Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vietnam War Changed Me: Peacemaking Is the Lone Way

The Vietnam War, the American War, the Second Indochina War from 1959-75 changed me.

That war killed my brother on February 18, 1968. PFC Lukas Ventline, 23, was among more than 58,000 other Americans killed, let alone the wounded, and, so many more noncombatants.

Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of the Parish Peace Accords to declare a cease fire, U.S. personnel were withdrawn wihin sixty days, and American prisoners of war were released in as many days.

It slipped by unnocticed this past Sunday, I imagine, by most Americans.

But, trauma that hits home has a way of waking one up.  It awakened me to the truth that war is not the answer. 

Truth is like that.  It has to be paid attention. 

It grows like it did for Father George Zabelka, the chaplain who blessed the Hiroshima bomb. He regretted blessing that bomb.  That truth awakened him to Jesus' plea to love one's enemies.  Zabelka didn't get that message earlier. 

Love is the answer.  War is not.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, named a bishop in Detroit, MI., in 1968, is in Vietnam currently through Friday marking the anniversary there.

He is a remarkable human being and follower of Jesus.

Only a profound conversion can prevent war by all of us.

Leaders in the front will cause peace to reign.  Yet, they refuse.

Gumbleton is a pacifist pastor who was born in 1920 in Detroit. 

He was challenged by priests in the peace movement to conclude that the Vietnam War was wrong.

It was.

Gumbleton, now in his early 80s, says the the Gospels cry out to us for peace.

They do.

He knows.

Gumbleton is a student of the Scriptures.  He prays them,  and, reads them regularly, daily, as much as he swims daily to maintain wellness and stay slim.

He cites Nelson Mandela and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as models of peace.

Mandela morphed from a violent revolutionary and emerged from prison as a mended man who said he had to forgive those who imprisoned him.  Otherwise, admitted Mandela,  he would still be imprisoned in his own heart.

Love is nonviolence.

It can change the world.

That may sound crazy and have people calling pacifist pastor's like Gumbleton, among others, crazy also. 

Yet, nonviolence is the radical thought of Jesus.

The 1983 U.S. Catholic Bishops' Challenge to Peace condemned nuclear war, and, having and using them.

A disciple of Jesus and Pope John the XXIII's Vatican II -- a revolutionary council of worldwide bishops from '62-65 -- Thomas Gumbleton was a canon law student in Rome at that time.

A peace-making man since then, he's spoken up for human rights among all, including gays, and more.  He founded Pax Christi, USA, and was president of Bread for the World, a Christian citizens movement to press for legislation to feed the hungry.

We were in El Salvador together in the late '80s.  He met with leaders in that civil strife in efforts to stop the violence.  Jesuit priests and their aides were murdered in the dark of night a few days after we left.

Vietnam changed me  mostly, however.  I could never view enough movies on Vietnam to address my unhealed wound, and, the haunting demise of my oldest brother.

Gumbleton treks across the globe working for peace.

His homilies are posted at http://www.nathcath.org.

He returns Friday from Vietnam.

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