Peace activist Kathy Kelly witnesses the action steps that can lead to peace in The Borderfree Street Kids School in Kabul, Afghanistan. There, 100 child laborers attend school instead of working on the streets. To compensate for lost income to their families, the school program provides a monthly donation of beans, flour, cooking oil and rice equivalent to what these child laborers could otherwise earn. But that’s only a fraction of the estimated 60,000 child laborers in Kabul. What if our U.S. government focused more of its financial resources on programs like this one rather than on drones and other weaponry in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East?
Two weeks from now, President Barack Obama will be in Japan for the Group of Seven (G7) summit to address global challenges with leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK. At that summit, Obama should announce specific steps the U.S. will take to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons and to prevent a new nuclear arms race. As Bishop Oscar Cantú of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops points out: “Nuclear weapons pose a moral challenge and represent an existential threat that requires action now.” He made that point in a May 4 statement released by the heads of four leading science and faith organizations calling the president to take action. Two days later, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un praised his country’s nuclear achievements. He is not the only trigger-happy power monger we need to worry about – at home or abroad. The faith and science leaders’ statement outlines excellent action steps for Obama:
• Scale back the U.S. plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons, including canceling the new “destabilizing and unneeded” nuclear-armed cruise missile;
• Reduce the U.S. deployed strategic arsenal by a third, a level the Pentagon agrees is adequate to maintain security; and
• Remove U.S. land-based nuclear missiles from hair-trigger alert, which would reduce the risk of an accidental, mistaken or unauthorized launch.
In another effort to foster peace, participants at a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi advocated for the church to do away with the just war tradition. They believe it often has served as justification for violence. But practicing nonviolence requires courage and selflessness. As writer Damon Linker points out in “The Week,” “A devout Christian follows Christ’s example of nonviolence not because it ‘works’ but because he believes that’s the way God wants us to live, regardless of (and despite) the real-world consequences.” (http://tinyurl.com/z87oroh.)
Wars and conflicts raging around the world are evidence that the military measures we have and are taking aren’t working. Terrorists, who know no boundaries, use increasingly barbaric execution methods to demonstrate their hatred. So, let’s begin with small steps. The Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, for example, have developed a campaign “We are One,” to promote the sisters’ efforts to teach active nonviolence.
“Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people,” Lori Freudenberg of the Franciscan Peace Center writes in a letter to the editor on this page. “Nonviolence is the desire for, and action on behalf of, the well-being of all.” She invites us to attend a film on May 19 that explores how the citizens of a small town grapple with rapidly changing demographics.
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Davenport, meanwhile, hosted a visit by Kelly and fellow peace activist Ann Wright on May 3. The two women advocated for welcoming refugees to the U.S. and opposing the use of drones in targeting terrorists in the countries in which many of these refugees live. They’ve spent time with these oppressed people, casualties of violence.
“If we continue to use a military solution, we can predict something,” Kelly said, “the development of groups even more vicious than the Islamic State.”
Go to the website www.vcnv.org and www.vetransforpeace.org to learn more about alternatives.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor