Peace, Peace Spirituality

Reflections on Pope Francis’s 2019 World Day of Peace message

by Tony Magliano

As the saying goes, “Politics and religion don’t mix.” Although this cliché is espoused by many, you will not hear it from Pope Francis.

On the contrary, the leader of the Catholic Church firmly teaches that our Gospel-based faith has a wealth of wisdom to offer the often corrupt world of politics. And that it is our duty to strive to infuse that wisdom into the body politic.

As exhibit “A,” consider the Holy Father’s Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message – appropriately titled “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

Peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence,” the pope writes. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.”

This is so true. As one of many sad examples, consider how often political officials allow and even authorize the oppression of minority groups like the Rohingya in Myanmar, and now in Bangladesh (see: https://bbc.in/2KPgZ7Q, https://bit.ly/2RPcE4a).

And consider that many political leaders in governments throughout the world, including democracies, largely ignore the marginalized poor – in effect exiling them to the fringes of society, and even leaving millions of them to die every year (see: https://borgenproject.org/15-world-hunger-statistics/).

Among the “political vices” the pope cites are “xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.” All of which bring to mind recent dire environmental warnings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see: https://on.natgeo.com/2C4uv2j), the National Climate Assessment (see: https://bit.ly/2DFvfvO), and the often cold-hearted political response to suffering migrants (see: https://bbc.in/2yZnCMD).

Here the pontiff’s words are equally strong, “Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background.”

Pope Francis then challenges the immoral tragedy of war and fear. He says, “Peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear.” And adds that the proliferation of arms is “contrary to morality and the search for true peace” (see: https://bit.ly/2BqRelc).

And he condemns “forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.”

In the world – political and otherwise – where self-centered egos often dominate, Pope Francis calls our attention to the humble corrective teaching of Jesus: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Francis then challengingly calls us to be creative peacemakers: “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and happiness of the human family.”

And to that Pope Francis encouragingly adds, “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” With open hearts and minds to God, let each of us ask ourself: What is my stone? And how can I best use it to build our common home?

And then consider a New Year’s resolution worth keeping:  Read “Good politics is at the service of peace” and prayerfully strive to put it into practice (see: https://bit.ly/2CmIobS).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Advent, Peace Spirituality

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, 9 December 2018

from Pax Christi France

Pax Christi France has put together a series of prayers and reflections for the weeks of Advent. Each Saturday, we’ll post those reflections on the blog for the upcoming Sunday. You can download the entire resource at this link in French. 

Second Sunday of Advent, 9 December 2018

A voice cries in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:1)

Readings: Bar 5:1-9 | Ps 125:1-6 | Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 | Lk 3:1-6

Extract from the letter of Pope Francis

“The wisdom of faith feeds this contemplative gaze that recognises that we all belong to one family, migrants and the local population who welcome them, and all have the same right to benefit from the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are based. These words send us back to the image of the new Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah and the Apocalypse describe it as a city whose doors are always open, in order to let in people of all nations. Peace is the ruler who guides it and justice the principle that governs the coexistence of all within it.

“It also brings us to a contemplative look at the city where we live, that is to say, a look of faith that discovers this God who lives in these houses, in these streets, in these squares, by promoting solidarity, community, desire for good, truth, justice …”

For reflection

  • What is the new Jerusalem for me?
  • We all belong to one family. How can I open my family and my house to welcome others?
  • What do the words ‘solidarity’ and ‘sharing’ mean to me? Let’s prepare the way of the Lord.
  • Do we know how to contemplate the work of God in the city, the neighbourhood where we live?

Prayer

God, Parent of all, all cultures and all origins,
Look at our world separated by borders, torn by wars,
Disfigured by hunger and injustice, divided by our fears and prejudices.
So many migrants roam in search of a better future.
In Jesus Christ, you have come to reveal humanity, you have sown friendship and trust in our hearts.
You showed us the way of sharing and meeting,
You opened our eyes to recognise our brothers and sisters.
Fill us with your Spirit so that we live like your children,
United in the diversity of our cultures.
May your Kingdom come, reign of peace, justice and community
For all the peoples of the earth.
AMEN

(www.incarnation.org)

For deeper consideration

  • Let us be aware of what is happening in our city and in our neighbourhood regarding the reception of refugees. Let us be open and listen to their lives and their difficulties.
  • Let us create or participate in a prayer group for peace and community among peoples.
  • Let us open our homes to welcome a young person or a family on the day or the evening of Christmas, with simplicity, sharing and generosity.
Peace

Historic gathering of pope and patriarchs for Middle East peace

by Tony Magliano

Pope Francis has not only inherited, but continues to earn the title pontiff – “bridge-builder.”

His latest major effort to oppose divisive walls and instead construct unifying bridges was his hosting of a July 7 unprecedented ecumenical gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders in Bari, Italy.

Pope Francis, together with patriarchs and representatives of several Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, Eastern Catholic churches, and representatives of the Lutheran church and Middle East Council of Churches, prayed for peace and discussed possible paths toward peace, in the war-torn land of the Prince of Peace.

In his introductory address, Pope Francis denounced the large indifference displayed by so many individuals and nations to the long suffering of so many brothers and sisters in Christ along with other persecuted people of the Middle East.

Using powerful words he said, “Indifference kills; and we desire to lift up our voices in opposition this murderous indifference. We want to give a voice to those who have none … for the Middle East today is weeping, suffering and silent as others trample upon those lands in search of power or riches.”

Just think how much worse off the Middle East is since the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 – to eliminate weapons of mass destruction which were never proven to exist.

And to that catastrophe, add the catastrophes of outside military interventions into Libya, Syria and Yemen – where Saudi Arabia’s bombing using U.S. aircraft has caused what the U.N. is calling “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” (see: https://news.un.org/en/focus/yemen).

Yes the pope is absolutely correct, “indifference kills.” Where is the outcry from the comfortable on behalf of the miserable? Where is the outcry – especially Christian outcry – for serious sustained negotiations and dialogue on all fronts? Instead of military surges, we need multi-front diplomatic surges.

After a closed-door meeting with the Middle Eastern Christian leaders, Pope Francis in a very powerful, prophetic closing address said, “Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue.”

The pontiff’s remarks here call to mind the coldhearted indifference of walls and various barriers along the borders of some European nations, the Israeli separation barrier – mostly in the West Bank occupied territories – the U.S. wall/barrier along its border with Mexico and many other such walls around the world (see: https://usat.ly/2J6jHEX).

In his closing address (please see: https://bit.ly/2Jg4YmW) Pope Francis added, “War is the daughter of power and poverty. It is defeated by renouncing the thirst for supremacy and by eradicating poverty. …

“Violence is always fueled by weapons. You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a most serious responsibility weighing on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful.”

Tragically, leaders of the most powerful nations seem to have lost touch with their conscience.

According to the highly respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. is the world’s top arms supplier, exporting 34 percent of major weapons to at least 98 countries, with 49 percent of U.S. arms exports flowing into war-torn Middle East nations (see: https://bit.ly/2Dpn3vQ).

And U.S. arms manufacturing corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics are making bundles of blood-soaked money in the process (see:  https://nyti.ms/2NMZOCu).

How can anyone who claims to be a disciple of the nonviolent Jesus be indifferent to all this?

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Photo by Vatican Media.
Peace, Social Issues

Why are people poor?

by Tony Magliano

It’s not because there aren’t enough resources to go around. For one thing, the world produces enough food to adequately feed every single person.

Well, then what are the reasons?

Among the major reasons poverty exists are unemployment, underemployment, lack of health care and education, hunger, homelessness, undocumented immigration status, climate change and war.

But a strong case can be made that the tremendous income and wealth inequality that exists between the haves and the have-nots is the most serious reason poverty exists. It has such a powerful negative influence that it also greatly fuels all the other causes of poverty.

Just last year alone, four out of every five dollars of wealth generated globally flowed into the wallets of the richest one percent, while the poorest half of humanity received nothing.

Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, “It reveals how our economies are rewarding wealth rather than the hard work of millions of people. … The few at the top get richer and richer and the millions at the bottom are trapped in poverty wages” (see: https://ti.me/2DoaHEV and https://bit.ly/2zXLTWw).

And in the U.S. wealth inequality is at near record levels .

“Servant of God” and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day, said “We need to overthrow this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system.”…

Click here to read the entire article.

Nonviolence, Peace

Creating a culture of peace in our schools

by Matt Jeziorski
Schools and Youth Education Officer, Pax Christi UK

There was great joy in the Pax Christi office recently when the news broke that a miracle due to the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero had been approved confirming what so many of us were already sure of – that Oscar Romero is a Saint. His faithful witness to the Gospel, his readiness to speak truth to power, his solidarity with the oppressed, and his tireless work for peace and justice make Romero a hero for us. He is one of those peace people whose lives we often look to for encouragement and inspiration.

Reflecting on work for peace and the power of nonviolence to transform situations of injustice Archbishop Romero said that Christians are peacemakers, not because they cannot fight, but because they prefer the force of peace. This is a force that is not passive nor cowardly, neither it is the easy option, but it is a force that faces the violence and injustices in our world and transforms them through faith and love.

This is the force that Pope Francis speaks of when he reflects upon the need for us to us to banish violence from our hearts, words, and deeds, and become nonviolent people and build nonviolent communities. Everyone can be an artisan of peace was his bold and ambitious claim in his 2017 message for World Peace Day.

That Pope Francis desires artisans of peace is telling. The need is for skilled workers; craftsmen and women, trained and qualified in peace and peacemaking. The world wants for a deeper pool of people able find creative nonviolent means to address the root causes of war and violence. Our schools can play a crucial role in responding to Pope Francis’s call by ensuring that their work of Christian formation includes an apprenticeship in Christian peacemaking – and peace education is the key to achieving this.

Schools can sometimes appear nervous about peace education. I have lost count of the number of anxious phone calls I have received from teachers who have booked some of our Pax Christi peace education workshops and find themselves having to reassure a senior member of staff that I am not visiting to campaign, to criticise, or to brainwash. I have had Heads concerned that my workshops might be seen as promoting extremism under the Prevent agenda, and I had one Head take me to task for sowing seeds of dissent amongst my staff during an INSET day.

Yet at the heart of what we are doing in our work of peace education is exactly what Pope Francis demands of us – helping young people to critically explore how they are called to be a peacemakers in the world today. We follow Christ who, in telling us to put down your sword, points us towards the path of peace and nonviolence – peace education breaks open this Gospel call to nonviolence and challenges us in how we live our lives. It may not always be comfortable but any nervousness is misplaced for this is wholly authentic Christian witness.

The Church of course has long held up for us examples who, like Bl Oscar Romero, point to what it means to be an artisan of peace: St Martin of Tour in refusing to fight in the army due to his Christian faith; St Francis of Assisi – the Pope’s own patron – in his radical poverty and great efforts to negotiate peace in the Holy Land; Blessed Franz Jägerstäter and Blessed Josef Mayr-Nusser both executed for following their conscience and refusing to fight in Hitler’s army; and the Servant of God, Dorothy Day, in her radical pacifism and steadfast commitment to campaigning against war and the injustices that perpetuate it. Pope Francis is building on a rich heritage.

Much of Pax Christi’s peace education work is one-off, an invitation to work with groups of students over the course of a day in support of their GCSE or A-level religious studies, part of the schools chaplaincy or citizenship provision, or as part of sixth form general RE. Whilst sure of the quality and importance of these workshops, their value can be limited to some extent if they remain a one-off encounter.

Our work is at its best when it is complimenting and supporting the wider mission of the school. This is why Pax Christi encourages schools to make a firm commitment to peace and to nonviolence as part of their Christian vocation.

Becoming a Pax Christi school means recognising that peace and nonviolence are at the heart of the faith life of the school and can touch every area of school life. A Pax Christi school begins with the prayer and liturgical life of the school. Prayers for peace are incorporated into the regular rhythm of prayer life of the school. The feast days and secular memorials with a peace link throughout the school year are observed and celebrated. These prayers are rooted in the sometimes messy realities of the world and the heartbreaking stories of violence in our communities and our world.

Joining acts of public prayer, such as the Ash Wednesday witness against nuclear weapons at the Ministry of Defence, has engaged one Pax Christi School over several years. In reflecting prayerfully on these realities we pray that, as peacemakers, we may grow in understanding of our role in bringing peace.

Special care is taken over acts of remembrance that ensure that war is never gloried nor celebrated but recognised for the failure that it always represents. As we remember sacrifice and the heroism of various forms, our prayer will always be that most basic one for peace: Never again!

A Pax Christi school educates for peace. Peace issues are included in the curriculum but, more than that, the way teaching is practiced models the principles of nonviolent peacemaking including respect, empathy, and nonviolent conflict resolution. The practical skills of being a peacemaker are also taught. Conflict resolution skills are promoted across the school with student leaders being specifically trained in peer mediation. In modelling the principles of peace and nonviolence the school might reflect on the role of the military and arms companies have in supporting work experience, careers events, or STEM days. Alternative, more life-affirming, options are available.

A Pax Christi school stands in solidarity with the victims of violence and those working nonviolently for peace around the world. They are supported through prayer and fundraising, their stories are shared to raise awareness, and advocacy is done on their behalf to those in positions of power and influence in our own country. A pilgrimage to Palestine to meet children and young people living under occupation is a profound and transformative experience for school groups. Closer to home, participation in the Pax Christi International
young journalist project has connected young people with refugees in their area – creating an opportunity for them to write articles and produce podcasts to amplify the refugee experience.

A Pax Christi school campaigns for peace at home and abroad. Having carefully considered a situation and reflected upon it in the light of faith members of the school community are confident in taking action to bring about positive change for peace. Joining together with other peacemakers they stand in vigil, they protest, they write, they lobby, and they raise their voice to demand action.

When a culture of peace is fostered and allowed to prevail in our schools then an apprenticeship in peacemaking becomes a natural consequence. In this way our schools are training those artisans of peace that Pope Francis so desires and our world so desperately needs.

Nonviolence

The choice is between nonviolence and nonexistence

by Tony Magliano

“To call the world’s nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger and its immediacy,” warned Rachel Bronson, Ph.D., president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Famous for their symbolic Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin’s highly respected scientists and 15 Nobel Laureate consultants recently moved the clock to two minutes before midnight – warning that a nuclear war catastrophe is very possible!

The only other time in its seven decade history the minute hand has been set this close to midnight – that is, the devastation of the planet, and virtually everything and everyone on it – was in 1953 after the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time (see: http://bit.ly/2FjsyxC).

And in less than three weeks after the Doomsday Clock was moved so perilously close to nuclear midnight, the Pentagon on Feb. 2 released its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), providing the world with even more reasons to be alarmed.

Adding to the insane fact that both the United States and the Russian Federation each have hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at each other programmed with a “launch-on-warning” – hair-trigger-alert – status, the NPR states that the U.S. will continue its policy to be the first to initiate a nuclear attack if it decides that its “vital interests” and those of its “allies and partners” are at risk (see: http://wapo.st/2EJnF0R)…

Click here to read the entire column.