Friday, January 08, 2010

Peace and the environment

THE old Latin saw, si viz pacem para bellum (if you want peace prepare for war) that is historically attributed to the Roman military writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, has inspired political leaders from the third century until lately when stockpiling nuclear arsenal was meant to deter, or so it seemed, global strife.

With no reference to Leo Tolstoy’s novel that surrounds Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the relationship of war and peace has bred numerous principles in the art of war—or the art of peace, if you may. But to include environment to the equation would be, at first blush, startling. For, what business does environment have in establishing peace?

But this was exactly the message of Pope Benedict XVI during the 43rd World Day of Peace that was celebration on January 1—“If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.” This is new and this is radical, although the Pope traces back the idea to John Paul II’s earlier messages on world peace and even to Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum.

The Pontiff’s logic is premised on the perspective that the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked. He establishes the strong bond that exists between caring for the environment and cultivating a cosmic vision of peace by developing a theology of creation, human development and intergenerational solidarity, among others. He says: “The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation.”

He warns that unless the human family responds to the need to protect creation with a “renewed sense of social justice and equity, and of international solidarity, we run the risk of sowing seeds of violence among peoples, and between current generations and those to come.”

In 1988, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in its landmark statement on the environment entitled What is Happening to our Beautiful Land, has already warned of political and social unrest if the environment is neglected. “We are well aware that, for the vast majority of Filipinos, the scars of nature, which increasingly we see all around us, mean less nutritious food, poorer health and uncertain future. This will inevitably lead to an increase in political and social unrest.”

With the same logic, that, indeed, is in the offing.

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