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God, I do not know where to turn in a time of terrorism. I have no easy answers or solutions to acts of terror against the innocent,” begins a prayer written by Benedictine Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki. “When buildings explode without warning, when the defenseless are murdered without reason, I am tempted to retaliate with vengeance. I am tempted to place the flag above the cross and put my faith in the state rather than the Sermon on the Mount. I am afraid to face my deepest fears of suffering and death, both for myself and those I love.”

Continuing as a lament, the prayer then asks forgiveness and ends in a recommitment to nonviolence: “as a witness to Your love … I will give my passion to kindness and beauty and imagination. I commit to hope and the children of tomorrow.”

The prayer contains the line that for me speaks the only certainty I can hang onto in a time of terrorism and war: “I believe that violence ignites greater violence and that, in the long line of history, our only lasting legacy is love.”

These are not words of statecraft, so some might deem them inappropriate for this moment of escalating violence. However, it is abundantly clear that violence only begets more violence, and that this cycle, easily whipped into a frenzy, can become unspeakably vicious before its appetite for victims is sated.

I commend the prayer, crazy as its words may seem in a time of terror, in the firm belief that the world could use a good dose of wild and crazy holiness. It is available from Pax Christi USA, 532 W. Eighth St., Erie, Pa. 16502, email: info@paxchristiusa.org

The generally accepted premise underlying mainstream news coverage of the day, whether print or television, radio or Internet, is that the United States had no choice but to begin bombing Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network.

Margot Patterson, in interviews with an array of foreign policy experts and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, unearthed a range of views showing significant reservations with the U.S. military campaign.

It was a bit of a coincidence that the story appears with another by Patterson, on the rebirth of the city of Dubrovnik, one of the first to be pounded by the Serbs during the Balkans wars that broke out 10 years ago.

Patterson writes that little of that city was left untouched by the shelling a decade ago. Today, in contrast, one would be hard pressed to find any evidence of war on the city’s edifices and public places. But the wounds of war remain deep, if hidden, for the people. Scrubbing hatred and mistrust from the heart is not so easy as restoring a building’s façade. Many citizens of Dubrovnik are not willing to forget, and others can’t even if they might be willing. It is a not irrelevant lesson for today: The wounds of war will continue to haunt the human heart for years.

Finally, this stopper in the hallway from Celebration editor Pat Marrin: “It’s interesting that we stop bombing on Friday in respect for the Muslim holy day, but we keep bombing on Sunday. Is that because Christians don’t care?”

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2001