A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘war

So we’re different colours

And we’re different creeds

And different people have different needs

It’s obvious you hate me

Though I’ve done nothing wrong

I’ve never even met you so what could I have done

~ “People Are People,” Depeche Mode

One hundred years after the “war to end all wars” began, we still find reasons to fight over land, resources, and differences of faith and culture. Just look at Russia and Ukraine, or Islamic State and the countries of the Levant region.

If we tried to understand one another better—if we could focus on our common needs, hopes and values rather than on our differences—I believe we’d see fewer wars and conflicts.

When I was in elementary school and high school, most of my fellow students’ families came from northern Europe. My son’s class pictures tell a different story. His classmates have come from many different countries and ethnic groups—and that’s a good thing. As we share classes, work environments, recreational activities, and worship communities, the differences in background don’t become invisible, but we start to see people rather than those people we don’t have things in common with or don’t understand.

oud player

Oud player at the Palestinian Festival

This month, my family has taken the opportunity to attend the Palestinian and Turkish festivals here in Ottawa, and I hope we have the chance to visit more cultural festivals next year. The communities shared their cultures with the city, inviting us to experience and appreciate their food, music, dance and art and reminding us that people from other cultures are just people—people who enjoy passing along their heritage to their children, sharing favourite foods, playing familiar songs, and dancing and celebrating together.

Turkish folk dancer

Folk dancer at the Turkish Festival

We sometimes forget that we have more things in common than things that divide us. We all want to have work that enables us to meet our family’s needs, to raise our children with love and in safety, to enjoy freedom of worship. We all need food, clothing, shelter and companionship. We all bleed red.

I pray that we would take our cue from ss. 360 and 361 of the Catechism:

Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for ‘from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth’. . . .

‘This law of human solidarity and charity’, without excluding the rich variety of persons, cultures and peoples, assures us that all men are truly brethren.




Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honourably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.

– s. 2310 of the Catechism

My mother told me that her father never talked about World War II. He passed away a couple of months before I turned five, when I was far too young to be curious about the war.

But as a teenager, I came across a journal his brother had kept and sent home to their mother about one of the biggest air raids on London in April 1941. It ends with these words:

“God grant this war will come to an end soon and not in vain and bring all sufferings, hardships, broken hearts and tears to an end. I hope and pray that by this struggle we will benefit and eternal peace throughout the world for generations to come.”

We know that, sadly, peace didn’t last for generations. I think of conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iran and Iraq, Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to name a few. But while we long for peace, I pray that we would not forget the sacrifices of those who have fought to defend our freedoms and those who have given their lives for this goal.

As a “service brat,” the daughter of an air force pilot, the issue of respect for those serving in the military hits close to home for me. It angers me to read about soldiers being discharged from the military before they can qualify for a pension or not receiving the treatment they need for post-traumatic stress disorder. It upsets me to hear people disparage the work of our military in peacetime when these men and women provide vital help in the event of disasters and in search and rescue efforts. I pray that our society would honour these people for their service and care for them when they return from duty injured in body, mind or spirit.

And I pray that we would support the families who keep things running at home while they anxiously await for their loved ones’ tours to end, and those who are left to mourn when tragedy strikes.

Lest we forget. N’oublions jamais.

For information on support available for those who serve and their families, see the websites for the Veterans Ombudsman, the Royal Canadian Legion, Military Families Resource Centres and the True Patriot Love Foundation.

Yesterday my husband and I took my son to the Canadian War Museum to visit the galleries we’d missed on our visit last summer.

I live in a place that is peaceful by most people’s standards, but as I looked at the displays about war and peacekeeping, it struck me just how many conflicts the world has seen in my lifetime. In an age of instant communication and fast travel, these conflicts only seem to be a world away. So many disputes over land, religion and ethnicity translate into untold numbers of people who may have peace where they live, but not in their hearts.

We all long for the kind of peace only God can give. Think about the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7*:

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Even though Jesus tells us not to be anxious (see Luke 12:22-34), I tend to worry, but at least when I’m struggling with decisions or fears or loss, I can take comfort in knowing God sees and hears me. But what about those who don’t even have this comfort because they don’t know God? How can we help them learn about his peace? Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Pray for people who don’t know God or who have walked away from their faith, that God would open their hearts.
  • Read Brian O’Neel’s article “My Child, The Atheist” in the April 2013 issue of Catholic Digest to learn more about why people become atheists and how to share your faith with them.
  • Pray for more people to share the good news as priests and religious, especially as we mark the World Day of Prayer for Vocations next Sunday.
  • Support and encourage seminarians in your diocese.
  • Donate to the Canadian Bible Society to help fund the translation of the Bible into languages that only have a portion of the Bible (or none at all) and to provide bibles to soldiers, prisoners, and people in various parts of the world who can’t afford a copy of their own.

Let’s take heart from Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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