Nonviolence, Peace

Just Peace: A timely roadmap for Australia or impossible dream? – Part 2

by Joseph Camilleri
Pax Christi Australia (NSW)

(Read Part 1 by clicking here.)

If ‘just peace’ requires peacemaking and peacebuilding to be sensitive to the cries of the poor and the cries of the Earth, how relevant is it to Australia’s present circumstances? If what is proposed is a holistic approach to the problem of violence that encompasses social and ecological violence as well as physical violence, is Australia capable of adopting the approach as a guide to its domestic and external policies? To judge by the parlous state of Australian politics and public discourse, at least as filtered by mainstream media, the omens are less than propitious. And yet, the possibilities are immense and tantalising, and the ground potentially more fertile than is often supposed.

The many failings of current policy design and implementation in Australia clearly point to the need for new directions of the kind suggested by just peace thinking. A case in point is the failure of successive governments to devise an energy policy that delivers low emissions electricity and affordable energy for those on low incomes. As of now Australia is poorly placed to meet the emissions target set by the Paris agreement of 26-28% reduction in national emissions compared to 2005 levels – a rather modest target when compared to that of other advanced economies.

The energy policy vacuum has proved especially damaging for our relations with Pacific neighbours. Rather than empathise with the concerns of Pacific Island nations for whom climate change is an existential threat, the Australian government has turned a deaf ear to their pleas, and recently added insult to injury by accusing Pacific leaders of a cash grab.

Unsurprisingly, Australian governments have shown little interest in World Bank suggestions that Australia offer open access migration to low-lying Pacific nations. Tuvalu and Kiribati in particular are acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels that have already started flooding land and homes.

The exodus of environmental refugees, not just from the Pacific but from the coastal regions of South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia, is expected to become a major security threat over the next ten to twenty years. With climate change and other environmental pressures already reducing the availability of water, food and arable land in host countries, transboundary migration is expected to rise sharply, exacerbating tensions and conflict within and between countries.

What might Australia’s response be? If Australia’s refugee policies are any indication, the tendency will be to view these trends through the lens of military security. From the ‘children overboard’ fiasco in 2001 to the military-led ‘operation sovereign borders’ established in 2013 and the wilful neglect of the health of detainees at Manus and Nauru we see the same counterproductive response at work, which is to make the victims of humanitarian crises the primary targets of military force…

Read the entire blog post by clicking here.

Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

An ANZAC Day lament

by Rev. Claude Mostowik, msc
Pax Christi Australia

Romans 12:2ff: ‘Don’t change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but let God change you inside with a new way of thinking……….’ We can and must rearrange our priorities….

How do we want to remember ANZAC or any war? To suggest changes in the way we think about Anzac is dangerous territory. The contemporary focus on this sacred day is changing from an inherent opposition to militarism since the 1920’s to a sudden reinvigoration of ANZAC which seems to contribute to a new militarism and nationalism. Whatever this day means, we must recognise that we are all part of ‘the dark ecosystem of violence’ – whether towards Aboriginal people, refugees, asylum seekers, the Earth or peoples we have never met. ANZAC Day is a call us to do life differently. Your presence here today might indicate an interest for some alternative. I begin with a quote from Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination: ‘….real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we invited to pretend that things are all right … And as long as the Empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no real criticism…’ When I think of saints they often become monuments rather than a command/ challenge. Dorothy Day warned again it and in some ways people like Martin Luther King have suffered that fate.

For the past 20 years, Anzac has become impregnable; a bastion of patriotism over which words and argument cannot prevail. Are there other ways of remembering war? As we remember the dead, all, we could honour conscientious objectors who said there is ‘No glory in war’; acknowledging the costs of war; working toward ways that breaks down enmity between people and seeing war and violence as the enemy; of breaking down enmity between people – seeing war and violence as the enemy; an ethic of inclusivity and recognition for all the victims – past and present – of war; choosing a national identity based on positive values of care and service rather than war; holding leaders and war enablers to account; and remembering war so as to ensure ‘Never Again’ as a means to a nonviolent society (Richard Jackson). Let us not reinforce exclusive identities of friend/enemy; worthy/unworthy victims; or let lies obscure the realities of war; or rewrite unjust wars; or myths and lies; or white-wash history; or absolve leaders; or put duty and sacrifice for the nation over above responsibility to the Other; or demand conformity and closing the space for dissent and conscientious objection; or subscribe to the broader culture structures that maintain militarism, the arms trade, war preparedness and the global culture of violence (Richard Jackson).

In the 2017 World Day of Peace Message, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace, Pope Francis reflected on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. Whilst drawing attention to the ‘piecemeal’ violence around us: the wars; terrorism, organised crime; abuses suffered against migrants and victims of human trafficking; and environmental devastation, Francis said to be true followers of Jesus today includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence by building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers; showing mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost [20]. Through our solidarity with one another and the Earth we acknowledge everything is interconnected. We can rearrange our priorities….by giving up any kind of commitment to violence or killing or war. That is Jesus’ way is enemy love. God’s voice is ringing out to us: ‘listen to him’. ‘Put away the sword’. ‘Don’t return evil for evil. Return good for evil’. Listen to him who says ‘try it my way when we seek peace through violence: through war, through conquest, through strife, through the elimination or subduing of an enemy other, or hide behind a Just War doctrine. Let us try to do things differently – to work to build a culture of peace – just peace.

ANZAC Day is a call to remember the many First Peoples in this country who paid in blood to defend this land that we stand on, from invasion. The First Peoples who lost their lives defending their country from invasion in the Frontier Wars. It is a call to remember those voices that said no to war and paid the price – the prophets, teachers, healers and revolutionaries, who have rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy.

For the follower of Jesus, there a call to call to listen to his voice and ‘try it my way’ in the face of hurt, suffering, violence, etc.… try it my way with nonviolence, with forgiveness, with compassion and generosity. He showed us that we transform the world through the power of love – not through violence, not through war, not through killing.

A potentially violent outcome is overturned in the first reading. Abraham learned that God was a God of peace and not of sacrifice. It has no sanction in our religion whether in war, refugee camps, the use of sex slaves, human trafficking, child labour, sweat shops or capital punishment. Abraham saw that violence is not God’s way. When the angel stayed Abraham’s hand, it said ‘Enough!’ Sarah was left out. That voice of God still rings out: ‘listen to him’. ‘Put away the sword’. ‘Don’t return evil for evil. Return good for evil’.

With Mother’s Day in two weeks, we forget it began as a Mother’s Day for Peace in 1870 with a Proclamation where women had their eyes opened to the lies, deceit, waste, the evil sacrifice of humanity to war in the form of their children, husbands, fathers and brothers and made a passionate demand for disarmament and peace. ‘We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, / Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, / For caresses and applause. / Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn / All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. / We, the women of one country, / Will be too tender of those of another country / To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. / From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with / Our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’

In the gospel today, Jesus enters the temple for one purpose – to overturn business as usual. Jesus, in the gospels, is continually interrupting, disrupting, overturning, and throwing out the business as usual which destroys lives relationships, and environments. Pope Francis stresses that ‘faith and violence are incompatible……’ and that ‘Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare……. the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities.’ In 2015, he said, ‘It is not enough to talk about peace, peace must be made. To speak about peace without making it is contradictory, and those who speak about peace while promoting war, for example through the sale of weapons, are hypocrites. It is very simple.’ For Francis, Jesus’ mercy is at the heart of ‘shalom’ and the alternative to violence.

The danger is that ANZAC Day will be only a monument rather than a command or challenge to act for peace, to find alternatives to war, to question and reflect why we are fighting in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Tasmanian Governor, Peter Underwood, in 2014 said we need to reflect more on peacemaking rather than glorifying war with such descriptions of the mythical tall, lean, bronzed and laconic ANZAC, enthusiastically and unflinchingly carrying the torch of freedom in the face of murderous enemy fire. Richard Flanagan last week also said we need to drop the sentimental myths that this day has attracted. We dishonour the dead by a perfunctory annual commemoration without thinking what we commemorate and how we can avoid what we commemorate again. Peter Underwood suggested in the 2014 that the beginning of WWI could be commemorated by declaring 2014 a year of peace. Nothing happened. What about 2018?

Political leaders today will speak movingly of the death and destruction of many Australians in Gallipoli and France, yet still want to promote an arms industry to export arms even to countries accused of war crimes and human rights violations. It is deep contradiction as we prostitute ourselves by joining ‘merchants of death’ (Pope Francis). What would Jesus – who said ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’ — do regarding our fascination for making, possessing, buying, selling, and using high tech weapons?

Not far from here, at National Gallery of Victoria, is a painting by Louis Duffy called Christ driving out the money changers. 16 men in business suits are in confrontation with Jesus. It is set in a graveyard, not a temple. The money changers have morphed into arms dealers trading munitions on the graves of the dead: the ultimate profit and loss indicators of their grim transactions. Jesus always presented options where none existed. He turned things upside down. Another way is possible. John shows us who Jesus is. He is in our midst and shows us how to live differently. Some people have expressed concern about Jesus’ anger. Of greater concern would have been silence, as are many leaders, in the face of injustice, oppression and other acts of violence, or where religion is entangled with power, money and authority that threaten life. We do not need to rely on acts of sacred violence to remain bonded together. We need to find new ways of encountering one another as expressed the following quote: ‘Interred beneath the runways and the sea are the sites of some of the first encounters between Indigenous Australians and British marines and convicts; places where they approached one another with ‘emotions of pleasure, astonishment, curiosity and timidity’ – exchanging gifts and gestures of introduction, touching hair, skin and clothes – each searching tentatively for proof of the others’ humanity’ (Mark McKenna From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories).

Today we acknowledge the wounds deep not just in Australia but NZ, Ireland, India, France as well as Germany and Turkey. The latter were defending their country. They never threatened us. We gloss over many anomalies. Do we think of or acknowledge the impact of our alliances – colonial- have meant for others. We must refuse to listen to various voices that would make us more fearful and suspicious. We need to listen to different voices – those who dare us to care, to open our arms out to a world desperate for compassion and healing. We can be more.

Sadly, the churches have rejected or ignored Jesus’ teaching by forming pacts with forces that promoted violence. For 1600 years they have been saddled with the Just War Doctrine. It is not/was not consistent with Jesus’ life and ministry. It often functioned to legitimise and perpetuate war rather than prevent it. It established a mentality where conflict was the only response to conflict. It limited our ability to find nonviolent responses and find resources and skills need to undertake the work.

These betrayed the one who stands amongst us representing the God of nonviolence. A new framework is required which includes not limiting war – but outlawing it. The betrayal continues when they fail denounce the invasion of another country; the moral credence given to war; racism, sexism, corporate greed; obscene accumulation of property and wealth. There is hope because these are our problems and can be changed. They begin in the sanctuary of our heart. If we are interested in patriotism – there is another form: to the planet and humanity. The really fundamental changes in history have not come by government dictate, or battles, but groups of people taking little steps and sometimes in response to Jesus’ ‘try it my way.’

Today we are challenged to see and act differently. We have been exhorted to listen to Jesus. The message is the same: love one another, i.e., take care of one another, especially the downtrodden. It is possible that we can live together in our diversity.We can see things in a new way. We can let go of racism, to let go of an addiction to money, to let go of power and control, to let go of violence, to let go of inaction, to let go of our blindness and selfishness. We can solve international problems without war. We can see the world as a global community and to see all people as our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis’ core signature phrase is ‘culture of encounter’ which we need to develop. Though differences in ethnicity, religion, race, language, skin colour can breed animosity, enmity and suspicion, when there is a meeting of strangers, walls and those in our hearts can be replaced by bridges. The invitation to embrace ‘the culture of encounter’ is not just about seeing but looking; not just hearing, but listening; allowing ourselves to be moved with compassion. In general it includes reaching out, fostering dialogue and friendship even outside the usual circles, especially people who are neglected and ignored by the wider world.

A superb contribution to just peace was issued by the WCC in a document The Just Peace Companion (2012) alongside another An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace. It states, ‘To care for God’s precious gift of creation and to strive for ecological justice are key principles of just peace. For Christians they are also an expression of the gospel’s call to repent from wasteful use of natural resources and be converted daily. Churches and their members must be cautious with earth’s resources, especially with water. We must protect the populations most vulnerable to climate change and help to secure their rights’ (p. 12).

In April 2016 a ground breaking and unprecedented gathering in Rome, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called for us to go back to the sources of our faith and rediscover the nonviolence at the heart of the Gospel (Jose Henriquez). There was no intention to invent something new but of a return to the sources – to the experience of the early church. The key goal is to outlaw war, not to legitimise or refine the criteria of war by using or teaching just war theory. Just peace is about a vision and praxis is where peace is built up as well the prevention, or defusing, and healing the damage of violence. It’s a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships. The goal of nonviolent resistance to injustice is to awaken humanity in every person. We spoke not only about war but about the presence of an alternative. It was neither fight, flight nor accommodation but relationships that lead to reconciliation with an oppressor. Just war criteria assume that a strategically applied use of violence under the right conditions will end violence, creating the possibility of peace.

We contribute to peace by recommitting to the centrality of gospel nonviolence and developing practices of nonviolence and just peace. Our contribution involves speaking about and promoting nonviolent resistance to injustice and violence; to resist the waste of military spending; to humanise or illuminate the dignity of our enemies. Jesus showed us a different way: the reign of God where we work to build an inclusive community, which includes so-called enemies, by using the power of nonviolent loving, willing-to-risk-suffering action. He called for open inclusion, not narrow exclusiveness.

The final statement of the Rome conference, ‘An appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence’, called on the Catholic Church to commit in doctrine and practice to the central importance of «the Gospel of non-violence. We cannot justify or legitimatise military violence. We have wonderful resources in the WCC and Laudato Si’ that recognise that violence done to human communities is accompanied by devastating environmental destruction. Can we hear the ‘cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ (LS 49). Where there is a lack of connection with the environment which is a form of violence and contributes to the activity of war, ours is to emphasise the protection of life (human and otherwise, including creation) not to destroy it. Instead of thinking as the world thinks or doing what the world does, Jesus says ‘try it my way’ and I pray that we will remember that: As peacemakers let remind the world that violence only perpetuates an endless cycle of violence and that we must not be silent. That, solving problems using the world’s logic doesn’t really solve anything. May we have the courage to not hide our light and not blend into the darkness.

I just want to conclude with the quote from Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination: ‘….real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we invited to pretend that things are all right … And as long as the Empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no real criticism…’

I am Pax Christi, Our Stories, Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Through blurred lenses: A snapshot of a gathering in Manila

by Rev. Valentina Satvedi Leydon
Pax Christi Victoria

Being offered the opportunity to attend the Asia Pacific Network Regional Consultation organised by Pax Christi International was a privilege. The consultation was held in Manila, Philippines from November 27 until December 1, 2017.

Pax Christi in its inception is a very Catholic organisation. While that may be the case in regards to many of the Pax Christi member organisations, the one I find myself part of and based in – Victoria (Australia) – is very ecumenical and has been intentional in moving towards being an interbelief organisation, not merely a Catholic one. This movement is imbued with a stated intention to be inclusive of all who are committed to the work of justice and peace.

My identity is significant to me and as such I attended this event as an Anabaptist woman of colour of Indian ancestry. As is my personal practice, I went without any ‘set’ expectation, even though I was informed that I could end up being the lone person carrying the ecumenical banner. As it turned out, the gathering was essentially Catholic in its cultural practice, underlying assumptions and ritual.

Four persons including myself represented Australia and there will be a formal report collated and presented to Pax Christi Australia, by the four Australian attendees. The short recollection which follows is only a glimpse of what I noticed, as I participated in the consultation, through my personal lens. The larger report will share comprehensive details of the consultation from the perspective of all four participants: myself, Maggie Galley, Caesar D’Mello and Fr Claude Mostowik MSC.

I noticed:

  • The oppressed always have to be mindful when speaking about their oppressions so as to not offend the oppressor. However, the internalisations of the oppressor are strong and when not worked on, the attitude of destabilising the oppressed continues.
  • It is challenging for those working within an established institution to hold the institution accountable, or be open to taking a stance of critical detachment, for its affluence while a significant portion of the masses live in poverty.
  • Absent was the articulation of education for gender justice. It was unclear how we as an international community of peace builders, perceive how the young in their formative years are being (or could be) instructed to respect women in all aspects of living and being.
  • Few persons were willing to acknowledge how words, actions and postures – their own or that of others – still lack sensitivity towards gender and racial imbalances.
  • Ecumenism is understood differently by those in the Catholic tradition. This was evident through the instructions I received in regards to planning an ecumenical prayer service, for example.

I appreciated:

  • Pax Christi International staff taking the ‘backbench’, making room for those in the region take the lead in planning, organising and facilitating this event.
  • The conversations and the space provided for those from indigenous communities to articulate how they engage in the peace and justice work.
  • The purposeful invitation to those working at the grass roots level from various parts of the Asia-Pacific, to share best practices and insights into their fields of justice and peace.
  • The support I received as the lone non-Catholic, from my colleagues representing Australia (Maggie Galley, Claude Mostowik and Caesar D’Mello), for which I express deep thanks.
  • The Anabaptist connections that I indirectly discovered at the Conference, especially in regards to peace-building. In particular, I appreciated a few common connections via the Summer Peace-building Institute of the Centre of Justice and Peace-building at the Eastern Mennonite University Virginia and the Mindanao Peace-building Institute.
  • The inability to force a way of ‘doing’ and ‘being’ when it comes to dismantling ‘roadblocks’ to peace-building. We do not have all the answers and it is OK to come away without set answers, steps and concrete ways of moving forward.
  • The space made for Sacred Circles to discern and share the spirit’s moving each day.
  • The opportunity not to simply be a passive participant; rather, to be engaged in moderating, facilitating and assisting as appropriate.
  • The invitation to collate the sharings articulated in Sacred Circles, then offered as a way of ‘being’ and a sense of commitment to doing the work of peace embraced in those attitudes.
  • The opportunity to hear directly from families of victims affected by the practices of extra-judicial killings, currently mandated in the Philippines. It was powerful to witness those from positions of privilege in the Church walking alongside people being oppressed by the powers-that-be.
  • Inspiring work being done by the Filipino members of Pax Christi, in what can be a hostile social context for peace and justice advocacy.
  • Hearing about the ongoing work of the Non-Violence Initiative, culminating in an invitation to Pope Francis writing an encyclical on non-violence. It is clear that the Catholic Church is starting to shift its emphasis towards the notion of a just peace rather than a just war.

Having said all of the above, I have been energised by this experience and I am thankful for the opportunity granted to me by the joint generosity of the International, Australian and Filipinas sections of Pax Christi. The journey of the various members of the Pax Christi Asia-Pacific region is long and has received rejuvenation. There is much more to come in this regard and I look forward to developing the new relationships and journeying with all those who are intentional in their work towards a just and a peaceful world for all, regardless of their race, gender or theological belief.

Rev. Valentina Satvedi Leydon is a Committee member of Pax Christi Victoria (Australia), a member of Pacific Fellowship and a member of the Pace e Bene Communities of Practice. She is an Independent Consultant committed to her journey of undoing oppressions through a postcolonial lens while being grounded in nonviolence and peace.


Listening to the stories of struggle

By Fr. Claude Mostowik, msc
Pax Christi Australia

Note: The following story was submitted to the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome in April 2016. Conference participants were invited to share short reflections on their own experiences of nonviolence and peacemaking.

I feel somewhat inadequate in addressing some of these questions because we do not face the conflict, violence and war that exists in other parts of the world. I first got involved in Pax Christi in 1998 towards the tail end of the Indonesian presence in East Timor, after its 1975 invasion, and the violence perpetrated by militias that were sympathetic to the Indonesians which created immense violence and destruction. At the time as East Timorese people engaged in hunger strikes in Sydney to call on the Australian government to send peace keepers to the country, Pax Christi joined the hunger strikers in solidarity outside the UN offices in Sydney by having a Eucharist (sometimes ecumenical) on the footpath each afternoon as people finished work and passed by to draw attention to the plight of East Timor. The intention was to continue this action until the government capitulated and sent peacekeepers to East Timor – which it finally did. This continued for some months as other organisations rallied for the same reasons.

In recent times, though personally involved with refugees and asylum seekers for 43 years, I have joined a movement called Love Makes a Way where people of different faiths gather non-violently at the office of a Government minister or the Prime Minister to protest the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers in this country and detention of children, women and men in overseas detention centres. I have now engaged in six of these since April 2014. Four times, we were arrested for resisting these inhumane asylum seeker policies through prayer and nonviolent love in action. The last time was in November and we now have to face court. We were arrested for ‘breach of the peace’. This movement operates throughout the country. The aim was to draw attention to the plight of children in detention but also to seek through prayer and witness to the challenges of Pope Francis and the Australian Catholic Bishops, the Uniting Church leadership and other denominations of the harm (violence) being perpetrated in our name. The publicity and support has been phenomenal. In all, Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Uniting Church, and Metropolitan Community Church denominations were represented in these sit-ins of prayer and song. Some may question such actions but these make up a long tradition of civil disobedience when it becomes imperative to standing again injustice in the community or in the church. It is not possible to just talk, and write but also somehow put one’s own body on the line and risk arrest. In recent weeks, the sanctuary movement has been revived by many churches to offer sanctuary to asylum seekers…

Click here to read the rest of this paper.