Today, in the American calendar it is 9/10, the day in-between 9/9 and 9/11 (for the rest of the world, including ours, it’s 10/9, the 10th of September).
9/9, the feast-day of Father Laval (our Père Laval the missionary of the oppressed) is a day of pilgrimage. Let this day serve to remind us of all those hundreds of places in the world on all continents and islands, where men and women go on pilgrimage. Year after year, they go in search of God and God’s grace. Millions go to the Ganges for purification-here to Ganga Talao- others go to Mount Abu or Velankani. Every year millions of Muslims travel the world to reach Mecca for the Hajj. Others go to Lourdes, Fatima, Lisieux or Medugorie to pray to the Virgin Mary.
Pilgrims go to the birthplaces of prophets, specially to Bethlehem at Christmas or to Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam the Buddha. Others go to pray at the Wailing Wall.
Some pilgrimages such as the one to Santiago de Compostela are achieved by walking over 500 km, in stages, from France across the mountains, ending in the lovely church of Santiago in Spain.
9/11 on the other hand represents all that is evil and wrong in the world! 3000 innocent men and women at work early one morning on the 11th of September 2002 were sacrificed to the evil tenets of extremism. It reminds us of hundreds of thousands of massacres of innocents, throughout the history of humanity. People murdered one at a time (such as the murder of Mahatma Gandhi by an extremist, or the gunning down of JFK), the killing of Benasir Bhutto with hundreds of others, to the daily bomb blasts in Ukraine and elsewhere.
When the killing is deliberate and planned by a state it becomes genocide: the 6 million Jews, Roma and others eliminated by Hitler, the 750,000 Tutsi’s murdered most atrociously in Rwanda, often by their erstwhile neighbours. Why? What for?
Officially declared wars are supposed to be… well…legal. Legal but totally inhuman, such as the deliberate fire-bombing in 1945 of Dresden in Germany (a city I know well, having during the 80’s /90’s directed one of the world’s first environmental training courses there) or the only use of atomic power against humans, as was the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA. In my humble view, as a long-time student of peace, I regard legal wars to be in the same league as the destruction of the twin-towers.
9/11 represents human thinking gone very wrong. From those mistakenly linking a religion, to deliberate acts of terrorism. To the erroneous view that some races may be superior to others and to the totally undemocratic view that if someone is an opponent with whom one disagrees that person or persons is to be eliminated, as Stalin did to several millions of his countrymen. Gangsters from Chicago to Mexico, to our own homegrown gangsters in peaceful Mauritius, do no better! Is the world so full of gangsters (or of gangsters camouflaged as politicians) that in the last century, the 20th,, almost 100 million people were massacred in 55 wars, including TWO of them WORLD WARS?
Let us conclude on the positive and the sacred. As Chaucer said in his Canterbury Tales, at some time of the year “folks yearn to go on pilgrimage”. For whatever personal reason (purification, seeking guidance in life, cure either physical or mental) let us favour pilgrimages over any form of violence. As this banner of my youth stated, when we walked the streets of London in protest against the Atom bomb, together with Bertrand Russell, Make Love, not War! At a time when the planet is under climate change emergency, we call upon ALL HEADS OF STATES to consider that there is no time anymore, no justification for anyone to resort to the old-style of empire building, of going to war as a tool of political action.
It is still time, today, to pay a visit to Ste Croix to the Crypt of Père Laval and pray for peace on Earth.
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