Justice

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Justice

A Reminder from Matthew 18:10

December 3, 2015 by

Last September the image of a dead child washed up on a Greek beach seared the hearts of people around the world. Overnight the tone of the debate on immigration changed. The floods of people pouring into Europe were no longer viewed as economic migrants out to steal our benefits, but as desperate refugees – children, mothers, and fathers – fleeing a horrible war. Governments were shamed into accepting more refugees. There was a tremendous outpouring of compassion from ordinary people.

Today as UK warplanes commence airstrikes on Syria, we desperately need another such reality check. In the wake of the attacks in Paris, the drumbeat for war with the Islamic State has become deafening. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all members of Parliament who had the courage to vote against this mad rush to war. We need to admit that the targets our warplanes will bomb are not camps of evil ISIS fighters out in the desert, but towns inhabited by families, by women, by children. Tucked away in the endless news coverage of the Syrian war, I read this: “Airstrikes on Raqqa last week are reported to have killed five children when bombs fell near a school.” Does it matter if those bombs were Russian, American, or French? How many more children must be killed or traumatized before this war ends?

I am not going to attempt to lay out a political solution to the war in Syria. Instead I am reminded of the words of Jesus: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Right now thousands of angels stand before our Father in heaven representing Syrian children. Let us join them in beseeching him that his peace comes to Syria.

a painting of a candle with cloud and angel shapes in the background

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  • Joe Hine, I salute your willingness to broadcast your views and I, a man who lives in the northeast United States, feel gratitude to the head of the Labor Party for not consenting, indeed more to the point, not assenting, to the government's call to launch airstrikes against Isis strongholds. For that, he was accused of being a "terrorist sympathizer"rather than speaking his convictions against war. And I was glad that countries, especially Germany, moved to provide refuge and humanitarian care to those risking death to flee to another country, any country that will take them in. I look forward to the day that peace comes to Syria as you say but not just there but throughout the Middle East. I share your frustration over how many children "must" die before the madness of war comes to an end. Bowing to public outcry and governmental protest from national leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, to name but a few, military commands including those of the United States, have attempted to minimize "collateral damage" and make what they characterize as surgical strikes. But as you mention, unintended targets such as non-combatants, still are attacked with unintended consequences, such as the death of children. However, at times military leaders with the authority of the head of state, authorize airstrikes to take out a human target deemed a terrorist even if this entails destroying infrastructure and human and non-human life (animals,wells, farmland, for example). In these cases, a compensation package is offered to a surviving family or clan, or an official apology displayed, or a promise to be more cautious and careful in future use of deadly force is exacted. I do not decry the horrors of war ["fleeing a horrible war"] although clearly war does have its horrors but lament inwardly that such horrors are not sufficient deterrents to starting or maintaining wars. After all, here in the United States, in the aftermath of World War One, there was the popular expression that it was the war to end all wars and that has proved not to have happened. I'm not sure if the multiplying effects, the cumulative toll, of such horrors contributes to the effort to bring war to a close, to a cessation of hostilities, at the least. Again, using the United States as an example, under President R.M. Nixon, a sustained carpet bombing campaign especially in and around Hanoi in Vietnam did force what would eventually by Nixon be called "an honorable peace in our times." But, I am aware that citing a few historical examples, as I do here, do not make a logical argument. I hasten to add, that I am not unaffected by these horrors and I, too, was moved when I saw the newspaper image of a soldier carrying the limp body of a boy, a mere child, who drowned and the father who wept bitterly. I am also glad that some newspapers still are free enough from censorship that we are able to see the toll that war takes on people fleeing their homeland. Such newspaper coverage, especially the images, have a powerful effect and serve as an alternative to the rally around the flag rhetoric and talk of spreading democracy or removing dictators----and you fill in the blank---rationales for waging war. I join with you in prayer, hoping for an end to this war,and agree with you in voicing your outrage against war, and more specifically the killing of innocent casualties. I continue to take as my standard (double meaning intended) the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, blessed are the peacemakers. May we continue to see other common acts of compassion such as helping the displaced and may we, if within our ability, find ways to lend helping hands or speak up or speak out in their behalf. War as I see it is part of what has been termed a culture of death. And, I for one, shall have no part in it. I pray God, to give me strength, that I not demonize those portrayed as the enemies in war, ISIS, but even as I write these words, I realize how counter-cultural they are in parts of the United States. I lay claim in this case to Romans 12:1. Thank you Joe Hine for adding your voice, your sympathy, your protest.

    R. Anthony Squire
  • Oh how our father in heaven must be crying. When will we learn that no one wins in war.

    Lydia Lewis