The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative: Affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement, affirms that active nonviolence is at the heart of the vision and message of Jesus, the life of the Catholic Church, and the long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.

This bold effort was launched at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome April 11-13, 2016 and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pax Christi International, and other international bodies (see full list below). Continue reading The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative: Affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church

Just war? Enough already.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Gerald Schlabach, published on May 31, 2017 by Commonweal magazine.

Photo of Tyne Cot Commonwealth cemetery (Belgium) by Johnny Zokovitch.

A question for sports fans: What would you make of a coach who drills his team exclusively on last-minute desperation plays, while neglecting the basics? What would you make of players whose whole mindset was geared toward spectacular buzzer-beaters, but couldn’t play sound defense? In much the same manner, a church whose members never train themselves in nonviolent social strategies for resisting injustice or protecting the vulnerable — while their leaders spend centuries focused mainly on “exceptional” last-resort situations of the kind envisioned in just-war doctrine — is way off its game. Or in the wrong game altogether.

A year ago I participated in the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference, an historic event organized by Pax Christi International and co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome. At its close, the conference issued an appeal to the Catholic Church, urging that it “re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence.” The document reflected the consensus of eighty-some attendees from more than thirty countries—lay people, theologians, religious, and priests, including six bishops—that the church must abandon its reliance on “just-war” theory. By dedicating his 2017 World Day of Peace message to the theme, “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” Pope Francis has signaled that church leadership is listening.

What is so wrong with the just-war theory? The answer lies in the way it overlooks and even undermines alternative approaches. The critique that emerged at the meeting was that while many Christians have come to assume that Jesus’ nonviolent teachings are impractical in the face of violence, they know little about the practice, power, or effectiveness of those teachings. When Pope John Paul II looked back on the 1989 revolution that brought down the Soviet empire, he did not credit Ronald Reagan or Mikhail Gorbachev, but resolute nonviolent action by ordinary people. And rightly so. Political-science researchers Maria Stephan (a participant at the Rome conference) and Erica Chenoweth have extensively surveyed conflicts around the world since 1900 and found that nonviolent resistance campaigns have been twice as successful as violent struggles. …

Read the entire article here.

U.S. Catholics: Write your bishop to encourage his support of active nonviolence

Updated July 5, 2017

“Instruments of reconciliation” is a new national campaign to amplify active nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church. Catholics in other parts of the world might adapt the information for their local situations.

Please use this form to let the campaign know if you take action.

Catholics in the United States are asked to choose a date in July (see suggestions below) to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their bishop and to invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by 1) sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries and 2) concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence. Continue reading U.S. Catholics: Write your bishop to encourage his support of active nonviolence

Keep your eyes on the prize of peace

The following article was published by the Tablet, the international Catholic news weekly. It was co-written by Anne Dodd, former chair of Pax Christi UK, and Pat Gaffney, Pax Christi UK’s general secretary and a member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative’s executive committee.

May 4, 2017 – The word “peace” runs like a thread through the liturgy of the Mass. We hear, “Grace to you and peace from God” and “The peace of the Lord be always with you”. We are told to “offer each other the sign of peace” and we say “peace be with you” to those sitting near us; and, at the end of Mass, we are told to go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our lives.

Each week when we attend Mass, we are reminded of the intimate connection of peace and reconciliation with God and with each other – the wholeness that the Old Testament word “Shalom” expresses. And yet, parishes seem to find little time or opportunity to explore the centrality of peace-making within our Catholic tradition, to dig deeper into this word, “peace”. The Bishops of England and Wales have designated the second Sunday in Ordinary Time (which was 15 January this year) as “Peace Sunday”. For 50 years, each Pope has published a World Day of Peace message on the many aspects of peace-making, including interfaith cooperation, the link between poverty and war and the role of education for peace. The theme for this year is “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace”.

Pax Christi produces a range of prayer, reflection and action resources to help parishes and communities celebrate the World Peace Day message. This year, the worksheets invite us to explore Gospel nonviolence, including the courageous nonviolence of Jesus, how to promote nonviolence in the parish and the “two hands” of nonviolence – non-cooperation with violence on the one hand but remaining open to the humanity of the violator on the other. The materials offer stories of nonviolence in action. The theme is to be studied and expanded upon for the whole year.

Every parish receives these resources; and, as with other resources on Christian peace-making, their purpose is to encourage communities to reflect on ways of following more closely in Christ’s footsteps. They include homily notes, prayers, stories of peace-making and activities for adults and children. Parishes show great creativity in how they respond.

The young people in one parish used movement and fabric to create the idea of peace flowing like a river during the offertory procession. In another parish, the local primary school cooperated with the parish and the children researched the lives of well-known peacemakers and wrote their own prayers for peace which were made into an exhibition. Continue reading Keep your eyes on the prize of peace

Active nonviolence: A way to build lasting peace in South Sudan

The following message was circulated by the Comboni Missionaries.

29 April 2017 – A group of 46 brothers, sisters and priests, belonging to 25 religious congregations, all members of the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS), attended a five-day workshop on Consecrated Life and held the RSASS Annual General Assembly 2017 at the Good Shepherd Peace Centre, in Kit (Juba), from 24th – 29th April 2017. [See photo above, from]

The religious reflected on active nonviolence and on Pope Francis’ letter Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace. They also elected the new executive body to govern the Association for the next three years.

There are currently 49 religious congregations working in all seven Catholic dioceses of South Sudan with over 450 members of the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS).

At the end of their meeting, the group of consecrated men and women sent out a message of nonviolence to other members of their congregations, to the churches and the people of South Sudan, to their friends and supporters and all people of good will.

Read full message Continue reading Active nonviolence: A way to build lasting peace in South Sudan

Online course: Strengthening civilian capacities to protect civilians

This online course is taught by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and is offered for college credit through Merrimack College. Session 1 starts May 22.

Unarmed civilian protection flyer

Continue reading Online course: Strengthening civilian capacities to protect civilians

Christians and Buddhists: Walking together on the path of nonviolence

From Vatican Radio:

[On April 22, 2017, the] Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue … issued a message on the occasion of the Buddhist feast of Vesakh on the theme “Christians and Buddhists: Walking Together on the Path of Nonviolence.”

The message, signed by Council President Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Council Secretary Fr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ, emphasizes the urgent need to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence as both these values were promoted by Jesus Christ and the Buddha.

The text reiterates how Jesus walked the path of nonviolence to the very end, to the cross, and calls his followers today to embrace his teaching about nonviolence. Buddha also heralded the same message and encouraged all to overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.

Therefore the message calls for a common enterprise, to study the causes of violence, combat violence and to pray for world peace while walking together on the path of nonviolence.
Continue reading Christians and Buddhists: Walking together on the path of nonviolence

Why Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message is such a breakthrough

The following essay was written by Dr. Terrence Rynne, who was one of the attendees of the April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace conference in Rome.

That Pope Francis consciously chose “nonviolence” as the theme of his message to the world on New Year ’s Day 2017, is in itself a powerful fact. The pope unabashedly pointed out that “nonviolence” is what Jesus taught and modeled and said, “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”i The pope is signaling a true return to the sources for the Catholic Church: Sacred Scripture and the traditions of the early Church. Just as the return to the sources (ressourcement) by theologians such as Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar and Karl Rahner fueled the renaissance of Catholic theology and the magnificent documents of the Second Vatican Council so also today the pope is returning in a fresh way to the sources.

First, he is reading the Gospels attentively and finds his inspiration there. He says for example: “Jesus himself lived in violent times…But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek. When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword, Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross.”ii Pope Francis is not using natural law theory as the basis of the Church’s teaching on war and violence, he is going straight to the Gospels. Continue reading Why Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message is such a breakthrough