War is the Ultimate Terrorism
January 19, 2004
Christine Vladimiroff, O.S.B. / Pax Christi
The prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvannia has a simple and powerful message: "There is no need for nuance when truth is spoken clearly and honestly -- War is not a way to peace."
War is the Ultimate Terrorism
Religious leaders have joined their voices in a cry for peace. They remind the nation that no matter how diverse we may sometimes seem, we live in one world. We are one extended family. Whether we worship in a temple, church, mosque, synagogue or meeting hall, we call on a loving God to hear our prayer for peace.
It is a distortion of religion to want a God who validates our violence.
It is an act of treachery to religion to desanctify the enemy, so as to erase any semblance of their humanity, thereby permitting us to kill without remorse.
War places all in jeopardy of losing what matters-our very humanity. Those who wage war abandon their claim to call on a God who blesses the peacemakers.
These are times that test our courage and hope. Religious leaders must challenge the assumptions that frame war as a solution to terrorism. War is the ultimate terrorism.
War kills the innocent, first by taking resources away from the poor, food from the children, medical care from the elderly. War steals the compassion, mercy and justice from our souls while it rains down destruction on an innocent population that is vulnerable, fragile. They are the victims of our arrogance and greed even before the bombs destroy their lives.
In 1944, during World War II, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote of the spiritual costs of engaging in war:
Good and evil, which were once as real as day and night, have become a blurred mist. In our every day life we worshiped force, despised compassion and obeyed no law but our unappeasable appetite. The vision of the sacred has all but died in the soul of man.
The scars of war leave their imprint not only on the planet, but on our souls. Both become desolate and barren.
The stakes are very high indeed for those who seek to stand before their God. There is no need for nuance when truth is spoken clearly and honestly.
War is not a way to peace. Seeking peace and pursuing it is a spiritual journey that is difficult and arduous but can transform us as persons and as a nation. Even if all other voices fall silent, religious leaders must be the moral voice calling a nation to the wisdom and the courage to opt for peace.
Failure to find peace in the present situation means that we face a bleak future, even the possibility of no future at all.
Alice Walker, author and poet, wrote:
War will stop when we no longer praise it, or give it any attention at all. Peace will come wherever it is sincerely invited. Love will overflow every sanctuary given it. Truth will grow where fertilizer nourishes it. Faith will be its own reward.
In a country that calls itself one nation under God, people look to religious leaders to be unrelenting in our call for a peaceful solution to the present crisis. Religious leaders cannot let our voice be muffled, nor our resolve manipulated by narrow political agendas of the government.
We, as religious leaders, must guide the people in their search for God in this our historical context. Let our passion for peace give us energy to continue.
Indifference and silence will not turn the swords into plowshares. But our love, our compassion and desire for justice, will.
Sr. Christine Vladimiroff, O.S.B., is the prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Penn. and a Pax Christi USA National Council member.