War Does Not Lead to Peace
Cardinal Kasper Closes Meeting of Religious Leaders in Assisi
ASSISI, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered Tuesday by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to close the two-day meeting of various religious leaders.
The meeting in Assisi commemorated the interreligious meeting convoked by Pope John Paul II in 1986. The theme on this occasion was "For a World of Peace -- Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.
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Prayer for Peace
Psalm 122:6-9Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they prosper who love you!
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!"
For my brethren and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!"
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." How many times this invocation of prayer echoed from the psalms of the holy Bible throughout the centuries, or even, the millennia. How many times Jerusalem, city of peace, was besieged and destroyed: by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, by the Romans and the crusaders. How many times Jerusalem was contended, as it happens also today, by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
In Jerusalem, the three religions venerate their holy places. All three love Jerusalem and therefore want to be there. All three have the right to dwell there in peace, but they can be there only together, and in a peaceful manner. All three pray to the one God, who is not a God of violence, but a "God of peace," as he is often named as such in the Bible.
How many times have we prayed for peace in Jerusalem in the last weeks. How many times have we prayed for peace between Jews and Muslims in that region, affected by conflict, in which, again and again, innocent people from all sides -- women and children, sick, elderly and youth -- suffer and die, live in fear and terror. To us, they are not an unknown humanity, they are, as the Psalm says -- our brothers and friends: What else can we wish them but peace? What else, in fact, do they long for? What else do men and women of good will everywhere in the world long for, but peace within their walls and security within their towers?
We are not naive. We are aware of the existing political, economic and religious constraints; we are aware of the remote origin of this bloody conflict. We are aware of the mounting frustration, of the desperation, of the fear, of the injustice and even of the hatred. We are aware that good words alone cannot solve problems.
Today a solution seems beyond human capacity. For this reason, we are not so naive to think that we can solve problems through missiles, bombs or grenades. Missiles, bombs and grenades do not solve anything; they only bring about destruction and death. War does not lead to peace. War is often the mother of other wars. These wars create more terrorists than the ones that are eliminated. War is always a defeat; it is the defeat of humanity, the downfall of hope and of peace expectations.
When I was young, during the terrible years of World War II, a poem circulated in the anti-aircraft shelters and in the trenches. That poem began with the following words: "Only prayer can free us from the sword looming over our head." The words of this poem recall an ancient belief of religious humanity, which we also found in the psalm we read. Decisions about war and peace are taken not predominantly, or not only, by governments, military people or diplomats.
War and peace have a deeper origin; they spring from the hearts and minds of men and women. Evil or good intentions of individuals and peoples stem from the heart. And it is in the hearts and minds that conversion and renewal must begin. The heart is the breeding place of the will of reconciliation and peace, which is possible only if justice will include all.
Only God and his Holy Spirit can reach the heart of man. Only God can grant us a new heart, not a heart of stone but a heart of flesh and blood, a compassionate heart. No one but God can inspire in us feelings of peace. For this reason, the prayer for peace is a weapon which is definitely more powerful than missiles, bombs or grenades; prayer is the real superpower of this world. Jesus teaches us that faith can move mountains. Why should God, while listening to our common prayer, not unlock the complications, and solve the unsolvable -- from a human point of view -- quandary of the Middle East?
The psalm contains a promise for Jerusalem. It is the promise of God who wants peace. He promised the establishment of peace for Jerusalem. We are before the starting point of peace: Jerusalem will engender a universal peace for humankind, for the entire world. We build on this promise, we rely on this promise. For this reason we will pray -- tirelessly -- for the peace of Jerusalem, for the peace of the land that is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims; the land of promise and peace. For this reason, pray assiduously for reconciliation and peace.
Can this work? Can prayer soften the minds and hearts of hardened terrorists? Isn't war what they want anyway? What creates terrorists.... horrible upbringing, ideology of hate, both?
So many unanswerable questions here. I don't know. What would Kasper say about combatting the rise of Hitler. The British prayed as London got bombed. I don't know, this is a tough one. I suppose the question line is, where is the line where aggressive war becomes necessary self-defense? When are bombs justified?
Only God knows, really. And until we have the direct order from Him... we have to make our best judgements. Meanwhile, no one ever agrees on this sort of thing. But if everyone remembered that one day, they would have to face God and account for every word spoken, every action committed... then there would not be so much disagreement.
Unless of course your idea of God is someone who rewards suicide bombers....