Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blessed Are the Peacemakers; Where Are the Peacemakers?

Recently Argentine President Christina Kirchner asked Pope Francis to mediate Argentina’s dispute with Great Britain over an archipelago which the Argentines, who claim sovereignty, call the Malvinas Islands and which Britain, which holds sovereignty, calls the Falklands.  The Islands, about three hundred miles off the coast of Argentina, have been in dispute since the eighteenth century when both Britain and Spain had settlements there.  The islands were unsettled at the time the Europeans first reached them and the majority of inhabitants there today are of British descent.  In 1982 the Argentines invaded the islands in hopes of establishing their sovereignty but were beaten in the subsequent war by the British.  Argentina is once again rumbling the drums of nationalism and this led to the invitation to the Pope to mediate the struggle.  For years now the Decolonizaiton Committee of the United Nations has called for a mediated settlement—but should it be the Pope?  Britain does not think so. 
Britain declined papal mediation with politicians claiming in the words of one Falklands legislator: “the last thing we need is religion inserted in this.”  Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said: “I certainly share the view that religion is unlikely to help solve this.”  Once again the zanies took up their cry about how the Church is being disrespected.  But it is obvious to all but the most dense that Pope Francis is not the man to mediate this dispute, but not because he is Pope or represents “religion.”  He is an Argentine.  He has a vested interest.  He comes from a background that is bound to bias him.  And it puts him in a no-win situation: he is bound to alienate either the Argentines or the Brits.  It is just a stupid idea.  But even more stupid are people like Ambassador Grant or local councilman who thinks religion is the last thing needed to resolve these counter-claims.  Religious leaders—ones who could be truly uninvested in the dispute—would be perfect.  Perhaps Archbishop TuTu from South Africa would be good at this.  The Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala or Cardinal Shönborn of Vienna are two others who have the potential to be good mediators.  There could also be Riccardo di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome.  Or, if you wanted the best, the Dalai Lama—no one has more credibility (except in China) than he.  I think religion could play a very valuable role here.  But, of course, there are others like Ambassador Grant, who write religion off.  And not without reason.  For all its potential to be an agency of peace, religion—including Christianity and including Catholicism—all too often are, if not the source of conflict, the gasoline its partisans pour on the flames that only make conflicts worse rather than better.  We need both as Church and as individuals to recapture our vocation to be peacemakers, agents of reconciliation and not division. 

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