Connecting the wars overseas and at home
The frontlines of Pax Christi's fight for peace are both in our backyard and on the other side of the world.
By Guest Blogger John Zokovitch
More than 300 Catholic activists recently gathered in Chicago for the National Catholic Conference on Peacemaking , focusing on the theme, "Know Justice, Know Peace: Ending War at Home and Abroad." Conference participants were challenged to make the connection between the wars being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the war being waged against immigrants, communities of color, and the impoverished here at home.
The opening keynote  was delivered by Father Bryan Massingale, author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. In his address, Massingale alluded to the conference's theme, suggesting that connecting Pax Christi USA's traditional concern for stopping war in places of conflict around the globe to the violence which happens on the streets, in the educational system, and as a result of racial injustice in our nation was provocative, even unsettling.
"[W]e must name and challenge the incongruity of pursuing peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq while remaining silent - even oblivious - to the violence and injustice in our own neighborhoods. And the South Side of Chicago is our neighborhood. East St. Louis is our neighborhood. The Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans is our neighborhood," stated Massingale. "Because [in the gospel reading] two Sundays ago, Jesus settled that issue when he answered the question: ‘And who is my neighbor?'"
Saturday morning's keynote speakers  were Elena Segura, director of the Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigrant Education of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. The juxtaposition of their talks, delivered together with Segura speaking first, emphasized the relationship between the increasing militarization of our immigration policies and the corporatization of military power.
Following their talks, during time set aside for small group discussions, one conference participant remarked, "There is a war being waged in this country and around the world against the poor, who are predominantly people of color. It is an economic war being waged to protect and increase the wealth and privilege of the powerful and it is a war of oppression being waged in order to keep poor in their place."
Guest blogger John Zokovitch is the program director at Pax Christi USA. 
Highlights of the conference also included the announcment of a new partne rship between JustFaith Ministries and Pax Christi USA, and the honoring of women religious  with the Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award. See more about their annual conference  online.
Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.