Nonviolence

This is what nonviolence looks like in Kenya on the International Day of Peace

by Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, IBVM
Pax Christi International Board member

During this year’s International Day of Peace (21st September 2018),  the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA) whose work is supported by St. Paul’s University where I serve as a Senior Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies, set three days of different activities in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, in order to bring together Christians and Muslims. Peace practitioners, peace scholars, government officials especially in the Security sector, University chaplains, lecturers, students from universities across Kenya, youth and women organisations, all engaged in these activities with the aim of creating a culture of peace — especially among Muslim and Christian communities. There was a different theme for each day.

The theme for Day One: Moving Kenya towards sustainable peace and development: Countering/preventing violent radicalization and violent extremism.

This day began with public lectures by scholars, Church leaders and government officials respecting gender balance. The auditorium (with a sitting capacity of 1800) was filled to capacity by mainly university students and other youth and women activists and peace builders. The presenters touched on the ‘approaches of countering radicalization and violent extremism from a Christian, Muslim, Gender, and Youth and Media perspectives’. There were plenary sessions where the audience was given the opportunity to seek clarifications or share their own personal experiences. One experience that remained with me was the sharing of one of the youth who said that he was on the verge of joining a militia group but the generosity of the people during one of his music concerts was a turning point. He made a decision to spend his life serving people by utilizing his talents for the good of humanity. There was also an opportunity for cutting of the peace cake and lighting of “Candles of Peace” which were given to a representative of all the groups present. The Christians also visited the mosque and the Muslims were allowed to break for their prayers at the appropriate times.

The theme for Day Two: Peace Walk – Christian and Muslims Together for Peace: Stop Violent Radicalisation!! Stop Violent Extremism!!

The walk was from August 7th Memorial Park (where the American bomb blast took place) to Eastleigh (where one of the most populated slums (Mathare) is situated. The peace walk started off with prayers (Christian and Muslims), the Kenya national anthem; and flagging off the walk.

All the participants donned a white t-shirt with the Christian and Muslim symbols and at the front engraved the words: “Peace Walk” and “Christians and Muslims together for peace”. At the back were the words, “Stop Radicalisation!! Stop violent extremism”.

The walk was animated by the Kenya Administrative Police Band and a youth-led peace caravan. The youth sang songs of peace, chanted peace slogans and informed the people about the theme of the day and its importance.
“We the Christians and Muslims are saying no to violence, no to radicalization, no to violent extremism and yes to peace.” There were three key stopovers mainly in the less privileged areas of Nairobi where radicalization and violent extremism is more pronounced.

On the last day, Day Three: There were special Church services and prayers for peace and victims of violent radicalization and violent extremism. Both the Christians and Muslims were involved in this too.

My Short reflection on the three days activities

Reflecting on the three days where I experienced us, Christians and Muslims sitting together in the same room, worshiping and eating together, visiting the churches and mosques without fear of one another, singing and dancing in rhythms of peace and not violence, playing football and walking together as we left our footprints of love, sisterhood and brotherhood as opposed to footprints of blood, speaking in one language of peace and love, the language of active nonviolence, I am convinced that another world is possible; a world where everything is turned upside down — our prejudices, our old held beliefs that continue to inform our decisions, especially regarding ‘us’ and the ‘other’. I am convinced of a world where children will play games without fear of a bomb, machete, spear, arrow, bullet, nuclear weapon; where people will not be afraid to embrace each other because they are different; where differences will be solved while sitting together, speaking to each other and sharing a meal as opposed to throwing different ‘missiles’ at each other and causing untold pain and suffering to each other.

Through these activities I was also reminded that what unites us is more profound than what separates us. Violence severs us from each other and indeed from our true self. We were all created equal and have one common home, the earth, that embraces us irrespective of our colour, religious affiliations, race, ethnicity, gender and education backgrounds. “I live in hope that one day swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks and that no nation shall learn or experience war or violence any more.” (Isaiah 2:4).

To read about the work of PROCMURA, website: http://www.procmura-prica.org/en/; the contact for their link with the St Paul’s University is http://www.spu.ac.ke/old/spu-academics/centre-for-christian-muslim-relations-in-eastleigh.html.

 

Advent, Peace Spirituality

ADVENT 2017: A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, 17 December

by Sr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira, IBVM
Pax Christi International Board member, Kenya

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 | Resp.-Luke 1:46-48; 49-50; 53-54| 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John 1:6-8, 19-28

EMMANUEL – COME AMONG US UNTIL WE BECOME LIKE YOU

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners …
Mourn with those who mourn…” (Isaiah, 61: 1-2)

Years after the birth, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, there is still no room in the inn to accommodate the millions of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons that come ‘knocking’ at our borders, our great walls and our hardened hearts. We also witness the Herods of our times who kill innocent lives through justification of all sorts of violence within countries: bombing and killing of civilians, sexism and masochism, extra-judicial killings, denial of access to adequate child and maternal care, corruption, cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriages that have led to young girls suffering fistula and HIV/AIDS; the Pharisees of our times that ‘preach but do not walk the talk’: through justification of oppressive laws and regulations, violent approaches to dealing with challenges that face the different contexts of our world — the challenges of extremisms, fair trade, occupation of territories and also grabbing of land that belongs to the poor, religious and gender affiliations and ‘otherness’.

Today, we are reminded of the message of peace, healing, liberty, comfort and restoration that the child we await, Jesus, brings into our hearts and world. Through the prophesy of Isaiah of a Messiah that ‘proclaims God’s year of favour’ we are consoled and at the same time challenged. We are consoled because Jesus whom the world awaits anew brings a message of hope – that there is room in the inn, for in God’s house ‘there are many dwelling places’ (John, 14:2); that all will have life more abundantly (John 10:10); that all are welcome to feast at the table of the Lord — friends and enemies alike. Jesus’s message and mission is of love, especially love of the enemy (Matthew, 5:44).

Therefore, as we wait for the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us this Christmas 2017 with great hope and joyful hearts, let us reflect and feel challenged to follow in Jesus’ footsteps – the way of active nonviolence. Following in this way is a great challenge and calls for a different way of thinking, doing and being. However, we need not be afraid, for Jesus, God-with-us has shown and modeled peace through active nonviolence as witnessed through his life, mission and death and through his resurrection. After his resurrection, we witness Jesus who does not come back demanding revenge or seeking justice for being tortured, humiliated and killed for a crime he never committed. He kept true to himself and focused on his mission of preaching the good news to the oppressed, binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to captives, releasing prisoners, and mourning with those who mourned (Isaiah, 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19).

Let Christmas 2017 and the 2018 New Year be a time to denounce all forms of violence (direct, structural and cultural) and also violent approaches in dealing with conflicts in our societies today. Let us also reflect on our ‘swaddling clothes’ as we wait to receive the baby Jesus in our arms that he might transform us so that we become like him.

Nonviolence

Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace and the EU

by Judy Coode, Project Coordinator for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
and Alice Kooij Martinez, Senior Advocacy Officer

(Ed. note: This article appears in europeinfos, the newsletter of COMECE and the Jesuit European Office.) 

How can the EU contribute more proactively to the development of nonviolent strategies? Can it help forge an alternative style of politics when responding to conflicts and violence?

Seeking to build on Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message: A Style of Politics for Peace in which Francis invited the international community to make better use of nonviolent strategies, on 21 April, Pax Christi International hosted a lively panel discussion at its Brussels office. Pax Christi believes that the EU, along with its member states, has an important role to play, having employed and supported financially a wide array of external assistance instruments for the prevention of violent conflict and peace building.

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi UK, moderated the panel discussion, with panelists Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International; Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, a Sister of Loreto, professor at St. Paul’s University in Nairobi and member of Pax Christi International’s board; Canan Gündüz, mediation adviser at the EU External Action Service (EEAS); and Joachim Koops, dean of Vesalius College, Free University of Brussels (VUB) and director of the Global Governance Institute (GGI). The panelists thus represented a variety of backgrounds (grassroots, policy, research) and were able to speak about the potential for using nonviolent strategies and tools in responding to conflicts in the world. They also identified the challenges facing nonviolent strategies. The second part of the panel discussion looked at the link with EU policies…

Click here to read the entire article.

Nonviolence, Women and Peacemaking

Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace (part #2)

by Dr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira (IBVM)

The following piece is the panel presentation given by Pax Christi International Board member Dr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira (IBVM) at the Nonviolence as a Style of Politics for Peace panel discussion in Brussels, April 21. The presentation is available as a PDF document corresponding to Dr. Wachira’s PowerPoint presentation.

To scroll through Dr. Wachira’s presentation, click here.

I am Pax Christi, Women and Peacemaking

The #IamPaxChristi interview: Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, IBVM, of Kenya

In this latest installment of the #IamPaxChristi interview, we’re profiling Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, a Sister of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also known as the Loreto Sisters). She is from Kenya and a member of the Pax Christi International Board. This series aims to highlight short conversations with the women and men who make up our movement. The interview was conducted by communications intern Marie Just in December at the Nonviolence in Africa conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Marie Just: How did you become involved with peace and justice work, and what was your first involvement in Pax Christi International??

wamuyu-longTeresia Wamuyu Wachira: I first got involved in peace and justice work at the university in Kenya during my graduate studies. During English literature studies, I took a unit on “Women” and it was during class discussions that I came face-to-face with the stereotypical attitudes towards women – perception of women as ‘second class citizens’ and also the institutionalization of violence against women. I felt called to do something about this.

My first involvement in Pax Christi International was while I was studying my Masters in the UK. Valerie Flessati was my supervisor, and during this time I met Pat Gaffney and the late Fr. Giovanni Schudiero. The way they spoke and dedicated themselves as members of Pax Christi was impressive and this is what influenced me to be a member of Pax Christi.

MJ: During your time with the Loreto Sisters, can you tell us a story about a time that the work of the Loreto Sisters made a real difference in the situation in your country, or in the lives of people there?

TWW: Loreto Sisters are actively involved in education, mainly of girls. In the early 1900s, the Loreto Sisters ran schools for girls at a time when education of girls was not considered a priority. They did this against the African culture at the time that required girls to get married once they were of age and also to bring forth many children. As a result of going against such practices, some of the girls that got an opportunity to go to school are in influential positions in Kenya and across the globe, making a difference in the lives of men and women of our times. One of these girls that has left a legacy is the late Peace Nobel Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai who has left a legacy of the care of our Mother Earth.

MJ: What does nonviolence mean to you personally and professionally? How would you describe it?

TWW: I believe that human beings are good and ultimately desire peace. When provoked human beings react in a particular way either peacefully or nonviolently. According to me, nonviolence is the way to go. However, this is not usually the first option when one is provoked. The easier and faster way is the way of violence. As a member of Pax Christi, when someone annoys me or acts violently towards me, this gives me an opportunity to practice what I proclaim to others – the way of active nonviolence. This means first looking at the situation, reflecting on it and making a decision on how to respond. Do I want to react in a violent way or do I decide to act nonviolently?

When I am faced with this dilemma – to act violently or nonviolently – it is like I have two things in my hand to choose from: one that will bring life and the other death. Often when faced with this dilemma in my daily life, I try not to fight back; I also try to choose my words carefully so that I will not make a violent situation worse. For instance, instead of blaming the other for the anger I feel, I just express that I am feeling very angry for what has just happened. I make efforts to try and get an opportunity to dialogue and reconcile with the other person as soon as an opportunity avails itself as I value good relationships.

Being a member of Pax Christi has really helped my outlook to life. When provoked, I find myself thinking: “Okay, I might be angry but I don’t want to react immediately.” Thus, as far as I am concerned, nonviolence is really about making choices; it is taking that prophetic step: “standing up and being counted” as one that is walking that ‘road that is less traveled’ – the path of nonviolence.

The more I reflect on what it means to act nonviolently, the more I am convinced that ‘nonviolence is at the core of our being’ – we all have the ability to act in a nonviolent way, but we have to work on it. We have the freedom to choose the nonviolent way which leads to life or the violent way that leads to death. Active nonviolence is therefore choosing the ‘road less traveled’ as it were. I believe that we have to be committed and consciously choose this path. Following this path is therefore not going to be easy; at times it will make us look and feel like a fool, especially among people who do not understand why we are acting this way. I believe that even when I am pushed to the wall, there is an option. The option is not to fight back in a violent manner but as it were ‘to turn the other cheek,’ to dialogue and see my own image in the other.

Therefore, in acting nonviolently, I believe we are following in Christ’s footsteps – Jesus who while crucified on the cross chose the path of forgiveness instead of the path of retaliation and violence.

MJ: How many years have you been part of the Loreto Sisters?

TWW: I joined the Loreto Sisters a long time ago immediately after my high school in 1975. The school was an all girls’ boarding school that was run by the Loreto Sisters. The sisters were very kind and lived an ordinary way of life and this is what attracted me to them and their way of life. I was seventeen years old when I joined the Loreto Sisters. I have already celebrated my Silver Jubilee as a Loreto Sister.

For my Master’s Degree I went to the UK in 1997. It was here that I got attracted to Pax Christi. Then I went back to Kenya, where I was appointed to be a principal of a Loreto girls’ boarding school with over 700 girls. I stayed in this school for four years and then left for the UK in 2007 to pursue a Ph.D. in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. During this time I was in constant communication with Valerie Flessati and Pat Gaffney.

MJ: When we talk about supporting women, do you have an example of your work, when you focus on women’s issues? Do you have a story that you can share?

TWW: I do not have only one story because I have a passion for working with women. Years back when I was a student in the university, I was attending to women and youth. Today, I make a point of meeting them where they are, especially the women. I meet them in the churches because this is where a lot of women who may not have a lot of money or who are struggling financially gather. When I meet these women, I do not dictate to them what topics to discuss but allow them to select the kind of topics that they are interested in. Most of them are interested in topics that deal with youth.  Currently the discussions and training have been mainly on how to mentor their teenage children, especially with the current challenge of youth radicalization. Another topic is on family relationships, especially considering the breakdown of family values in today’s context. Also the discussions are on issues of violence in the home, especially on gender-based violence, and how to address this without creating a cycle of violence.

Before joining the Pax Christi International Board in 2016, Teresia Wamuyu Wachira was an active member of Pax Christi UK. She has contributed to a workbook for key stage 4, PSHE and Citizenship, and for chaplaincy and retreat work, Peace People who Changed the WorldCurrently, she is a Senior Lecturer in Peace Studies at St. Paul’s University in Nairobi, Kenya.