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This letter came to me from David Akhviediani, a Georgian student I met in Kraków last month:

Dear friends!

The aim of this email is to raise the awareness of those crimes that are currently being conducted by Russian occupants in Georgia.

Russian troops are continuing illegal occupation of my homeland. We are being attacked from sea, air, and land. Aggressors deliberately target the peaceful population: killing lots of civilians, women and children in the major Georgian cities.

We do not possess enough force to stop one of the world’s strongest army. The only way to halt this horrible war is international intervention. So far those international crimes committed by the Russian hands have been ignored, Kremlin is encouraged by the silence of the International community and currently is trying to open another front-line in western part of Georgia. Moreover today [8/10] an additional 10,000 troops have crossed the border with hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles. Terrible clashes continue, there are lots of casualties on both sides.

This is not only our war. We are being punished for not staying on Russian orbit, for our attempts to build a real democratic pluralistic society, for willingness to integrate with the West and become a member of NATO. This is also your war too because you have to show that the achievements of our civilization: principle of sovereignty, solidarity among nations, human rights, and non-intervention will not be shattered away.

Speak up for the atrocities conducted by Russian occupants, voice up for killings of women and innocent children. This is a universal responsibility for the future of humankind, express your solidarity and condemn mass violence in order to avoid it tomorrow in your country.

We are all committed to defend out country . . . . If it is the last time you hear from me, than I wish you all the best . . .


Is it irony that I met David attending the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society , organized as communism was falling in the Soviet bloc, to promote moral, fruitful democratic societies? This year’s seminar brought together some thirty Eastern European and American young people, for an intensive study of John Paul II’s social teaching, especially as developed in the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus .

In light of the present conflict in Georgia, the words of CA come eerily to life: Our discussions and debates were not merely intellectual pastimes for the lecture hall, a pleasant excuse for three weeks in beautiful Kraków. The questions CA raises—most centrally, how to protect the “dignity of the person revealed in all its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word,” particularly through the interlocking political, economic, and cultural facets of society—cannot go unasked and unanswered when hostile troops are at the door.

Whether the nation of Georgia, as a whole, is under threat remains to be seen. That many of its citizens are being threatened is undeniable. The question now, and to come, is how to reconcile what David terms the principles of “non-intervention” and “solidarity among nations,” what John Paul II calls our “shared responsibility for all humanity” and the commitment to peaceful resolutions, expressed in his cry, “War—never again!”

In the early years of the Free Society seminar, the sufferings of socialism and the horrors of Soviet oppression were fresh in the minds of the young participants. These memories are now fading—infantile recollections, tales from parents and grandparents, the admonitions of history. May it remain that way.



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