CNI update, December 2018

Since its founding in 2016, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International in partnership with several other international Catholic organisations, has significantly advanced the conversation and understanding of nonviolence and just peace in the Catholic Church and beyond.

We are convinced that an expanded and strengthened understanding of active nonviolence as the cornerstone of just peace can help build cultures of peace and promote the integral ecology that must be embraced for the sake of our species and all of creation.

The last quarter of 2018 finds us overwhelmed and grateful for the intense and ground-breaking efforts of five working groups (“roundtables”) which wrapped up a year’s work in August. Each group has submitted an extraordinary document focused on the application of nonviolence in our faith tradition: in our study of the Hebrew and early Christian texts; as the basis for deep theological reflection; as an ethical framework for effective responses to violence in this current age; as a subject for preaching and teaching in Church bodies and structures; and as a lifestyle and powerful peacebuilding practice already embraced by Catholics around the world.

We will shape these documents, along with several other research papers that address nonviolence through other critical lenses, into a paper that, with great humility, we hope to present to the Holy Father as the basis of a new Catholic teaching on the depth and breadth of active nonviolence.

We are in midst of conversations with a number of collegial organisations such as the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, the International Federation of Catholic Universities, Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services, Jesuit Refugee Service, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, among many others, and with bishops, archbishops and cardinals from the United States to Fiji and many locations in between.

Communities of women and men religious continue to be central to the life of the Catholic Church around the world. We believe that their support for this initiative and promotion of active nonviolence are critical to its success. We engage with vowed religious as often as possible – at regional and national assemblies, at community retreats and through personal informational visits – and are gratified for a solid connection with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG), whose justice and peace coordinators are members of the CNI steering committee. (In addition, the justice and peace coordinators of the U.S. bodies of vowed religious – the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men [CMSM] – also are active members of the CNI steering committee.)

The conversation around nonviolence is taking place around the world. In the Philippines, for example, during February’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, speakers stressed the values of nonviolence and love during a panel that addressed both gun violence and the Mindanao peace process. Teacher training and training-of-trainers workshops have been held several times, reaching thousands of participants. The Philippines’ Catholic Education Association manual now includes a module on the nonviolent life and message of Jesus and the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

In the spring of 2018, Pax Christi International organized and led several training-of-trainers workshops on nonviolent strategies with communities in the Great Lakes region of Africa; Pax Christi International held similar gatherings in several Latin American locations. Pax Christi has also produced a new advocacy guide focused on nonviolent principles and strategies which we expect will shape the efforts of member groups in many areas.

We have organized or participated in university symposia and conferences, including at Louvain, Tilburg, Georgetown, San Diego, De Paul, Miriam College (Manila); and built on Pax Christi UK’s long-term experience of developing of peace education materials based on the 2017 World Day of Peace message, Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace. In addition, CNI has also been presented at St. Michael’s College (Vermont), University of San Francisco, Creighton University, and at the Society of Christian Ethics and at the Catholic Ethics in the World 2018 conference. An education subcommittee, with members from around the world, has initiated some great conversations and creative thinking, and we look forward to the results of its efforts.

CNI leaders and supporters have been published in the Journal of Moral Theology, Catholic Moral Theology, National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service, Sojourners, Huffington Post, to name only a few.

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