Arms Trade Treaty
(July 2012)
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Fr. Jan van den Berghe

Liturgy for the 17th of June 2012

In today’s gospel, we will hear two short stories. In chapter four of the gospel of Saint Mark, Jesus talks about his method. He tells his disciples stories to strengthen their faith and confidence in his non-violence philosophy. He hopes that his disciples will act with the same ample confidence he sows on his path.

In today’s celebration, we connect this idea to an invitation Pax Christi gives you. In a few weeks, the negotiations for the first international Arms Trade Treaty will come to an end. For several years, peace movements all over the world have lobbied for a broad and strong treaty.

It’s quite clear: the fewer weapons, the more safety there is in the world. The incredible amount of money, time, and energy that are spent on weapons and arms trade would be of better service if it goes to projects that are helpful to people.

Opening prayer

You are the Lord of all of us.
You do not distinguish between us:
the last one means as much
to you as the first one.
Let us just long to be humans,
together with all humans,
under the space of your sky,
on this fertile earth
that You gave to all of us.

Readings of the 11th Sunday B

The first reading and the gospel both deal with the idea of “a small beginning”.


It’s a pity that the United States, Russia, and China will not participate in this. And that the new arms trade treaty will not be as broad and as strong as we wish it should be. These are certain.

There are reasons enough to doubt whether all our actions will have any effort. We are such a very small David, fighting against very tall Goliath. Those who make and sell weapons are so extremely powerful! It seems like you can never win against them. Indeed, you can look at it this way.

Luckily, there is another way of looking at the situation. Today’s gospel invites us to believe in the value of small beginnings; the power of the mustard seed. Jesus invites us to start from that faith, from that confidence that this is the only way to make the Kingdom of God grow. Justice and peace, friendship and solidarity – a world in which God is obeyed, in favour of the joy and happiness of mankind – can only be realized that way. The word of God – each word that stimulates faith and confidence – is sown somewhere. And each time it bears fruit.

Every beginning is small. This is how it went in the banishment of landmines and cluster munitions. Someone had an idea. Others picked it up. A Peace Week was organized on this subject, in Belgium, in Austria. And the ball was set rolling… No, not all landmines have gone, but the result is not that small! To learn more about these two actions, at the end of this celebration there will be a report explaining it in short. In that same report you will find more information about today’s campaign for a strong and broad international arms trade treaty. To reintegrate today’s sentiment: less weapons in the world means more wellbeing and more money for things that this world really needs.

Vaclav Havel once said, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well. It is the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out”. We will soon know what the short term results of our actions will be. But in the long term? We will not know for sure. But we know that what we are doing makes sense. We hope that the next generations and those who now live in misery will be better because of it. And that the Kingdom of God may come into this world today.

Confession of faith

(Bolded portions are said by the congregation)

I shall not believe
in the law of the jungle,
in the language of weapons,
in the power of the mighty.
I shall believe in the right of every human being,
in the open hand,
in the power of nonviolence.

I shall not believe
in race or richness,
in privileges or the established order.
I shall believe that all humans are humans,
that the order of power and injustice
in fact is disorder.

I shall not believe
that I have nothing to do
with what is going on far away.
I shall believe that the whole world is my home
and the field on which I sow,
that all shall harvest what all have sown.

I shall not believe
that I can fight oppression there
when I let injustice exist here.
I shall believe that justice is one here and there,
and that I am not free
as long as one human being is a slave.

I shall not believe
that hunger and war are inevitable
that peace is unattainable.
I shall believe in the small deed,
in love that seems powerless,
in peace on earth.

I shall not believe
that all efforts are in vain.
I shall not believe
that the human dream
will remain a dream,
that death will be the end.
I dare believe in the dream of God himself,
a new heaven, a new earth,
where justice will dwell.

Prayers of intercession

For those, in the days passed, who have been killed by the use of weapons [a moment of silence], and for those who mourn because of their loved ones’ death [a moment of silence]. Let us pray.

For perseverance for those who at the highest levels strive for a strong and broad international Arms Trade Treaty. Let us pray.

For good cooperation amongst people belonging to different religions and philosophies, working for justice and peace, and for a world with many less weapons. Let us pray.

For parents, educators, and teachers, who teach young people to believe in the power of active non-violence. Let us pray.

And for ourselves, not for much faith, but for a bit of faith, just enough to do today what we can do today, in favour of a better world for anyone. Let us pray.

Prayer over the gifts

You do not call peace
what we usually call peace.
You do not resign yourself to our evil.
You bring fire to the earth
and the sword of decision.
Let us not search for false peace,
not hold our tongue out of self preservation
and not submit to violence,
but raise our voices
for the poor and people without rights.
Let us hunger and thirst
and look for justice,
your peace on earth
for everyone.

Prayer after communion

You do not accept a world like this one
where need and abundance coexist
and the weak still always is oppressed.
You want all this to change.
Inspire us with your Spirit
of service and respect.
Make us persistent and inventive
in our concern over humanity.
Make us confident
about the human being and his future,
You, who are the God of mankind and its future.

Additional texts

1. Prayers are not Given

(Bolded portions are said by the congregation)
Praying is not given to me
when I see peoples trampled down.
There is a cursing within me.
Let then that cursing be my praying.

Praying is not given to me
when I see children abused.
There is a crying within me.
Let then that crying be my praying.

Praying is not given to me
when I see refugees driven out.
There is a storming within me.
Let then that storming be my praying.

Prayer is not given to me
when I see capital reign.
There is something breaking within me.
Let then that breaking be my praying.

Praying is given to me
when I may curse
when I can cry
when I dare storm
when I learn to break because of so much injustice
of so much misery.

(Luc Vankrunkelsven, Bidden is mij niet gegeven)

2. Resistance doesn't begin with big words

Resistance doesn't begin with big words
but with small deeds

like a storm with a soft rattling in the garden
or a cat that gets a bit mad in the head

like wide rivers
with a small spring
hidden away in a forest

like a sea of fire
with the same wooden match
that lights a cigarette

like love with but one look
a touching of something you notice in a voice

asking yourself a question
with this begins resistance

and then to ask another that question

(Remco Campert, Verzet begint niet met grote woorden (1929))