A Surprise in Libya
As violent demonstrations swept the Muslim world in protest over a viral video blaspheming Muhammad, other reactions in the Arab world continued to surprise skeptical outsiders. In Benghazi, Libya, crowds ran a counterprotest against the burning of the U.S. consulate and the killing of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues. They seized the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia, the militia suspected of the crimes, and drove it from the city. For those suspicious that the Arab Spring is a cover for a militant Islamist seizure of powe r, the counterdemonstration is strong proof that at the grassroots people reject violence and are still intent on building a democratic society.
For the moderate Libyan government, the crowd’s victory has given a boost to efforts to bring the armed militias under control. Mohamed Magarief, the interim head of state, has demanded that all militias disband or come under government control. In response to the demand and the citizens’ ire, Ansar al-Sharia surrendered its heavy weapons and disbanded. Reportedly other militias have also broken up. To worried Americans, the Libyans’ fearless citizen action should offer reassurance that they appreciate the assistance the West, including the United States, offered them toward winning their freedom and, in particular, a sign of how grateful they are for Ambassador Stevens’s service. Stevens had lived among them during the uprising against the Qaddafi regime as the U.S. representative to the resistance; and in the months that followed, he continued to move as a friend among the people, bridging the formal distance that usually accompanies ambassadorial appointees.
While some re-assessment of embassy security and intelligence is necessary, the late ambassador’s memory will be better served by bravely following his example of people-to-people diplomacy than by lurching back from engagement with the liberated peoples of North Africa. If we Americans put ourselves in a defensive crouch, we will be allowing the extremists to win.
Vets Among the Moochers?
While the public watched the video of Gov. Mitt Romney telling his supporters at a fundraiser that “47 percent of Americans don’t pay income tax,” are “dependent on government,” “consider themselves victims” and refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Senate Republicans blocked a $1 billion jobs program for veterans. Too few voters saw that. But consider how veterans and active members of the armed services fit, and don’t fit, into Mr. Romney’s 47 percent. For one thing, active service members are exempt from federal income tax on combat pay, yet they take responsibility not merely for their own lives but for the security of the nation. In return the federal government typically helps them obtain health care, education and jobs. Hundreds of thousands of veterans depend on government.
With the unemployment rate among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at nearly 11 percent, job assistance for veterans ought to win bipartisan support easily. The jobs bill sponsored by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, a Democrat, included provisions drawn by Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, a Republican. The Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012 would have provided $1 billion over five years to agencies that hire veterans as police, firefighters, first responders and national park workers. But the bill fell two votes short of the 60 votes required to overcome the threat of a filibuster (58 to 40). All 40 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans. Ironically, even Richard Burr joined his party in blocking the bill.
Here is an idea: every month members of the Catholic Church worldwide focus on a select few prayer intentions from a list proposed by the pope and circulated throughout the church. An intention might be, for example, the protection of the church in Africa or the success of new evangelization efforts.
Sound familiar? The Apostleship of Prayer has been a special ministry of the Society of Jesus since 1844. Drawing on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the movement invites Catholics to practice their faith by engaging in morning prayer and an evening review of the day. It also helps promote monthly prayer intentions, which are proposed by the pope. In September Pope Benedict encouraged Catholics to pray for politicians and for poor Christian communities. Here in the United States, the ministry is carried on in part by creative ventures like Hearts on Fire, a traveling group of young Jesuits who seek to minister to young adults.
Viewed by some as old-fashioned, the Apostleship of Prayer has proven surprisingly adaptable to the modern age. You no longer need a Sacred Heart Messenger to issue a call to prayer; 140 characters will do. The Jesuits are seeking to broaden the reach of the ministry through social media and by emphasizing the connection between prayer and the work for justice. The Apostleship of Prayer has the potential to connect Catholics around the world, demonstrating the global nature of the church and the solidarity we are all called to practice as Christians.