“I am on the side of peace”

“To those who ask me which side I am on with so many armed and bloody conflicts being pursued in various regions of the world, I reply without hesitation that I am on the side of the victims of war.” A reflection by Father Saverio Paolillo, a Comboni missionary who has worked in Brazil for more than thirty years with street children and prisoners.

I stand with the people of Israel and Palestine, with the Russian people and the Ukrainian people, with the people of Sudan and all the other African countries who are facing the tragedy of war and paying its heavy price. I stand with civilians who want to live in peace and can no longer bear the consequences of decisive, armed conflicts unleashed without their consent from reinforced and adequately protected buildings.

I stand with the children torn from their families and deported, those who are blown up by mines they thought were toys. I stand with the innocent victims who lose everything: their physical and mental health, the safety of their homes and their emotional relationships.

I am on the side of the millions of refugees. I take the part of the young people who are forcibly conscripted and compelled to remain in the front line as “cannon fodder”, sent to the front by belligerent governments and military commanders who have no respect for life.

I stand with the mothers and fathers who weep in front of the ruins of their homes or tirelessly dig through the rubble of the bombings in the hope of finding their loved ones buried there alive. I stand with the elderly who have nowhere to go and are left behind, totally abandoned. I will always take the part of the weak and the losers in every conflict.

Make no mistake, I am against war, that madness that benefits no one, “Massacres between people who don’t know each other, for the benefit of people who know each other, but don’t massacre each other” (Paul Valery).

I am against the leaders who declare it, the powerful people of the earth who encourage it and the rich people who finance it. I am not interested in their origins, their ideologies, their religions, their flags, the blocks to which they belong and the reasons that lead them to make this decision because war is always an irrational and inhuman option. As necessary and justifiable as it may seem, it is the worst crime against humanity.

It is never “holy” and it is never “righteous”. It is a certificate of failure, the worst solution or rather the worst failure to find a solution. It is the defeat of politics, but also a shameful surrender to the forces of evil.

“War is a monster; it is a cancer that feeds itself by swallowing everything! Furthermore, war is a sacrilege, which destroys what is most precious in our land, human life, the innocence of the little ones, the beauty of creation” (Pope Francis). Therefore, it must always be avoided. Indeed eradicated.

I stand against those who spread hatred and encourage violence. Against those who live and enrich themselves through war. Against those who produce weapons and sell them, those who are elected with the financing of weapons producers, and war must be invented to return the favour.

I side against history books that always tell the version of the strongest, describe armed conflicts as moments of glory and celebrate as heroes individuals responsible for unprecedented massacres.

I side with PEACE. It has its price but it is the only way of being and living that makes us feel authentically human. I stand with those who know that “peace will only become a reality when it begins in all of us, and that war must be stopped in our hearts before it reaches the front lines. Hatred must be eradicated from hearts before it is too late. To do this, we need dialogue, negotiation, listening, diplomatic ability and creativity, a wide-ranging policy capable of building a new system of coexistence that is no longer based on weapons and deterrence” (Pope Francis).
(Fr. Saverio Paolillo)

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