Monday, November 26, 2012



                     Gaza homemade rocket                                                        Israeli tank in recent conflict, ~1500 rounds launched by each side    
This Thanksgiving Nov. 22 the people of the Middle East, and all of us worldwide, had something to be particularly thankful for – Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza did not go to full-scale war.  The Israelis did not invade, and halted its air assassination campaign; Hamas stopped its rocket launches, an uneasy truce holds.   Thank God, and God forgive us all -- 169 Palestinians dead, and 6 Israelis.*  We don’t know where this will go next, but we know it’s very difficult to follow the divine admonition—“harden not your hearts.”
Our country has a tradition of arming the Israelis to the teeth.  Others arm the Palestinians.  From our distance the blood spilled on Holy Land sand hasn’t trickled down to melt many hearts dedicated to war.  Over there it’s almost humanly impossible to overcome the hatreds conflict can engender.  How to rebuild trust in its place?  I believe it’s a matter of special grace, that needs prayer and repeated attempts at forgiveness and reunion.
This is not just a global problem but a personal one.  Here at our house we made some efforts to welcome and prepare for arrival of seven members of our family who’d been living far away, and felt pressed to make the move back to Michigan, before things could be arranged for a proper place to stay.  After a long journey, they made it into town with all their possessions, after dark, the night before Thanksgiving.  Emotions frazzled and minor disaster ensued.  No one is happy with where everyone ended up.
e could have done more to make clearer the contingencies, and more to help.  They could have had more foresight, and patience.  It will be hard to resolve these conflicts and assist in arranging a permanent living space for them, especially after angry words have imprinted their sad sting.  But we all believe in this mutual forgiveness, and a better tomorrow, despite today’s wounded reality.   God, grant us the courage and inspiration to find your way to heal and forgive, from our doorstep, to the world’s battlefields.

Lord have mercy on our souls--too accepting of the violence and injustice that, instead of you, we often choose to give us our daily bread.

11-25-12 USA Today, Gaza cleric calls violation of Israel truce sinful” -- excerpt below
The fatwa, or religious edict, was issued late Saturday by Suleiman al-Daya, a cleric respected by both ultra-conservative Salafis and Hamas. Salafi groups oppose political accommodations with Israel.
"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us. Violating it shall constitute a sin," the fatwa read. ... The fighting killed 169 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, November 19, 2012


 Palestinian men gather around a crater caused by an Israeli airstrike at a home in Gaza City - CNN photo-11-18-12
The figures as of today:  > 90 Palestinians dead, 3 Israelis.

As war once again heats up between Israel, and Gaza, a tiny sliver of land on southern border that they ceded back to Palestinians in 2005, it seems the inaccurate rockets of Hamas, and pinpoint lethal Israeli air-force executions, are again stoking the fires of hatred.  The lines have hardened since Israel’s previous “Operation Cast Lead,” and five years of embargo are making things more desperate in Gaza.  Israel wants rocket attacks from there to halt.

The residents of Gaza want the embargo, and extrajuridicial executions of their leaders to stop.  This recent escalation of violence stems from an October 24th rockets skirmish in which 4 Palestinians died, and then more rockets--followed Nov. 14th by Israel’s air-attack assassination of Hamas Military Commander, Ahmed al-Jabari.

There have been sometimes thousands, and mostly hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza each year.  They appear to have not much more direction than fireworks launch tubes.  From the Israeli Defense Force blog site we have 44 Israelis killed by these in the past 6 years. Comparatively--“Israel's three-week ground war [‘Cast Lead’] against Hamas in 2009 left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead, and destroyed entire villages and much of Gaza's infrastructure. Israel's image tanked internationally as it fended off war-crimes accusations.” And the Israeli computer guided missiles shot from attack airships almost always get their man.

srael disregards international law and cheapens respect for life when it takes 100 or 10  Palestinian lives, for one of its own.  This has been the pattern since at least the first Intifada.  I wrote against its political assassination method in 2008.  I’d already been writing Amnesty International “urgent action” letters to dictators across the globe for years, protesting this illegal extrajuridicial executions tactic.  Two Wall Street Journal editors answered my email submission [first and last time they’ve given my many letters personal response].   There was interest, but it was not published.  Here it is.  That time another Palestinian political target died—but still no end in sight to the violence.

Dear Editor Timothy Lemmers, Wall Street Journal,         Feb. 24, 2008
In your Valentine's Day 2008 editorial "Dead in Damascus" you list some horrific crimes attributed to Imad Mughniyeh--and then congratulate the Mossad as his probable executioners, only lamenting that it should have been the CIA. I'm old enough to have seen Adolf Eichmann on TV at his trial* in Israel for his crimes against humanity. His were more heinous than Mr. Mughniyeh's, yet Israel captured him, and brought him to trial, before exacting judgment. Our societies have suffered a tragic loss of decency and due process since that time.

Now you trumpet this simultaneous arrest/trial/execution by car bomb in the streets of Damascus as "an unambiguous victory." Not for the rule of law. This counter-terrorist behavior is against international law. It mimics the behavior of the terrorists themselves. Mr. Mughniyeh obviously did not act alone. Such extrajuridicial executions only confirm to his confederates that surprise killings are the effective way to address grievances. Fighting fire with fire is incendiary policy. We play with fire in attempt to have two wrongs make a right. In the end everyone gets burned again and again and again. Lets get back to the golden rule found in scripture, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Yours truly,    -- Michael McCarthy, Port Huron, MI

s part of and preceding the current crisis, Israel’s leader Netanyahu has stonewalled negotiations in general with Palestinians, marching on with settlements construction in the West Bank, and ignoring international and national court injunctions against the wall Israel is unilaterally erecting between Israeli and Palestinian communities.  Resuming assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and a pending second invasion of the Gaza strip, are part of this hard-line strategy that believes in war as the natural way to solve the ancient land, water, and oil conflicts of the Middle East.  This belief is shared by some of Hamas surely, those who vow destruction of Israel.

The U.S. backs the strongman, Israel, in the struggle, with billions of dollars annually in military aid.  But there is no solution other than a “two state” solution.  The rights and lives of both peoples must be equally respected.  Bring back Arab Spring, and get Israel’s leadership and Hamas involved in the nonviolence.  And may the U.S. lay aside also its illegal killer drones—we are all polluted by premeditated murder.

Historical problem of the "two state solution"
Gaza is the middle strip on the ocean in the 2 rightmost frames
Illuminations by Kathy Brahney
* The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote of Eichmann—Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Recent Gaza events--articles

Monday, November 12, 2012


For many years I’ve been disturbed by the advertisement of the poor that the organization, “Food for the Poor” [FFP] promotes.  They have full page articles and glossy insert brochures in many Catholic newspapers.  Clergy and editors are given tours of needy areas from Jamaica to Haiti. Professional photos of teary-eyed/or smiling children and infomercial stories abound.  These are paid for stories, not journalistic efforts to describe the unjust situations of poverty.
“You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”From Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio -’Development of the peoples’ (1967), paragraph 23

Luxury hotel gala events, lavish media buys, and priests employed to travel and preach for Sunday contributions, provide the capital.  These measures must cost thousands upon thousands of dollars—money that doesn’t go to the poor, and little done to help correct the structures that keep them poor.  This stratified form of charity that keeps donors from the doing has a downside that can lead to corruption of the mission.  The CEO of FFP, Robin Mahfood, makes over $300,000/yr, and the previous one, his brother, resigned in controversy. {see links* at end for history}

Food for the Poor (FFP) President Robin Mahfood at the Haiti boys orphanage, run by FFP in Port-au-Prince
From "Cross International" brochure
“Food for the Poor,” the 5th largest U.S. charity {as per Forbes magazine}, and a smaller spinoff, “Cross International”, have a method which has certainly done some good-- $1.1 billion of goods delivered this past year.  They both have various listings as responsible charities.  Yet this does not help resolve the gulf between rich and poor—the shameful gap criticized by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel of the widow’s mite.  The criticism of “bandaid” approaches to poverty has a long history.
The metal "trumpets" into which one tossed coin contributions--the more coin, the more noise
Many believe that haves and have-nots must meet and work consistently with each other face to face for injustice to be solved.  This is difficult to do, but provides the way for our mutual salvation.  We cannot afford to sentimentalize our interconnectedness and the shared suffering it requires.  It demands often what Dorothy Day described as a harsh and dreadful love.

We have this, on a danger to solidarity with the poor, from the Encyclical of Pope John Paul II “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,” para. 39  1986,
The "structures of sin" and the sins which they produce are likewise radically opposed to peace and development, for development, in the familiar expression Pope Paul's [VI] Encyclical, is "the new name for peace."

We commemorate those who’ve worked and lived with poor, among many--the four religious women murdered in El Salvador, Dec 2, 1980---victims, with their neighbors, of the "structures of sin."

Sunday, November 4, 2012


"Lord, that I may see" - Mk 10:51 {from last week's Gospel}
And that the blind may no longer be led by the blind.
ow on the day before our national elections---the second half of Thomas Merton’s long plaintive prayer to Congress and the President in 1962.

Prayer for Peace {part 2}

Open our eyes, dissipate confusions, teach us to understand ourselves and our adversary!  Let us never forget that sins against the law of love are punished by loss of faith, and those without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!  Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction.  Show us how to use atomic power to bless our children’s children, not to blight them.
Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us.  Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing.  They are at once a torment and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience, we would not have to endure them.

Teach us to be long-suffering in anguish and insecurity.  Teach us to wait and trust.  Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace—to this Congress, our President, our military forces, and our adversaries.  Grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might.  And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace:
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm.  O God of holiness, merciful to all:  grant us to seek peace where it is truly found!

In your will, O God, is our peace!      Amen

 Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

And more from Merton--a good resolution for us all to take in our own ways, in this time of election:

 "It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection of and protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny which threaten to destroy the whole human race and the world with it. By my monastic life and vows I am saying NO to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace."
— From "Honorable Reader"

 Merton and the Dali Lama {from St. Anthony Messenger website}


Illumination and botanical by Kathy Brahney

Congratulations Kurt Hauglie!
Our journalist hero Kurt Hauglie, working quietly from his post at the Mining Gazette in Northern Michigan today struck a blow for freedom of good information. The day before our national election, his story, “Film Remembers 1913 Massacre in Michigan,” appears in AP syndication in newspapers from Port Huron’s Times Herald to the Houston Chronicle. Through the lens of this film’s release he gives us a glimpse--of persistent filmmakers, haves and have-nots, boom and bust, solidarity vs. profiteers, past and present. A timely reminder. Please read at the links below, and thank you, Kurt.