From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Scouting movement has great potential as force for peace in the world

by Father Terence Tully, for the Inland Register

Nov 1 2001

(From the Nov. 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

In the ancient walled city of Jerusalem, Father Mark Pautler and I saw a Scout sign over the door of a building in 1984.

We walked in and saw a dozen boys of Scout age, playing ping-pong and other games. No one was wearing a Scouting uniform, but on a wall was a portrait of Lord Baden-Powell with information in the Arabic language printed under it.

The man in charge welcomed us me and offered bottles of Coca-Cola. We did not carry on a conversation because of the language barrier. I tried to ask if the place was a meeting center for Boy Scouts.

The man showed us a bulletin or letterhead which seemed to show not only a connection with Scouting but also with the Catholic Church. He recognized us as a priests from the clerical collars we were wearing, and I remembered seeing school children in the area with blue and white uniforms similar to those of parish schoolchildren in Spokane. More than once I had heard that Catholics in Jerusalem are likely Palestinians.

I did not happen to encounter any Israeli Scouts in Jerusalem but I remembered seeing them in the World Scout Jamboree held in Farragut State Park in 1967.

Scouting a peacemaker?
I feel compelled to ask the question: Can the world Scout Movement act as a peacemaker between hostile groups? I did get a chance to ask the question when I met an official of the International Catholic Conference on Scouting a couple of years ago. I asked whether Israeli Scouts and Scouters and Palestinian Scouts and Scouters might be able to work toward peace. In reply he said little but implied that division and hostility were too great.

I took that to mean the time is not ripe. I think that Boy Scouts of America can pray about this, and prepare for the time it can walk into the peacemaking arena. That time must come.

Peacemaking melody
Some readers of this column may remember the story of prisoners of war held by the Japanese somewhere in World War II Asia.

The prisoners’ lives were made bearable and probably saved by a Japanese prison guard. He revealed to them he had attended a World Scout Jamboree in 1937 in the Netherlands with them.

Prison rules strictly forbade him to speak to the prisoners or to allow them to speak to him. But he hummed a tune, the theme song of the Jamboree, which only the former Scouts of that Jamboree would know. He also managed to give them extra water, food, and rest, without which they would probably have died.

What is astounding about this incident is that it occurred in a war with enemies especially bitter toward one another, a war that began with a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and ended with atomic bombs. Yet the treaty following the war was so reasonable that enemies became allies. In this one incident Scouting fostered a small act of peacemaking. Were there others never reported?

The page on Japan in Scouting ‘Round the World gives 1913 as the year Scouting was started in Japan and the year 1909 for Scouting’s startup in the United States. The list of 150 countries and territories that have accepted Scouting is too long for this column. But it is noteworthy that Islamic countries like Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Qatar, and Syria have Scouting. Among the many religious emblems that various denominations give to Scouts in their membership is the Islamic medal called “In the Name of God, the Magnificent, the Merciful.”

Maybe the time is still not ripe to expect that Scouts in nations unfriendly to one another can find the way to peace. But pray the time will ripen soon.

Coming events

  • Bishop’s Recognition Day, Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane. Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002, 2 p.m. Bishop Skylstad will confer religious emblems on Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls.

    For information on the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting and its activities, contact:

  • Father Terence Tully, diocesan Scout chaplain, 221 E. Rockwood Blvd., Apt. 308, Spokane, WA 99207-1200; phone (509) 458-7674; or
  • Joe Schmitz, chairperson, Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, 400 S. Jefferson, Suite 112, Spokane, WA 99204; (509) 747-7499.

    For the National Catholic Committee on Scouting’s web site, click here!

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