This post is adapted from the welcome post at the blog site of newly established Pax Christi Southwest Florida.
Some time ago, I was walking around the various military monuments at the Four Mile Cove Ecological Park in Cape Coral,Fla., site of a famous Iwo Jima statue (one of the originals, I’m told). At the end closest to the flags stands an army monument displaying a larger-than-life soldier saluting the nearby U.S. flag while holding his M16.
Standing next to the soldier is a little Iraqi boy holding a soccer ball in one hand and imitating the soldier’s salute with the other. The plaque at the base of the monument proclaims that the boy is copying the action of the soldier of the liberating nation, “expressing appreciation for his new freedom.”
I’m sure a lot of you were like me 10 years ago. 9/11 was still fresh in our minds. While Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida might not have been political allies, he was a dictator, and he was on their “side” against us, right? It seemed natural that the next step in the War on Terror would be to topple him and shine a beacon of American-style freedom in the Middle East.
That’s what we were told, and so many of us refused to question it. The premise for the war was founded on a lie. And though the war is over – by our definition, at least – the killing continues. After a decade, estimates range as high as 900,000 deaths caused by the war. And even though the war is “over,” people continue to die in sectarian violence.
Oh, and we’re still fighting in Afghanistan.
When Jesus told us on the hillside, “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9, HCSB),” he was not just doling out props. He was giving instructions. Being a peacemaker is a core responsibility of following Christ, one that we far too often fall short of doing.
Take a drive around your community. Can you count the military monuments? How often do you see big displays of support for “the troops,” especially when there is a camera around to see it?
But what we don’t see is the other side of the coin. When we’re high-fiving veterans for their service, we move on with our lives, unmindful that the veteran in question is a human being who is living with a lifetime of physical and mental scars. We admire the monuments to those who fight wars without wondering why we don’t have monuments to those who prevent them. The Iraqi boy in the statue makes it convenient for us to overlook the thousands of Iraqi children – as well as the countless thousands of children in other countries we’ve invaded – who have lived in fear, suffered horrific injuries or died at the hands of American weapons.
When we drive through our cities, we keep our eyes straight ahead and don’t think about the shooting that took place just a few blocks away. We don’t see the blight surrounding our favorite attractions. We don’t see the bacteria in our rivers from agricultural runoff.
We need peacemakers.
It is time that we as Christians love our veterans, which means we helping them instead of just thanking them.
It is time that we as Christians do what we can to make sure that there are no more veterans, because we want there to be no more war.
It is time that we as Christians work towards ending poverty, by extension ending the root causes of violence.
It is time that we as Christians campaign on behalf of the downtrodden, not against them.
It is time that we as Christians maintain our place as stewards of God’s creation, not exploiters.
It is time that we as Christians do what Christ told us to do and become peacemakers.