Fr. Peter Daly
In every mass, throughout the world, we Catholics turn to
one another and wish each other peace.
Most of the time this remains only an abstraction, but sometimes the prayer for peace takes on flesh,
in the behavior of people and the policy of nations. When it does, it deserves to be celebrated.
That is why I want to say one final word about my visit
to Costa Rica
this summer. Peace.
Rica is a unique example in the Western
Hemisphere of Christian teaching in action.
This small country, about the size of West Virginia, with a population of 3.2
millions, is living the scriptural goal of beating swords into plowshares. It
is also prospering because of it.
For the last 50 years, Costa Rica has not had a
military. It was abolished the army in
1948 following a
failed military coup.
that time its has been totally neutral, like Switzerland. But it has gone a step further than Switzerland because Costa Rica has no army at all.
The money saved by not having a military is wisely spent
on two important needs, health care and education.
As a result Costa Ricans have a life expectancy of 76
years for women and 72 for men, nearly equal to the U.S.,
and a literacy rate of 93%, higher than the U.S. (Figures from the U.S. Dept. of
Education and health care are
universally available to every citizen, paid for by a social security tax.
Just walking down the street you can see the
difference. In Costa Rica you see none of the groups of children
begging or idle or the crippled and lame children one often sees in Africa or
the Middle East as a result of war or disease
or lack of schools.
The most significant result of Costa Rica's neutrality is peace.
Unique among its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has been at peace for
the last 50 years. While Nicaragua, Guatemala,
Honduras, and El Salvador have literally been bleeding to
death in civil wars and military sponsored terrorism, Costa Rica has
been living peacefully only a few miles away.
result of all this peace is that people want to go to Costa Rica. It twice as much tourism
business than any of its neighbors.
It's biggest social problem is the
influx of refugees, fleeing the violence and poverty in other parts of Latin America.
While I was in Costa Rica, the town councils
of a few Nicaraguan villages along the border
actually voted to secede from Nicaragua
and join Costa Rica,
great is the attraction of peace and
How has this happened?
I don't presume to know. But I
see that that the ethic of peace takes the same kind of promotion and praise
that we give to our military.
example, in Costa Rica, instead of signing off the broadcast day with symbols
of military power, the local television signs off with pictures and songs
of peace; families together, school
children playing, fathers holding babies, and crops being harvested .
On roads and bridges I saw plaques which
pointed out that this improvement was the "fruit of peace" and that
the country could not afford it if it had to pay for a military.
the University in San Jose,
the capital, our tour
guide, pointed to the beautiful campus with pride and said, "This is our
army." It is also the
"army" that brings companies like Intel and Microsoft to Costa Rica.
We have a "War College"
run by our government. Costa Rica has a "University of Peace"
sponsored by its government.
is even advertised. As you enter San Jose from the airport, there is a big billboard on the main
street that proclaims, "La Paz
comienza en nuestros hogares." Peace
begins in our homes.
Real peace takes real risks. But the sign is right. It does begin in our homes and our
churches. Our sign of peace is more
than a gesture, it is our prayer and the Lord will.