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    Readers Respond Summer 2016

    May 6, 2016
    • Greg Carlson

      I'm responding to Ms Cathy Madden's letter. Chaplains are chaplains, not pastors - in the sense of service to a local church. When I was in Air Force chaplaincy, we used to say something like, "if they carry a green (military) ID card, we will see the individuals, regardless of their religious background". Even though I wore a cross on my uniform, I was still there to listen and help them discern their needs and possible solution. If they were Christian background, we many times could speak from our common tradition. However, as a Christian witness (in my view), I also was delighted to speak with those of other faiths. This was a very rich part of my military experience.

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    Bringing Home the War

    On Michael Yandell’s “Hope in the Void,” Spring 2016: This very helpful article shows how simply calling our veterans heroes cuts short their experiences and keeps all of us from looking honestly at the impact of war. We absolve ourselves of our own responsibility for war by deeming all veterans heroes, which doesn’t capture everything that happened during war. I appreciate Yandell’s call for Americans to stop pretending that our lives are not interconnected with global violence. And I take to heart his appeal for us to be genuinely present with veterans. We aren’t doing a service by “unhappening what has really happened.” Instead, we must make space for people’s pain and suffering, to allow them to find the path to healing, hope, and honesty. —Allison Lattin, Albany, NY

    For us military wives taking care of our husbands, it is no cakewalk – in fact, it’s like a war zone at times. Praying alone won’t help – when the soldiers come home, you have to get professional help for the consequences of war. Yet how important it is to have a spouse that stays with you and understands what you are going through. —Juliana Benoit, Easley, SC

    My father felt war guilt from World War II; as a bomber pilot he knew that innocent people are sometimes casualties of bombs. He had to come to terms with all that war entails – learn to live with his demons, so to speak. How are military chaplains helping here? Too often, their training is not Bible-based but rather Zen-like and universalist in its approach to the person in need. Yes, their task is to listen. But isn’t it also to give a witness to Jesus? Cathy Madden, Dallas, TX

    Views on Syria

    On Navid Kermani’s “Love in Syria: Learning from Jacques Mourad,” Spring 2016: As we absorb the powerful message of this article, we dare not ignore ironies, inconsistencies, and errors in his account.

    Kermani lumps the government’s expulsion of Paolo Dall’Oglio together with acts of violence, even though the expulsion of such an outspoken supporter of insurrection was surely an act of mercy. He speaks not a word of criticism of the al-Qaeda-led insurgents who have constituted the heart of the violent opposition to the Syrian government. He ignores the fact that U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan nearly ended this terrible war in the spring of 2012, only to see his effort aborted by the Western demand that “Assad must go.” And he speaks not a word of how ISIS has been empowered by the actions of the US-led coalition and Western media.

    In short, Kermani rightfully denounces the cynicism of the West, but fails to plumb its depths. Remarkable, isn’t it, how his prayers for the people of Syria and Iraq were being answered as he spoke by Russia’s vigorous entry into the war in support of the Syrian government? —Berry Friesen, Lancaster, PA

    I admire the efforts being made by Father Jacques Mourad and others to promote and maintain Christian–Muslim relations. While I can understand Fr. Jacques’s frustration when he says, “We have been abandoned by the Christian world – we mean nothing to them,” I would like to assure him that many ordinary Christians are actively working to alleviate the plight of the suffering people in Syria and other affected Middle East countries. The Catholic charity with which I’ve worked as a volunteer for over twenty years has provided substantial aid and continues to assist in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. More importantly, at our midday Angelus prayer here in Sutton, we pray daily for the suffering people of the Middle East, be they Christian or Muslim. In this way, we remain in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters. —Mervyn Maciel, Sutton, UK

    The Face of the Poor

    On Neil Shigley’s “Invisible People,” Spring 2016: It is in loving and gazing at the face of the poor and homeless that we will see Christ, who loved them till death. Fear causes us to avoid connecting with them, but love conquers fear; therefore, we should pray for the courage to love. —Luz Lopez-Dee, Vancouver, BC

    Strangers No More

    On Sheera Hinkey’s “Snapshots from Lesbos,” Winter 2016: This January a family of five Kurdish Syrians was dropped off at our farm in British Columbia, where my family and I live in Christian community with five other families. We are committed to caring for the land and each other, and to showing hospitality to those in need, though this has tended to be people in our own neighborhood. When we saw the crisis and plight of those in Syria we knew we must respond. So this family, who were strangers to Canada and to us, joined our community. One obvious barrier was language, but we have been amazed how quickly one can communicate without language. There were the challenges of helping them find language training, schools for the kids, health insurance, and transportation. But none of these small inconveniences can compare to the unbelievable blessing it has been to have them on the farm. They understand community – it is in their DNA – and they have enhanced our community. We are learning from them and their culture. They are strangers no more. They are family. —Craig Smith, Surrey, BC

    Teaching the Faith

    We recently used Plough’s Winter 2015 issue (“Childhood”) at the annual faculty retreat day with our elementary school teachers. The articles “Discovering Reverence” by Johann Christoph Arnold and “What’s the Point of a Christian Education?” by Christiaan Alting von Geusau sparked a wonderful conversation about our responsibilities as Christian teachers. Von Geusau’s words about friendship, faithfulness, formation, and freedom prompted us to develop several new strategies to further develop these virtues among our students. Please know how valuable your magazine is for so many of us who are striving along with you to educate young people to be true disciples of Jesus and brothers and sisters to each other. —Br. Timothy Driscoll, Uniondale, NY

    Thoughts on Ploughing

    Plough Quarterly is the richest publication I get these days. “Love in Syria” and “Hope in the Void” were world-class: insightful, stunning, deeply spiritual, provocative. The entire magazine is beautifully conceived and professionally executed. —Philip Yancey, Evergreen, CO

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