"Blessed are the peacemakers," we Christians are told in our marching orders. Too many times, we don't recognize individuals as peacemakers until after they have died, and we fail to recognize peacemaking efforts from individuals we are accustomed to reading about every day. About a week ago I wrote about the work of building peace that is being done by an African Archbishop. Today I see evidence of peacemaking both from our President and two Church leaders. I think the efforts toward good will and peacemaking of President Barack Obama, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City are worthy of praise today. I am particularly proud that Cardinal McCarrick and Archbishop Dolan are taking the risk of being visible and accountable as leaders in these crises; it is time that the sexual abuse incidents not be linked with the good that can be done by church leaders.
Sometimes the ideas of scholars who study peacemaking remain disconnected from public events occurring at the time of their research; the gap between the Academy and Political life can be vast, leaving important solutions neglected. During the past several days, two chronic, traumatic, and debilitating situations--withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, and
sometimes venemous talks between various constituencies regarding the building of a Mosque/Prayer Center in Lower Manhattan, where proper zoning for such a structure exists--capture our attention but cloud our vision of positive actions that may be occurring. There is a link between academic research recently discussed in AMERICA, discussions on our blogs (in which
the level of intensity parallels what is occurring across the country), and positive and hopefully effective peacemaking by Obama, McCarrick, and Dolan.
On August 3, 2010 Fr. Drew Christiansen wrote about a new book on peacemaking written by scholars at the Kroc International Institute at the University of Nortre Dame. One of the themes in this book is the need for peacemakers to balance righteousness with acts of reconciliation--on both or all sides of a conflict. The description of the tension between human-rights and war tribunals versus those working for amnesty and reconciliation seemed pivotal and worthy of much, much more study and discussion, and the blog noted:
Perhaps the work of George Marshall in rebuilding Europe after World War II could offer suggestions on how to involve the armed services in the constructive rebuilding and restoration of countries decimated by war. Marshall was rewarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953--the only Army General in U.S. History to attain this honor--and his work after WW II bridged the huge disconnect traditionally seen between the military and rebuilding/reconciling forces.
On August 13th, 2010, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington also recommended some kind of variation of the Marshall Plan to allow United States forces to peacefully withdraw from Iraq. Accompanying this would be a rebuilding of the country's infrastructure to allow that nation to rebuild and become one of the world's leaders, similar to the manner in which Germany and Japan were rebuilt by United States actions after World War II. In response to McCarrick's proposal, questions concerning the economic feasibility of this possible solution remain to be addressed.
In a drama unfolding before our eyes today August 19, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City offered to serve as a mediator between various constituencies in the verbal hostilities in New York City surrounding the building of a Mosque/Islamic Center in the vicinity of Ground Zero. Yesterday various points of view were discussed in the blogs and one recommendation was that the Church support some kind of reconciliation due to the discussions becoming increasingly heated and stuck in high levels of mutual hostility. We hope that this step presages Dolan's potential role as a mediator, peacemaker, and national church spokesman in criticsl public affairs--a traditional function of the New York Archbishop.
Our President deserves support, too. Last night President Obama, in what is a compassionate gesture, offered his support for an aid package to emergency first responders at Ground Zero. This has been stalled in legislation, and if enacted is bound to decrease resentment and grudges that lie unresolved. A yield from this hopefully could be greater openness to building a Mosque/Islamic Center in view of the reciprocal attention being given to the different constituencies. (Of course, there will be a political payoff for Obama, but it is the mark of a true statesman to combine helpful and human programs with helpfulness for one's political party.)
I believe the efforts of President OBama, Cardinal McCarrick, and Archbishop Dolan represent highly promising approaches to de-escalate and encourage healing in two de-humanizing situations. I hope you will follow these efforts as to me they are very encouraging, and the unfolding process allows people of good will on all sides to try to implement approaches that balance righteousness with reconciliation, perhaps the hardest task of all for peacemakers.
William Van Ornum