Plead. A common word, it simply means “to make an earnest appeal.” So you can plead for public safety, good roads, water or even for world peace and love. As you read this today, hundreds of innocent parents and children are being bombed in the war between warlord Khalifa Haftar and government forces for the city of Tripoli, Libya. The terror-guns and tanks used are supplied by the major world powers, a supply repeatedly condemned by Pope Francis.
Thousands of soldiers and innocent people (children, police, teachers, etc) are still being killed in Afghanistan, Syria, etc. International media actively show hundreds of innocent, orphaned children with broken bones and crushed flesh crowded into make-shift hospitals in different parts of the world. A pitiful sight. As the major wars of the last century and their deaths fade from memory (eg World Wars I and II had over 120 million deaths, Korean and Viet Nam wars had five million and 1.5 million respectively) these new types showcase some of the deadliest weapons known to mankind - deadly aerial bombs, crushing tanks, bio-chemical weapons, fighter jets, powerful guns and explosives, etc.
Since he became pope in 2013, Pope Francis has been pleading for the major weapon-producing countries to stop and think of the human damage and environmental catastrophe they continue to inflict upon an increasingly dying world. To these “merchants of death” he said in 2017 “it is hypocritical to speak of peace while fuelling the arms trade.” He added: “Is it a commercial war for selling weapons in an illegal trade so that the merchants of death get rich? The profits from the manufacture and trade of weapons are drenched in blood.”
I’m afraid this will continue just as our sea-filled pollution, our endlessly sucking “blood” from the earth, calling it oil, not thinking of consequences. Weapons of mass destruction, when coupled with rising temperatures, erratic flooding, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and deep cracks along the earth’s surface make it appear as if Babylon will really fall. In a previous column (The Apocalypse, January 6), I said: “There is a growing literature around the world – religious and scientific – pointing to the imminent apocalypse. The religious rest their case on the bible’s Revelation about the “sinful world.”
Some scientists rest their case on climate-change severity, rapid rise in world-wide pollution and the rise in natural disasters. Weapons of mass production and ferociously-armed tribal wars now seem to be hastening the end. Of course, “end of the world” claims are nothing new, except that since the last century, there is growing evidence that climate change and toxic pollution are causing temperatures to rise dangerously beyond the tolerable 1.5 centigrade level. Some governments around the world still rely on the self-serving belief that nature will take care of itself, or they would not be around if the world does end. Many claim it’s too expensive, standing in the way of economic development.
Meanwhile high-grade weapons still secretly flow to Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, ISIS, FARC, etc as well as governments and guerillas in Somalia, Sudan, Yemen; also Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel (who also manufactures). The pope pleaded: “In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.” The top five weapons’ manufacturers are US, Russia, China, France, Germany – producing 75 per cent of the world’s weapons. Others are UK, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
This is not merely about having deterrence or self-defense. Cold War or not, manufacture of killer-type weapons is big business. The pope knows this. The economy of the major powers would be weakened if they stop making weapons especially for poor, developing countries. Never mind the many deaths of children and innocent others. And it is the leaders from these weapon-producing countries that sit around the table calling for peace while their guns, tanks, napalm and missile-loaded jets keep at war. Hypocritical, said the pope.
The largest weapons’ companies (100) made over $400 billion in 2017. Defense contractors donated over $6.6 billion to US candidates and political parties. (Stockholm International Peace Research Institution). It is about money and power. Would the pope’s pleas be ever headed?