How to combat violence: Holy Father has suggestions for building a better society Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Violence seems to dominate the news recently in our state, nation, and world. A man shoots a young intruder hiding on his porch. A neighborhood watch vigilante kills a young man who is walking down the street. An American soldier kills civilians — including children — in Afghanistan.

What are we to make of this senseless violence? What is the world coming to and what — if anything — can we do about the violence that pervades our society?

Guns, fear, and crime

It seems in some cases, people shoot first and ask questions later. We could blame the presence of guns, but guns don’t shoot people. People shoot people.

We could say many people, especially those living in crowded cities, are victims of fear. People are afraid of being attacked, so they go on the offensive. The increase of drive-by shootings, gang warfare, robberies, and other crimes make our citizens nervous and even trigger-happy.

The recent rash of crimes in Madison have caused me some alarm. Some shoppers in grocery stores have had purses stolen out of their shopping carts, and people walking to their cars at a local mall have been robbed during the daytime.

I can understand what may cause people to fear for their safety and even their lives. But we also should be careful not to fight violence with violence, because, as we can see by some of the recent incidents, fateful mistakes can be made.

Human strategies are not enough

Pope Benedict XVI has some answers for what ails our society today. During his trip to Mexico, the Holy Father held a private meeting with victims of violence on March 24 in Guanajuato. Catholic News Service reported that the pope greeted a group that included eight people who have lost relatives to violence, much of it drug-related, which has killed nearly 50,000 Mexicans over the last five years.

Addressing his remarks particularly to children, the pope called on “everyone to protect and care for children, so that nothing may extinguish their smile, but that they may live in peace and look to the future with confidence.”

The next day, while celebrating Mass, Pope Benedict told people suffering from poverty, corruption, and violence to trust in God and the intercession of Mary to help them bring about a “more just and fraternal society.”

“When addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us,” the pope said. “We must have recourse to the one who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author.”

Change of heart needed

Citing the responsorial psalm for the day’s Mass — “Create a clean heart in me, O God” — the pope said that evil can be overcome only through a divinely inspired change of the human heart. The pope made note of the monument to Christ the King visible atop a nearby hill and observed that Christ’s “kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness.”

Although we will never be able to rid the world of violence, we should take the Holy Father’s advice by sharing the love of God with others. We need to begin in our own lives especially by living the “Golden Rule” of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. We need to resist the urge to be violent ourselves in word or deed.

We can’t lead a “schizophrenic” life by attending Mass on Sunday and then treating others badly during the week. Perhaps if more individuals took a pledge of nonviolence, there would be less violence in the world. That’s not to say we can’t protect ourselves in self-defense, but it means only resorting to violence as a last resort.

We only have to look at the life of Christ we will be hearing about during the upcoming Holy Week. He gives us a model of nonviolence that we should strive to imitate.