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Soul Mending

By Yvonne Zarowny


Blessed are the peacemakers

Mary Deutscher

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of the Divine.” Matthew 5:9

As the drums of war beat loudly and our federal administration uses the tragic shooting of Corporal Cirillo by the mentally ill Zehaf-Bibeau to further hollow out our “democracy” and “freedoms,” I wonder if those working for authentic peace are being blessed and called “children of the Divine” by their faith communities. I doubt it.

I wonder how many within our pews know or remember that when the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D & P) was created by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1967, it was the Canadian response to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio. This encyclical stated: “Development is the new name for Peace.”

To understand the significance of that statement to what is happening in our world today, it is important to understand the term “development.”

In anthropology, “development” refers to the manner in which a society is organized to meet, or not, the needs of its members. This goes beyond simple material needs (economics) to include a sense of purpose for one’s life, a sense of community, as well as a way of contributing to the common good.

Occasionally since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, there has been an emphasis in Catholic teaching on development that enables life with dignity for the whole person, male or female, for the full continuum.

Since Pope Benedict, and definitely with Pope Francis, there has also been an emphasis on inter-generational responsibility. That is, this generation has not the right to destroy God’s Creation for fleeting profit maximization for the few while destroying the possibility of future generations co-creating societies where all have life with dignity.

Yet, that is what we are doing. And so far, our official church refuses to join with other faith communities in condemning this practice. Why?

Contrary to the popular notion of “development,” all human societies since time immemorial have been and are developed. Our modes of governance as well as our economies are subsets of a mode of development which is itself a subset of a culture or way of making sense of ourselves and our worlds.

Given the increasing dystopia unfolding today, the challenge is to unpack how our societies are developed: who benefits? who pays? and who is making the decisions? Then we need to determine if the lived and Earth realities generated by this mode of development are consistent with the generation of authentic peace.

Given we have been in a state of perpetual war since the turn of the century, and this followed a century of unprecedented industrial killing, I suggest it isn’t.

What to do about it? Engage . . . and proudly own your being “political,” but not “partisan”!

In February, my parish had the good fortune to host Rev. Edwin Gariguez, an engaged priest from the Philippines.

He told us the story of why he got his PhD.

Because of his work on environmental issues as well as with the indigenous peoples in remote areas of his homeland, he was put on a DT list. DT stands for “dissident terrorist.” If this sounds familiar it should. Similar language is being used by our current federal administration in their Bill C-51.

Friends of Gariguez were killed. His bishop decided he had to leave. His PhD in applied cosmic anthropology was what he did until it was safe for him to return to his homeland.

I was openly envious of his degree title. We have similar academic backgrounds — except I don’t get to call my credentials applied cosmic anthropology. That basically means that how we make sense of our world as well as our power and place in it comes from our “stories.”

Gariguez’s PhD outlined how the ecological spirituality of the indigenous peoples in Mindoro is a practical framework and alternative paradigm for achieving sustainable development and well-being.

This is consistent with the “Christian” story, including a Catholic version, where we are told we are all children of the Divine and that the Divine exists within all Creation. Catholic social teaching is very clear: Creation is not “ours” to do with as we will.

However, we have “freedom of choice.” We can contribute to the co-creation of societies from which flow life with dignity for all Creation — or not.

Whichever our choice, it is political.

If we choose to contribute to the “development” of societies that generate life with dignity for all Creation, we are contributing to the co-creation of authentic peace as Pope Paul VI stated.

It was hard for me to witness this lovely man try to explain he was not “political.” That his concern was human rights, life with dignity for all God’s Creatures and the viability of the eco-systems to support life. He was merely following his conscience — as Archbishop Romero did.

I explained to him that of course he was “political,” and that is OK. With the declaration of the Vatican that Romero was a martyr, even the powers that be in Rome have figured this out.

With Bill C-51, more of us will be classified as DTs in Canada as we stand against a mode of development enabled by a culture of death and greed.

As our current administration changes laws to enable global corporations to destroy God’s ecosystems’ capacity to support life with dignity, more of us will be considered criminals.

Who will stand with us? Will we be blessed as children of the Divine as we speak out and demonstrate against a mode of development that desecrates God’s Creation?

Will you stand with us? Will you bless us? When we are gone will you take our place?

Good Friday looms large and scary.