Praying for peace18 Oct 2017
Disarmament Week 24-30 October, represents a seemingly impossible ideal – a world where peace trumps war.
It is impossible, not because people do not want peace but because they are ready to go to war in order to secure peace.
Oliver Cromwell, the great Puritan military commander, offered this advice to statesmen: ‘Trust in God and keep the (gun)powder dry’. His advice is heeded today. Instead of gunpowder nations lay in nuclear weapons, poison gas, cluster bombs, landmines and all sorts of other horrors to deter potential enemies from attacking or to force them to sue for peace.
Possessing weapons costs money that might have been spent on hospitals, schools and public housing. Nations that make weapons sell them to groups with which they are allied, who then use them and often sell them on to opposing factions in the war. The manufacturers pocket the profits and avert their eyes from the thousands of civilians killed in the conflict. Producing arms becomes a crucial part of the economy, most profitable when the arms are being used, updated and replaced. Few people have an interest in disarmament; most of those who do are the victims of war, and they are either poor or dead.
The dangers of a world in which peace depends on nations matching one another in the destructive power of their weapons are evident in the current conflict over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. One nation wants to develop nuclear weapons because it fears destruction by other nations which possess them. The nations that do possess them want to limit their spread to avoid threat to themselves. The pressures aroused by these conflicting desires threaten the lives of millions of people who are purportedly protected by their nation’s possession of nuclear weapons.
The irrationality of this calculus of terror and the terrible suffering caused by modern wars have led Pope Francis, like his predecessors, to condemn the arms trade and the reliance on weapons of mass destruction. He also points out the connection between personal conversion and international disarmament. If nations store up weapons out of fear, so are our personal relationships often marked by fear, defensiveness and retaliation.
Non-violence begins in our most intimate relationships. That has inspired the Men’s Project undertaken by Jesuit Social Services as a response to domestic violence. As men are mostly responsible for violence, so men who act violently must be helped to learn better ways.
A purely punitive response only stirs the embers of violence. The roots of violence lie deep in the human heart; that is where disarmament must also begin.
Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace
we adore your cross
which frees us from sin, the origin of every division and evil;
we proclaim your resurrection,
which ransoms man from the slavery of failure and death;
we await your coming in glory,
which will bring to fulfilment your kingdom of justice, joy and peace.
by your glorious passion,
conquer the hardness of our hearts, imprisoned by hatred and selfishness;
by the power of your resurrection,
save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering;
by the fidelity of your coming,
confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth.
unite to your cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims:
the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians;
envelop in paschal light those who are deeply wounded:
abused persons, deprived of freedom and dignity;
let those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of your kingdom: the exiles, refugees, and those who have lost the joy of living.
cast forth the shadow of your cross over peoples at war;
may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness;
let the peoples so wearied by bombing experience the joy of your resurrection:
raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation;
reunite your dispersed children under your gentle kingship:
sustain Christians in the Diaspora and grant them the unity of faith and love.
O Virgin Mary, Queen of peace,
you who stood at the foot of the cross,
obtain from your Son pardon for our sins;
you who never doubted the victory of his resurrection,
sustain our faith and our hope;
you who are enthroned as Queen in glory,
teach us the royal road of service and the glory of love.