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By Bishop Alberto Rojas

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a beautiful distinction to those who strive to make peace in the world. But what does it mean to be a peacemaker today? When we look at the war and violence plaguing our world it may seem like an impossible dream that we could sow the seeds of peace and they would take root among the nations. Yet, that it is exactly what God calls us to do today.

In January Pope Francis repeated his call for a global ceasefire. The Holy Father is saddened and alarmed by the pervasiveness of war all over the globe and the tragic loss of life that is taking place. “Either we do not realize it, or we are pretending not to see that we are on the brink of the abyss,” he remarked.

These are strong words, but they are true. I want to join Pope Francis in calling for a global ceasefire. Please, in the name of God, stop the bombs, the missiles, the shootings, the kidnappings – and stop our indifference to it all. Our Lord is surely weeping at the sight of this cruelty.

Dear friends, we are in the desert of Lent, when we face the specter of our mortality, and the toll of our sin. Not coincidentally, death and violence are playing out horrifically in the desert of Gaza, where tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed in the tragic war between Israel and Hamas, and also in Latin America, where so many brothers and sisters are losing their lives to indiscriminate shootings and kidnappings every single day.

The war in Ukraine has raged for more than two years, with more than 10,000 innocent civilians killed in the crossfire, not to mention a much higher number of soldiers on both sides who have died. The civil war in Myanmar has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2021. In Africa no less than 35 different armed conflicts are taking place in countries like Nigeria, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Colombia armed groups roam the rural areas of the country killing and displacing thousands of innocent families and kidnapping children. Political instability in Venezuela and Ecuador has opened the door to armed violence in those countries. And this is surely only a partial summary of the war and violence happening in the world.

The reality of war is reflected in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, including the “just war” doctrine in our Catechism. It states that a country may take up arms to defend itself under threat of lasting, grave damage from another country and only after all other non-violent means to resolve the conflict have been attempted without success.

As Pope Francis continues to call us to be peacemakers, he is questioning the idea of declaring that any war is “just.” He asserts, rather, that countries have every right to use military force as a legitimate self-defense against an aggressor when peaceful means to settle the dispute have failed. As in many areas of social concern, the Holy Father challenges us to not be indifferent to the sufferings of others. That means not accepting the terrible casualties of war without first raising important questions: was dialogue between the warring countries to resolve the dispute truly attempted beforehand? Are weapons of death being used on innocent populations? Is all information about the nature and motive behind the fighting shared with the people?

When we see the scale of the destruction of war and armed conflicts playing out in places far from where we live, we may feel powerless to stop it or affect it in any way. But we can offer our prayers in solidarity with those being threatened and killed by war. We can pray for the conversion of those leaders of nations who are carrying out policies of war; and we can advocate directly to those who represent us in government to use the considerable influence of the United States in world affairs to bring about peace and not to support warring nations with arms and financial backing.

Yes, we can be those peacemakers that Jesus names in the Beatitudes, and in doing so we become the children of God that we are made to be. My prayers to you for a blessed remainder of your Lenten journey.

In Christ’s peace,
Bishop Rojas