Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

Review: “Choosing Peace” outlines how the Catholic Church can return to nonviolence

choosingpeacebookA review of “Choosing Peace – The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence”, ed. Marie Dennis. Orbis Books, 2018, 270 pages.

Reviewed by Henrietta Cullinan in Peace News 

This collection, expertly edited by Marie Dennis, guides us through the complex discussions that took place at the 2016 Rome conference ‘Nonviolence and Just Peace’ organised by a host of Catholic organisations including Pax Christi International. Its delegates wrote a statement, appealing to the Catholic Church to ‘re-commit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence’.

Most inspiring are the testimonies of those working on the ground in conflict zones. We learn of their efforts to live nonviolently in dangerous situations, and their painstaking work in bringing the most battle-hardened groups to the negotiating table in Sudan, Uganda, Colombia and Afghanistan.

In the two chapters on scriptural evidence and traditional Catholic thought we read of the nonviolence in Jesus’ life and teachings, later taken up by his disciples. Gandhi, we are reminded, read the Sermon on the Mount every day for forty years. Jesus’ words at the time of his arrest, ‘put down the sword’, are interpreted by some Christians as an instruction to avoid armed conflict at all costs.

Another chapter (‘Active Nonviolence’) outlines the results of Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth’s by-now-famous study of 323 major violent and nonviolent campaigns around the world between 1900 and 2006. They found that the nonviolent campaigns succeeded twice as often, and resulted in more democratic and peaceful societies, than the violent ones, mainly because they enabled much wider participation…

Click here to read the entire review.

Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

When we realise our weakness, we realise our discipleship

by Henrietta Cullinan
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 7th Sunday of Easter…

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 | 1 John 4:11-16 | John 17:11-19

Discipleship, we learn from this Sunday’s readings, means transformation, means thankfulness, means accepting God’s will. As the psalm says, ‘The Lord has set his sway’. Jesus prays that we be ‘one like us’, leading me to the blessed but at the same time terrifying understanding that God has chosen me and given me to Jesus. Jean Vanier writes of this Gospel passage, ‘This holiness is not something we achieve; it is given.’ [1]

We don’t only become disciples by being committed activists, full of austere courage, brimming with facts and figures about the arms trade say, or high level analysis of geopolitics. The world won’t thank us for bearing witness, it is true, or causing a disruption and standing in the way of its business. But according to Jean Vanier, Christ’s prayer calls us to accept our vulnerability.

When I visited friends in Kabul last year, unlike in most well-to-do houses, and institutions, there was no armed guard. I signed a statement, asking not to be rescued if I was kidnapped. I tried not to think about the implications of this, remembering S. Brian Willson’s words, ‘We are not worth more’ [2]. Instead I followed my hosts’ precautions, taking different routes, not speaking in public, even though taxi drivers often wanted a chat. Stuck in a massive traffic jam once, our driver even warned off a nosy policemen, saying we were Turkish. I had no choice but to put my faith in the people around me. But then I had a passport and a plane ticket, a heavily- guarded international airport, to fly in and out of.

As followers of Jesus’ way of nonviolence, we become vulnerable. When we put ourselves in the way of the businesses and powers that put greed over human life, we come to realise our weakness, and realise our discipleship.

Guide us into the way of Peace.


[1] Vanier, Jean, Drawn into the mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, DLT Books, London 2004, p296
[2] S. Brian Willson is an American peace activist and Vietnam War veteran who lost both his legs blockading arms shipments bound for Central America in 1987

Henrietta Cullinan is administrator for the Faith & Resistance Network and a member of the London Catholic Worker. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here.