Silent Victims of the War: The Elderly

18687703_eaff1366e8_oHow many have people died because of the war in Iraq?

Depending on who provides the figures, the number varies from 150,000 to 1,500,000.

The two most respected studies also vary greatly in their estimates:

The Opinion Research Business organization estimated that there have been 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the war in Iraq, from 2003 to 2008.

Amy Hagopian of the University of Washington published a study in the journal PLoS Medicine on 15 October this year, asserting that the death toll, since the outbreak of war until June 2008, was 460,800.

Professor Raymond Baker states well: “there is something blinding in such large scale and horrible destruction. It is simply too painful to discuss about methods to calculate the number of innocents killed brutally, when the figures almost immediately lead us to well over hundreds and hundreds of thousands of human beings.”

But leaving aside the fact of the huge difference between the two studies, and basing ourselves on the latter, we still have something to add.

According to the report, of the total of half a million deaths in the Iraq war,  60% are directly attributable to violence and the rest are caused due to the collapse of infrastructure and other problems associated with the war, such as the breakdown of health facilities, loss of means of transport and communication.

18687703_eaff1366e8_oMost deaths were due directly to violence, particularly shootings, car bombs and explosions. Cardiovascular diseases were the main cause of almost half of the non-violent deaths. These non-violent deaths were caused by the shifting of focus in the health system that is intent on addressing the crisis (thus losing its ability to treat diseases), disruption of the networks for essential supplies, and the collapse of infrastructure that protects the drinking water, food, transport, waste management, and energy. The war also contributes to a climate of fear, humiliation, and disruption of livelihoods, all conditions that undermine health.

As you can see, the report is comprehensive and covers the various elements that produce casualties in the war.

But it does not include all the elements; some have been left out, because they go beyond the scope of the report. But these are realities that one sees in situ.

I will refer only to one of them; namely, the reality of the silent victims, people who die without being taken into account, who are not even counted in the statistics. And within this group, I will now mention only the elderly.

It is true that the study talks about the elderly. But it does not do so sufficiently. Because it is normal to consider that old people die, and that their time has come. But there are thousands of men and women, who weakened by their advanced years, have died and continue to die, because the effects of war continue.

The environmental degradation that has occurred in this conflict is quite known, at least in part. Before the war, Iraq had almost 75% desert territory. This number has increased significantly because of the passage of the tanks, the tons of bombs and missiles that were used, the pollution of rivers, the use of depleted uranium, etc. Sandstorms have multiplied and even the average temperature has risen during the summer and has fallen during the winter so as to accentuate the desert climate. Last summer in our town, there were three weeks with a maximum temperature exceeding 130ºF. And in an earlier year it was over 140ºF.

And during those summers the electricity supply to most homes of Baghdad lasted for an average of one hour per day! And this is because the country has not recovered from the ravages of war. The damage to infrastructure has been immense.

And so, each year many elderly people die because they cannot withstand these temperatures.

These are also victims of the madness of modern warfare. But they are silent victims whom nobody thinks about. It is the euthanasia of the war.

And how much the society loses because of the loss of the elderly!
As Pope Francis teaches “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family. The Aparecida Document says, “Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives” (No. 447). This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened!” (Angelus, July 26, 2013).

And it is a treasure that is being lost in this country, and so the reconstruction is even more difficult. Let us pray for the elderly and for those who stand to lose because of the demise of the elderly!

 Fr. Luis Montes, IVE


Pope Francis: Elderly Are Treasure of Society

Calls on Faithful To Safeguard the ‘Noble Heritage’ of Grandparents

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2013 ( – During Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on the faithful to care for grandparents, for without them there is no future.

The Holy Father drew his homily from today’s first reading from the book of Maccabees, which spoke of the elderly Eleazar, who chose martyrdom instead of betraying his faith.

“By manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws,” Eleazar says before his death.The Holy Father noted Eleazar’s decision to die in order to leave an example to the youth, saying that in front of the choice between apostasy and fidelity, he does not doubt.

“[There is] the coherence of this man, the coherence of his faith, but also the responsibility of leaving a noble heritage, a true heritage,” the Pope said. “We live in a time when the elderly do not count. It’s awful to say, but they are discarded. Because they are a nuisance to us. The elderly are those who carry history, that carry doctrine, that carry the faith and give it to us as an inheritance. They are like a good vintage wine who have this strength from within to give us a noble heritage.”

The Holy Father recalled a short story he heard as a child. The story relates to a family, consisting of a father, mother, the children and the grandfather, gathered around the table. The father, annoyed by the grandfather who would dirty himself while eating, suggests buying a separate table to isolate the grandfather. When the father returns home one day, he finds his son playing with wood. The father asks his child what he was doing with the wood, to which the child replied, “To make a table for you father, when you become old like grandpa.”

“This story has done me so much good, all my life,” the Pope said. “Grandparents are a treasure.”

“The Letter to the Hebrews, the 13th chapter says: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” The memory of our ancestors brings us to the imitation of faith.”

The Holy Father went on to say that the knowledge that the elderly bare is an inheritance that all should received. “A people that does not care for its grandparents, a people that does not respect their grandparents, does not have a future, because they do not have a memory, they have lost their memory,” he stressed.

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to remember those elderly who live in retirement homes, especially those who are abandoned by their families. The elderly, he said, are the treasure of our society. The Holy Father prayed for all grandparents “who many times had a heroic role in the transmission of faith in times of persecution.”

“The fourth commandment: it is the only one that promises something in return. It is the commandment of mercy – to be merciful with our ancestors. Let us ask today for the grace from the old Saints – Simeon, Anne, Policarpo and Eleazar – so many old Saints: let us ask for the grace to take care of, to listen and venerate our ancestors, our grandparents.”


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