“Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future. . . . Dead children, injured children, mutilated children, children whose toys are things left over from war; children who can’t smile anymore.”
— Pope Francis July 27, 2014, St. Peter’s Square
This heartfelt appeal was made by Pope Francis after Israel strip bombed Gaza, killing 1,600 Palestinians and maiming many more. It could apply to any war . . . including those in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.
My month of May was split between a pilgrimage in Ireland with my niece and family time in England.
Just before I left, I watched the disturbing 50-minute documentary Saudi Arabia Uncovered (Youtube) made by a team of British investigative journalists and released in March 2016 on iTV.
It includes a clip of U.K. PM David Cameron defending the long-standing Anglo-Saudi alliance.
It also has shots — snuck out of the country because taking such pictures is illegal — of the Riyadh square specially built for public beheadings, the removal of other body parts, people hanging and being beaten.
If you watch the documentary — which I encourage you to do — I suggest you do not do it alone.
There is neither freedom of the press nor religion in Saudi Arabia (SA).
A Roman Catholic priest can be killed for wearing a roman collar!
Why do we not know this?
“Christians” in SA are not considered in Roman Catholic appeals to “save Christians in the Middle East” as they are not “indigenous.” They are “only” foreign workers — about two million of them.
The current Saudi regime sanctions public crucifixions, hangings and floggings while educating its young to hate Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who do not adhere to their form of Islam.
I return to that in future columns.
Here it is important for us to remember this Saudi regime is an ally and trading partner of Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. We all sell billions of dollars of weapons and services to them.
When the similarities between the Saudi regime and those we are told we must “liberate” or “kill otherwise they will kill us” is pointed out to foreign policy decision-makers, we are told: “there is no such thing as “perfect allies” and “these sales provide jobs at home.”
If you do not want what you see and hear in this documentary to continue, I encourage you to write your MP as well as talk with your priest and bishop.
Why is this not in the Catholic press? Why is this not part of “pro-life/culture of life” campaigns?
Doing nothing gives your tacit support to hate, intolerance and an economy built on the death of others . . . including children.
While in England I witnessed the slick, well-funded campaign of lies, racism, and emotional manipulation of the “Leave” side of the Brexit referendum which led to the murder of one young U.K. MP and a 57 per cent rise (and rising) in hate-crime complaints.
I also experienced my own family being uncomfortable discussing Brexit with friends (often members of their parish) because the emotional campaign of intolerance and lies had so polarized people.
Having been in numerous war zones, to me, it was like watching the ground work for violence being laid — that could easily lead to civil war.
Upon my return home, the insert for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada (CNEWA) fell out of an issue of Prairie Messenger.
A version of the above quote was on it under the heading “Pope Francis’ Plea to Save Children in the Middle East.”
I looked through it and their website. There was no mention of Saudi Arabia.
I fired off a list of questions to them.
To his credit, that resulted in a long, deep and far-ranging conversation with Carl Hetu, their national director.
My conclusion from that conversation is we don’t know enough about our own histories as Christians, as a country, as a piece of empires of which we have been/are part — to even ask good questions much less the right questions!
Without the capacity to ask at least good questions, we have no hope of saving children . . . or stopping the social and climatic chaos resulting in the death, maiming or homelessness of millions of them.
Most Catholic press and organizations do nothing to enlighten us.
At best, they draw our attention momentarily to a few superficial symptoms of a seriously malfunctioning mode of development. If we donate money, they can alleviate a few of these symptoms for a few impacted. This the CNEWA flier did well.
This is important.
It is not enough, if our goal is to save children and help all in the Middle East have life with dignity.
What more is needed will be the focus of the next set of columns.
Meantime, please use your power to ask questions.
You have the power to change the tone of conversations promoting hatred, intolerance and worship at the altar of the Bronze Bull by respectfully raising questions.
Become informed. Start by reading some of the “backgrounders” on the Development and Peace website. It has information different than you get through the dominant or most Catholic media.
If we each own and constructively use our power, we can save the children.
And we are never alone on this sacred journey. Jesus promised.
An educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.