Friday, April 7, 2017

Pray and Fast and Give Alms for Peace

The Syrian crisis is as complex as anything one might imagine.  Here are some of the key points from the past four years alone.  Suffice it to say, 250,000 individuals have died and 11 million have been displaced from their homes.  Every once in a while we get worked up over a picture, because a picture as the saying goes, is worth 1000 words.  Nikki Haley held up pictures asking how many children have to die before Russia cares? I'd change the word Russia to world.

Seeing people dying in a horrible quick fashion that is frightening, that makes us want to take action.

This sort of horror, like the picture of the boy washed up on the shore, like the picture of the boy in the back of the ambulance, somehow gets us more invested than say, this picture:
or this one: 

Which makes us want to change the channel because we can't wrap our heads around it and don't have a symbolic action we could do which would let us go back to not paying attention. 
So remember folks, you can kill with indifference, denial of humanitarian aid, bullets and bombs all you like, but if you do a chemical weapon drop, we'll send missles.  Please, go back to killing and oppressing your people in less emotionally gripping and disturbing ways.  To avoid further strikes, only oppress and kill in ways which are approved by other civilized nations.

I'm sorry if that sounds too sharp to some ears. I'll concede it might deter Assad from authorizing further flights from airbases he contols to drop chemicals on civilians who do not favor his regime, but it also might draw us into a high stakes conflict with Russia, since Russia suspended an agreement of military cooperation between the US and Russia, since Russia is an ally of the existing Syrian regime. Additionally, while surgical strikes provide symbolic relief, no one even pleased with the US response, believes this limited action will result in the regime having a change of heart.

While I hope the missles got the places that hold chemical weapons, no one should feel comfortable that the US sends drones or missles into countries where we have not declared war or been given sanction to act in a military fashion or that Russia has promised to bolster Syrian air defense systems and is sending a frigate to monitor Syria's port to the Mediteranean.  It has the feel of brinkmanship, and not "the art of the deal." Military action, like all other things we do, ought to be the result of reflective, deliberate policy and thoughtful examination.  This act, (in contrast with the talk up until last week), is reflexive and reactive.  I didn't like it with the past presidents, I still don't like it.  

So what do we do as we watch powers and principalities play out a game of live chess with real people?

If we remember, back when war with Syria seemed inevitable in 2013, Pope Francis asked the Church to pray and fast for peace.  Somehow, the U.S. need to go to war which seemed unavoidable, evaporated...overnight.

Perhaps it is time to make that request again, and this time, add alms giving in the form of each parish taking on a family. If the Pope asks our fellow Christians and Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters to each take on a family at each church, each mosque, each temple, we will be able to whittle that picture of endless despair down, and perhaps help prove there is another way to address "such relentless hate," by riding out to meet them.  Problems aren't intractable just because they're difficult to resolve. Problems remain intactable because people refuse to be moved or to move. What is required is embracing the cross.  Somehow, we have to know, if we are Catholic, everything always requires embracing the cross.   Somehow, we have to know, peace isn't the merely absence of conflict.  Anyone who ever had a silent fight knows how a house feels when two people aren't getting along.  On a global scale, we can't know peace when we wilfully ignore suffering so as to "get along."

What we keep forgetting, as individuals and whole peoples, is when we ignore a problem because it is hard, it gets bigger.  It's true with weight. It's true with debt.  It's true with education. It's true with politics.  It's true with everything that matters in life.  When we ignore problems because they are difficult, we eventually wind up ignoring people.    We need to take on this crisis we've ignored. 


We can eliminate the humanitarian crisis by helping one family at a time, via one community at a time.  Risk is always involved when we reach out to a stranger, to an other, whenever we offer love but to do otherwise, is indifference (which is the simplest path and what we've done as a world whenever we thought we could).  We've tried indifference. It has lead to where we are now, with millions searching for room in the inn of the world, pictures of the dead and the dying and stories of suffering, waste and pain with no respite.

Here's some links to ways we can get involved.
Seven Ways to Help Syrian Refugees.
Here's one more, which has some of the same information but is still worth reading as I'm pleased it's from a secular source: How to Help.

Petition your bishop, your pastor, and your friends to encourage everyone to do the same.  As we prepare for Holy Week, we ought to ramp up our prayers, fasting and alms giving, storming Heaven, asking for the peace the world cannot give.   If we show we are not living as this world would have us, but as the next, perhaps we can have better pictures and better stories to tell.

So Pray the Rosary for peace.
Fast as penance for all the pain we've created via neglect, indifference and not being willing to act,
and give alms, so they will know who we are.

It may seem unreasonable to pray for peace in such a wartorn and conflicted country. How could it possibly happen? That's okay. God loves unreasonably.  We can be unreasonable with God in our prayers, and God wants peace for these people, for all of us, even more than we do. It may seem crazy to give alms when there are so many in need. How could our little be sufficient?  That's okay. Give what you can. God will do the multiplying. He's done it before.   It may even seem scary to take on caring for people of a different faith, people we don't know, and to invite them into our lives. Again, that's okay. 

Love is always unreasonable, generous and courageous.  So be unreasonable, generous and courageous.  This week, this about to be Holy Week, be love.  

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