Reflection by John Mayer
Jesuit universities across the United States gathered together in prayer and worship Sunday in memory of James Foley, the photojournalist and graduate of Marquette University who was killed Aug. 19 by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Mass held for Foley and his family was incredibly moving and very memorable. It was celebrated by the Rev. Richard Malloy, S.J., and co-celebrated by The Rev.Thomas Roach, S.J., the rector of the Jesuit community. They were accompanied by a beautifully singing choirconducted by Jane Lucas and cantered by sophomore Kyle Rodgers and junior Brittany Moyer.
Malloy led the gathered Scranton community in a profound service. At the heart of the Mass, Malloy stressed the peace of Christ and how this peace is needed so urgently in our world today. Always in good humor but also strong in his conviction, Malloy challenged those present to stand up for peace and justice and to learn from the horrors of the ever-present reality of violence. He played and sang a song near the end of his homily titled, “Where have all the flowers gone?”, originally composed by Pete Seeger in 1955.
The song’s lyrics are “Where have all the flowers gone? Young girls have picked them everyone. Where have all the young girls gone? Gone for husbands, every one. Where have all the husbands gone? Gone for soldiers every one. Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone for graveyards every one. Where have all the graveyards gone? Gone to flowers every one. Oh, when will they ever learn?”
The song is a brutal and sad reminder of the cyclical nature of war. Each question is refrained with “when will they ever learn?” Malloy played this song emphasize the urgency of peace through non-violence. If peace is not achieved, the ancient cycle begins all over again, exemplified by flowers growing on the graves of fallen soldiers, then picked by the soldiers’ widows and loved ones.
We know that war affects everyone. Where there is violence there is suffering. It is a universal law. Foley was captured and killed while bringing awareness of the horrors of war present in the Middle East, most prominently in Iraq and Syria. He was killed by ISIS as an act of retaliation against the U.S. airstrikes that have taken the lives of terrorist soldiers but also innocent civilians.
“No solution is ever brought about by killing. Killing is never the appropriate response. If death is involved, it is not the solution,” Malloy said.
While something needs to be done in response to the growing presence of ISIS in the Middle East, the current U.S. administration’s tactic of airstrikes is not the appropriate solution. The result has been the deaths of ISIS soldiers, innocent Syrians and now innocent Americans. If this tactic continues, these deaths will also continue.
Malloy quoted Blessed Pope Paul VI, who famously said, “War, no more. War, never again!” These are simple but powerful words. War is not the solution and never has been. The solution is love and peace, a love and peace that was begun in and which will ultimately end, in Jesus Christ. For this reason, we cannot give up. Foley kept his faith to the end and it has been reported that he continued to pray the rosary until his death. We, too, must continue to pray and hope for peace and love to reign in our world. We can do this not only by keeping faith but also, as Malloy implored, by getting involved in politics by voting for and promoting leaders who will stand up for peace and justice. Every voice matters in this regard, and we, too, like Foley, are asked to stand up for what is right. May God bless Foley, his family, and all those men and women who seek to end the cycle of violence present in our world.