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Put faith where feet are in war zones.

Does our Catholic faith suggest any steps to curb the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia? So far, the efforts of our own government, the United Nations and the European Community have been ineffective. The warring parties agree to cease-fires, only to break them the next day. The carnage rolls on.

A catastrophic larger war is possible, drawing in countries like Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey. That could produce millions of refugees, destabilizing a wide area and killing tens of thousands more innocent people.

Yugoslav fighters who held off Hitler's divisions during World War II are not likely to bend easily. Increased military, economic and political coercion are as likely to escalate the conflict as reduce it.

Perhaps we need to look elsewhere for solutions. Might our religious tradition have something to contribute, given its ideals of peacemaking and reconciliation? In their peace pastoral, our Catholic bishops taught:

We are called to be a church at

the service of peace. . . .As disciples

and as children of God, it is our task

to seek for ways in which to make

the forgiveness, justice and mercy

and love of God visible in a world

where violence and enmity are too

often the norm. . . . We are called to

move from discussion to witness and

action. . . . Peacemaking is not an

optional commitment. It is a requirement

of our faith.

The following dramatic initiative occurs to me. Mother Teresa is a Yugoslav. What if she, Pope John Paul II, a leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a Muslim leader and a Jewish leader were to announce they were starting a pilgrimage for peace and would be walking through war-torn areas, inviting peacemakers from many countries and faiths to accompany them? Imagine the impact if these leaders, joined by 10,000 Christians, Orthodox, Muslims and Jews, were to walk from town to town, worshiping together, appealing for an end to fighting, calling for mutual forgiveness.

The logistics would be formidable, but not impossible. The specific leaders I have mentioned might not be willing or able to go, but others might be found who would have a similar galvanizing effect. Anyone who goes would have to be willing to face the possibility of being killed or wounded. However, as our bishops also taught in the peace pastoral, "To set out on the road to discipleship is to dispose oneself for a share in the cross. . . . We must regard as normal even the path of persecution and the possibility of martyrdom."

The answer to profound hatred is profound love. Isn't that, after all, much of what the birth and life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all about?
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Title Annotation:Yugoslavia
Author:Taylor, Richard K.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 18, 1992
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