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CREATIVE PROTEST
Send the pope to Baghdad!
BY MICHAEL BRONSKI

Renowned peace and anti-nuke activist Helen Caldicott thinks she has a way to stop the all-but-inevitable war with Iraq: convince Pope John Paul II to join the human shields in Baghdad. Caldicott, who became well known during the 1980s for her anti-nuke activism, is urging people around the world to contact the pope and ask him to travel to Iraq. The pope, of course, has formally denounced the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, so who knows? He may be open to the suggestion.

Caldicott argues that " [t]he Pope’s physical presence in Iraq will act as the ultimate human shield, during which time leaders of the world nations can commit themselves to identifying and implementing a peaceful solution to this war that the world’s majority clearly does not support. " The Web site of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute (www.nuclearpolicy.org) posts a letter from Caldicott as well as a sample letter to send to Vatican City that argues her case in the most serious terms — " your physical presence in Baghdad will prevent the impending slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings " — and makes a good case for the 82-year-old Vicar of Christ on Earth to lay his body on the line.

Would such a scheme work? It might. What president wants to go down in history as the one who killed the pope? It would also — no matter which side of the war debate you are on — make a tremendous statement on behalf of finding other ways to resolve conflict besides killing people. In fact, the pope might also want to bring along Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Orthodox Jewish Theological Seminary, who has called a unilateral war " a calamitous policy. "

Caldicott notes that if the pope went to Baghdad, it would be " historically unprecedented, " but this is not the case. In AD 452, Pope Leo I left the confines of besieged Rome and entered the camp of Attila the Hun to beg him to halt his invasion of the Holy City. Leo was helped by the miraculous appearance of Saints Peter and Paul. But he was also able to convince the Hun that he should cease and desist by reminding him that power was fleeting and that Rome, which once ruled the world, was now a " supplicant at his feet. " Attila, humbled by the thought that tremendous power does not necessarily produce positive results, withdrew. Sure, Rome eventually fell, Attila eventually died, and Leo I became Leo the Great. But sometimes a little moral vision isn’t such a bad thing.


Issue Date: March 13 - 20, 2003
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