Counting the cost, climate change, and carbon fees (Part 2 of 2)

Source: (also a good article!)

Source: (also a good article!)

Today humanity faces the threat of global climate change based on our use of fossil fuels. At first we didn’t know their use would have such negative consequences or costs. It generally seemed that they were great and amazing, and some thought of fossil fuels as a gift from God. Governments subsidized their extraction and use because it makes sense to encourage good things. We flourished, expanded, and got used to spread out cities, long commutes, and long-distance travel enabled by cheap fossil fuels.

But now we know that fossil fuels are causing climate change that will increasingly affect us all, but especially the poor, vulnerable, and those living on coasts.

We know that fossil fuels have a significant and increasing cost. But we don’t actually count their costs in a meaningful way, within the framework in which so many of our decisions are made everyday: the economy. So we continue to make bad decisions like the tower builder in Jesus’ parable. Even when we subsidize renewable energy, our fossil fuel infrastructure and subsidies for fossil fuels are still there. Fossil fuels stay cheap despite their huge cost.

Our failure to count the cost of fossil fuels in a real and meaningful way will only ensure that we continue to use them. If it’s more profitable to use fossil fuels than other sources, or it’s still profitable to use a significant proportion of them in our energy mix, we’re in trouble.

A fundamental “counting the cost” solution is a carbon fee. If we make fossil fuels more expensive proportional to the amount of emissions they release, we will count the cost of fossil fuels in the way the world works: money. If it becomes clear that the nations are making all fossil fuels more expensive (not just picking and choosing certain types), businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, investors in power plants, and every day people will have a major incentive to implement and further develop alternatives to fossil fuels.

If we start the carbon fee low, it won’t be a big shock to the system. If we make the carbon fee increase every year, then this is predictable and transparent, incentivizing the whole world to start planning now in a meaningful and realistic way to transition away from fossil fuels within the next couple of decades.  The fee would be paid by the corporations that extract fossil fuels or import them into our country.  This is simple, easy to manage, and avoids the complication of determining each person’s carbon footprint.

This type of fee wouldn’t shut down any power plants tomorrow (easing the worry of lost jobs and shocks to families). But you better bet that we’ll stop building new fossil fuel power plants in a hurry because business people would see that fossil fuel profits will decrease every year and eventually become zero. In the US in 2015, electricity from new power plants was about 68% from natural gas, 26% from wind, and 6% from solar. This is still too much fossil fuels, especially since a good chunk of the natural gas comes from hydrofracking which has major methane leakage issues.

Finally, the carbon fee should be revenue neutral, which means that the government does not keep and spend the money raised. Instead, the money is returned evenly to US households. This does two things: first, it ensures that the poor and middle class aren’t burdened by the fee since price increases of fossil fuels and products based on them or their energy would occur.  Importantly, because of the refund or dividend, the poor would make money overall and on average the middle class would break even.  People would also be incentivized to reduce their use of fossil fuels, in which case a larger portion of their carbon refund is profit.

Second, a revenue neutrality (the refund or dividend) makes the carbon fee much more politically feasible in the United States: the economy would grow from investment in alternative energy and from increased spending due to the dividend. Further, revenue neutrality is attractive to conservatives since it’s a market based solution and not an actual tax or regulation. If the United States can lead on this, and show that it is beneficial, then other countries will follow!  France and Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) have implemented very similar proposals to great success.

Jesus’ parable about counting the costs simply makes sense.  If we don’t count the cost of our actions it’s far too easy to make bad decisions and be unprepared.  This is a spiritual and moral matter.  Will we find ways to make our systems reflect the reality of the growing costs of fossil fuels?  Are we serious about root cause solutions to get off of fossil fuels?  Are we serious about the real impacts of climate change to people all around the world?

Any questions on this so far? There’s a lot of information here, and I remember when I first heard about carbon fees I had a ton of questions. I’ll follow up with further posts going into more details about how it would work, and common questions. But in the meantime if you want to do your own research, a good place to start is Citizens’ Climate Lobby or the Carbon Tax Center.

Counting the cost, climate change, and carbon fees (Part 1 of 2)

Record breaking global temperatures for 2015 as reported by NASA. Source:

Record breaking global temperatures for 2015 as reported by NASA. Source:

In this 2-part post, I’ll give some background and reflection on one of Jesus’ parables and in the next post I’ll tie it in to the topic of climate change.

Jesus told a parable about counting the cost:

A king is thinking about going to war with another country. You better bet the king will send some scouts or spies to figure out how big the other army is. Do his forces even have a chance? If not, the costs are far too high and he’d be foolish to wage war.

A builder wants to build a tower. A competent builder would sit down and figure out how much it costs to build the tower, and only build it if he can afford it. Otherwise, the builder will run out of money, the tower will only be partially built, and people will see it and laugh.

Counting the cost is simply good common sense. It helps you make good decisions.

Without counting the cost you might honestly not know how to choose between 2 options. If you’re already leaning toward the bad option and you don’t count the cost, you’ll probably pick the wrong choice!

Being a follower of Jesus back during his day wasn’t easy. He had an alternative view of how human relations should work, one based on love, forgiveness, and justice. He used an analogy of a godly kingdom founded on these values, one that was blasphemous to the actual kingdoms of his day because those kingdoms were founded (partly? mostly?) on power and oppression. Even more, kings justified their power and authority by claiming it was from God. As a result, they couldn’t stomach any competing kingdom or authority within their own kingdom. Jesus’ view of a godly kingdom was also blasphemous to those who insisted that religious rules were more important than love, or who coveted their religious leadership mainly because of the power it gave them over others.

The movement Jesus started was difficult, and dangerous. Friends might stop being your friend. Family might disown you. Religious or state authorities might kill or imprison you.

But there were also perks: a new way of life, a deep sense of peace and purpose, and forging bonds of friendship and new family deeper than blood.

Today, Christianity is generally an accepted part of our culture. It’s often associated with privilege, respect, or power. I personally believe that institutional Christianity has forgotten, ignores, or explains away many of the deepest, most profound, and most difficult of Jesus’ teachings, especially those on power, violence, justice, and self-giving love.

But getting back to Jesus’ time and the original context of the parable, counting the costs of discipleship.  Being aware of the costs – acknowledging and facing them – was actually better than ignoring them. By counting the cost in advance, a potential follower of Jesus could decide if the path was really worth it. When or if suffering came later on they would be ready and could accept it.

Stay tuned for next time, when I apply this to our current challenge of climate change and weaning ourselves from fossil fuels.

The digital clock

Muslim teen builds device to detect islamophobes
By now, almost everyone is bound to be aware of the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the digital clock he built and brought to school, and the #IStandWithAhmed response.

The cartoon obviously portrays this as an example of Islamophobia, but is it, and how can we tell or be sure?

There was a history of Islamophobia in Irving, Texas stemming from February 2015 when right wing Christians and others stirred up fear about Shariah Law Courts being set up.  In reality, there was a non-binding, voluntary arbitration service provided by a local mosque and other mosques in the Dallas area.  Such arbitration services have been common in Jewish and Christian practice as well, so they are nothing new [1,3]

The mayor, Beth Van Duyne spoke with various conservative pundits, stating that Shariah courts had been set up and touting her support of legislation, “American laws for American courts”, that would prevent Shariah law from being applied in her community.  She gave interviews to Dana Loesch and Glenn Beck. She also spoke with Frank Gaffney on the subject, “the founder of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy” [1] [I’m not familiar with this group’s work].   Other articles give more details, including how she benefited from increased fundraising after becoming a national figure because of this issue and how the editorial board of her local paper that had endorsed her called her out on Islamophobia [2, 3, 4].

I think the English teacher who reported the clock as a potential bomb because she was scared was within her rights and duty.  I would like to think that she shouldn’t have been scared, but apparently she was so I suppose she had to do something.  But, I don’t understand how the situation wasn’t cleared up more quickly without involving the police or at least without resorting to handcuffs, detention at a juvenile facility, and fingerprinting.  To be clear, the police said they quickly knew it wasn’t a bomb and they were instead investigating whether or not Ahmed intended to scare people with a fake bomb, which is illegal.

The Irving police chief, Larry Boyd, gave an interview on CNN and said that the police weren’t initially aware that Ahmed had told multiple people about his clock project that day and that his engineering or robotics teacher had seen it and understood what it was.  Once they had these facts, they were able to determine that there was no bomb hoax and that Ahmed did not do anything to make people afraid [5].

I’m not sure why they didn’t have these facts right away from the principal’s and other school staff’s inquiries. Quoting Police Chief Boyd:

“There were factors and details to this that for whatever reason weren’t shared with the officers who were there initially.  So as we pursued this investigation further — as you know we didn’t file any charges on him — we dropped those charges because we were able to find out those facts that you’re [the CNN host] referring to.  Yeah, he did talk to people earlier and presented it as you described [as a clock, an engineering project].  Those were the kinds of things that allowed us to settle the matter” [5].

Another interesting take on this comes from [6] which asserts that public schools all over the country are becoming too strict and paranoid, with zero tolerance laws that unfairly mete out severe punishment to both white and minority kids.  It also makes the case that liberals tend to jump to explanations for severe punishment based on race or Islamophobia when the larger problem of zero tolerance and safety paranoia is to blame.

That author writes

I accept that it’s perfectly plausible—if not yet definitively proven—racism played a role in the specific case of Ahmed Muhamed [sic]. And it’s certainly true that poor and minority youths are at greater risk of mistreatment. Studies show schools discipline black and Latino kids more harshly and more frequently than white kids who commit the same offenses. [My note: also see references 7,8]

But it would be a grave mistake to zero-in on racism as the main problem here, because ridiculous over-enforcement of school disciplinary policies is only partly a race issue. No child is safe from having his or her rights’ trampled by assertive cops at school as long as paranoia about school safety and petty rules outlawing perfectly safe, normal teen behavior remain in place. Cops arrest kids for bringing harmless toys that vaguely resemble weapons to school. Schools suspend kids for talking, writing, or merely just thinking about said weapons while on school premises, or near school premises, or even just near the bus stop on their own front lawns.” [6]

So basically this article is saying that Islamophobia or race could be a contributing factor, and I think it was.  I think it’s a distraction to argue whether this incident was purely about Islamophobia, but I just can’t fathom the thought that Islamophobia or fear of another culture, religion, or skin color played absolutely no part somewhere in the whole chain of events.

Fortunately, Ahmed has been receiving a lot of support from notable people including the President, and has even gotten some sweet swag for his troubles.

ahmed swag

Finally, I want to end on a quick note about Islamphobia and racism.  People argue over these terms as applied to cases like this, noting Islam is a religion, not a race, so Islamophobia is different from racism.  I think they’re related because some roots of Islamophobia stem from the fact that many Muslims are from the Middle East and are not white.  Fear is often based on differences between people and unconscious or conscious labeling of people as “the Other”.  People are “Others” because of differences in culture, race, appearance, religion, and other factors.









Hypocritical opposition to Iranian nuclear deal

Republican opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal is at best willfully ignorant and at worst is hypocritical, as they brand themselves champions of national security yet for political and ideological reasons oppose an excellent deal.

A huge consensus of experts praises the deal. Twenty-nine prominent nuclear scientists sent President Obama a letter praising the deal, over three dozen retired generals and admirals endorsed it in a letter, and nuclear security and nonproliferation experts also praise it.

The letter by the retired generals and admirals entitled “Iran deal benefits U.S. national security” calls the deal “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” explaining that it “provides for intrusive verification … and is not based on trust; the deal requires verifications and tough sanctions for failure to comply.”

The letter from the 29 scientists describes it as “the most comprehensive verification ever obtained,” including monitoring of uranium mining, milling, conversion to uranium hexafluoride, centrifuge manufacturing and R&D, and real-time monitoring of active centrifuges and spent fuel. Furthermore, it allows challenge inspections for any suspected clandestine operations.

Finally, “the deal includes important long-term verification procedures that last until 2040, and others that last indefinitely under the Nonproliferation Treaty and its Additional Protocol.”  The deal “will make it much easier … to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb, and the detection of a significant violation of this agreement will provide strong, internationally supported justification for intervention.” [still quoting frmo the scientists’ letter]

I feel strongly about this topic because I worked for the National Nuclear Security Administration before I began pursuing my PhD in Ecological Engineering.  I’ve heard my former colleagues’ frustration that politics threaten a deal that will increase the safety of our country.

The deal will also end the suffering of everyday Iranians under the sanctions, as they have played a major role in harming the economy and leading to massive inflation.  Some articles on this are here (AlJazeera), here (PBS), and here (NY Times).

Far too often, Republicans are proving themselves to be the party of “no,” aiming to block everything and anything Obama does in a zero-sum race to the bottom.

Finally, here’s an video an Iranian friend shared with me, showing how much everyday Iranians know about our Republican candidates for president!

Fighting climate change interfaith style: divestment, reinvestment, and personal action

Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith in a webinar about fighting climate change, interfaith style!

Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith in a webinar about fighting climate change, interfaith style!

Check out this 30-minute webinar hosted by Religions for Peace on fighting climate change with Fletcher Harper, executive director of an organization called Green Faith.  They’re focused on building practical action on climate change on both a local scale and also a national/global scale through divestment and reinvestment.  He’s a great speaker and it’s really encouraging to hear what he has to say.

I’m a young adult leader in Religions for Peace so I had to opportunity to have some conversation with him at the end!  I could use a bit more polish in my speaking 😉

Check it out!!


Day after Memorial Day reflection

It’s hard to have a rational, compassionate discussion about violence on Memorial Day, the day after, or any day in a country in which we strongly believe that violence solves problems without creating new ones.  It is uncomfortable for many when we question the role of our military in foreign affairs and the way we have supported dictators, toppled democratically elected governments, and created false pretenses for war.

The focus should never be on criticizing the rank and file of our armed forces.  They are indeed brave and courageous people, most of whom have noble reasons for joining the military such as fighting for freedom.

The questions we have to ask are those directed to our leaders.  Are our leaders’ motivations for war accurate and true?  Is the worldview their motivations stem from actually supported by evidence (i.e. do their wars actually solve problems they say they will, or any problems at all)?  Are they really just interested in establishing and broadening control over other countries?

And more broadly, how does power tend to corrupt people?  What is the role of power in bringing peace?  Is there a role?  If so, what is the potential role of armed or unarmed peacekeeping forces as opposed to invading forces?

And let’s look for parallels in our own lives, because all around the world people are people, are human beings.  So maybe people in other countries respond to violence similarly to how we might.

Does force solve disputes, problems, and differences within our families and friendships, with people who are close to us and understand us pretty well?  I don’t think so.  Will force then work in other countries, where people don’t understand us well and there are pronounced differences in race, religion, and culture?  Sounds worse to me.

It’s difficult to have our worldviews shaken, and to see that the United States has a very real dark side in addition to the freedom and prosperity many of us experience.  But recognizing and addressing this dark side is actually more patriotic than ignoring it, because we can express our love of country by making it better.


People featured in this post

People featured in this post: bonus points if you know who they all are!

What is love?
Baby don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more
– Haddaway, What is love (90’s song)

What is love? In this post I’ll tackle this question drawing from some of the world’s greatest thinkers and movers, and will follow up in the next post with a discussion on the relationship of love and religion.

From Mozi (ca. 400 BC), a contemporary of Confucius:
Where do disorders – the world’s ills – come from? They arise from lack of mutual love. The son loves himself but does not love his father, so he cheats his father for his own gain. The younger brother loves himself but not his brother or his father so he cheats his older brother for his own gain.

Robbers and brigands likewise love their own households, but not the homes of others and so rob these homes for their own benefit. State officers, princes, and rulers make war on other countries because they love their own country but not other countries. They seek to profit their country at the expense of others.

This is what the world calls disorder. This all comes from the lack of mutual love.

The ultimate cause of all disorders in the world is lack of mutual love.

For if everyone were to regard the persons of others as his own person, who would inflict pain and injury on others? If they regarded the homes of others as their own homes, who would rob others’ homes? In that case there would be no brigands or robbers! If the princes loved other countries as their own, who would wage war on other countries? In this case, there would be no more war.1

Paul of Tarsus (ca. 40 ad)
The commandments … are summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as your self. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.2

Leo Tolstoy (ca. 1900):
Some people are able to foresee and point out the path of life along which humanity must move: a new theory of life that will change the whole future conduct of humanity and will be different from all that has been before. In this divine theory of life, humanity does not find the purpose of life in fulfilling his or her own desires (the animal theory of life), or in fulfilling the desires of societies of individuals (whether the family, clan, political party, or nation) but only serves the eternal source of life itself. The motor power of this life is love.

It is natural to love yourself. It is natural to love your immediate family, extended family, friends, social group, and fellow citizens. But this love gets weaker – more dilute – the farther out we go from our self. It is possible, though, to have a love that extends to all of humanity. We all have to discover it for ourselves, but there are some who can help others internalize it and experience the depth, richness, and transformation behind it.3

From Lao Tsu, in the Tao te Ching
In nature the softest overcomes the strongest. There is nothing in the world so weak as water. But nothing can surpass it in attacking the hard and the strong. There is no way to alter it. Hence weakness overcomes strength, softness overcomes hardness. The world knows this but is unable to practice it.4

There are many ways, many paths to this type of love. Yet each path is narrow, is difficult. Not enough people tread this difficult but rewarding path. Those who do are filled with the love, strength, and passion of God. This God is not a being, does not give laws or doctrine, and does not belong to any one religion. Wherever this love exists, there God is. God is love.


1 Kurlansky, Mark. Non-violence – The History of a Dangerous Idea
2 Romans 12 and 13 (Bible)
3 Tolstoy, Leo. The Kingdom of God is Within You (with some paraphrasing and summarizing from yours truly)
4 Kurlansky, Mark. Ibid

Science to dispel fear


Fear is a powerful emotion.  It can be used to control others, to gain power, to gain money, or to gain recognition as an “expert”.  It can also motivate us to action, and even to do the right thing in some cases.

Science can help us know what we should and should not fear, and what potentially to do about the things we fear.  Thus, science can help to dispel fear.  (Too much fear is not a good thing – it distracts us from other things we should give more of our attention to, and it can prevent us from enjoying the good things around us.)

What prompted my thoughts on this right now?  I just learned that on Feb. 19, there was a small release of radioactivity from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP – click to see their summary) in Carlsbad, NM.  (WIPP is a long-term storage site for nuclear waste materials related to past nuclear weapons activities – it’s not used for commercial waste produced by nuclear power plants.)

What frustrates me is that so many people have an “expert opinion” on this topic through the blogosphere, with people citing SECRET SOURCES and NEW CALCULATIONS that reveal that we’re all going to die from this event.  (I am exaggerating…barely…but you get the point.)

There are many people who consider themselves progressives, or just care about the environment and have an opinion on various nuclear issues.  But who you trust for your info means a lot.  My dad is a great and wonderful person, but he gets his news and analysis of current events through very conservative sources, so he frequently surprises me with the ideas that he absorbs and accepts when he’s otherwise also an extremely intelligent person.  I think this phenomenon is much more recognized as occurring on the far right, but it actually happens just as much (or at least a lot) on the far left, and this (in my opinion) really contributes to discrediting progressive causes and movements.

There is money to be made in fear.  Here is one example.  A blog that purports to do its own (fatally flawed) calculations on the WIPP radiation release, with a nice “Donate via Paypal” button that says the money will go to testing of food for radiation.  Yeah right.  When I click on it, its paypal label is just the name of the blogger, like any other donation link anywhere else on the site.


The first blog I saw on this topic is here.  It attracted over 90 comments, which I’m jealous of!  😉   Look at all the experts responding with new calculations, insider reports, etc. about how we’re gonna die.   Below is my response:


I’m new to your site, just having stumbled upon it doing some google searching on this WIPP incident.

One thing I find lacking in much discussion about radioactivity is context – specifically, what do the numbers cited mean, and how do they compare to other numbers related to radioactivity that we routinely experience?

A Bq (becquerel) is an absolutely minuscule measure of radioactivity. The release of a handful of Bq’s truly poses no health risks. I think we should actually feel *safer* and *more secure* knowing that WIPP can detect and respond to minuscule releases, giving us confidence that it won’t release larger quantities.

And here’s some perspective on numbers. Many radioactive materials are naturally occurring. C-14, for instance, is everywhere. That’s how we do carbon dating. Life has evolved in the presence of background radiation, so background radiation levels are not harmful. The levels cited in this WIPP incident and your article here – 0.64 Bq and 0.092 Bq – are much less than natural background, and much less even than the amount of radiation *contained in any banana*. A banana has on average 15 Bq of radioactive potassium. A banana explosion would release much more radiation than this event.

And I’m not trying to say the release of radiation is not a concern. It is! But it’s a concern for the WIPP people, too, and they managed it quite well. I haven’t read your blog, so I don’t know, but I would think you should be much more concerned about the rail accidents involving trains carrying oil from the Canadian tar sands. These have actually killed people!

As for the criticism of offering free radiation testing, this is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. People hype up radiation because it’s scary. People get afraid over events like this. If WIPP does nothing and offers no concrete way of assuring people they are safe (through free testing of anyone who’s worried they were exposed) they will be criticized. If they *do* offer this testing as a means of public reassurance, people will criticize that too (as is done in many of these comments).

Here’s info on the bananas:

Looking forward to some good discussion.


We’ll see what happens.

Father Coyne: Jesuit priest and scientist extraordinaire!

fr_coyneYesterday I was honored and thrilled to meet Father Coyne, a Jesuit priest, Ph.D. in Astronomy specializing in astrophysics, and retired head of the Vatican’s research observatory located at the University of Arizona in my hometown – Tucson, AZ.   (I realized the Tucson connection when I saw he had a 520 area code for his cell phone).  I met him at his residence at Le Moyne College, a Jesuit school right here in Syracuse.

A friend of mine at school told me about a series of lectures on religion at Le Moyne and looking at its website I quickly found Fr. Coyne.  He was on Bill Maher’s movie “Religulous” – one of its few rational religious voices.  He was also interviewed by famous New Atheist Richard Dawkins for a TV show about Darwin, and the full interview is on youtube.  Check it out!

dawkins_coyneFr. Coyne is an ardent and passionate voice for both the (potential) depth of religion and the validity of science, including evolution.  I thoroughly (that’s an understatement!) enjoyed my time with him and I wished we had videotaped our conversation so we could put it on youtube!!  (He did say we might do this another time.)

We talked about a lot of things, but we touched on how earnest many atheists are in their critique of religion and that they have many good points based on ethical and scientific grounds.  We agreed that absent from debates on science and religion are Jesus’ own very anti-establishment and anti-religion views/teachings and his focus on experience and common sense.

We agreed that there is no dualism between the spiritual and the material.  That is, the spiritual is in the material and vice versa.  There’s not separate realms or realities, although it can be useful or inspiring to envision such things.  Here’s my little phrase that sums it up:  “We don’t need the supernatural.  The natural is super enough!”

I tried out a few of my newest thoughts and ideas on him – like my pithy saying above – which were very well-received.  For instance, we talked about faith.  St. Paul says faith is hope in that which is unseen.  For me, that includes the power of love, the depth of the human spirit, and our search for the transcendent or the divine (in a symbolic way but one that can be experienced).  He agreed, and I said I felt a lot of sympathy for those who only know of the word “faith” as belief in doctrine or dogma and criticize it as such.

But along the lines of St. Paul, there’s a huge difference between belief in what’s unseen (we believe in many things that are unseen) and belief in things that scientific evidence is strongly against.

For example, I don’t believe in the virgin birth (of Jesus).

From a scientific perspective it’s just so highly unlikely.  But adding to this, virgin births are  present in the stories and myths of other religions and cultures.  Is Christianity’s virgin birth true while all other cultures’ and religions’ virgin births aren’t?

What I conclude is that virgin births are a very dramatic element that mean “Hey!!  Listen up!!!  This person is very important!!”  And I do believe that Jesus was and is very important.  Hopefully there can be more depth and public discussion of why.  What did he teach?  How is that different from Christianity?

This was just a bit of what we talked about.  It was amazing, though, to talk with someone who thoroughly understood where I was coming from from both a religious and scientific standpoint.  Each of us experience awe, inspiration, and transcendence through both science and religion.

I look forward to getting to know Fr. Coyne more and am amazed and thankful that our paths that unknowingly overlapped for so long in Tucson now “knowingly” overlap in Syracuse, NY of all places!


Syria and international connections of young adults working for peace


It’s amazing to be connected to other young adults around the globe working for peace through the International Youth Committee (IYC) of Religions for Peace ( Especially with social media, I get to see first-hand accounts of what’s going on in other countries through people I’ve actually met. Nataliya Pylypiv had been sharing about major Ukrainian current events, and Manar from Syria (Mnary OoIoo) wrote this to the IYC just a few days ago:


“I miss you all very much and I apologize that I have not been in touch with you lately due to the sad events happening in my country. It is such a great pain. I had vowed my soul and my body to give everything and do all what I can to all my fellow citizens for the sake of my wounded country, Syria. The situation in this country is very painful and hard to describe. Men and women, children and elderly are all dying because of hunger, oppression, and expositions. Different methods of torture are used against my people and the whole world remains silent. We are exhausted and oppressed culturally and psychologically with no practical solution offered by any part of this world to get out of our crisis. There is no glimmer of hope, unfortunately, to stop the mass murder and in this part of the world. There is more and more fire and struggle in this country.

I just wanted to be in touch with you and share with a bit of my daily sufferings as a Syrian citizen.”


I don’t actually believe in supernatural intervention, but I do believe in the power of the human spirit and that amazing things happen when the collective human spirit focuses or coalesces on an issue or topic. Action springs out of conviction, love, passion, and inner peace. Prayer can cultivate all of these things. Martin Luther King, Jr said the universe bends towards justice and (Saint) Paul said that all of “creation” groans for wholeness. What I really think these mean is that the universe *wants* to bend toward justice (if you permit me to be poetic and anthropomorphize the universe), so when we work for justice with a pure heart and informed actions, we *will* see progress. We will see justice and love blossom, and deeper ties between people form … even sometimes between those who were previously enemies.

In response to Manar, Religions for Peace has put out this interfaith call to prayer for Syria (the picture at the beginning of the post). Please pass this on through your communities (or something like it adapted to your community).

We are grappling with a sense of powerlessness and asking what type of action can we take? What is the next step?

Do you have any ideas?

The world – and especially the people of Syria – are groaning in this struggle but also in hope for justice, peace, and transformation.