To prevent war, we must fight injustice and poverty, care for the environment and watch our language, a German bishop has said.
– A five-point plan for ending conflict
Auxiliary Bishop of Cologne Ansgar Puff was speaking September 1 on the anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, which since 1957 has been commemorated in Germany as Antikriegstag, or “Anti-War Day”.
To prevent wars, Puff insisted that five things are necessary: to respect the conscience of others, to ensure justice, to allow freedom, to fight poverty and to protect the environment.
Injustice, poverty and lack of resources are the external causes for wars, warned the bishop, 64.
But he also cautioned that wars do not start with the firing of the first shot, but rather break out a long time prior in the head and in the heart, with the deployment of war-like language.
– After storming of Bundestag by far-right COVID conspiracy theorists, a call to citizens “to wake up now” for peace
“Today we know that the Second World War, which today began 81 years ago with the invasion of Poland, was prepared for many years by the Nazis in a gradual way by means of a corresponding language”, Puff recalled.
The bishop’s warnings about the creeping power of words to stoke hostility and violence took on extra resonance after far-right COVID-19 negationists brandishing Nazi symbols attempted to storm the German Parliament or Bundestag in Berlin August 29 in a demonstration against the government’s pandemic response.
Though German Bishops’ president Georg Bätzing affirmed that “the basic rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are beyond question”, the bishop of the Limburg diocese also deplored that “the scenes in front of the German Bundestag are unacceptable” and warned they must not happen again.
For his part, Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck – the head of the German Bishops’ commission for society and social affairs – denounced as unacceptable the fact that a “peculiar alliance of right-wing extremists, anti-vaccinationists and adherents of conspiracy ideologies” had aimed to “damage the symbols of our democracy”.
In his own response to last Saturday’s storming of the Bundestag, Puff quoted from St. John Paul II’s message for the 1979 World Day of Peace:
“By expressing everything in terms of relations of force, of group and class struggles, and of friends and enemies, a propitious atmosphere is created for social barriers, contempt, even hatred and terrorism and underhanded or open support for them.
“On the other hand, a heart devoted to the higher value of peace produces a desire to listen and understand, respect for others, gentleness which is real strength, and trust”.
Taking his cue, then, from John Paul II, Puff urged the demonstrators and all those who have seen the photos from Saturday’s protest “to wake up now if peace is close to their heart”.
“Peace must not be confused with weakness, nor with fearful resignation or succumbing to the violence of the enemy. That we remain vigilant, that is what I pray today on Anti-War Day”, the bishop concluded.