Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

U.S. Makes Waves in the Asia-Pacific

July 8, 2013

  Will Donahue

Columban missionaries work in Korea and the Philippines, promoting peace and protection of people and creation. Our faith calls us to dialogue and find peaceful resolution to conflict.

Territorial disputes and increased militarization threaten the peace in the Asia-Pacific. Potential violence from territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the United States military’s “pivot” to Asia threatens the well-being of creation and the people Columbans serve.

War Games in the Philippines

The United States and the Philippines held joint naval exercises last week on the Philippines’ coast. These exercises exacerbate existing regional tensions. A number of Asian-Pacific nations are disputing islands in the South China Sea for their resource rich waters. China views the United States’ “pivot” as a threat and an attempt to prevent China’s rise as a global superpower.

On July 2nd Filipino environmental and religious leaders stepped in and petitioned the Filipino Supreme Court, urging issuance of temporary environmental protection orders. The people emphasize that the existing Visiting Forces Agreement lacks environmental protection guidelines.

World Heritage Site Becomes Location of South Korean Military Base

Ezekiel 47 describes a river teaming with God’s creation where fishing villages prosper and trees are abundant with fruit. Jeju Island reflects this vision, but it is under threat.

South Korea is constructing a military base on Jeju Island that the United States plans to contract use of  for a new missile program. Jeju is a United Nations World Heritage site for its ecological diversity. The base construction is already destroying the fragile coral reef ecosystem.

The way of life on Jeju Island is under threat. Women will be at higher risk; it is commonly held that the presence of military personnel increases the rate of prostitution in an area. Anglers and farmers fear they may not be able to support their families if the base construction and activities destroys the Jeju ecosystem. People also harbor fears that their home will become a target by foreign militaries.

Changing the Paradigm and Moving Towards Peace

The United States military places footholds wherever there may be threats to national security and global status.

How do we reverse militarization and channel our capabilities towards nurturing our Earth’s people? Faith holds us accountable for protecting creation  through solidarity with one another. How do we balance helping the vulnerable and guaranteeing our own personal protection? We have lost trust in one another. The United States creates similar distrust among our global family from militarizing its southern border to its Asia-Pacific “pivot.”

Militarization contradicts the Columbans’  mission to protect and live in solidarity. We are thankful to have Columbans working in South Korea and the Philippines advocating for and giving hope to those caught in gray areas of international affairs.   In solidarity, we stand with our brothers and sisters in the Asia-Pacific.

Militarization reminds me of advice a parent might offer their child: “Fighting fire with fire only breeds more fire.” The arms race is the classic childhood story of two bullies attempting to “one-up” each other on the playground. My parents always taught me about taking the high road. Eventually, one side needs to rise above barriers and fall on a bit of faith and trust.