A Child’s Hand…

An injured child’s hand clutching a baptismal cross… The photo was taken at Beslan where at least 330 people, mainly children, died after terrorists occupied their school. More than 700 were injured. Though missing the cross, similar photos keep coming from hospitals and mortuaries in Iraq, Chechnya, Darfur, Afghanistan and all the other places where war is raging. Each and every day the most vulnerable people, often children, are killed or gravely wounded in bloody conflicts. Beslan marked something of a border crossing: the specific targeting of children and teachers. More often such deaths are regarded as “collateral damage” in the cosmetic Newspeak of war: people in the wrong place when a bomb exploded. We hear that “precision” bombs were dropped on what sounds like a valid target in press room briefings“ and then perhaps get a glimpse of the bloodied survivors being brought into a hospital, or — even less often — the dead.

It is painful looking at such photos or reading about the conflicts such images are linked with, especially if we dare to discover threads that connect us to these events with all their heartbreaking consequences. Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago that the line dividing good from evil does not run between people but rather through each and every human heart. The “axis of evil” is not a border dividing the wicked “other” from the good “us.” Each of us is implicated.

How can one be a peacemaker in such a world? Among the articles in this issue of In Communion is a seven-page collection of patristic texts beginning with St. Justin Martyr in the second century and ending with St. Theodore Studite in the ninth. Living as we are in war-time, battered each day by propaganda and temptations to be made prisoners of fear and enmity, it seems a good moment to listen again to the voices of the saints of the Church’s first millennium.