Brad Rozairo, OMI – These days as I follow the news about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, my mind goes back to Sri Lanka. The ethnic war which lasted for 26 years was a very frightening experience for many, especially for people living in the north and east of Sri Lanka. My home town Trincomalee, in the north-eastern region was in the war zone. Bombing, shelling, killing and abduction of people etc. were one time frequent occurrences. We had to live in the midst of all that was happening around us in fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
Recently Pope Francis said that “those who wage war forget humanity: they do not start from the people; they do not look at the concrete life of the people, but put partisan interests and power in front of everything. They rely on the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons which is the most distant from the will of God, and they distance themselves from the common people who want peace”. Further, he said that in every conflict it is the “ordinary people are the real victims who pay for the follies of war with their own skin”. I totally agree with the Holy Father. Yes, often it is the ordinary and innocent people who become the real victims. I have seen and experienced this during the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka that took the lives of around 70,000 innocent people for no reason. Today this is evident in Ukraine.
Two years ago, when the world leaders gathered to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly, they said, “We are not here to celebrate” because the world we live in is “not yet the world our founders envisaged 75 years ago”. What’s wrong with our present world? Why do we blame the world when the fault is on us? We have not changed and therefore, we have tarnished its beauty.
I think, through this present pandemic and the wars we experience not only in Ukraine but also in other parts of the world, God is inviting us – human beings created in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:26) to look into ourselves. Haven’t we destroyed His image in us? Are we not responsible for what is happening around us? For example, take the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, we used to travel around the world so freely, but now we have been forced to wear a mask, sanitize our hands, take a vaccine passport and follow a certain quarantine procedure to travel abroad, so that we can protect ourselves as well as others. Who created this situation? We must admit that whether we know it or not, we have played a role in this and the present crisis reveals what is in our hearts.
In early March, we began the season of Lent. This is a third Lent to take place during the pandemic. Isn’t this an appropriate time to look into ourselves and ask what is in our hearts? Through Prophet Joel our Lord is challenging us during these forty days to leave behind whatever has drawn us away from him, and to return to the Lord with our whole heart (Joel 2:12). How do we respond to this invitation? We might want to return, but it is not very easy because our journey back to God is being blocked by our sins, false security, attachment to money, wealth, power, possession of nuclear weapons, ammunitions etc. But if we want to make peace with God, mankind and the rest of creation, we must make an effort to break all the obstacles that are in front of us and return to God. May this Holy Season of Lent enable us to journey towards God.