Our Stories

The Assumption of Mary and the Birth of Pax Christi International

Bishop Marc Stenger, co-president of Pax Christi International, celebrates the 2020 feast of the Assumption of Mary in Kevelaer. In his sermons, he reflects on the importance of Kevelaer for the beginnings of the Pax Christi International movement. The town of Kevelaer’s special bond with the Pax Christi International movement has its origins in 1948, when the first Pax Christi congress on German soil took place in Kevelaer. The bridge-builder of peace was the Bishop of Lourdes, Pierre Marie Theas, who began his welcoming speech with the words: “I greet the whole of Germany and bring it the brotherly kiss of Christian France, a kiss that grants forgiveness and seeks such, that is: the kiss of reconciliation.” 

PREDIGT

Liebe Pilgerinnen,

Liebe Pilger,

Das Leitwort für die Wallfahrt 2020 ist gerade in der Zeit der Covidpandemie, die immer noch unseren Alltag prägt, ein Wort der Ermutigung : « Ich bin, da wo du bist », nach dem Philosoph, Martin Buber, der so die Worte Gottes an Mosè (Exodus 3, 14) übersetzt, also eine Zusage, die auch heute  Christen  Trost und Kraft schenkt. In diesem Jahre  kann die Wallfahrt zu der als « Trösterin der Betrübten » verehrten Gottesmutter nicht ganz wie sonst erlebt werden : weniger Leute,  berufliche Ängste,, schwierige menschliche Situationen, und auch strengere Regeln für das Sammeln. Aus diesem Grund wollen wir umso mehr unser Vertrauen auf die Gottesmutter legen und Ihr unsere Menschheit, die Hoffnung braucht, anvertrauen.

In einem seiner Bücher schrieb Martin Buber: « Zu jeder Zeit ruft Gott jedem Menschen zu : Wo bist du in deiner Welt ? Von denen, die dir zugeschrieben werden, sind so viele Tage vergangen und so viele Jahre. Wie weit bist du. Bis wo bist du in der Zwischenzeit in deiner Welt gekommen ?

Wenn Gott solche Fragen stellt, geht es ihm nicht darum dass der Mensch ihm etwas erzählt, das er noch nicht wissen würde. Er will im Menschen etwas provozieren, er möchte ihm in Herzen berühren und ihm bewusst machen, dass er den Austausch mit ihm sucht.

Schon im Garten Eden, im Buch des Genesis, fragt Gott Adam : Wo bist du ? Er weiss, dass  Adam sich versteckt, um die Entscheidung, die verbotene Frucht zu essen, nicht rechtfertigen zu müssen, um der Verantwortung für sein Leben zu entgehen. Er versteckt sich nicht nur vor Gott, , er versteckt sich vor* sich selbst. Mit anderen Worten, er sieht  seinem Leben nicht ins Gesicht, er rutscht weg, er bleibt stecken. Er berücksichtigt sein Leben, seine Geschichte nicht vollständig. Um das zu tun sollte er, wo er angekommen ist, die Stimme Gottes, die Gegenwart Gottes erkennen, die ihn befragt, der zu ihm sagt : Wo du bist, bin ich… um dich aus deiner Sackgasse herauszubringen.

So gross die Freude eines Menschen über beruflichen oder privaten Erfolg,  so bedeutend seine Macht, wie kolossal das Werk seines Lebens auch sein mag, all das  kann Ihn nicht auf den richtigen Weg bringen, wenn er in seinem Leben und in seinem Leisten die Stimme Gottes, die ihn ruft befragt und leitet, nicht erkennt. Adam steht vor der Stimme Gottes, er erkennt die Stagnation, er gibt zu : « Ich habe mich versteckt » und dort beginnt für ihn ein neuer Weg des Menschseins

Die Jungfrau Maria ist das genaue Gegenteil Adams. Sie weiss und nimmt mit Freude an,  dass Gott Teil Ihres Lebens ist, wie des Lebens eines jeden Menschen. Sie versucht nicht davon abzuweichen. Im Gegenteil, sie dankt für alle die Wunder, die er vollbringt, und wenn ihm durch die Vermittlung des Engels die aussergewöhnliche Mission anvertraut wird, Mutter des Sohnes Gottes zu werden, ist ihr Vertrauen in diesen Gott , der das Wohl jedes Mensch will und ihn auf seinem Weg begleitet, absolut.

In Maria können wir also entdecken, was der Mensch im Gottesplan ist. Die Menschen wissen nicht, was der Mensch ist, so verschieden sind die philosophischen und religiösen Vorstellungen. Wir Christen können es wissen. Gott sagt es uns. Was ist der Mensch ? Ecce Maria -seht Maria : das ist der Mensch, der Euch gegeben ist, damit ihr ihn  nachahmt. Liebe Pilgerinnen und Pilger, In Maria ist alles ausgedrückt, was Gott über den Menschen denkt und plant. Sie ist der vorbildlicher Mensch., weil überall da, wo Sie ist, Gott in Ihrem Leben ist. Gewiss ist auch schon Jesus Christus  in höchster Potenz das Vorbild aller Menschen, er ist aber mehr als Mensch. Er ist der Erlöser der Menschen. Aber Maria ist wie wir Erlöste. Wenn auch vor erlöst, weil Ihr ja die Erbsünde erspart blieb, aber sie ist eine Erlöste und deswegen steht Sie uns ganz nahe, sowie Gott Ihr anz nahe steht.  Und deswegen können wir bei Ihr Christus spüren.

So sehen wir die Wahrheit unseres Lebens in der Aufnahme Mariens in den Himmel ausgedrückt. Sie gibt uns Zuversicht und Mut, weil wir wissen dadurch, es ist nicht zu Ende , wenn unser Leib zerfällt. Es gibt ein anderes Leben und Gott hat uns eine Wohnung bereitet, in die wir eingehen dürfen. Das ist die Grösse und die Würde des Menschen. Was uns durch Maria gesagt wird ist, dass Gott den Dialog den er mit den Menschen einmal begonnen hat, nie mehr abbricht. Diese Würde hat der Mensch sich nicht selbst erobert, erworben, erarbeitetwird ihm geschenkt. In Maria heisst : ich bin, wo du bist, : « Grosses hat er an mir getan, der Allmächtige. » Und Grosses will er an uns tun, wenn wir nach dem Beispiel Mariens leben, wenn wir unser Leben in der Treue zu Gott und in der Ergebenheit gegenüber Gott verbringen. Weil Maria die demütig Empfangende war, wurde sie zur Vollendung geführt. Das  Beste, das Höchste,, das Unvergängliche wird uns nicht durch unserer Hände Arbeit erworben, wie Adam es meinte, sondern es wird uns von Gott geschenkt. Und der Mensch kann nur Mensch bleiben, wenn er sich  von der Gnade führen und über seinen eigenen Grenzen hinwegtragen lässt.

Ein wesentlicher Punkt des Dogmas der Aufnahme Mariens in den Himmel mit Leib und Seele, ist , dass « Ich bin wo du bist »,  nicht nur die Würde der Seele, sondern auch des Leibes bedeutet. Der Leib. mit allem was dazugehört hat seine Würde von Gott. Gott hat den Leib geschaffen, und er hat Ihn uns geliehen, damit wir in ihm unser Heil und das Heil der Menschheit wirken , und er will diesen Leib verherrlichen. Maria, Gottesmutter und Gottesgebärerin, hat auch leiblich reagiert.  In ihrem Leben hat sie auch vieles ertragen und gelitten. In Ihr begreifen wir auch besser, um was es geht mit dem Leib, der nicht nur die Hülle der Seele ist, sondern seine eigene Würde im Plan Gottes hat. Der Leib ist so zu sagen das Werkzeug, mit dem wir die Welt gestalten sollen.. Mit unserem Leib sollen wir wirken , Güter schaffen, Anderen helfen, die Erde bebauen und auf dieser Weise zur Verherrlichung Gottes beitragen. Der Leib ist auch ein Ort des Ausdrucks der Schönheit, zum Beispiel  der spörtlichen Entwicklung. Der Leib vermittelt auch die Begegnung  der Körper und die Vermehrung der Menschheit.  Abhängig von der Beziehung, die wir zum Körper haben können wir aber auch dem umgekehrten  Weg der Verherrlischung folgen. Mit Mariens Aufnahme im Himmel mit Leib und Seele lässt Gott uns die unendliche Würde  des menschlichen Leibes erkennen. Diese Würde wie keine anders ist nur richtig zu verstehen, wenn man sie mit der Lehre der unbefleckten Empfängnis verbindet. Der Leib Mariens, Gottesmutter, war von Anfang an vor Sünde bewahrt und dieser Leib, der nie in das Verhängnis der Erbsünde hineingezogen war, sollte nicht der Verwesung überliefert werden.

Maria spiegelt die Berufung unseres eigenen Leibes. In dieser Zeit der Covid-19 Pandemie haben wir  uns alle gewünscht, auf uns selbst aufzupassen . Dass gilt nicht nur für unsere Gesundheit ; es ist auch ein Aufruf diesen Leib zu respektieren und zu verehren.

Durch Maria verkündet die Kiche, dass der Mensch mit Leib und Seele fähig ist zur Aufnahme in der Herrlichkeit Gottes. Das kann aber nicht ohne Erkennung  des grossen Wertes des Leibes geschehen. Der Mensch hat  so tiefe Würde, das sie nicht zerstört werden kann, selbst wenn menschliche Bosheit das tut und immer wieder neu versucht. Die Botschaft der Aufnahme Marien in den Himmel ist das Gegenzeichen ! Ein grossen Zeichen gegen alle Grausamkeiten die bis zur Stunde  menschlichem Leben angetan werden. Übertragen wir das bis in unser Leben und in unserer Gegenwart hinein, dann dürfen wir fragen : « Bin ich mir selbst meiner Würde  als Mensch bewusst, welche Kosbarkeit mein Leib ist »

Danke der Gottesmutter, die uns den Preis unseres Menscseins  mit Leib und Seele gezeigt hat. Sie ist so zu sagen der Gotteswegweiser zur unsere Verherrlichung als Vermittlerin seines Rufes : Wo bis du ? heute in Kevelaer und jeden Tag.

Kevelaer, 15. August 2020

Marc Stenger

EINFUHRUNG

Es ist eine besondere Ehre und eine grosse Freude für mich, am 15. August, an diesem aussergewöhnlichen Ort der Basilika von Kevelaer die Eucharistie zu zelebrieren. Dieser Ort ist für mich, als Präsident von Präsident von Pax Christi Frankreich und jetzt Co-Präsident von Pax Christi International, ein Stammort, ein Quellort. Er verkörpert den Willen zweier Völker, das deutsche und das französische – und von da ab  noch viel mehr – einander zu vergeben, sich zu versöhnen, einander zu lieben, und für das Gemeinwohl der Menschheit zusammenzuarbeiten, wo Hass, Spaltung, Gewalt und Vernichtung der menschlichen Person solange vorherrschten.

In Kevelaer fand  1948, drei Jahre nach dem Ende des zweiten Weltkrieges, in dem so schrecklichen Vergehen erlebt worden sind, der erste internationale Kongress von Pax Christi statt, auf dem Bischof Theas, der Ursprung von Pax Christi war, diesen denkwürdigen Satz von grosser historischer Bedeutung sagte : « Ich grüsse das versammelte Deutschland und bringe ihr den brüderlichen Kuss aus dem christlichen Frankreich, ein Kuss der Vergebung gibt und um Vergebung bittet, der Kuss der Versöhnung genannt wird. »

In Erinnerung an diese für die Völkerverständigung so beteudende Begebenheit ligt in der Mitte dieses Wallfahrtortes eine Pax Christi Kapelle, deren Altar im 1982 geweiht wurde, und in derer Raum sich das Eigentum des Pax Christi Forum, Ort der Begegnung, des Gebetes und des Nachdenkens über die Zukunft unserer Gesellschart. Sie Könnent, vermute ich, gut verstehen, dass meine eigene Pilgerfahrt auch durch diese symbolischen und geistliche Orte hindurchgehen wird.

Sowieso hier in Kevelaer kommen wir, um zu Maria zu beten, die Trösterin der Betrübten. Maria liess sich im Dienst  von Gottes Pläne für die Menschheit. Noch immer wollte Er die Rettung der Menschen. Heute haben wir so sehr Gründe uns Sorgen zu machen, als wir immer noch in den unsicheren Zeiten einer anhaltenden Pandemie stehen, als Gewalt, Unterdrückung der Schwachen, Katastrophen, Rassismus und Ausgrenzung immer mehr zunehmen. In diesr Zeit sendet uns aber die Gottesmutter eine grossartige Botschaft von Ihm :

« Ich bin, wo du bist »

In deinen Situationen der Trostlosigkeit und des Zorns, in denen du lebst, bin ich da, um dich zu erheben und mit meiner Kraft zu füllen. Grosse, heute notwendige Ermutigung, die wir von Gott durch die Jungfrau Maria. Môge diese Botschaft das geistliche stichwort unseres gesamten Pilgerreise sein.

Marc Stenger

Photo: Gerard Stoke via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A picture of lush ferns in a dense forest
Our Stories, Peace Spirituality

Soil, Soul, Society: A new trinity – not for realists or pragmatists

The following is a reflection from Fr Claude Mostowik, president of Pax Christi Australia. It was originally published to the Edmund Rice Centre website

Soil, Soul, Society – A new trinity – not for realists or pragmatists

In the wake of increasing global climate catastrophes, the global population is progressively being forced into reforming the way that it functions. The need to create a new consciousness, focusing on our important relationship with the environment has become apparent. As people look to complex and intricate solutions to immediate problems, there are people who suggest a more wholistic yet simpler response, considering three things, our environment, ourselves, and our community.

The New Trinity

Historical movements have at times had their three key words or ideas to express the spirit of their movements1. The French had ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ and the Americans have ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’. Though relevant at the time, for the French revolution and the American War of Independence, these ‘mottos’ are outdated. They represented a human-centred view of the world where the human being is at the centre of the universe and all other life forms at its service.

In his book, Soil, Soul, Society: A New Trinity of Our Time, Satish Kumar refers to another trinity that reflects a comprehensive way of nonviolent living; soil represents the natural world; soul signifies the spiritual world, and society stands for the human world. This is a new trinity for our age of sustainability and nonviolent living by emphasising that we are all connected2.

Kumar argues that the spiritual aspect of the environment is what has been lost in the great debate about the way we live; and that the broad environment movement has not understood the power of concepts such as love and reverence. He insists that love and reverence are not to be confused with religion, ‘The environment movement here is very logical and analytical. But it is driven by doom, gloom and disaster.’

‘There are no unsacred places. There are only sacred places and desecrated places.’ (Wendell Berry)

People view nature from a very utilitarian point of view, and see what is good for them only, he says, and seek to manage it rather than protect it. ‘I want to move people to a more experiential philosophy of the natural world,’ he says. ‘That way you can protect it.’ He sees no reason why governments and authorities should not be driven by philosophies of reverence to nature rather than violence to nature.

Nonviolence

The basic principle for a harmonious relationship with creation, the spiritual world and the social world is nonviolence. This concept is not abstract but a guide for a new way of living. It informs how we live our everyday lives, how we work, and how we interact with others and our environment. It is important that we do not compartmentalise our relationship with the natural world, our personal spiritual world and our social world. This was the message of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’3, which coincided with the United Nations’ International Year of the Soil. We are all members of a one-earth society, and caring for the earth and soul is interrelated. Laudato si’ has been called a magna carta of integral ecology. It is a powerful reminder of the connections that we have, but do not always recognise, and a warning of humanity’s self-destructive course. It has parallels to the nuclear weapons crisis as well as a paradigm shift from people being rulers of the environment to be participants in the universal sister and brotherhood in our common home.

There is a need to create a new consciousness that reveres nature and explores how, as a global society, we need to embrace diversity and become pilgrims on this earth not tourists. To bring about change in the world we must be the change we wish to see. This is nothing other than a call to conversion called for by both Popes Benedict and Francis.

The Lost Connection with Soil

In our modern world the innate connection of earth and people has been lost, and as a result we have seen devastating effects on people’s spiritual and social health. For a majority of the community we receive food coated in plastic packaging, underneath artificial lights, at supermarkets. Never thinking about where they come from, we sit indoors talking to others through a screen, in our air-conditioned offices, while many even walk to work on concrete sidewalks. In essence we have lost our connection with nature, because it has become something not apparent in our day to day lives; which considering we live on earth is perplexing.

Earth is life; without it there is no food, no oxygen, no means of our society’s existence. Our ancestors revered and lived by this. Australia’s Indigenous peoples understood the land and their links to it formed their entire being. They lived out this ‘new’ trinity of soil, soul and society centuries before it was new, through their own connection to Land, The Dreaming and Kinship. There are many examples of how peoples of the past had a key understanding of the importance of soil, even down to the word human and its connection to the top layer of soil. “We are the earth. What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves. And it is no accident that the words “humus” and “humans” have the same roots.”4 Both Catholic and Buddhist teachings refer to the way the land provides and creates. The biblical passage, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”(Genesis 3:19)5 is reciprocated in the Buddhist teaching as Satish Kumar exclaims “You are earth, air, fire, water, imagination, creativity, consciousness, time and space – you have this all in your genes and in your cells. You are billions of years old. You have been recycled and recycled.  You are a beautiful example of the total recycling principle of the universe.”6

Nevertheless this message does not translate into any of our everyday being, rather than people feeling as part of the earth, we see ourselves as owners of it. Our policies, attitudes and actions speak of violence. “The trees have a right to exist. We have no right to cut them down without proper purpose.”1 We recognise our own rights yet not that of the creation around us, and this shows the way we have lost the connection our ancestors had recognised. “In our education systems, we have come to think that soil simply means dirt and that dirt means dirty. But dirt is not dirty; it is the source of life.”

Real World Implementation

Soil, soul, society as a new trinity provides a guide for our global community establishing the need for a transformation in the way we approach our lives. Society, the environment and individuals are calling for it. We are so removed in our humancentric views that we only ever put into action environmental initiatives when we are directly affected by the environment’s outcries for help. When our beaches suddenly disappear, and temperatures rises. Rather than this approach focusing on the impending catastrophe or inevitable doom and blame we need to look for solution 7. Integrating the environment into our social, political and environmental structures is how we will be able to establish this trinity to positive effect. Kumar explains how this can be:

‘Social systems can be changed,’ Kumar insists. ‘The ones we have now are not very old. The trouble is we are driven by fear and so we take panic decisions, like opting for nuclear power. At the moment, our culture is of violence – to nature, animals, people, ourselves. We are not protecting nature these days so much as managing it without knowing it. If you want to protect it, go out in it.’1

People need to return to their innate connection with land to be able to coexist in harmony with creation. Recognising the trinity of soil, soul, society into our global vocabulary and cultures could be for the benefit of all life.

With thanks to Beth Hansen for her contribution

REFERENCES:

1: Kumar, S., 2013. Satish Kumar: The Link Between Soil, Soul And Society. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/satish-kumar-soil-soul-society&gt; [Accessed 24 May 2020].

2: Vidal, J., 2008. Soul Man. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/jan/16/activists&gt; [Accessed 24 May 2020].

3: Francis, 2015. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ Of The Holy Father Francis. 1st ed. [Vatican City]: [Vatican Web Site].

4: Shiva, V., 2014. We Are The Soil. [online] Seed Freedom. Available at: <https://seedfreedom.info/we-are-the-soil/&gt; [Accessed 24 May 2020].

5: Genesis 3:19, The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version

6: TEDx Talks, 2012. Soil, Soul And Society: Satish Kumar At Tedxexeter. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSLUd0veioU&gt; [Accessed 24 May 2020].

7: Eisenstien, C., 2019. CLIMATE — A NEW STORY. [S.l.]: READHOWYOUWANT COM LTD.

 

OTHER RESOURCES:

  1. Nonviolence And Quality Of Life: Soil, Soul And Society. [ebook] Available at: <https://www.cpp.edu/~ahimsacenter/files/conference_06_workshops.pdf&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Brogan, K., 2020. Climate: A New Story. [online] Kelly Brogan MD. Available at: <https://kellybroganmd.com/climate-a-new-story/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Brogan, K., 2020. Sacred Activism: Moving Beyond The Ego. [online] Kelly Brogan MD. Available at: <https://kellybroganmd.com/sacred-activism-moving-beyond-ego/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Eisenstein, C., 2017. The Age Of We Need Each Other. [online] Charles Eisenstein. Available at: <https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-age-of-we-need-each-other/?fbclid=IwAR1ZMyu9HoxqPgBOfVNF7c2rnll18JX65hn4_OtZOTa82mUPsDmFvgy_4_M&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Eisenstein, C., 2019. Why The Climate Change Message Isn’T Working. [online] Yes! Magazine. Available at: <https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2019/01/04/why-the-climate-change-message-isnt-working/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Findhorn New Story Hub. 2018. A New Story Of Climate Change – Charles Eisenstein At New Frontiers. [online] Available at: <http://newstoryhub.com/2018/06/a-new-story-of-climate-change-charles-eisenstein-at-new-frontiers/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Jensen, R., 2010. Soils And Souls: The Promise Of The Land. [online] The Texas Observer. Available at: <https://www.texasobserver.org/soils-and-souls-the-promise-of-the-land/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Kingsbury, D., 2019. Climate: A New Story | Suzuki Elders. [online] Suzuki Elders. Available at: <https://www.suzukielders.org/climate-a-new-story/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Kumar, S., 2012. Soil, Soul And Society. [online] Resurgence & Ecologist. Available at: <https://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article3877-soil-soul-and-society.html&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Kumar, S., 2012. Soil, Soul And Society. [online] The Ecologist. Available at: <https://theecologist.org/2012/dec/07/soil-soul-and-society&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Minami, K., 2009. Soil and humanity: Culture, civilization, livelihood and health. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, [online] 55(5), pp.603-615. Available at: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1747-0765.2009.00401.x&gt;.

Penniman, L., 2019. By Reconnecting With Soil, We Heal The Planet And Ourselves. [online] Yes! Magazine. Available at: <https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/dirt/2019/02/14/by-reconnecting-with-soil-we-heal-the-planet-and-ourselves/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=YTW_20180215&utm_content=YTW_20180215%20CID_b10737bb9c6465fc7638788aec3c6992&utm_source=CM&utm_term=By%20Reconnecting%20With%20Soil%20We%20Heal%20the%20Planet%20and%20Ourselves&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Spire, S., 2018. Review: Charles Eisenstein’s Climate—A New Story. [online] Simon Spire Emergent Inquiry. Available at: <https://www.simonspire.com/blog/climate-a-new-story&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Swennerfelt, R., 2020. A Story Of Interbeing: A Book Review Of Climate: A New Story By Charles Eisenstein. [online] Quaker Earthcare Witness. Available at: <https://www.quakerearthcare.org/article/story-interbeing-book-review-climate-new-story-charles-eisenstein&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

TEDx Talks, 2012. Soil, Soul And Society: Satish Kumar At Tedxexeter. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSLUd0veioU&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Transition Consciousness. 2014. Book Review: Satish Kumar – Soil Soul Society – A New Trinity For Our Time. [online] Available at: <https://transitionconsciousness.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/book-review-satish-kumar-soil-soul-society-a-new-trinity-for-our-time/&gt; [Accessed 8 July 2020].

Photo: Matthew Paul Argall CC by 2.0 via Flickr.

 

 

Mushroom cloud from nuclear weapons test in the Pacific Ocean
I am Pax Christi, Nuclear Disarmament, Our Stories, Peace

Putting Hope to Work: The Pax Christi Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament

By Jonathan Frerichs, UN representative for disarmament, Geneva, Pax Christi International

Pax Christi’s working group on nuclear disarmament is an embodiment of hope born with Pax Christi 75 years ago—the hope for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The working group was formed at a propitious time, in 2016.  Three seminal conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons had changed the dynamics of disarmament.  A growing majority of the world’s governments and a broad range of civil society organizations were united behind a singular conviction: “It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances”.  Pax Christi had the further good fortune that this new group was formed during the current papacy.  The Holy Father’s prophetic admonitions to free the world of nuclear weapons have encouraged and guided us from the start.

Here are some of the convictions and experiences, opportunities and challenges the group brings to a critical task.

Conviction.  In Japan’s symbolic cities last November, Pope Francis condemned not only the use of nuclear weapons, but also their possession.  His words inspired concerned citizens around the world.    Some of our group had heard him make the same point before 400 peace workers, diplomats and church leaders in 2017 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which includes Pax Christi.  We also worked and prayed for his message to be heard in Japan.

At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial, the Holy Father called nuclear weapons “a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home”.

At Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Hypo-Center Park, the pontiff said nuclear weapons breed “a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust”.  The pope challenged the theory of nuclear deterrence which has defined the nuclear era and continues to hold the entire planet at risk.

Before and after the papal visit, we took heart from actions of the Canadian and Japanese bishops’ conferences.  Both conferences urged their governments to sign and ratify the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  It will become international law when 12 more states ratify the agreement.

The bishops in Canada along with leaders of other churches urged the Canadian government “to work with allies and to engage would-be adversaries to formulate security arrangements that do not rely on the threat of nuclear annihilation.”

The Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan complemented the pope’s visit by calling on the leader of Japan, the only country to experience atomic warfare, to lead the international community in abolishing nuclear weapons.

These calls from the church have significant implications: Key nations must abandon the mutually assured destruction which has defined the 20th century and embrace the mutually assured security on which life in the 21st century already depends.

The working group’s members are familiar with such dilemmas.  They are mostly from countries which have, or rely on, nuclear weapons. But the language of “having” and “relying on” nuclear weapons can hide harsh realities.  For much of the past 75 years our countries have threatened humanity with indiscriminate destruction and practiced nuclear apartheid in international affairs.

In reality, today and every day, our leaders stand willing and able to destroy hundreds or even thousands of Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Our governments insist they would use nuclear weapons only in extremis, but this does not alter the fact that they would be committing mass murder in other countries and mass suicide in their own countries at the same time.  What is more, they stand ready to take such actions with only a moment’s notice. This caveat alone makes a mockery of the entire nuclear regime and the doctrine of deterrence by which it justifies itself.

The work of peace requires conviction.  These are but a few examples.  Pax Christi’s diverse membership knows from experience that every true work of peace is much more than opposition to something evil.  It is also positive engagement for something of great good.  The case of nuclear weapons leads us to what Pax Christi’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative calls a wider engagement with the suffering of our world, the forms of violence which spawn that suffering, and the love and determination to end it together.

Experience. The working group is blessed with the wide range of skills, vocations and commitments of its members.  One member, a national coordinator of Pax Christi, came from a career in teaching, speech therapy and clinic management.  She had always worked for justice and peace with the church.

Another member of the group practiced law for 35 years, specializing in civil litigation, before working with Pax Christi.

One member is a life-long advocate of nonviolent methods for dealing with conflicts. He became a foreign service officer during the Cold War and then helped establish the Nonviolent Peaceforce.  A toolkit he designed for Pax Christi provides faith communities with ways to address ethnic and racial conflict.

Another member was a mathematician in Germany’s Space Operation Center. His local Pax Christi section, which he joined 40 years ago, focuses on arms exports, Middle East peace and interreligious dialogue.  His priorities include removing the nuclear bombs based in Germany and opposing the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapons.

Members speak of milestones in their pursuits of peace. Theresa Alessandro of Pax Christi UK recalls: “As a teenager I read John Hersey’s book ‘Hiroshima’ and I have believed in getting rid of nuclear weapons ever since. Finding in Pax Christi others who feel the same has supported me and helped me channel my frustration over the continuing presence of nuclear weapons in the world.”

“A regional meeting in Jordan, followed by visits to members in Palestine and Lebanon, and to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, made a deep impression on me,” says Marie Dennis of Pax Christi USA and former co-president of Pax Christi International. She is connected to peacemakers around the world through the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and has authored theological blogs against nuclear weapons.

“The work leading up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 was highly gratifying—sessions at the UN, lobbying individual Missions and meeting creative, intelligent, passionate people from around the world, capped off by the Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament,” says Mary Yelenick of Pax Christi USA. Her work has led to new friendships with young peace-builders around the world.

Opportunities.  Working groups are a benefit to their members when opportunities in one place lead to new approaches in other places.  When one member shares their plans and purposes, it may help another member to see new options too.  Collaboration along these lines may even shape a kind of power map showing which actions work where.

For example, the new nuclear ban treaty is being signed and ratified at a healthy pace.  Only 12 more ratifications are needed before it enters into force.  But that process takes time.  The nuclear powers and various allies are going to considerable lengths to denounce, dismiss and ignore the accord.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will make nuclear weapons illegal.  Meanwhile, close at hand, are ways to make nuclear weapons even more illegitimate than they already are.  Thanks to the work of PAX Netherlands (formerly IKV Pax Christi), detailed information is available to the international community about which banks and investment funds are financing nuclear weapons and which corporations are involved in making them.  BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund are among the 77 financial institutions which have cut or ended their investments in nuclear arms.  Pax Christi UK is also advocating and facilitating responsible investments with an inter-faith project on Banks, Pensions and Nuclear Weapons: Investing In Change.

The most striking feature on our power map of Europe are the US nuclear weapons permanently stationed in five European countries.  Pax Christi’s nuclear disarmament working group has members in four of these countries—Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Italy.  Protests at the bases and lobbies of governments take place regularly.  A new project by Pax Christi Flanders would engage with parliamentarians opposed to nuclear weapons in each country and encourage inter-parliamentary initiatives for the weapons to be removed.

One of Pax Christi International’s other global priorities is to advocate with communities affected by mining, logging and other extractive industries in Latin America.  Pax Christi partners there and in Africa are aware that the economic and ecological injustices they face are also related to the nuclear threat.  The exploitation of strategic minerals is one example; the fact that virtually all nuclear weapons tests have taken place on the territory of indigenous peoples is another.  Pax Christi International is part of the worldwide effort by ICAN to have states sign and ratify the nuclear ban treaty.  This was explained to partners in Colombia and DR Congo.   They contacted their foreign ministries at home and worked through Pax Christi’s United Nations office to bring the same request to their missions in New York.

Challenges. The road to a nuclear-weapon-free world is paved with challenges.  Here are some current examples:

  • It is fitting that the members of Pax Christi’s nuclear disarmament working group are mostly from nuclear-weapon states and their allies. But since Pax Christi has 120 member organizations on five continents, it would also be fitting to welcome new members on the working group—especially from the global majority of countries which reject nuclear arms.
  • A new nuclear arms race has begun. Treaties which have limited nuclear arsenals for decades are expiring without being renewed. Nuclear-weapon states are modernising their arsenals.  The USA is spending more on its military than the next 10 military powers combined.  Such trends must be reversed.
  • Curiously, the nine states with the world’s most fearsome weapons have done a poor job of defending themselves against a microscopic coronavirus. New national priorities are needed— moving vast resources from threatening lives to saving lives.
  • The world is still at risk of nuclear annihilation 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pax Christi is still working for healing, reconciliation and peace.

The climax of Pax Christi’s anniversary year was to have been the movement’s World Assembly in Hiroshima, a much-anticipated opportunity for reflection, thanksgiving, fellowship and renewal.  There is reason to regret that the gathering was not possible but also to be grateful for the safety of foregoing it.

This 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings is a warning to a world newly reminded of its fragile, common fate.  Nuclear weapons have no place where security is truly shared.  Pax Christi’s anniversary motto – “Let’s build peace together” – is an invitation to the practice of hope.

Photo: US Government via the ICAN Flickr Stream CC BY-NC 2.0.

Our Stories, Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Sumud – Keeping the community alive

by Rania Murra and Toine van Teeffelen
Arab Education Institute

In late October, a group of 30 local young women launched the “Artas Deserves to Be Beautiful” advocacy campaign in Artas, a village to the south of Bethlehem. They wanted to solve the waste problem in the village. One participant relates, “I used to read slogans such as ‘After failure comes success!’ or ‘When there is determination, we can reach our goals.’ I did not understand the meaning of those words until I saw some powerful models of women showing determination, passion, and strength.”

“When I was a university student, my only ambition was to graduate and get a job. However, after participating in the project, I started to see things from a new perspective. A sense of responsibility started to grow in me. I felt that I was responsible for my village. I wanted it to be a beautiful place, and I increasingly felt a sense of belonging.”

The women in the village entered the field of tax collection. As volunteers, some went from house to house to encourage inhabitants to pay waste-collection taxes and to raise awareness about the problem of waste; others went to schools to give training sessions to students. They explained the tools of advocacy and campaigning, how to involve stakeholders and address those in authority. The cleaning campaign featured additional activities such as removing garbage from the street, putting flowers in tires along the road, asking the police to take care of parking issues, and celebrating the campaign with a photo exhibit and hanging slogan posters on walls in public areas. As a result, the participants won over students and teachers as supporters and volunteers. The mayor and village council as well as a local heritage NGO supported the actions. The women made an arrangement with the solid-waste department in the Bethlehem district. Authorities agreed to make Artas a “model waste-collecting village.”…

Click here to read the entire article.

I am Pax Christi, Our Stories, Women and Peacemaking

Taking the long view: Pat Gaffney reflects on 30 years with Pax Christi UK

by Pat Gaffney
General Secretary, Pax Christi UK

Pat Gaffney is retiring as the General Secretary of Pax Christi UK this year. She wrote this reflection covering her nearly 30 years in that role.

1 April 1990: the day my contract with Pax Christi    began. 29 years on, I am still here (how did that happen?) but preparing to move on and create space for some new thought and energy. This article takes a long view of our work over this period, of changes within the global and domestic arenas, and in technology. Our movement has undertaken so many challenges with a spirit of ingenuity, flexibility and faithful persistence to Gospel peacemaking.

1990 was a good time to come on board. Talk was of a Peace Dividend. With the Cold War behind us, new opportunities were unfolding for economic and social growth. Spending on defence would decline and investment in arms conversion would follow. The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp had helped to get rid of cruise missiles. Pax Christi’s valiant East-West group, coordinated by Peggy Attlee, having worked towards one Europe, was prepared for the new challenges of creating a common home. In the summer of 1990 our British section of Pax Christi hosted in Clifton Diocese an international ‘route’ for young people, with the theme, Let’s build a Europe of Peace.  Sadly, many of those hopes crashed on 2 August when Iraq invaded Kuwait and what was to become protracted war in the Gulf and Middle East began. Goodbye peace dividend.

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As a ‘new’ person four months into the job, the prospect of sliding into war was daunting! Thankfully, friends in the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Christian CND, the National Peace Council (NPC) and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) were ready to create common plans. Could we de-escalate the tension by urging our Government to prevent a full military response from the USA? Setting up communication systems was key. Pax Christi at that time had one temperamental computer, an old but sturdy Adler   typewriter, and a photocopier. My first big purchase was a FAX machine – essential for getting out press  notices, sharing drafts of leaflets, sending letters to Government and so forth. By Spring 1991 we had established the Christian Coalition for Peace in the Gulf and a ‘Call for Action’ supported by church leaders, religious communities and groups around the country. In response to military attacks and then years of sanctions against Iraq, weekly vigils were held nationwide. The NPC ran a conference that became a springboard for much joint work, including the creation of the Peace Education Network (PEN) and a more focused response to the UK’s arms trade to the region – in particular that of British Aerospace.

Meanwhile, we kept a watching brief on developments around Trident. Peace activists and theologians reflected on the morality of nuclear weapons. Support for the annual Ash Wednesday witness grew, moving beyond London to Liverpool, Cambridge and Scotland. We organised a Christian lobby of Parliament on Trident and produced resources for the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima to revive awareness and campaigning.

Through our international links, and in partnership with the Catholic Institute for International Relations, CAAT, and TAPOL, an organisation promoting human rights in Indonesia, we became a member of the Stop the Hawks: No Arms to Indonesia Coalition, opposing the UK’s role in supplying arms that were used to terrorise the people of East Timor. We supported nonviolent action against  British Aerospace, including the BAE Ploughshares in 1993 and the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares women in 1996. We held a joint lobby of Parliament, vigils and campaign events. Around the country members engaged in solidarity actions with students from East Timor. Our then president, Bishop Victor Guazzelli, gave great support to all of this work. In 1996 I visited East Timor and was able to experience the deep meaning of solidarity: sharing accounts of these UK peace actions and bringing home stories of hope and nonviolent resistance by the East Timorese. Hosting the Pax Christi International Council in London in 1997, we invited Fr Domingos Soares to come from East Timor and receive the Cardinal Alfrink Peace Award, along with Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz, in recognition of their work for peace.

If the start of the 90s brought hopes of a peace dividend, 1998 brought hope for Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement. Pax Christi’s Northern Ireland group had been working for years in partnership with Pax  Christi Ireland and others – building bridges, creating volunteering opportunities, speaking out about the abuse of human rights and more. Fresh approaches to ‘winning the peace’ were called for and we organised a           conference in 1998 on the theme Reconciliation and the Healing of Memories and in 2001 Northern Ireland: Reconciling a Divided Community.

Formation in peace and nonviolence has always been a priority for Pax Christi with support from the Christian Peace Education Fund, established in 1982. We co-founded and subsequently facilitated PEN, with its annual conferences all through the 1990s and early 2000s. We developed training within other institutions including the Missionary Institute London where we helped initiate an MA in applied theology: The Peace & Justice Mission Studies programme. We have run courses in active nonviolence with the Conference of Religious, students in pastoral ministry, prison chaplains, and St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. Throughout the 90s we worked    ecumenically with the Churches Peace Forum producing resources and workshops for the World Council of Churches’ Programme to Overcome Violence. We contributed to the powerful training scheme arranged for the Jubilee Year 2000 by the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN) and have co-hosted three annual conferences with NJPN on peace-related themes. This accumulated experience underpins our current work on nonviolence with the Vatican.

A constant in our outreach and education has been Peace Sunday.  Since it began in 1967 Pax Christi has played a unique role in amplifying the World Peace Day message through homilies, prayers, discussion questions, children’s activities, giving every parish in England and Wales the opportunity to celebrate the theme and deepen awareness of the peace teaching of the Church.

Writing now in the eighteenth year of the ‘War on Terror’, I recall work initiated in 2002 by theologians and members of Pax Christi who produced the Declaration on the Morality and Legality of the War Against Iraq. Gathering the public support of hundreds, including prominent church leaders, we were thrust into the limelight of national TV and press.  That declaration helped to create a critical momentum around the country casting grave doubt on the war. We heard that Downing Street was fed up with these outspoken Christians. With CAAT and other Christian groups we launched the Called to Conversion message that, though called to be peacemakers, as a nation we sow the seeds of war. We devised petitions, tools, liturgies, which enabled groups to engage in arms-trade campaigning with various government departments over several years.

After years of global polarity which saw security framed almost exclusively in terms of military strength, we began to consolidate our approach. With the Fellowship of Reconciliation we produced Security for the Common Good – a document arguing the case for redirecting money away from military defence, nuclear deterrence, the arms trade, and towards investment in human, sustainable security. We became a key organiser of the annual Global Campaign on Military Spending, providing a dedicated website and popular campaign materials. These encouraged people to take to town centres, cafés, schools, government departments, and stimulate  political debate by offering ‘people’s budgets’ that prioritise education, health, climate change over military spending. With the Network for Christian Peace Organisations (NCPO) we developed this approach in several General Election briefings and, more recently, briefings on Trident and the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

In 1999 Patriarch Michel Sabbah became Pax Christi’s International President at our world assembly in the Middle East. Taking part in delegations and organising visits to Palestine opened new partnerships with Palestinian and Israeli peace groups. The Separation Wall was being built, along with other ‘facts on the ground’ that made daily life for Palestinians impossible and enshrined the illegal occupation of Palestine. Our support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (which led to several members becoming volunteers), campaigns such as People need Bridges not Walls, and the Week of  Prayer for Palestine and Israel, have allowed us to become a voice for our partners and engage in education and advocacy work. One gift of this partnership is the Pax Christi ICON of Peace, created in Jerusalem, presenting stories of peacemaking and reconciliation across time and many traditions. Since 2004 the ICON has been exhibited in British cathedrals, schools, prisons and parish churches – an inspiration for prayer throughout the ‘100 Days of Peace’ surrounding the 2012     Olympics, and at the 2018 Eucharistic Congress.

Through the great communication shift – websites, Facebook, Twitter, online shopping, e-newsletters – our message today reaches a much wider national and international community. Providing sound alternative news, advocacy tools, accessible education resources, notice of events and campaigns, reports about the work of members – this has become a priority for us. At the same time we produce high quality ‘paper’ resources, from study packs to seasonal reflections, assemblies for schools, Peace People stories, postcards that celebrate women peacemakers or spread the message, No More War, Let’s Build Peace. Let’s not forget internal developments, the move to Hendon in 1998, several changes in staffing, new systems for data-management and accounting. The unfailing support of our President, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, our members and volunteers – all contribute to the wonderful service that our small staff team offers to the Church and the peace movement.

The words and gestures of Pope Francis affirm our work and encourage us to be even bolder in future. The arms trade is ever more aggressive. Technologies are shifting to the dangerous world of automation, drone warfare and killer robots. Financial investments still support the weapons’ industry and unjust structures in Israel and Palestine. Our young people are increasingly vulnerable to knife and gun violence. We face these challenges in our national context and, through the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, work with the Vatican to address the deep roots of violence, to forge a new moral teaching and practice. The potential of the Church to be a model and a powerhouse for active nonviolence is immense. Our task is to build a community of peace people who will help release this power.

 

 

 

Our Stories

Our Story: Pax Christi Aotearoa/New Zealand

This is the latest installment of a regular feature on the Peace Stories blog featuring the stories of our 120 member organisations on five continents around the world. In this story, we’re getting to know Pax Christi Aotearoa of New Zealand. This interview was conducted by email with Kevin McBride, national secretary-coordinator.

When and how did Pax Christi Aotearoa start? Was there some particular event or issue that served to bring your organisation into being?

Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand arose in many ways from the ashes of a former Justice, Peace and Development (JPD) Commission of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) of the 1980s. Following a visit by PCI General Secretary, Etienne De Jonghe in 1988, when he was hosted by the then JPD Commission, Vice-President Sr. Mary Evelyn Jegen visited in 1989 and ran some workshops on peace and peacemaking. The members of the Peace Committee of the JPD Commission were so impressed that we decided to follow what we perceived as the ethic of Pax Christi and to be the agents of further contacts with PCI. In following years, I was able to visit Erie, Pennsylvania and New York and also to attend and contribute to a workshop run by Mary Evelyn in Omaha. So when the NZCBC decided to “restructure” the JPD Commission in the early 1990s (partly because of reactive pressure “from the pews” against some of our campaigns), most Auckland members decided to make Pax Christi the focus of our activities, leading in turn to our becoming a section of Pax Christi International in 1993. In the interim, I had attended an assembly of Pax Christi International at Fatima and we had a visit to New Zealand by Paul Lansu. The national centre was in Auckland but we had small branches in two or three other centres as well. The two critical issues which brought this about were Etienne’s visit in 1988 and the disestablishment of the JPD Commission in the early 1990s.

What is the structure and who are the people involved in your organisation? Who are the main leaders or personalities behind the work, in your history?

Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand is registered as a Charitable Trust under NZ Government Charitable Trust Act 1957 which sets out and monitors our activities to ensure that they conform to the establishing Act. We have a small number of Trustees who are responsible for our conforming to our Trust Deed which places our activities under Charitable Purposes which “…provide facilities for the welfare and education of people of all ages with the objective of:

  1. encouraging people to reflect upon the principles arising from Christian ethics and to educate them in the way of Christian peacemaking. These are appointed by the members for life, until they choose to resign or are disqualified by inappropriate action or publication.
  2. to enable them to study situations relative to their own lives and to which they feel related with the aim of reducing conflict and promoting peace. Three of our current five Trustees are foundation members, one has been appointed to monitor and support activities related to the terms of our taking over funds inherited when an associated charitable trust was wound up and the two others closely associated with Maori and Palestine issues were appointed more recently to monitor those critical areas.

We have also adapted the PCI practice of appointing co-Presidents, currently the Emeritus Bishop of Palmerston North Diocese, a long-term supporter, and Rangi Davis of the Ngapuhi hapu of northern New Zealand and closely related to our bicultural history. The 1835 NZ Declaration of Independence and 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, foundational political documents, were signed in their territory and strongly influenced by their leaders.

dsc04725In recent years, we have also elected annually a National Advisory Council representative of national membership to guide and direct policy implemented by the National Office in Auckland. The national office currently comprises myself as Secretary-Coordinator, Sr. Bridget Crisp RSM as promoter/manager, Barbara McBride as treasurer and Helen Doherty as current national chairperson of the Advisory Council (all pictured right with Pax Christi International Secretary General Greet Vanaerschot). Barbara and I are also foundational members.

It is difficult to nominate main/historical leaders as all core members have contributed in important and significant ways. Richard Archer, also a member of Pax Christi UK at one point, played a very important role until his death in recent years, as our “man in Wellington” where he attended parliamentary select committees and supported submissions, etc on our behalf. He got us well-known in government bodies and helped us get audiences with Parliamentary leaders and ministers of state when the occasion arose. His brothers Peter, a Trustee from the start, and Bill, a Religious Brother in Bougainville, where we became strongly involved in our early years, have also had a strong presence in our history. Strong links with Dominican Friars and Sisters, particularly Fr. Peter Murnane and Sr. Joan Hardiman, have been of great significance in our development. The latter served for a year in the PCI office in Belgium and for several years on our Trust Board while Fr Peter, as well as being on our Trust Board until he left New Zealand, has his own significant history in New Zealand’s peace movement. He and two companions disabled a “spy station” in central New Zealand, drawing attention to our nation’s deep involvement in international surveillance issues and involvement with a partisan approach to regional peace. At another time, Peter and companions poured some of their blood on the floor of the U.S. Consulate in Auckland in protest at the spilling of innocent blood in U.S.-initiated and supported conflicts.

What are the current issues you are working on, or what are your major priorities?

Since our beginnings, we have been engaged in advocating for peace in Bougainville, East Timor and West Papua in our our region. This has meant supporting students and activists from such places here in New Zealand and intervening in related policy issues at the government level. We have also managed to visit such places from time to time to see the situation for ourselves and to host visitors when they are available. The former two issues have reached a level of settlement though still have ongoing matters needing assistance. In typical Pax Christi fashion, we have become members of local support agencies like the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition and Peace Movement Aotearoa, often through taking on membership of governing bodies.

More important, though, is our work within New Zealand, largely under the heading of “Decolonisation”. Two foundational documents, the 1835 “He Whakaputanga o nga Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni” (Declaration of Independence of the Chiefs of New Zealand) and 1840 “Te Tiriti o Waitangi” (Treaty of Waitangi), the latter based on the agreement forged in the first, make it quite clear that indigenous Maori established their sovereignty in the international arena and affirmed it in relating to incoming colonists. However, the latter assumed unjustified dominance and asserted military control which amounted to an unjustified takeover in defiance of clear understandings of partnership. We see our role as commitment to the long-term establishment of Maori historical understanding as the only means of achieving peace in our land and also as a model for other indigenous peoples in neighbouring countries with similar histories.

rangiwelcomeFive Maori principles increasingly underpin our approach to our role as peacemakers in Aotearoa: Whanaungatanga (relationship with all that is, which influences our approach to God, to people and to all of creation), Tapu (recognition of the essential dignity of all things), Mana (the potential to engage with and influence relationships and events), Utu (the principle of balance between conflicting elements) and Manaakitanga (the duty of care towards all people and things). [The above are my summaries of principles set out in Chapter 3 of “New Treaty, New Traditions – reconciling New Zealand and Maori Law” by Professor Carwyn Jones of Victoria University of Wellington (VUP 2016)]. We have a long way to go in our understanding of these issues and need great humility and care in addressing them.

How is your organisation putting nonviolence into practice? What role does nonviolence play in your work?

Nonviolence has always been a given in our work but our focus has increasingly been directed to the principles summarised above. Our history includes the stories of Parihaka, which members of the International Secretariat encountered while in New Zealand, and as well we have the story of Rekohu (Chatham Islands), whose people introduced the principle of non-combatance or nonviolence as a foundation of their relationships. When a Maori raiding party confronted them in the 1830s, they persevered in spite of huge losses of people and eventually of their island. It is possible that some of the forebears of the Parihaka model carried their resolution back to New Zealand but much more likely that Mahatma Gandhi read of the Parihaka issue which was published in colonial newspapers of the day. It is part of our role in Pax Christi Aotearoa-New Zealand to give proper recognition to these historical events and acknowledgement of their importance in our own commitment to nonviolence.

What is the greatest accomplishment of Pax Christi Aotearoa (in your opinion) during its history?

We have had a measure of involvement in the resolution of conflicts in Timor Leste and Bougainville and played active roles through members and associates in the establishment and affirmation of New Zealand’s Nuclear-Free policy but can’t see any of them as our own achievements. In some ways, our greatest achievement has been the establishment of our section, the participation of its members in ongoing issues of peace in our nation and region and our recognition that we cannot solve issues of peace and injustice by ourselves but only through listening to the ongoing cries of oppressed people in our own neighbourhood and region and doing what we can to support those hearing those cries and acting on them.

What does it mean for your organisation to be part of the Pax Christi International network?

We see this as another relationship, one from which we can learn, but also one to which we can contribute. Our situation here provides many very specific challenges which call on us to realise and show a measure of uniqueness which we can share but not expect others to emulate outside the conditions in which they live. Likewise, it would be wrong of us to rely too much on the situations and experience of others to direct our activities.

In terms of the five principles outlined above, being part of PCI extends our relationships, it calls us to share our situation with others to extend their understanding of their nation’s part in our current situation and obligation in part to participate where possible in the remedying of issues like colonisation. We must also exercise our duty of care and renew our efforts to right the imbalances of the world in nonviolent and peaceful ways.