Nonviolence, Peace

Signs of the Times: From Just War to Just Peace

by Jane Deren, Education for Justice

The early Church understood Jesus’ call to redemptive suffering and rejected the concept of redemptive violence, which only destroys. On the cross, Jesus showed his followers “how to hold the pain and let it transform us, rather than pass it on to others around us,” a tenet of nonviolence. But the pacifism of these early Christians was challenged as they became part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Church’s Just War doctrine was first proposed by St. Augustine in the 4th century who sought to reconcile nonviolence with empire building. The Just War doctrine was fully developed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 14th century and was used for centuries.

But in light of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in WWII and afterwards, the Church has been re-examining this doctrine: civilian deaths and vast devastation have become too commonplace in modern conflicts and warfare. The belief that modern weapons of war and the threat of nuclear mass destruction make all violent conflicts unjust is reflected in Pope St. John Paul II’s declaration during the Iraq War that “war is always a defeat for humanity,” and that “violence and arms can never resolve the problems of man.” He proclaimed that “only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united global society.” In declaring “May people learn to fight for justice without violence,” John Paul was affirming the beliefs of his predecessors Blessed Pope Paul VI, who taught that “peace is the only true direction of human progress,” and Pope St. John XXIII, who realized authentic development which supported the human dignity of all members of the human community could only be realized in a peaceful world.

Just Peace

Pope Francis has continued developing the concept of a just peace in his writings. In his January 2017 World Day of Peace message Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace, he makes clear that “violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering…” Francis laments because vast amounts of resources are being diverted to military ends and away from human needs, especially of those suffering at the margins; he calls again for disarmament and abolition of nuclear weapons and the rejection of fear as the basis of co-existence…

Click here to read the entire article.

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

Just Peace: The only antidote to the age of violence – Part 1

by Joseph Camilleri
Pax Christi Australia (NSW)

Endemic violence, the hallmark of the last hundred years, shows no sign of abating. The death toll resulting from war in the 20th century is 187 million and probably higher. The number of armed conflicts in the world has risen steadily since 1946 and now stands at 50 or more in any one year. In each case ‘just war’ rhetoric has been invoked to defend the indefensible. It is time to shift our thinking and public discourse from ‘just war’ to ‘just peace’.

Questions regarding the morality of war can be traced back to classical antiquity and across the histories of the main civilisations. Just war theory, as it came to be known in the Western tradition, has its origins in Greek and Roman thought, but it is only in the Christian era that it received its distinctive formulation.

In a decisive shift from the pacifist leanings of the early Church, Augustine argued that war could be waged but only under the right authority and for a just purpose. Several centuries later Thomas Aquinas greatly refined the concept, arguing that for war to be just, it must satisfy three tests. It must be waged under the authority of the ruler whose responsibility it is to protect the state and its people; it must be waged against an opponent intent on aggression and then only as a last resort; and the underlying motive must be to achieve good or prevent evil.

These conditions paved the way for what later came to be known jus ad bellum (the conditions for a just cause) and jus in bello (the conditions for the just conduct of war). In the early 17th century Hugo Grotius, widely regarded as the father of modern international law, stripped away the theological trappings of just war and ground it firmly in natural law…

Read the entire blog post by clicking here.

Nonviolence, Peace

Working inside the Catholic Church to revitalise the tools of nonviolence

by Pat Gaffney
General Secretary, Pax Christi UK

Peace News readers will be familiar with the names of Gene Sharp, Jean Paul Ledarch, George Lakey, Martin Luther King and Gandhi, as among those who have lived, taught and supported nonviolent peacemaking through the decades. For some of those named, the Christian Gospels and the life and witness of Jesus will have been a source of motivation and inspired their thinking and practice of nonviolence.

In 2016, Catholic peace practitioners, academics, theologians and members of Pax Christi International gathered to urge ‘our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices.’

As a Catholic international movement for peace called ‘Pax Christi, the Peace of Christ,’ we had hatched a plan to take the experiences of peacemakers to the Vatican and open a process to move the institutional church closer to a commitment to nonviolence.

Pope Francis, we knew, would be open to this process, as he has never minced his words or shunned controversy in speaking out against global violence and warfare today: ‘Never war again. With war, everything is lost’ (2014); and ‘We plead for peace for this world dominated by arms-dealers, who profit from the blood of men and women’ (2015)…

Read the entire article at Peace News by clicking here.

Nonviolence

Advancing ‘just peace’ through strategic nonviolent action

By Dr. Maria J. Stephan
U.S. Institute of Peace

Note: The following article was submitted to the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome in April 2016 as one of the primary background papers of the conference.

All across the globe, from Guatemala to Poland to Venezuela to Palestine, ordinary people are organizing and challenging systems of injustice, inequality, and oppression using weapons of will and active nonviolent means. Their struggles are part of a rich history of nonviolent movements and “people power” that include the Mahatma Gandhi-led fight for self-determination in India, the Polish Solidarity movement against communist dictatorship, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the peaceful ouster of dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and recent nonviolent movements for human rights and dignity in Tunisia, Guatemala, Brazil, and elsewhere.

The Technique of Nonviolent Action

In each of these cases, unarmed civilians used nonviolent direction action, or what nonviolent action scholar Gene Sharp described as techniques outside of institutionalized behavior for social change that challenges an unjust power dynamic using methods of protest, noncooperation, and intervention without the use or threat of injurious force. The theoretical underpinnings of nonviolent resistance, articulated by Sharp and by earlier scholars including German philosopher Hannah Arendt, holds that power is fluid and ultimately grounded in the consent and cooperation of ordinary people, who can decide to restrict or withhold that support. Sharp identified six key sources of political power, which are present to varying degrees in any society: authority, human resources, material resources, skills and knowledge, intangible factors, and sanctions. Ultimately, these sources of power are grounded in organizations and institutions, made up of people, known as “pillars of support”. When large numbers of people from various pillars of support (bureaucracies, trade and labor unions, state media, educational institutions, religious institutions, security forces, etc.) use various nonviolent tactics to withhold consent and cooperation from regimes or other power-holders in an organized fashion, this can shift power from the oppressor to the oppressed without bombs or bullets.

Sharp identified 198 methods of nonviolent action that included peaceful marches, vigils, social and consumer boycotts, stay-aways, sit-ins, street theatre, humor, and the creation of parallel structures and institution (included in what Gandhi referred to as the “constructive program”, which focused on social uplift for the poor and marginalized). The rise of social media technologies, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram has expanded the universe of tactics even further, while offering new avenues for communication, mobilization, and peer learning across borders. Successful movements have integrated both on and offline forms of mobilization, organization, and direct action – online activism is never a substitute for nuts and bolts offline organizing…

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Nonviolence, Peace

A just peace built on contemplation and resistance

by Rose Berger

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.

In 1999, I walked into Camp Rakovica. There were 1,500 Kosovar refugees in this camp on the dusty outskirts of Sarajevo. They had come by bus, car, and on foot. First held in the expansive bottling rooms at the Coca Cola factory, the refugees now live in an old cattle barn, in tents, and on an open field.

We were invited into the barn’s converted milking room and given the best of the plastic seats around a plywood table. Forty families live here in 6-by-8 foot cubicles separated by curtains. The men told us that Serb soldiers herded them out of their homes. One asked us to find information about his brother, who he presumed was dead in Kosovo. Adem, the oldest man in the camp at 80, wore a blue wool beret and his weatherworn face glistened with tears. Thirty members of his family had been killed by Serb paramilitaries in Kosovo.

The women stand around the ring of conversation holding children on their hips. They served us coffee in chipped red cups. Harija, in her mid-30s, shot her words at us like fire. “How can I live with this pain that my neighbor—my husband shoveled snow from her walk before he even cleared our own—stood in our yard while I was hanging laundry and spoke aloud how she was going to kill me and my children? She was trying to decide between mortar or sniper.”

There was no doctor in this camp. The outhouses were overflowing. The only food available was bread and canned vegetables. The graffiti on the wall shows a young man with a gun to his head.

One man led me down a shoe-strewn hall. He opened the curtain and there, on the bunk bed, lay a 2-day-old baby boy wrapped in clean linens and a rough army blanket. The mother looked worn and happy in her torn T-shirt and dusty skirt. I prayed over the Muslim child, making the sign of the cross on his forehead. No one seems to mind the mix of religious symbols.

War is the great evangelizer. As NATO tossed Tomahawks into Slobodan Milosevic’s tinderbox, Madeleine Albright said she’d pray for Serbia. At the same time, in the foxholes of Belgrade basements, cultural atheists were coming to Christ. While Belgrade burned and Pristina became a ghost town, prayer seemed to be the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. But how do we separate the arrogant petitions of the powerful and the desperate pleas of the weak from that revolutionary act that “moves mountains”?

Authentic prayer brooks no illusions. It is a process of disillusionment. Disillusionment requires education. Education requires context.

For more than 40 years, Tito and his successors squelched religious affiliation or ethnic identity for the sake of a “unified” Communist Republic of Yugoslavia. After Tito’s death, the country went into sharp economic decline. In 1982, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on the upheaval caused by an International Monetary Fund austerity program in Yugoslavia. The program was causing unrest, especially in a small province called Kosovo.

Lesson one. The end of communism’s enforced monoculture produced a renaissance of ethnic and religious identity and pride in the Balkans. Genuine pluralism cannot be produced by force.

Lesson two. Budgets, international monetary systems, and structural adjustments are moral issues with real and ethical consequences.

In 1986, Slobodan Milosevic became head of the Serbian Communist Party. He made a powerful nationalistic speech in Kosovo that effectively stole the national agenda from democratic forces and the Serbian resistance movement. His rallying cry was that Kosovo could never be separated from Serbia. In 1989, with massive popular support, he cracked down on opposition, purged the party of reformist rivals, and abridged autonomy in the regions of Kosovo and Vojvodina, establishing de facto martial law.

Lesson three. Past behavior is an important indicator of future behavior. Milosevic was an educated, urbane, and charismatic leader. He was also cruel and desperate to hold on to the last stronghold of communism in Europe. While we must always appeal to the “king within the man,” we should not be surprised by—and more importantly, we should be prepared for—the response of the tyrant.

While Milosevic was preoccupied with genocide in Bosnia, Kosovar Albanians—under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova—organized a pacifist resistance movement modeled on Gandhian strategies. It was mainly unrecognized and unsupported by the international community. The death knell of the resistance was the Dayton Accords, when the European Union not only recognized Yugoslavia and Milosevic as its leader, but also rewarded Bosnian Serbs, who had committed the worst acts of genocide since the Nazis, by giving them half of Bosnia.

Lesson four. Appeasement has no place in building a sustainable peace with just foundations.

Early in 1998, after the Dayton Accords, Serb forces massacred ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo during a seven-month “anti-terrorist” sweep. Albanian dissident Adem Demaqi promoted a more aggressive nonviolent approach to Kosovo independence, calling for mass demonstrations and strikes. The Serb military responded with brutal force. As despair built among the Albanians and the war in Bosnia wound down, the militant Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army formed. They smuggled in weapons and began an armed guerrilla offensive.

Lesson five. By the time we come to a place where violence seems the only option, the failure is not simply in the moment, but in how we arrived at the apparent lack of options. The time to address a situation is before it devolves to violence. Once we are in the midst of violent conflict, peacemakers must be active in negotiating justice between the warring parties and interceding on behalf of the victims—all the while building the groundwork of a just peace.

Lesson six. Nonviolence is like horseback riding. When you get thrown off, you have to climb back in the saddle. Grappling with the hard questions about applying nonviolence in real-world situations can make us stronger, even when we don’t have simple or clear answers.

In the U.S. Christian commentator Chuck Colson decried the lack of church protest against the war. “What makes this silence even more disturbing,” he said, “is that the situation in Yugoslavia raises profound moral questions that the Christian church is uniquely qualified to address.” Theologian and activist Ched Myers reminds us that the body politic can be possessed by a vicious demon of silence just as the mute boy was in the gospel of Mark. Jesus tells us that the demon of silence can only be exorcised by prayer and fasting.

The prayer we are called to is at once profoundly personal and profoundly political. It consists of contemplation and resistance. Contemplation is the process of dismantling illusions and authentically seeking truth. Resistance is the act of rebuilding, both personally and politically, on a firm and true foundation.