Retreat offers chance to reflect on, deepen understanding of nonviolence

On 18 December (at 15.00 GMT and again at midnight GMT, 19 December), Pax Christi International offered a three-hour online retreat focused on nonviolence. This unique program was crafted in cooperation with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development with tremendous support from Tom Eddington. Approximately 500 persons from around the world were able to join in the retreat.

Watch the videos from the retreat here.

These four short videos give additional background about the breadth and depth of nonviolence.

The session opened with a warm welcome from Nobel Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, who reminded participants on Jesus’ commandment to love one another, and from Dr. Alessio Pecorario of the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development. Pax Christi International’s Secretary General Greet Vanaerschot read a Gospel passage, and Sr. Wamuyu Wachira, co-president of Pax Christi International, led a prayer with assistance from Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) executive committee members Ken Butigan and Pat Gaffney and CNI coordinator Judy Coode.

Fr. Emmanuel Katongole (University of Notre Dame) spoke movingly on “Gospel nonviolence: Toward a Laudato Si future,” including several references to his own conversion to nonviolence in his native Uganda.

“It filled my heart with joy to know that my Catholic Church was leading a spiritual retreat on Advent. … It was an experience of communion to be with Catholics from around the world and allow the Holy Spirit to bind us through the technology of Zoom. … I’m grateful for this fine event and for deepening endurance in this difficult Advent.”

Rose Marie Berger, Washington, D.C.

After Fr. Katongole, participants watched a special viewing of “The Third Harmony,” a film produced by Tom Eddington, which focuses on the power and possibilities of nonviolence. Michael Nagler, founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and the film’s director, spoke to the retreatants at the film’s conclusion. (The film is available for individual private viewing on Vimeo for US$6.99 for a 48-hour streaming period. Find out about educational or group viewings on the film’s website.)

It was a great honor to hear from Dr. Bernice King on “The power of nonviolence.” Dr. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is CEO of The King Center, which provides extensive resources to promote MLK’s nonviolent vision and to shape a more humane and just world.

This opportunity to focus on the power of nonviolence as we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the nonviolent Christ, served as motivation for me to seek out ways to promote and practice gospel nonviolence – both for me personally and throughout the Pax Christi USA network at every level.”

Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA

After Dr. King’s talk, retreatants were sent in small groups to breakout rooms where they were invited to reflect and share with each other about what they had heard and learned.

When the participants reconvened, they listened to a message from Msgr. Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on “Nonviolence as a care of life and hope for humanity.” Following Msgr. Duffé was Enzo Cursio of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who spoke about the work of the Dicastery’s Covid19 commission and its commitment to food security during this time of pandemic.

Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, another staff member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, addressed the participants on the clear and urgent connections between care of creation and nonviolence.

As the retreat entered its third hour, Dr. Pecorario gave the final remarks, and Marie Dennis, Senior Advisor to the Secretary General, Pax Christi International, led the closing prayer. In the second retreat timeslot, Jacqui Remond from the Dicastery’s Covid19 Ecology Taskforce shared the closing prayer with Marie.

As the crises of the year 2020 have grown deeper and wider, so has the need to reconnect with God. Thank you to Pax Christi International for offering wise and generous speakers and time to share in small groups on God’s way of responding to evil and violence in our time – with active nonviolence and love. My spirit is renewed and my mind and heart are ready to meet whatever lies ahead in the new year.

Susan Gunn, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

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