US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Egypt uprising not unexpected

| Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As our government struggled with how to respond to the uprising in Egypt, a Catholic priest interviewed by Catholic News Service on Friday wasn’t surprised. The church’s ideas behind development and peacebuilding work can help everyone, including government officials, understand just what’s going on in Northern African countries.

I’m currently preparing for an interview with Maryann Cusimano Love, an expert in international relations (if you have any suggestions for questions, leave them in a comment), and her article in a book called Peacebuilding helped me understand the context for the past month’s events abroad.

Institutional Peacebuilding efforts—either by NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. government (through the Departments of State and Defense), or the United Nations—are extremely young initiatives. CRS’s manuals on peacebuilding only date back to 2002 and 2006, coming out of the Rwandan genocide, Love notes. As such initiatives develop, therefore, we will hopefully become better at creating sustainable peace. In her essay, Love mines lessons from comparing Catholic and UN/U.S. approaches to peace.

To simplify her article greatly, the United States and United Nations focus on creating a negative peace (the absence of war) through the security and stability of states and economic institutions. The Catholic approach, however, "addresses justice and reconciliation at the community and personal levels." The church works for “integral human development”—people must be able to live to their full potential and with dignity.

In this context, it is easy to see why the United States has supported Mubarak throughout the years—he provided peace, in a sense. But the recent uprising show why the Catholic Church deserves a listen on international issues. The “integral human development” of Egyptians has been ignored for years, but with social media, they finally have the means to organize.

As the world works with Egypt, Tunisia to rebuild, it will be crucial to listen to the church’s voice on peacebuilding and not only reestablish stability at an institutional and state level but to address the development of these countries’ citizens and civil societies. The same can be said of Southern Sudan and even Sudan, where small protests started yesterday, and other countries (Syria, Feb. 5) where citizens threaten unrest.