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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2003

Threat of war spurs U.S. soul-searching

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

Before launching a military strike against Iraq, Americans should consider their own history to remember how powerful the mix of religion and politics can be, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said.

“If you think back to our founding as a country, we are a country of revolution,” Miss Kaptur said in an interview this week.

She and the Rev. Jim Bacik, pastor of Toledo's Corpus Christi University Parish, will speak at a workshop Friday for local Catholic leaders titled “Preaching and Teaching Peace in the Face of War.”

When America “cast off monarchical Britain” in 1776, it involved the help of many religious people who had fled repression in other countries, the 11-term Toledo congressman said. Among the nontraditional American revolutionaries were the Green Mountain Boys, a patriot militia organized in 1770 in Bennington, Vt., to confront British forces, she said.

“One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown,” Miss Kaptur said.

In Iraq and other Arab nations where revolutions are potentially brewing, religious fervor will play a vital role in shaping political events, she said, and the United States must be careful “not to get caught in the crossfire.”

“I think that one thing that people of faith understand about the world of Islam is that the kind of insurgency we see occurring in many of these countries is an act of hope that life will be better using Islam as the only reed that they have to lean on.

“I think that people of faith understand that for many of the terrorists, their actions are acts of sacred piety to the point of losing their lives. And I think that people of faith understand that there is a heavy religious overtone to the opposition.”

If the United States ousts Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seizes the land, it would not resolve the underlying problems leading to political and social upheaval, she said.

“Even if we take the ground, we do not share the culture,” she said, “and in the end we have to learn to coexist in a world with religious states that we may not agree with and find ways to cooperate.”

Miss Kaptur, a lifelong member of Toledo's Little Flower Catholic Parish, said her political and moral views were influenced by her family's tradition of Roman Catholicism and service in the U.S. Marine Corps and Army infantry.

“Our tradition is to exhaust all reasonable means before one goes to war because our family, like so many others in our area, knows the price of war,” she said.

The standards of the “Just War Theory,” developed by Saint Augustine in the 4th Century, are not clearly defined in the present U.S.-Iraq showdown, Miss Kaptur said.

“I think that's why there is so much angst and division over this because we're in the gray area here,” she said. “People of religious tradition are making their voices be heard very loudly on this one. I think there's sort of an instinctual sense that something isn't right here, and while they know there is a problem they are not sure that war is the solution.”

The Catholic tradition calls for embracing the poor and the dispossessed, Miss Kaptur said. Rather than initiating military action, the United States should try to counter the poverty and repression that breed terrorism in the Mideast.

“I think food and education will help stem the poverty of the young people who are being drawn into terrorism every day,” she said.

“The reason I think this is such an important moment in history is because the United States cannot become the target of the anguish of the dispossessed in the most undemocratic region of the world.”

Friday's seminar, for Toledo priests and Catholic educators, starts at 10 a.m. at All Saints Church, 628 Lime City Rd., Rossford. Information is available from the Rev. Martin Donnelly, 419-241-4544, or the Rev. Harry Sattler in Lima, 419-225-3080.



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