World Day of Peace message 2017 calls for lives of “active nonviolence”

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December 12, 2016 – Today in his message Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace, for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1 January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a global effort to affirm the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church, is heartened by and deeply grateful for the Holy Father’s call to political and religious leaders, heads of international organizations, and business and media executives to “apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. … To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict.”

“It was especially noteworthy that we received Pope Francis’ message at this time,” said Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. “Last week we gathered with member organizations in Africa for our regional conference, Nonviolence in Africa: Creating a future of hope, during which time the attendees endorsed the Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence. Much of our time together during those days focused on how to reclaim civil space and how to promote nonviolence in many ways. The Holy Father’s message for 2017 deeply resonates with us as the work Pax Christi International and its member groups has been dedicated for years to finding creative and peaceful solutions to violent conflict.”

John Ashworth, an adviser to the South Sudanese Catholic bishops, participated in the Nonviolence in Africa conference and also in the April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace gathering in Rome. In response to the World Day of Peace message, John said, “After nearly 200 years of ethnic, religious, cultural and political oppression, discrimination and marginalisation, the people of southern Sudan surely had ‘just cause’ for their armed liberation struggle which culminated in the independence of South Sudan in July 2011. But they had less than three years to enjoy their liberation before a new civil war broke out, the third in 60 years. Violence begets violence. The legacy of decades of armed conflict – trauma; a culture of violence; cycles of revenge, bitterness and hatred which had never been reconciled; tribalism and division; the militarisation of society and politics; corruption and nepotism; authoritarianism; poverty and illiteracy; the dehumanisation of the individual and the lack of respect for human life – had left their mark. The cycle of violence must be broken, radically, and it can only be done so by a new paradigm of nonviolent peacebuilding.”

Fr. Pat Cunningham, a Columban missionary living and working in South Korea who attended the April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace conference, responds: “It is indeed very positive to see as one of the fruits of the Rome conference the adoption of nonviolence as a theme for World Peace Day. Pope Francis’ reference to the current situation as a  ‘third world war in pieces’ in highlighting the negative social consequences of violence and particularly when it comes to preparations for war in this region his remarks certainly ring true. I believe that the public’s desire for a new politics here will hopefully lead to more people led institutions that are based on nonviolence and I’m sure Pope Francis’ message will bring much thoughtful reflection.”

Another attendee of the April conference, Merwyn DeMello, who lives and works in Afghanistan, said that Pope Francis, with this message, “honored and respected by the people of Afghanistan who crave peace for their day to day living and their nation. [This] proactive stance on nonviolence, nonviolent resolution to world-wide conflict, respect for Islam and its adherents is a beacon of hope for Afghans and their future generations.  From our hearts salaam alaikum.”

For more information, including many World Day of Peace resources for parishes and communities, visit here or email nonviolence@paxchristi.net.

Catholic Nonviolence Initiative’s World Day of Peace 2017 press release

Notre communiqué de presse en français

Nuestro comunicado de prensa en español

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Pax Christi Peace Stories

Pax Christi International is a global Catholic peace movement and network that works to help establish Peace, Respect for Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation in areas of the world that are torn by conflict. It is grounded in the belief that peace is possible and that vicious cycles of violence and injustice can be broken.

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