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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

December 1, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 159




Pat Marrin Peace: the minimum requirement

By Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration

Today's Reading: Isaiah 2:4: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

The start of Advent calls us to reflect once again on the need for peace as the minimum requirement for any hope of human development. Our welcoming of the divine presence into our human story -- the focus of Advent preparation -- begins with the challenge of peace.

Other Today's Takes by Pat Marrin
Oct. 31, 2003 Freely chosen reality
Oct. 30, 2003 The burden of servant leadership
Oct. 29, 2003 Entering by the narrow gate
Oct. 28, 2003 Gracious Ignatius
Oct. 27, 2003 A distinction shared with famous people
The prophet Isaiah knew that resources devoted to war were resources diverted from other needs. The U.S. war in Iraq takes $1 billion dollars a week away from the domestic infrastructure or from other global investment. Think of that amount as 20,000 jobs at an annual salary of $50,000 each focused on education, healthcare or housing. Multiply that figure by 100 and make up your own wish list of projects that could be funded if we were not at war. And, unlike munitions or equipment slated for destruction, this investment would be recycled many times over into local economies, creating more jobs, more community.

Dorothy Day saw war as the undoing of the works of mercy, an unraveling of human hope into hunger, thirst, naked vulnerability, homelessness and the inevitable violence borne of the struggle for survival. Basic needs must be met before there can be any hope of building human community. War is an enormous setback for the most basic of human aspirations. The burned-out cityscapes and environmental disasters of every war zone represent ground zero for the prayer Advent calls us to.

Will Swords and Spears Unlimited always outstrip Plowshares and Pruning Hooks Incorporated? The challenge of peace is first one of priorities and of the vision that dares ask, what if global expenditures on war and preparation for war were diverted into human development? Too simplistic? In the context of geopolitical maps and models that require Middle Eastern oil to run Western industrial economies, yes. But are we not smart enough to find new maps and models if the ones we have lead inevitably to tragedy, to war?

Argentinean Adolfo Perez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in Latin America, spoke recently in Kansas City. As reported in the Kansas City Star by columnist Lewis W. Diuguid (Striving for a sense of balance in the world ), Esquivel offered a parable of a different kind of future, one in which balance is restored between institutional and individual needs. A great scientist was hard at work in his study on global problems. His young son interrupted him with questions and with the offer to help him solve these problems. The man tore a picture of the globe from a magazine took a scissors and cut it into puzzle pieces for his son to reassemble, thinking this would keep him occupied for several hours. The child returned shortly with the world put back together. Amazed, the father asked him how he had done it so quickly. "There was a picture of a person on the other side," the boy announced.

Human development is the key to world development. The vision of a better world begins with our care for one another at the individual level. Hope has the power to bring voices as diverse as Dorothy Day and Dwight D. Eisenhower together. It was Eisenhower, supreme allied commander in Europe during the war that sacrificed over 50 million lives, who said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."

The rejection of war is where our Advent must begin. Respect for the dignity of every human person is how we will welcome God into our world.

Pat Marrin's e-mail addres is Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.

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