Thursday, July 07, 2005

A view from evening mass in England

Quiet. As quiet as the night of September 11th, this same parish mass.

All the old words, all the old prayers. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Yes...we must, of course. This is a prayer that comes from an ancient Jew who lived under Roman occupation and knew the power of hate to warp a human heart.

Forgive those who set off the bombs of London? Yes, forgive them, especially them. There is a need for justice, but also for grace. John Paul II after the assassination attempt on his life visits prison to extend forgiveness to his assassin. We can and should hope for both: prison for the terrorists, but forgiveness and grace as well.

And then from the liturgy: blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. We know now from two and a half millenia of human history that there is no more powerful force for peace than democracy: with less than a handful of exceptions, there are no cases of democracies going to war with other democracies. As long as Europe was divided by dictators, she was riven with wars among her daughters. Only after American leadership brought democracy to Europe could Europeans make peace among themselves.

So too the Islamic world. As long as the dictators rule the Middle East, it will remain a hothouse for incubating new terrorism. Now this spring for the first time in Islamic history we see the cool breezes of democracy blowing across the region: Iraq, Lebanon; and the slow liberalization of Egypt, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia.

Blessed are the peacemakers is a blessing that falls first and foremost on those who are bold to bring democracy to countries that have never known freedom before.

This is our hour. This is our time. And in this calling under Providence we shall prevail.

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