Peace and Reconciliation

| February 19, 2010 Print

“The clothes of justice are woven with patience and compassion, with the help of the Master Weaver. The color of each thread is vibrant in its own right but together the threads take on the radiant glow of wholeness. Each color has what it needs to be strong and healthy and completely itself. Because they live side by side woven together in harmony, they enrich the beauty of each other. The clothes made of this fabric drape easily on the Body of Christ.

“Master Weaver, we ask for your patience, compassion, and imagination as we seek to weave with you the clothes of justice and create a culture of peace.”

-Columban Mission Education Department

In an increasingly cruel time, where violence seems to erupt everywhere we turn, it becomes ever more obvious that the solution cannot be military action; each act of aggression only spurs another belligerent reaction.

While countries emerging from dark times of political repression, such as Peru and Chile, take the first step toward peace and reconciliation through the institution of Truth Commissions, it is with great sadness that we see the intensification of hostilities in the Middle East, a renewed arms race and the augmented militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In every corner of the Earth, we see signs of increasing militarization and escalating conflicts. While battles rage in Afghanistan and Iraq, the threat of war hangs over much of the Middle East: North Korea seeks nuclear weapons; the current Japanese constitution renounces war and the means of war, but there is a growing movement to amend it and rebuild the Japanese military’s aggressive capabilities; high-tech military gear, fencing and additional soldiers are being deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border.

As impressive as all this military might may seem, it will not lead to effective peace without addressing the root causes of existing and looming conflicts.

We often equate violence solely with weapons, and forget about the everyday violence many of our brothers and sisters suffer. Poverty, hunger, lack of access to health services and clean water and education, environmental destruction and discrimination all hinder the chances for lasting peace.

Truth Commissions set up in the wake of political violence and repression, such as in Peru and Chile, can be an important first step on the path to reconciliation and lasting peace by providing some measure of closure to those who lost loved ones in the conflict, and by creating a space for citizens to come to grips with the recent past.

However, the root causes of the conflict must be examined, and gross violations of human rights and other crimes must be prosecuted, thereby dismantling structures of impunity and reinforcing the rule of law.

As governments look to resolve conflicts through the use of brute force over diplomacy, we reject this militaristic and aggressive approach. We seek to overwhelm with our strength, but in the process manage only to betray our weakness. Too often, innocent civilians are caught in the middle and pay the ultimate price.

As people of faith, we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us, to break out of the downward spiral of retaliation and hatred and instead embrace a future based on peace, solidarity and reconciliation.