My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Recently, I came across an interesting fact that on August 16, 1926, the delegates at the Fifth International Democratic Peace Conference, who gathered in France, encamped in tents upon the onetime World War I battlefields of France and voted to pursue an intensive study of international peace work.
The goal of this meeting was to establish the first International Peace Month, to study how international peace could be made a universal goal in the world. Unfortunately, as is evident in today’s world, the good intentions of 1926 have not been achieved, as peace is an ever-elusive factor in our world society.
For the past 50 years, beginning with Saint Paul VI, the World Day of Peace has been established by the Holy See as January 1, a day in which we sincerely pray for world peace. As we recognize the elusive nature of peace in our world today, it is not that nations are fighting one another for territory, as was very common in the past. Rather, it is internal conflicts and civil wars which plague our world.
The withdrawal of the United States military and NATO forces from Afghanistan, which has been labeled the longest U.S. war in our history, follows our almost 20 years of occupation of that land. The stated purpose was to make it a place where terrorism would not be nurtured. Unfortunately, beneath the issues, there is the existence of radical Islam which states that there is no difference between religious authority and civil authority.
The Taliban has recently reclaimed Afghanistan. As I write, the capital city of Kabul has fallen and evacuations are in progress. As we all know, this group rules with severe authority making even the education of women something that is outlawed. The normalcy of Afghanistan which was achieved in the past 20 years may soon be lost.
There are many other internal strifes, and wars going on in the world today, some of which are perhaps too numerous to mention. Some that somehow never seem to make the headlines, however, are the ongoing civil wars in Somalia, the Tigray Region in Ethiopia, and Yemen. These internal civil disputes, or disturbances, are very difficult to control. There seems to be nothing worse than a civil war; brother fighting brother, or tribe against tribe, two sides where it would seem impossible to be reconciled.
If we look at our world with its tremendous development, we recognize that peace is ever elusive.
The root causes of these types of strife normally will be found in seemingly irreconcilable differences between the two sides, as well as the lack of any means to bring about at least a cease-fire in many cases. One of the sustaining causes of the factors is that the international business of exporting guns, ammunition, and explosives seems to fuel these simmering disputes. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has consistently condemned the arms trade, “It is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade.” He has also said, “Peace is the priority of all politics. God will ask an accounting of those who failed to seek peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts. He will call them to account for all the days, months, and years of war endured by the world’s peoples.”
Politics, unfortunately, has entered into many of these disputes. For the gain of one side, many others suffer ill effects. In another address just last October, Pope Francis said, “We need peace. More peace. We cannot remain indifferent. Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which, though often forgotten, are always the cause of suffering and poverty.”
We can be proud of the civil leadership that our Holy Fathers have exercised over the last century and longer, always being the world leaders who have called for peace among nations, peace among peoples, and peace in our own selves.
This month, as we commemorate a quest for peace, we put out into the deep recesses of our own souls where sometimes personal peace becomes elusive to us. We seek a peace that God alone can give. As the old saying goes, however, peace must begin with us. And so, as we look towards the last weeks of August, when we have some time to relax and think more deeply, join me in prayer to see how we each can further the cause of peace in the world.