To mark the passing of Pope John Paul II, I want to pay tribute to the work much of the Catholic church did under his leadership in the field of peacemaking.
During Washington’s ever-more-ominous preparations to launch the fateful March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pope spoke out repeatedly against the madness of war. See, e.g., here and here.
That latter link is to the text of an address the Pope made on January 13, 2003 to the diplomatic corps in the Vatican. In it, he said:
- “NO TO WAR”! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect… And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.
I believe that John Paul’s firm stance that war “is always a defeat for humanity” was strongly informed by his own personal biography, since in his own younger years his own hmeland was ravaged by foreign armies and the wars between them. He knew whereof he talked.
(Unlike too many people in the United States today, who have no real idea of what war does to a homeland… This is both because the US has not known war in its own homeland since the civil war of the mid-19th century, and because too many Americans seem to lack the moral imagination to even try to think of what it’s like to live–as most Iraqis are nowadays forced to– without public security and with interruptions in vital services that pose a constant threat to public health and to the survival of many of the country’s physically weaker souls.)
Anyway, since I’ve been working all this week on the portion of my current book project that deals with Mozambique, I also wanted to share a little portion of the book that describes the signal role that the Rome-based Catholic lay organization Sant’ Egidio played in shepherding the 1992 General Peace Agreement which brought an end to 15 years of horrendous, extremely atrocious civil war inside that country.
(I have such deep admiration for our friends of Sant’ Egidio! I wish we Quakers were one-tenth as committed and as effective in our peacemaking! Oh well, we can all try to do our best, I guess.)
The following excerpt comes from Chapter 8, “Mozambique from war to peacemaking”:
- (quotation starts)
How the conflict was ended
As described above, the General Peace Agreement (GPA) of October 1992 was the fruit of a lengthy interaction between the two fighting parties that had been launched, though only very tentatively, with the peace feelers of 1988. A number of aspects of this negotiation were significant, including the following: