In his Easter message to the world, Pope Francis prayed for the protection of the vulnerable, especially migrants, and for an end to all war and every conflict. His message echoed what he proclaimed on the World Day of Peace: “Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!” The Columban commitment to serving the poor – especially those living through conflict and war – calls us to work for a lasting peace. This is especially true in South Asia and the Asia – Pacific region, where tensions between religious and ethnic communities and disputes over territorial waters, drones and military bases threaten the peace of the region.
On April 14, 2014, the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach joined Pax Christi International and other faith-based organizations and religious communities worldwide in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending. The main goal of this initiative is to press for an end to excessive military expenditures worldwide, and for significant investment to address human insecurity and threats to the planet. By reducing funding for the military sector, significant funds could be made available for social and environmental projects, first of all domestically, but also in other countries, especially the poorest.
World military expenditure in real terms is estimated at roughly $1.75 trillion. That comes down to about $4.6 billion a day, twice the UN’s annual budget. Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly stated that “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.” Do we not have alternative uses for even a fraction of that $1.7 trillion, to meet basic human needs?
Those funds would be better used for those who are impoverished, including in the USA itself. The continued investment in war and in weapons of mass destruction is not only intrinsically immoral, but also it is an immense violation of the dignity of those who are forced to live on the margins of our world. Pax Christi International, speaking “on behalf of the poor and excluded in society,” urges nations to abandon “all plans to refurbish nuclear arsenals,” and instead “to move to eliminate nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.”
Faith-based organizations worldwide can play a crucial role in national debates, because they reach across all sectors of society and are uniquely placed in communities to give a moral lead on matters of peace and justice. Faith-based organizations have strong interest in seeing that resources allocated to military spending are shifted towards real development. This is a profoundly important ethical and political issue which touches questions of stewardship of earthly resources and of identifying priorities based on a “preferential option for the poor.”
“I appeal forcefully,” Pope Francis concludes, “to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand!”