As we mark Armistice Day — now Remembrance Day — today, remembering is our duty and common responsibility.
What is the best way to honour those who have died in war? Parades, rallies, memorial services, moving ceremonies with old veterans and the wearing of poppies are all good and important in our Canadian culture to keep the memory of the sacrifice alive. However, they are not enough.
Honouring the memory of the fallen must also involve some active remembering and firm resolve on a daily basis to be a peacemaker. Peacemaking is a personal, a social and a political challenge: How do we live lives of love, truth, justice and freedom, and how do we advance these values through structures that shape our world?
International peace is not achieved simply by proclaiming peaceful ideals; it also requires building the structures of peace.
To commemorate Remembrance Day, we must do a careful reading of history. At home and abroad, we see the terrible human and moral costs of violence. In regional wars, in crime and terrorism, in ecological devastation and economic injustice, in abortion and renewed dependence on capital punishment in many countries, we see the tragic consequences of a growing lack of respect for human life.
Herein lie the seeds of war.
We must make a firm resolve to act. We cannot be peacemakers around the world unless we seek to protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable in our midst here at home. We must stand up for human life wherever it is threatened. This is the essence of a consistent ethic of life that must be at the heart of everyone who considers himself or herself to be “pro-life” and against war. This is the starting point for genuine peacemaking.
Let us recommit ourselves today to build a culture of peace and encourage a thirst for freedom amoung all peoples. The culture of peace does not accept a utilitarian philosophy that allows any means to be used, or ignores the intrinsic worth of human beings. The culture of peace disdains the unexamined life and invites the international community to probe questions such as the distribution of resources, human solidarity, and the vision that underlies political programs and policies.
All modern wars have left behind generations of soldiers whose peace of mind is forever lost to the nightmare memories of what they were required to do in the name of their cause or country. The essential role of culture is to educate, to bring about a peace of mind and heart, enabling us to be more and not just to have more. The task in a culture of peace is both to moderate and regulate all that would debase human nature.
True peacemaking can be a matter of policy only if it is first a matter of the heart. In the absence of repentance and forgiveness, no peace can endure; without a spirit of courageous charity, justice cannot be won.
We can take inspiration from the early Christian communities. St. Paul called on the Corinthians, even in the most trying circumstances, to pursue peace and bless their persecutors, never repaying evil for evil, but overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:14, 17, 21).
This is the greatest way to honour those who have given their lives for us in wars and battles. Let us pray that our dead will continue to be honoured and that we may be able to hold high the torch that they can no longer carry. Inspired by their courageous examples and love for life and freedom, let us commit ourselves to making peace in their memory.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
Photo credit: Cpl Shilo Adamson / Canadian Forces Combat Camera