of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pastors of his main parish, opened their doors also to my efforts.
Junior and Paulina - married at St. Nicholas Church, mission of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,  Emmett, MI -- 1967

By getting to know the people of the camps better, and each other’s needs, there came trust, and some new job training opportunities were created so some migrants could find more stability.  My friends Junior and Paulina after six years common law marriage and four kids [she was one year older than me] celebrated a church wedding.  Ten years later he was dead—someone from a vendetta from an earlier fight or marijuana deal.  It was a very hard, short life for some of them.  My first ventures into disarmament were 2 scimitar pocket knives, handles carved from cows’ horns, and a 10 gauge sawed-off shotgun—going away presents from the few of those that had such things, at end of season.  Fr. Joe was a constant servant of us all, making things possible, from church liturgies, to farmworker and farmers union support, to rummage sales benefiting the migrants.

Cesar Chavez accepts bread from Father Joe Melton to end his 24-day Fast for Justice, Phoenix, Arizona

This opportunity was such a blessing in my life.  I began to have a working knowledge of Spanish—becoming bi-lingual as most of these farmworkers already were.  My faith was strengthened, my horizons were expanded—such an important gift for a young adult to feel the beauty, difficulty, and rightness of service, and Gospel beliefs.  Fr. Joe had shared part of his ministry with me.  It is prayer-study-action Holy Spirit fire that keeps me going to this day.  The hope now is that this experience of service, and similar stories from many others in our local faith community, can invite and inspire a wealth of opportunities for our next generations.  We are asking the many more members of our parish who’ve been on mission and service projects, to tell us their stories, and join in support of this young adult faith formation.

For more information on Youth Service Opportunities, and to help, contact Michael McCarthy [810 982 2870] and this committee under Holy Trinity’s Christian Service Commission.  Our new objective:
 To expand youth service and formation opportunities for the young members of our parish
1.   Form committee within Christian Service, with assistance from Pax Christi and the Youth Ministry groups, to explore the available shorter and longer service projects available to our high school, college and young adult members and their friends.
2.   Investigate the opportunities and make the valuable ones known and available to our young people and their families—helping to vet, choose, apply, and follow through on arrangements.


 {And in the future.}
  1. Begin the process of forming a scholarship fund to aid in the expenses that many service projects entail [assist also in tapping already existing supports as provided for by programs like AmeriCorps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and others listed in the Catholic Volunteer Network manual]
  2. Invite the involvement of as many in our church community and broader community—the youth to serve, and as many as possible to give prayer, financial and mentoring support to young people interested in service, a way to make vibrant the formation of their faith in Christ.
  3. Explore the possibilities of uniting on the vicariate and diocesan levels, and in the interfaith community, with others interested in these efforts.
.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” – The Cristophers

“Take up your cross and follow me.”  Mt 16:24

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, April 27, 2015

THREE STEPS TOWARDS PAX CHRISTI IN THE MIDDLE EAST


















As indicated last week, these are proposed means, some initiated incompletely in the past, toward practical world peacemaking.
To resume a share in the moral leadership of the world community, the United States President and Congress must become truly “exceptional” among nations, and admit that we have made a serious mistake: our invasion of Iraq.    By so declaring this openly, we begin the process of turning back the chaos of war and terrorism that has since spread to Syria, Libya, Gaza, and Yemen, has been reigniting terribly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the repression in Egypt, Bahrain, even Ukraine.   It should be eminently apparent by now that relying on pre-emptive war and weapons proliferation to solve our resource security, or their internecine conflicts, is bankrupt policy.   A straightforward approach to this sets the stage for regaining the honor driven mutual respect necessary for steps two and three below.

4-17-15  Displaced Sunnis- -outskirts of Baghdad  fled fighting in Ramadi between government-backed forces and ISIS, right after ISIS kicked out of  Tikrit--Reuters photo


























The United States should become a full participant and respecter of the International Criminal Court. This court should begin with a mission that involves all nations in an investigation as who have been the most significant violators of international laws dating from the attacks of 911 onward, with the highest standards of jurisprudence, adequate resources, and the respect of every country.   A docket should be created which focuses on the most terrible outbreaks of violence, names those responsible, and enforces creative nonviolent forms of correction and restitution.
 
Building upon the above restatements of the real interdependent nature of the international community, the United Nations would unite to create a full arms moratorium to be actively enforced by all on all the Middle East nations.   A ceasefire for all factions of Arab nations, and with Israel and Iran included.  A slow but sure diminution of guns and bullets, to lead to an inevitable engagement in productive negotiations.   The sophisticated military surveillance and interdiction apparatus that has been created by many nations, notably the U.S., E.U., China, and Russia {who’d also first renounce their own major role in the sale and support of weapons to the Middle East} would be employed to stop weapons delivery and assisted manufacture in the Middle East.

******************************************
These steps may seem ambitious, yet have had some practical implementations in the past. The current escalations of violence worldwide lead only to physical and spiritual disaster.  We have set before us death and life--choose life.

Experience in negotiations would grow in tandem with experience in disarmament, to spread out from there to all nations big and small.   The standard for militaries and internal police forces, should be the minimum necessary for defense, with budget resources so achieved, dedicated to creative ecological employment, education and human needs.

One small example {See references below} -- A recent U.S. naval interdiction [just sending an aircraft carrier to the area] led to a probable Iranian decision reverse their flotilla’s delivery of weapons to Yemen.  If this were coupled to a ban on our delivery of military supplies to Saudi Arabia and other actors in Yemen, plus an interdiction of all weapons supply to Yemen, the factions might be put on a path to decreased violence, and an increase in creative co-existence.

Art by Kathy Brahney

Reference

A personal examination of conscience and pocketbook while we work and pray for international solutions. {front of Port Huron County Courthouse, July 3, 2013}

                                                   PRAY FOR PEACE + DON’T PAY FOR WAR


Monday, April 20, 2015

DROP THE GUNS & BOMBS OF BARABBAS

“Give us Barabbas!", from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910

“You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked that a murderer be released to you.  The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”  Act 3:14-15   In a recent scripture reading at mass, Peter is giving testimony to a healing in the name of Jesus, to the people gathered in the Temple.  He upbraids the people for having chosen the violence of a murderer, Barabbas, over the nonviolent healing death-conquering mercy of Jesus whom they sent to be crucified.

The Jewish people of that day are no different in this, from people of our society today.   They chose the violence of Barabbas, a revolutionary who worked for the freedom of their people, by any means necessary.   We choose to rely on the most powerful weaponry and military ever devised, to protect our freedom and lifestyle.   Despite our military machine’s sophistication, murder of innocents occurs in uncounted numbers daily, in one part of the world or another, at our behest.   In the bargain, violent evil re-invests itself.   Our very protection becomes evil’s force multiplier.

One recent example from one of our highly touted drones war theaters, to illustrate how insidious this becomes.  
In the most recent strike analyzed by the Open Society report, in April 2014, two drones fired on a Toyota Land Cruiser outside the town of Bayda. The report concludes that the men in the Land Cruiser, all of whom were killed, were indeed Qaeda fighters.
But shrapnel from the strike hit 12 laborers in a Toyota Hilux just ahead of the Land Cruiser. Four of them were killed and five more injured, the report found, based on interviews with survivors. Based on negotiations between tribal leaders and the Yemeni government, the government paid about $55,000 in compensation and 30 Kalashnikov rifles, costs that Yemeni officials have said are generally covered by the United States.   The policy in our proxy wars is to compensate the victims with dollars, and by passing out more guns {made in Russia, no problem—it’s all the same ballgame}. 

Wars big and small are all about killing and murder.   Weapons have become our major currency of foreign policy.  These are the tools and the way of Barabbas.   This Easter there can be no hope in continuing to choose him over Jesus.   Our guns and bombs fuse into a giant millstone around our neck.  Jesus conquers evil and death by courageous merciful engagement with the enemy. 

This is done by purposefully rejecting the enemy’s killing method—replacing the sword of power with the cross of forgiveness.  How can this be practical?   If the Son of God says and does so, making this God’s way, who can credibly argue otherwise?   

Next week I’ll try to outline practical steps towards Middle East peace that follow this path away from the drones of Pax Romana, towards Pax Christi.


Reference {worth reading & following links}


The Saudis are doing no better in Yemen with their airstrikes, using jets made in USA.
Photo from this article --
Explosion Rips Through Homes in Yemen’s Capital After Airstrike

Art & Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, April 13, 2015

PAY CAESAR FOR WAR'S FLEETING VICTORY? TIKRIT FALLS AGAIN

Praying for a slain relative at the platform on the Tigris River where Islamic State fighters are believed to have killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers last June. Credit Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press


Once again we count the chickens of war before they’re hatched in Iraq.  Tikrit has fallen.  Most recently this was announced three times during the past month.  ISIS did finally leave, but now the fight breaks out in many other sites in the region.
 
Maybe Tikrit will stay in Iraqi government U.S. supported control a little longer now, with Shiite [backed by our enemy Iran?] Iraqi troops in place to occupy for us what we took from Saddam in his Sunni stronghold once before in 2003, with our invading soldiers.  But much more likely Sunni forces, in the person of ISIS or some other guise, will eventually prevail.  Tikrit has been Sunni for centuries.  What always hatches from war is an insatiable rapacious disfigured bird of prey, and not the iconic democratic benevolent American [nor Roman, nor any other empire’s] eagle.
Shiite fighters near a suicide bomb attack Thursday on the southern edge of Tikrit, site of an offensive by Iraqi government forces. Credit Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters   March 12, 2015

ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is a by-product of our invasion of Iraq.  ISIS would not exist if not for hatreds en-kindled by our avarice and quest for god-like war powers in Iraq, and then Syria. 
 
Once again we win a small foot-hold battle in the Middle East, as we further lose our souls to the gods of war, and their empty promises.  Soon most of us without thinking will offer up the first fruits of our labor [one half of our income taxes] on April 15, 2015, to the biggest war machine ever assembled.   We place the most trust in these weapons and armies to save and protect us, as we contribute much less to our faith communities and churches.

We will never be on the path to the heavenly kingdom promised by Christ’s Resurrection, if we constantly pursue the present path of permanent pre-emptive wars on other peoples, launched to protect our worldly kingdom since the attack of Sept. 11, 2001.   This is not Christian response.
 This Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter, has been designated Divine Mercy Sunday
ABRAHAM & ISAAC - BY CHAGALL
A deacon at our Port Huron church has named what we need to be working and praying for—Jesus’ pre-emptive mercy.   This is what Jesus calls us to, the answer to all threats of personal, community, and international evils.  This is spiritual social and political science—the Easter promise.  The only thing that works on the level of our souls.   Pre-emptive mercy, not war.


he whole nation will soon render monetary tribute to an ultimately impotent Caesar.  April 15th is a good day to reflect on the truth of the nonviolent all-merciful God, revealed by the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus.  What would Jesus do with our contributions?  How can we more perfectly follow?



There are many places in Iraq and the Middle East where the futility of our violent battles for back and forth control can be documented. See this link for one of them.
FOR MORE INFO ON WAR TAX RE-DIRECTION TO PEACE



References

A U.S. Concession to Reality in the Battle Against Islamic State

Art and Illumination by Kathy Brahney