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

Pope Francis prays for healing for victims of violence in Chicago

From CBS News:

Chicago’s continuing problems with gun violence have caught the attention of Pope Francis, who has told Cardinal Blase Cupich he is praying for “healing and reconciliation.”

“Please convey to the people of Chicago that they have been on my mind and in my prayers. I know that many families have lost loved ones to violence. I am close to them, I share in their grief, and pray that they may experience healing and reconciliation through God’s grace,” the pope wrote in a letter to the cardinal on Tuesday [April 4, 2017].

Cupich read the letter from the pope as he announced plans to get more involved in anti-violence efforts in the city.

The cardinal chose the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to announce the new efforts, which include using $250,000 as seed money to expand existing anti-violence programs that have been working.

Shootings and homicides in Chicago skyrocketed in 2016, with more than 760 murders, the highest number in 19 years. There were more than 4,300 people shot last year in Chicago, an increase of about 1,300 over 2015.

While Chicago police have said shootings are down about 15 percent this year compared to the first three months of 2016, and homicides are down about four percent, there still have been more than 750 shooting victims and nearly 150 homicides.

Pope Francis said he supports the commitment Cupich and other local leaders have made to promoting nonviolence, and said he’ll be praying for the victims of violence in Chicago when Cupich leads an anti-violence march next week. Continue reading Pope Francis prays for healing for victims of violence in Chicago

The nonviolent resistance of Jesus/La résistance nonviolente de Jésus

The following essays — the first on driving of the moneychangers from the Temple, the second on Jesus’ refusal to condemn the woman caught in adultery — were written by Dr. Jean-Marie Muller, a French philosopher and writer who was one of the participants in the April 2016 Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome.

Ces essais – le premier sur la conduite des changeurs d’argent du Temple, le deuxième sur le refus de Jésus de condamner la femme prise en adultère – ont été écrits par Jean-Marie Muller, un philosophe et écrivain français qui était l’un des participants à la conférence de nonviolence et paix de avril 2016 à Rome. 

When Jesus frees the animals from the Temple

Disponsible en français ici.

It is generally asserted that by “chasing the merchants of the Temple” (Mark 11: 15) Jesus himself did not hesitate personally to resort to violence and that, in consequence, Christians can also legitimately resort to violence to fight against injustice. Such an interpretation radically distorts the meaning of the Gospel text. This mis-reading and mis-understanding of the text has had a huge pernicious effect on Christian thought.

What is the truth of the matter? On several occasions, Jesus denounced the sacrificial practices involving the immolation of animals. Taking up as his own the ancient word of Hosea (Hosea 6: 6), he says: “It is mercy that I want, not sacrifice.” (Matthew, 9, 13 and 12,7).  The prophet Amos (5: 22-24) had also rejected these practices: “When you offer me burnt-offerings, I do not approve of your oblations, I set no store by the sacrifice of your fat beasts. (…) But let the law flow as water, and righteousness as a torrent that never dries up.” However, the word of Jesus was not heeded by the merchants of the Temple who had taken over the esplanade to sell oxen, sheep and doves to the pilgrims so that they might be offered as sacrifices and who were willing to continue their trade.

Jesus then decided to have recourse to direct action in order to force them to cease their activity. Mark says that the previous day, he had entered the Temple and had “looked around at everything” (Mark 11:11), as if he had come to take stock of the place. One may therefore think that his action was premeditated and that it was therefore not decided on in the heat of anger. Continue reading The nonviolent resistance of Jesus/La résistance nonviolente de Jésus