Open Letter – Bishop Heenan

Bryan Law

Christians Against ALL Terrorism

22 Buckle St

Park Avenue

25 June 2011

To Brian Heenan

Bishop of Rockhampton

Your Excellency,

I am deeply concerned with the current wars our nation is fighting, with the role of the Diocese of Rockhampton in supporting those wars, and with the silence of the church in the face of grievous mortal sin.  Please answer my plea and speak out now for peace in the world.

As you know, Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, stated, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq.”  Likewise the present war in Afghanistan is without just cause, and without an end in sight.  The poor folk of Afghanistan, beloved of Jesus, are suffering.

Exercise Talisman Sabre commences next month in Rockhampton and Shoalwater Bay.  Exercise Talisman Sabre is key to continuing the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Exercise Talisman Sabre is vital to the prosecution of future wars in Libya and Syria.

Christians Against ALL Terrorism is a collection of around 30 souls, many of us Catholic, devoted to the lessons Jesus revealed in the sermon on the mount, and proclaiming John 15: 12-14 as the central Christian teaching for a time of war.  Pope Benedict has said “the sermon on the mount is the Magna Carta of Christian nonviolence”.

We are here as disciples of the loving nonviolent Jesus to get in the way of war, and of preparation for war.

In our preparation we are reminded of the life of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter (beatified by the Catholic church just four years ago).  In particular the Blessed Franz asked in Nazi times “If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

We hold the Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter’s  life, words and witness before us, as evidence of the Holy Spirit active and alive in the world.  However we notice the Church today seems less alive, less united in its acceptance of the nonviolent Jesus. I pray for a church in which all Catholics fully believe:

That God is nonviolent, active Love (Micah 4:2, 3)

That Jesus is the incarnation of the nonviolent God of Love (John 10:30, John 14, 9)

That Jesus’ instruction to his followers regarding love and nonviolence is explicit, unambiguous and straightforward, especially in His call to “love our enemies”. (Luke 6:27-35)

That to be a Follower of Jesus, we must proclaim and live nonviolently as he did. (John 13:34)

That Jesus calls us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), in the midst of a violent world, who recognize that the works of war (including preparation and justification for war, torture, and destruction of resources) are diametrically opposed to the works of mercy, opportunities for right livelihood and the common good of all people.

That to follow the teachings of Jesus, we must seek:

To love God,
To love our neighbour and to treat all others as we would wish to be treated;
To not judge but rather to pray for others;
To purify our hearts and to be Peacemakers;
To be merciful and to forgive others in their trespasses; and
To store up treasures in heaven, not on earth.

We are moved by this faith and our consciences as we struggle to respond to the gospel of Jesus, which challenges the church to answer His call to build the Kingdom by:

CHANGING OUR HEARTS of hardness, indifference and complicity to hearts of compassion, and solidarity;

REPENTING of the sins of war, terrorism and torture;

MOURNING for all the dead and wounded; and the millions of displaced peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan;

MOVING from silence to be bold teachers of the Gospel of Nonviolence and Peace and Justice.

In light of these understandings we ask you to issue a pastoral letter prior to the commencement of Exercise Talisman Sabre on 11 July 2011.

We ask you to condemn war in a loud and clear voice, as immoral and contradictory to the teachings and life example of Jesus Christ.  We ask you to denounce Exercise Talisman Sabre as immoral preparation for war.

We call upon you to take advantage of the “year of grace” commencing at Advent 2011 to focus on  teaching Catholics of all ages that Jesus was Nonviolent, and that He calls all of us “be one with Him as He is one with the Father”; and that this is a call to nonviolence for all of us.

We ask you to help fulfill the message of Isaiah “and they will train for war no more” by naming Exercise Talisman Sabre for what it is: unholy preparation for war.

We ask you to call upon the entire Church, in the words of the prophet Isaiah “Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high”, to fast and pray for the intercession of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth, where love and justice prevail without war and violence.

The nub of our appeal can be found in a 1979 prayer from Pope John Paul II. “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence…I say to you, with all the love I have for you, with all the trust I have in young people: do not listen to voices which speak the language of hatred, revenge, retaliation. Do not follow any leaders who train you in the way of inflicting death…Give yourself to the service of life, not the work of death. Violence is the enemy of justice. Only peace can lead to the way of true justice.”

I believe you are able to give voice to our redeemer, and give hope to the people of Rockhampton, by proclaiming the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ to “love one another”.

Failing that I’d appreciate your pastoral support as I go to Etna Creek prison in witness of the prophecy of Isaiah “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares”.

In supplication,

Bryan Law

Christians Against ALL Terrorism

One thought on “Open Letter – Bishop Heenan”

  1. I am a somewhat disheartened and lapsed catholic ashamed of the male bureaucracy of the organisation and the many sins of the church against women and children over the centuries but this is a beautiful letter Bryan. Let us hope and pray for peace.

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