Monday, May 28, 2012


All is still not quiet on the Western Front.

hat did Jesus mean when He said, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”  When he told us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”?   The deepest, and often unexplored, mystery of our faith is how to fight evil with good, replace violent hatred with mercy.

Today we celebrate the memory of those who died fighting in defense of our country.  Those who’ve suffered through the battlefields of war and tell an honest story, describe it as hell.  They honor dead comrades, but want to forget the painful carnage that includes the faces of those they’ve killed as well.

Cain  and Abel, 19th century Bible illustration                           Cain and Abel -- painting by Titian

If God has created every one on the planet as brothers and sisters, how can we persist, after the living resurrected message of God’s Son, in killing each other Cain and Abel, in defense of some earthly kingdoms?  There will be conflicts, but we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, to use all ingenious kind courageous inspiration to solve them without bloodshed.  We are called to follow Christ new commandment, “Love one another--as I have loved you.”  The Pentecost grace is given.  Who are we to say it can’t be done?
Pentecost -- by El Greco

To encounter one good but difficult example of how telling the true story of wars past can help us respond to this call, I hope you all will spend an hour listening to “What happened at Dos Erres?”  a public radio program broadcast that aired this Holy Spirit / Memorial Day weekend.  This nearly unreported atrocity of the early 1980's occurred at a time when our President Reagan was promoting troops like these Kaibiles  as “freedom fighters,” and the scorched earth tactics they employed were being taught them by our “School of the Americas.”  “Low intensity warfare” was the order of the day in Central America, to repel the advance of Communist guerrillas before they could reach our borders.  They enemy is always portrayed as lethal to our way of life.  Listen to each voice in this complicated web of friend and enemy to our cause.  The investigators, Guatemalans especially, are courageous.

An undated photo of Lt Oscar Ovidio Ramirez Ramos--the Lieutenant and his fellow Kaibil troops led a 1982 massacre in young Oscar's village in Guatemala-- Photo, Matthew Healey for ProPublica

The program host Ira Glass describes himself, as I was, very involved in following and trying to diminish the hostilities of Central America in those times of Iran-Contra Cold War by proxy.  The people and clergy of the Diocese of San Cristobal in Chiapas Mexico, where I’ve often gone on medical peace mission, offered refuge to the many Guatemalan villagers fleeing the violence of their own army.   A friend, photojournalist Larry Towell, began his career in solidarity with the disappeared victims of Guatemala’s conflict.  He documented the discovered remains of a similar massacre not far away in El Mozote, El Salvador.  Massacre was recurrent military policy in Central America.
El Mozote, El Salvador -- excavation of remains

Photos by Larry Towell---Below are from book, "Gifts of War"

There is so much devastating cruelty in the world—My Lai, Flanders’s Fields, blitzkrieg and
Holocaust, Battle for Normandy, the killing fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, Palestine, Bosnia, Iraq, El Salvador, Darfur.   Yet this radio story and those who tell wars’ dark secret give me hope, that in recognizing war itself as evil, we may commit to dismantling the weaponry, and not training our children for war anymore.

El Peten is closest Guatemala state to border with Chiapas, Mexico

You can stream the program at this site, This American Life archives.

Program can be downloaded and saved as a podcast for free this week on iTunes.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

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