Ever witnessed the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a tornado?
I have seen the shattered remnants of a neighbourhood. Roofless homes with blasted out windows and the scattered detritus of destruction all around are images I am sure that we all share in our media-connected world.
In the wake of the housing mortgage fiasco in the United States that triggered the current global economic crisis other destroyed neighbourhoods of abandoned, boarded-up homes have been added to our common mental photo album. Natural or man-made, calamities like these take a real toll on families and communities. They demand a response.
Fortunately wealthy countries like the United States and Canada usually have had the resources and the political will to address domestic challenges like these. Globally, however, this has not been the case. We know that our lifestyles demand a disproportionate share of the world’s resources.
The on-going catastrophe of global poverty in part owes its continued existence to the inability or unwillingness of the powerful to reform a patently unjust global economic system. Military might too often has been used to maintain or extend economic as well as political hegemony. This has got to change.
According to Project Ploughshare’s (www.ploughshares.ca) recently released 2008 Armed Conflicts Report 40 per cent of the world’s 30 present conflicts afflict Africa. Another nearly 37 per cent are occurring in Asia. The poorest of our world bear the brunt of its violent conflicts.
In a Catholic Register interview last month Ernie Regehr, the founder and senior researcher of this ecumenical agency of the Canadian Council of Churches stated that “You create peace by building the conditions that make it sustainable.” This sentiment was mirrored by Senator Romeo Dallaire when he noted on his September visit to the Yukon that little effort has been expended on conflict avoidance in the multiple wars wracking our world today.
Conflicts rooted in inequality must be addressed at their most fundamental level. We must seek to eliminate the gross disparity in access to the basic requisites for a decent life which are denied a quarter of humanity. Without justice there can be no peace. Or as Pope Paul VI said four decades ago in his famous encyclical Populorum Progressio, “Development is the new name for Peace.”
Project Ploughshares, which seeks to “implement the churches’ call to be peacemakers and to work for a world in which justice will flourish and peace abound” added up the cost of what it took to equip, train, maintain and deploy the armies of the world. It set the figure at $1,297.8 trillion dollars in 2006. The United States comes in as by far the world’s biggest spender at $535.9 billion dollars. The combined expenditures of the rest of the NATO countries, including Canada, follows in at $268.2 billion. China at $121.9 is next, then it is Russia with $70 billion committed to its military.
President-elect Barack Obama has enormous problems to contend with during his presidency. A mark of his ultimate success will be the degree to which his administration can divert the vast resources his country now spends on its war-making capabilities to peace-building. Obama’s own wars may have more to do with facing off against entrenched vested interests in his own country that any real or imaginary foreign foes.
The 17th annual Global Village Craft Fair will be held on Saturday, November 15th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a new location, L’Alexandrin (the old Legion Hall) at 306 Alexander Street. Ten Thousand Villages, New Internationalist and other fair trade crafts and products from co-operatives and self-help groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America will be featured. Come support global development initiatives and social justice efforts of Yukoners to build a more caring, peace-filled world. For more information call 633-6579.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, November 9 — 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew: 1-12.
Sunday, November 9 — Dedication of Saint John Lateran, the oldest of the major basilicas of Rome and holding the place of ecumenical mother church among Roman Catholics, is remembered.
Monday, November 10 — Martin Luther, church reformer and Father of Protestantism, was born on this day in 1483.
Wednesday, November 12 — Birth of Baha’u’llah in 1817, the founder of the Baha’i faith, is celebrated.
Thursday, November 13 — Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh teacher and master born in 1469, is honoured.