Feeling helpless on Afghanistan chaos? We all have an instrument of peace

Come with us back to early October of 2001. Bishop John J. Myers, who guided the Diocese of Peoria for 11 years, was installed as Archbishop of Newark. Msgr. Robert Livingston, longtime pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria, was laid to rest. Pope John Paul II appealed for Catholics around the globe to pray the rosary, daily if possible, for the cause of peace “in this hour of grave worries” one month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

And on Oct. 7 — the same day that San Francisco Giants’ slugger Barry Bonds hit his still single-season record 73rd home run — the United States and its allies began an invasion to topple the Taliban-ruled Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in order to deny al-Qaeda a safe base of operations in the country.

For most of us, the two decades of war in the mountainous nation on the other side of the globe known as the “crossroads of Asia” had little noticeable impact on our daily lives. But for U.S. military personnel and their families, and certainly for the people of Afghanistan, the war was a deeply personal matter of staggeringly high costs and guarded hopes. The costs included the lives of nearly 2,400 U.S. soldiers and more than 100,000 Afghan military and civilians.

In that historic autumn of 2001, the U.S. Catholic bishops called the use of force to root out terrorism “legitimate,” but added that “because of its terrible consequences, military force — even when justified and carefully executed — must always be undertaken with a sense of deep regret” and monitored on an ongoing basis.

After two decades of monitoring, our national leaders made the decision to bring our troops home. But as the Taliban resumes its rule and fearful refugees flee the nation, the “grave worries” voiced by St. John Paul II in 2001 remain and the guarded hopes are fading. We feel hopeless to help as we watch the news. But are we?

The rosary remains an instrument of peace. Let’s put it to use. Again. Always. — Thomas J. Dermody

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