Demilitarization -- Jesuits on War



We, the Jesuits of the Central American Province, meeting together in our Province Congregation, wish to declare the following:

1. The world faces the most dangerous situation since the end of the Cold War
because of President George Bush's threat to attack Iraq, a sovereign country.
In fact, more than two hundred thousand soldiers, mostly from the USA but also
from Great Britain and Australia, have already been deployed in the area, plus
five aircraft carriers, hundreds of planes and war ships, and thousands of
missiles. This threatening situation has placed humanity in a state of fear,
indignation and uncertainty about its future. Should war begin, it would cause
enormous human harm. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs has calculated that there would be approximately half a million
serious injuries or deaths, a million refugees, and two million internally
displaced people. This means that 15 percent of the Iraq population would be
affected -- an apocalyptic scenario of disappeared people, orphans and widows,
massive fires in oil and natural gas wells, and the abrupt rise of prices
worldwide, with disastrous consequences for the world economy, especially in
the most impoverished regions.

2. These tragedies would manifest many other losses: the death of the human
community, the triumph not only of injustice and inhumanity, but also of
cruelty, which kills the human soul. These tragedies would demonstrate the
triumph of deceitfulness and lies, since we know that the government of the
United States and its allies has been unable to prove their alleged reason for
an attack: the existence of a considerable number of weapons of mass
destruction. Truth is being suppressed in order to justify evil. As the Gospel
of John says: "the Evil One is a murderer and a liar," and in that order. Many
of the slogans on the signs that people carried in the worldwide protests of
February 15 revealed a common suspicion: "Blood for oil." Others alluded to
the awful necessity of the military industry to test its newest products every
so often. But these tragedies would also reveal the triumph of hypocrisy,
because Iraq is being accused of not having complied with United Nations
resolutions, when we all know that Israel has failed to do so countless times,
supported by its unconditional protector, the United States government. These
tragedies would mean the triumph of arrogant power, of a state and a
government that wish to decide, by and for themselves, the fate of the planet,
while turning a deaf ear to those who, for good reasons, think differently,
and above all, to the voices of the victims: 23 million Iraqis. These
tragedies would demonstrate the de-humanization that takes place when the
responsibility of a resourceful nation degenerates into oppression, dominance
and death.

3. We join our voices to the cries of the world, of millions of human beings
of many nations, religions and Churches, in condemning any military attack
against Iraq, as well as the above-mentioned evils that would result from such
an attack. The reasons have been set forth by many others: from the
perspective of international law, this would be an illegitimate attack; from
the perspective of ethics and moral values, a so-called "pre-emptive war" has
no justification, especially in this case, since nothing indicates that Iraq
is poised to unleash weapons forbidden by international law against the United

4. But the deepest, most Christian reason is the merciless cruelty that would
be inflicted on a people, 23 million inhabitants, who have already suffered
innumerable cruelties-- and many of them from Saddam Hussein, above all the
horrible massacre of the Kurdish people. In the war of 1991, about one hundred
thousand Iraqis died. According to UNICEF, half a million children had died by
1996 as a result of the boycott against Iraq and the use of depleted uranium
weaponry. (The number could be a million today.) This is what John Paul II has
been denouncing; it has been the heart of his denunciation: "What shall we say
about the threat of a war that could strike the people of Iraq, the land of
the prophets, people who have already been severely afflicted by more than 12
years of embargo?" Our human consciences, and specifically our Christian
consciences, judge that unjustly harming others is evil, and harming a
suffering people like the Iraqis, is unforgivable cruelty.

5. This grave situation has also produced a wave of goodness. The pain of the
victims has awakened millions of human beings from a detached, unfeeling
slumber. The protests of these days in the great cities of the West have
broken all records, and, in spite of the diverse interests they may reflect,
their message has been clear: no to war, no to lies, no to injustice, no to
cruelty. Many of these voices call to mind the Christian Parable of the Good
Samaritan, in their refusal to ignore the victim, as the priest and the Levite
did, and, of course, in their refusal to ally themselves with the bandits and
assailants. They would rather not hear God's accusing question: "What have you
done to your brother?" Others have protested in the name of different
religions, or in the name of shame and human dignity. But the response is
there: against cruelty, compassion; against lies, truth; against arrogant
power, a worldwide network of solidarity.

6. As Jesuits and Christians, we welcome the fact that members of the
Christian Churches and of Islam have come together in this grave situation.
The encounter between Cardinal Etchegaray and President Saddam Hussein is an
important gesture. The God of Jesus, whom we profess, is the Father of
Christians, of Muslims, and of all humanity.

7. Isaiah already said it and it has been repeated by the popes of our times:
"Opus justitiae pax", that is, "peace is the work of justice." What is most
urgent is to stop the war. What is most necessary is to do justice. We hear
these days the macabre expression "pre-emptive war"; but if we really want to
"reverse the course of history," as our martyr Ignacio Ellacuría demanded, it
is necessary and urgent to go on to practice "compassion, mercy, and
pre-emptive justice." For fear of unimaginable tragedies, we must stop this
war. For love of the world's poor majorities, we must do justice. The fruits
of this will be peace and real human community- a reality sadly forgotten by
the prevailing geopolitical visions of every age.

8. As we write this, we Central American Jesuits know what we are talking
about. It was not so long ago that our Central American nations suffered
injustice, war, disappearances, poverty, lies, contempt, domination, and the
cruelty that all this brings; and on many occasions, the United States was
responsible, or co-responsible, for this suffering. This is why we sympathize
with the Iraqi people, in spite of the geographical distance, and why we also
understand the people of Afghanistan, and those of the Democratic Republic of
Congo, of Ethiopia, of Eritrea, and of our neighbor, Colombia. We understand
all those suffering, silenced people who have become virtually non-existent,
because their existence is of no interest to the powerful. This is why we ask
for the end of war and the beginning of compassion and justice. We wish to
express our gratitude and admiration to those who are working for these ideals
today, ideals symbolized by many human beings - above all, the US citizens --
who have decided to be physically present in Iraq in order to defend the
defenseless children, women and the elderly from cruelty, and who offer them
love and solidarity. Millions of people around the world have cried out No to
war, because they wish to break the spiral of violence, as does Pope John Paul
II, who said a few weeks ago: "War is a defeat for humanity."
In Central America, many women and men have defended the weak, and have loved
them unto the end. They are martyrs of Central America and of our Society of
Jesus. We wish to revive their human and Christian message today, and
proclaim, in the words of Archbishop Romero, what we think is at stake, for
God, in Iraq today: "The glory of God is that the poor may live." This is our
faith and our hope. This is our commitment. San Salvador

19 February 2003
José Alberto Idiáquez, S.J.



Don't believe the hype.