think hope not despair

Pick a day, any day and you will not have to search far to discover the persistent chronicle of human hatred and violence deeply embedded in our…

Pick a day, any day and you will not have to search far to discover the persistent chronicle of human hatred and violence deeply embedded in our collective history.

On first inspection this could lead you straight into despair.

What real chance do we have to survive as a species given our tendencies, and increasing technological capacity, to do ourselves in?

Where is the wisdom in Homo sapiens?

On a list I have in front of me, June 9 gives credence to this chronicle of hatred and violence. On this day, Héctor Gallego ‘disappeared’ in Panama in 1971.

‘Disappeared,’ originally a Latin American euphemism for extra-judicial murder, sadly has gained global acceptance.

It seems that the crime Father Gallego committed was in too vigorously defending the rights of poor campesinos.

In 1979, Father Juan Morán who placed his life on the line for the beleaguered Mazahuas, an indigenous people in Mexico, paid the ultimate price for his stand.

This list of suffering and death of individuals and communities goes on and on.

The typical human response to the threat of violence, real or perceived, has been to up the ante.

On this day in 1959, the United States launched its first submarine to carry ballistic missiles, the USS George Washington. The Soviet Union kept pace in this threat derby.

Twenty-six years later, the Islamic Jihad honed its asymmetrical warfare weapon, political kidnapping, with the abduction of Thomas Sutherland in Lebanon.

He would become the second-longest held captive there, after Terry Anderson.

Wikipedia, “the biggest multilingual, free content encyclopaedia on the internet” offers dates like these in robust profusion.

Every summer for the last five years, I have taken on the task of editing the annual Latin American Global Agenda for the Social Justice Committee in Montreal.

I like the opportunity for solidarity this small effort offers our social justice community here in the Yukon.

Father Jose María Vigil from Panama and Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga from Mato Grosso, Brazil, engage a series of writers from around Latin America, and the world, to reflect on a given theme.

They also include a daily list of commemorations.

I quoted from that list earlier. It is a distinctive feature of their Latin American Agenda.

They insist on maintaining our collective memory of people like Toribia Flores de Cutipa, a Peruvian woman who was murdered on this date by security forces in 1981 because of her vigorous leadership of her peasant community.

The editors of the Latin American Agenda want us to remember and be inspired by those who actively pursued their vision of a just, peace-filled world.

They would not, however, view this sad history, as a cause for despair. They want us to see these sacrificed lives rather as signs of hope.

Throughout history, people across cultures have been willing, and continue to be willing to peacefully give their lives for others.

The events in Ontario this past week force us, once again, to confront the violent reality of today’s world.

What will our response be?

Are we going to try to build higher walls of security to give us temporary respite from inequality and prejudice spawned violence?

Or will we seek to build bridges of understanding that seek to address the underlying causes of unrest in our world today?

Which way will we choose?

Today Héctor, Juan and Toribia’s examples can still offer us hope.