Frequent readers may remember that I have mentioned before the Australian poet Judith Wright and her reflections on violence in her poem Trains. She likens violence to the ever-prowling tiger and so pithily asserts “Since blood’s red thread still binds us fast in history.” Alas! Once more world events bring these words to the forefront of the mind and prove her right “Tiger, you walk through all our past and future”
Over the recent months we have witnessed the atrocities of massacres of the innocent in several African nations as well as mass shootings in the United States. Now, our evening television screens depict all the horrors of the blood-soaked streets of Ukrainian cities.
As all the destructiveness of modern technological warfare is beamed into our living rooms, we must realise how terrible it all is and yet how unreal. It is terrible in its bloody cost and so brutal in its disconnection from the sacredness of life and the more ennobling achievements of the human mind.
Then there is the violence on the streets of our cities and home invasions from which the young and the elderly are not exempted. The heart of many a homeward pedestrian jump in fear at the sound of following feet.
While our shores are far away from these wars, we would do well to be aware we are not saved from the destruction of violence. Violence is insidious and it takes on as many forms as humans can dream up for it. In the ways we talk to each other about others, violence takes on the form of hurtful words or harmful rhetoric. In the ways we treat each other, violence wears the face of our aggressions, or the blindness of our withheld aid.
Yet we can make sense of it if we realise that the cause is very simple: we are losing God, and in losing Him, we are losing ourselves. We need to change, but the world changes only when nations change, and nations change only when families change, and families only change when individuals change. It is not enough to speak about reforming the world, our nation and families: we need to reform ourselves and in doing so be careful how we go about it.
We cannot whitewash evil. We cannot condone what is immoral because of public opinion or the sensibilities of a group. Knowing the utter chaos of violence, we can never justify stamping out evil by hatred and violence. Hatred spawns more hatred; violence breeds more violence, until people become either totally dehumanized or destroyed.
The only real solution to violence is the message of Jesus. Our State and Commonwealth Parliaments may legislate but only religious faith can touch the hearts of violent people and motivate them to respect life and accept peace.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of the Salesian Bulletin, which is available here!