MUCH AS I WOULD like to be able to respond to Samuel Smith's, June 22, appeal to refrain from speaking to soldiers about military obedience. I'm afraid I cannot.
Certainly the price to be paid by Christians and others who oppose militarism can be a very harsh one. The conscientious objector is a character always feared and usually persecuted by those in power in militarist nation states.
In the countries of the Eastern bloc, with the partial exception of the German Democratic Republic, in many countries of the Western bloc and in many countries of the non aligned groupings imprisonment is the only alternative to military service.
Those willing to judge ourselves by the same criteria by which we judge others (something to do with the Gospel?) will have to acknowledge that until recent years the Catholic church and the totalitarian regimes of the east of today had, when it came to the issue of conscientious objection, much in common.
Let those who doubt that, study attitudes to COs and the harsh treatment meted out to them in Spain. Even today Church and State are effectively united on this matter in Hungary and jointly oppose the actions of Catholic pacifists.
In our own country today those in the forces who become nuclear pacifists and associate with CND are likely to be discharged at very short notice. In the sixties some were sent to prison.
I ask Mr Smith to note that in all I have said on the issue of refusal to obey cruise missilerelated orders, refusal comes as the last resort. But if morality and internatinal law mean anything at all there must be a point at which the military also have to say 'No'.
If authority is needed then let those with these awful choices to make read the American bishops letter on nuclear weapons. The risks are clear and are even more serious for those who issue such appeals.
But in a world of ever growing danger this is a time for taking on ourselves the risks of peace.
The task of the Christian today as ever is to understand, to reconcile, to forgive, to ask for forgiveness and to seek for justice in our own lives with the vigour with which we demand it elsewhere. Peace is not going to come without pain, to the human family. Those who have power do not yield it easily.
I commend to Mr Smith the heroic story of Frans Jagerstatter, the Austrian farmer executed in 1943 for saying 'No', to the militarism of his day. Our real Christian heroes are not usually those who have waited for explicit personal episcopal directives.
Bruce Kent Islington, London NI IN THE controversy on what is the greatest evil, a whole page of letters was printed all bashing away at Mgr Kent, from people who seem to think Communism is the greatest evil. Good. I am ready to accept that. And a bit more.
Now, when people in Latin
American countries have been oppressed and exploited for generations so that thousands are living out of dustbins and live under cardboard for a home, what will they do?
They see the United States supporting their oppressive right wing governments and they understand their lives are never going to improve.
By torture and killing, with the help of America, the people are kept down. And the result of that? They look towards Communism_ So America who wants to keep Communism down is just working it in the hand.
I read in today's (29 June)
Herald that 525 soldiers from El Salvador were being trained in Fort Benning, Georgia, to bring more violence and suffering to the poor of El Salvador. I am not criticising Fr Werenfried for not seeing the evil of oppression in Latin America because he knows too well the evil of Communism. We should not criticise Mgr Kent because he can see what is going to come in Latin America. Let's only try to be on the side of Christ.
Mrs Johanna Clarke Littleover, Derby THE INDISCRIMINATE character of nuclear warfare and the unimaginable human suffering and irretrievable damage to our planet led us afresh to see nuclear warfare as the most critical issue of our time. Though relatively powerless we urge Government to redouble efforts which wold hold out genuine hope of an agreed and verifiable reduction in the development, testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons. On our part, we have determined to encourage our members to express the Christian commitment to peace, at all levels open to us.
Julia Buckroyd Chairwoman, on behalf of Herne Hill Christian Council members