Pax Christi USA is deeply shocked and saddened by the recent attacks
against Christian communities in Palestine and Pakistan. We condemn unreservedly
the harassment, repression, and killing of Palestinian Christians by the
Israeli military and the attack on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
during Sunday Mass on October 21. We regret that it is the innocent who
continually suffer the most in the endless cycle of violent reprisals between
Israelis and Palestinians.
We are equally horrified by the massacre of Pakistani Christians at
St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in the city of Behawalpur on October 28th.
In a corruption of the Islamic faith, the terrorist invoked the name of
Allah as they slaughtered innocent worshipers. Earlier comments by Catholic
Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, proved prophetic when he
told Christians and Muslims there that it was not wise for the United States
to “throw the whole world into a fire” in order to target one person.
As the bodies of the innocent continue to climb in Palestine, Israel,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places, the fire of religious hatreds are
inflamed. Those who would seek to impose their will on others through the
use of violence only succeed in making things worse. You cannot quench
the flames of hate by starting more fires. Those who think they can control
violence and use it for good are only fooling themselves. The consequences
of their violence can never fully be comprehended or calculated.
For these reasons Pax Christi USA urgently appeals to the Bush Administration
to halt the bombing campaign to allow sufficient aid to be delivered to
the Afghan people before the onset of winter. UN aid officials have
estimated that some 7.5 million innocent Afghan civilians might be threatened
with starvation. Some 500,000 children are even now at high risk
for death due to malnutrition and disease. The current conditions for civilians
in Afghanistan as well as the swelling refugee camps along the Pakistani
border portend a human disaster of cataclysmic proportions.
"We are afraid that people do not grasp the magnitude of the crisis
unfolding inside Afghanistan," reported Luc Picard, a Pakistan representative
for Catholic Relief Services in a recent statement. "Numbers are impossible
to judge accurately,” said Picard, "but millions are surely at risk, and
hundreds of thousands are facing life threatening food needs. It
really is a race against time to reach them before the snow cuts them off
The US bombing campaign in pursuit of terrorist criminals is preventing
international aid agencies and the United Nations from their ongoing relief
efforts. Pax Christi USA affirms the position recently articulated by the
Vatican that those responsible for the September 11th attacks must be brought
to justice through due process. However, as Archbishop Renato Martino,
Permanent Representative of the Holy See at the United Nations stressed:
"This must be done in a way that does not expose even more innocent civilians
to death and destruction. Violence, on top of violence will only
lead to more violence. This is a time for wisdom and perseverance."
President Bush has repeatedly stated that the US is not at war with
the people of Afghanistan. Such assurances are cruelly contradicted
by the persistence of US bombing in the face of such a looming humanitarian
catastrophe. The "wisdom" called for by the Vatican would recognize that
a willingness to allow millions of innocent civilians to perish as a direct
result of the bombing campaign would not only be a moral failure, but a
practical setback to the goal of ending terrorism as well.
Moreover, such a calculated disregard for life at this scale will send
a clear signal to all peoples of the region that their lives are similarly
expendable in the effort to end terrorism. This is not a basis for building
the kind of international cooperation needed to end terrorism.
If the goal of the war on terrorism is to make US citizens, and indeed,
all people more secure, then consideration must be given to the clearly
identifiable effects of each tactic chosen in the larger campaign strategy.
Exacerbating the already desperate plight of refugees in Afghanistan and
surrounding nations will reinforce the very myths about the US that have
served the terrorists well and will create even more fertile ground for
terrorist recruiting in the future. Thus our own military efforts
to confront terrorism are in fact sowing the seeds of more violence in
another generation filled with despair and hatred.
The Afghan Winter is only three weeks away. Already the first snows
have fallen on the Hindu Kush Mountains and the isolated highlands of Hazarajat.
But even before the winter weather confounds aid efforts, the US bombing
campaign has all but halted relief deliveries. The bombing campaign must
be suspended immediately and all efforts expended to sufficiently supply
the people of Afghanistan with the essentials for survival and human dignity.
Only in this way can the US effectively communicate its position that we
are not at war with the people of Afghanistan. Only in this way can
we begin to counter the violence of desperation and desolation that breeds
hatred and violence.
Pax Christi USA remains committed to follow the Nonviolent Jesus who calls us to break the spiral of violence through love of neighbor and enemy alike. We stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Islamic world and with all people of good will, in working to put out the fires of hatred and violence that are consuming our world.
For media interviews call Tom Cordaro, chair, Pax Christi USA National Council, at 630-369-0777.
Pax Christi USA is the national Catholic peace movement. Its 14,000 members work for the transformation of society through nonviolence and advocate peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States. The movement, headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania, publishes peace education literature and develops ministry programs that promote justice for the sake of creating a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. Pax Christi USA is a section of Pax Christi International, which is active in more than 30 countries.
Phyllis Turner Jepson, Coordinator
Local/Regional Coordinator's Office
Pax Christi USA - A National Section of the International Catholic Peace Movement