How to recommit ourselves to Gospel nonviolence
“Humanity needs to refurbish all the best available tools to help the men and women of today to fulfil their aspirations for justice and peace, revitalising the tools of nonviolence, and active nonviolence in particular”. These words come from the message of Pope Francis to the gathering held in Rome in April 2016 on the theme Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment, hosted by Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The rich possibilities of nonviolence
As one of the facilitators I felt the creativity of the 80 participants from around the world. Some brought experiences of living amidst violence and conflict while others shared of work in unarmed intervention, peacebuilding, advocacy and trauma healing. Women and men honing and strengthening the tools of active nonviolence and urging the Church to open its mind, and its resources, to deepen these tools to prevent and transform violence in our world.
In his Message to the 2017 World Peace Day theme “Nonviolence : a style of politics for peace” we see that Pope Francis has indeed opened his mind to the rich possibilities of active nonviolence.
This time of ours certainly requires us to revitalise our thinking and imagination towards a new style of politics. We must hold fast to a vision of a Europe that faces outwards in solidarity and upholds human rights. A Europe that protects the well-being of all and resists the politics of fragmentation and nationalism that would close borders and put up walls. Internationally we must affirm a globalisation of solidarity against the globalisation of division that we see in approaches to security, distribution of resources and movement of peoples.
What New Year resolutions might we make as Church to give life to the World Peace Day message? Education is a good place to start. How many of our schools weave education for peace into their curricula? This might include teaching the skills of peace-making: nonviolent problem solving, conflict resolution and listening skills. It would offer insights into how international institutions such as the International Criminal Court, the UN and the Church itself, advocate for peace. Recently a friend gave me a resource for children entitled Let’s explore Europe produced by the EU Publications Office. I doubt that it has been used in many schools in the UK yet it provides a valuable background to the culture, co-operation and decision making of the EU, a background that was deeply lacking in our recent referendum.
Then there is formation of faith and the opportunity to see how Gospel nonviolence can be integrated into our sacramental preparation and so root life experiences with our spiritual values. Studying the courageous nonviolence of Jesus would deepen an understanding of active nonviolence: Jesus who broke rules when they diminished or destroyed others; Jesus who absorbed violence and willingly accepted suffering rather than inflicting violence upon others. We could also do a better job of celebrating the lives of contemporary peacemakers within our communities, learning from their approaches and giving value to the vocation of peace-making.
Avoiding world war by instalments
If we are to move beyond what Pope Francis calls “world war by instalments” we need imagination to rethink how we understand security. The real security threats to our world are poverty, climate change, migration driven by conflict and cyber-threats. Yet budgets to create carbon free-economies, eradicate poverty, foster international relations are always under threat.
Military budgets however are protected, yet military responses create more problems than they solve. The push is towards more military spending: most recently the European Commission proposed a fund for military procurement and research within its plans for an EU defence union. NATO has increased its annual number of military exercises and is re-evaluating the role of nuclear scenarios in its crisis-management exercises.
The role of the Church
How do our national Churches engage with these issues? Do we speak up when our national budgets are announced challenging the obscene amounts that are allocated to military spending? Do we challenge, as Pope Francis does, the arms industry and those who make money from it. The war in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, are fuelled with weapons from the USA, Russia and Europe. Examining where our Church communities invest their money, pension funds, savings etc. would be a good place to start. We should support the work of the UN to negotiate a nuclear weapon ban treaty, urging those 38 countries who voted against such negotiations to come on board and so end the “logic of fear and mistrust that is epitomised by nuclear deterrence”
General Secretary of the British Section of Pax Christi since 1990.
View the World Peace Day resources produced by Pax Christi
EN The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Office.