The Journal of Pax Christi
November/December 2001 Online Contents:
Pax Christi and the Aftermath of 11th September
|Around the world, Pax Christi sections have been responding to the aftermath of events in the United States and Afghanistan. The recent Pax Christi International Council held in Mainz, Germany, issued letters to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair urging that they halt the bombing of Afghanistan and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies to ensure that aid be delivered to the Afghan people. The letter, signed by HB Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and President of our movement stated: "These military actions have worsened an already existing humanitarian disaster and polarised religious communities throughout the world Pax Christi International carries within its members, the lived experience of the reality and fear of the violence of terrorism and war. This experience convinces us that war only creates more violence and suffering and that it will not stop terrorist activities that may be spawned in the context of despair and exclusion." The letter represented the concerns of Pax Christi sections, affiliated groups and guests from 36 countries of the world, including the British Section. We have sent copies of this to all our own Bishops to help support them in forming their own positions.||
photo by Giulia Besana
We presented petitions bearing 50,000 signatures to Mr Blair in October appealing
for non-military responses and the use of international law (copies still available
from office). Pax Christi members around the country have organised and taken
part in prayer vigils, befriending of members of the Muslim community, processions
and demonstrations calling for an end to the military action. In London Pax
Christi hend a weekly vigil at St Martin in the Fields and ensured a presence
at national actions.
Useful websites: www.quaker.org.uk and www.justicenotvengeance.org.
Personal Reflections from Pax Christi members
The flood of words and pictures following the events of 11 September have made individual reflections necessarily inadequate. I arrived in New York, the city of my birth, 9 days later and found my sister who lives there, still shocked and quite depressed. She and her husband have worked around the world for Unicef and other NGOs and are acutely aware of the global situation and are afraid for the future rather than the present moment. At the time they were, like many others, afraid of what the US government's response would be and indeed that fear was justified. In the city and suburbs flags were everywhere. We went down to 12th St and Union Square which was a rallying point supporting the bereaved but also for those begging for a nonviolent response. There was a sea of candles and flowers and petitions. This however did not reflect the majority demand for revenge. As a long exiled native of New York I felt great sympathy for the pain and fear which people were experiencing. The question: Why do people hate us? Was heard often. Suddenly they were victims of an 'enemy' they could not see, from countries they had hardly heard of. Since that day there has been an agonising search for answers.
As the weeks went by the peace people I was in touch with took hope that the response would indeed be proportionate and limited, in spite of the loud voices urging revenge. Serious efforts were made to prevent the demonisation of Muslim people and anyone who might possibly have come from the middle east. However, the media in the US was giving little space to alternative thinking while I was there and indeed up to the time of writing this debate has been practically non-existent. The availability of other thinking on the Internet is a source of strength and hope to many. Since returning to Britain I have been aware of the valuable contribution of reporters from several of our newspapers. They are telling the truth about the appalling effects of the bombing and the worsening humanitarian crisis. We may get angry at some aspects of our media but we are better served than people in the US.
Back in Birmingham I was privileged to spend an evening with some young Afghan men and women. They all left their country long before September because they found life under the Taliban intolerable. All said they will return if a new regime is established but honestly admitted that they would be very pleased if the result of the 'war' was the end of the Taliban.
When I think on the plight of families in the refugee camps; of those standing helplessly on the borders and refused entry, then I have to believe that my prayers and feelings of compassion are joined with billions of people and will have an effect on the thinking of the powerful in this world, and bring them towards a realisation of the futility of modern war and towards a search for a culture of peace. Such is my hope. However, prayer must lead to action. Those of us now in our third age may have hoped that our days of campaigning and vigiling were behind us. How wrong we were. I have composed a sort of mantra for myself: "God come to their aid; Lord make haste to help them; Mary of the Magnificat, mother of the poor, Queen of Peace, hear our cry !"
In dark and dreadful times it is often one particular strand, even one central word of our faith tradition that we grab hold of. For me it has been the requirement of mercy and I am thankful to find it to be one which is presented not so much as a gift of the Christian life but rather as a piece of work, one that comes with a helpful instruction manual! The traditional 'works of mercy' drawn from scripture list the 'corporal' works: (1) feeding the hungry; (2) giving drink to the thirsty (3)clothing the naked (4) harbouring the stranger (5) visiting the sick (6) ministering to prisoners (7) burying the dead. The other, the 'spiritual works' ,consist of (1) converting the sinner (2) instructing the ignorant (3) counselling the doubtful (4) comforting the sorrowful (5) bearing wrongs patiently (6) forgiving injuries (7) praying for the living and the dead.
One cannot but be forcibly struck by the seamlessness, the absolute interdependence of the spiritual and the corporal - a connectedness which has been powerfully hammered home in this present spiral of violence and revenge. How can the hungry be fed, the sorrowful comforted, the sinner converted with bombs raining down on them? What price patience, forgiveness, education when vengeance reigns?
It is, as always, the front-line workers themselves who bear most poignant
witness to this bitter truth. The aid -workers in Afghanistan and neighbouring
states must come most immediately to mind at present but let us not forget the
particular desolation of New York's mercy workers on September 11th: the casualty-ward
staff who expected, longed to be inundated with wounded but who had been made
redundant by the total brutality and barbarism of the attacks. Or the very different
witness borne by the City's firefighters- a group of workers with whom I have,
as daughter, sister and now aunt, been closely connected all my life. This personal
interest leads me both to mourn the heavy loss of so many of 'my' brave ones
on that dark day and to be grateful that they are now honoured as the heroes
they have always been. But it is not their status as the new Arnold Schwarzeneggers
that gives cause for pride, it is the moving image of workmanly patience and
sacrifice that stood, indelibly, against that of the glitzy corrupt America
that served to 'justify' the attacks.
Mercy is not a state of mind but a piece of work. For the love of the one God who entrusts us with it let it not be debased and let us all, in our different callings, be allowed to get on with the job.
News from the office
Annual Appeal and Message from the Chair
Thank you to all our members and friends who have responded so generously to the recent 'Chairs Appeal'. At the time of going to press we have already received £9,200. Pax Christi's annual appeal has become an essential element in the organisation's financial plan and with the additional demands placed on the office in recent weeks this is particularly welcome.
I wish to personally thank everyone for all the financial and moral support received through the year which enables our work to continue. After over five years on the Executive and almost two as Chair I have decided to step down. I am delighted that John Ruming has agreed to act as Chair. I wish the Executive every success in implementing the findings of the Review, to which so many members contributed.
Welcome to Jacqueline Laird
Hello - as my name may suggest I am Scottish - by birth and by name. Having left my previous job to take what I called a half sabbatical the promise of a long hot summer lay before me. I told everyone I wanted time "to be". Two months into "being" I realised I needed some "doing". I telephoned around. I had no great expectations, all I was offering was a day a week - Pat invited me for lunch.
* The next week I was a volunteer.
* A few weeks later I was given keys.
* A few months later I was given a contract.
It's great to be part of the team here and I look forward to getting to know many of you during the weeks and months ahead.
We welcomed Jacqueline to the post of Administrator at the end of October.
September/October 2001: No 226
July/August 2001: No 225
Mar/Apr 2001: No 224
Jan/Feb 2001: No 223
Nov/Dec 2000 No 222
July/August 2000: No 220
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