By REV. MSGR. THOMAS R. DUFFY
When Pope John Paul II was in Cuba, he called for an end of the 35-year old embargo of that nation by the United States. His pleas were not only hailed by Cuba, but were welcomed by many people in the United States. The embargo has been very successful in contributing to economic hardships, especially for the poor, but so far, haven’t removed Fidel Castro from power. In fact, it could be argued that our failure to seek to lift the embargo may have contributed to his staying in power. There is no argument that because of the embargo the poor suffer the most.
Pope John Paul II has also frequently called upon the United States to lift the embargo against Iraq because there the embargo is, without question, causing great harm to innocent people. It is also arguable that it is helping Saddam Hussein to stay in power. It is so easy for him to portray the United States as the enemy of his people when we act like it.
Long ago, President Richard Nixon had the wisdom to stop ignoring China as if it did not exist and to begin talks and eventually trade. No, all the problems that threaten our ability to live peacefully have not disappeared but we are both better off in at least we feel we can talk to each other.
There even seems to be some hints that officially the governments of Iran and the United States might be on the brink of talking to one another. As a nation we need to be open to talk to every other nation, not because we all have to live in the world but because we are all human and have to live as the brothers and sisters we really are.
At the present time, as citizens we need to be concerned that our government is not only obviously intent on keeping the embargo against Iraq despite the suffering it brings on innocent people but is preparing to and by the time this is printed, may already have started military action against Iraq. Most of us as citizens may not care and sadly the fact seems that many would approve of showing our military might against Iraq. This is sad. Many more innocent people will suffer and we will once again as a nation be sending the wrong messages.
One message will clearly be to the people of Iraq that they are our enemies or at least people whose lives are not as vulnerable as ours. Another message will be expressing support of terrorists, who out of fear, think that violence against innocent people is justified.
For those who are Christians, out of love for our nation, let’s pray and encourage our leaders not to turn to violence, but to courageously continue diplomatic means to solve our national differences with Iraq. The people there, including Hussein, in faith, we believe, are our brothers and sisters. We must love enough to seek to keep talking with them and never fear them so much that we think we have a reason to hate them and kill them.
Using the military might of the United States against Iraq will not be a sign of our greatness as a nation. May those Americans who believe in Jesus have the courage to say to their leaders what they think Jesus would say to them.
Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy is pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Garden City.