Nonviolence, Peace

The power of nonviolence

by Pat Gaffney
General Secretary, Pax Christi UK

Building on the 2016 gathering in Rome (see previous page), Pax Christi International created the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, invited by the pope to ‘revitalise the tools of nonviolence, and active nonviolence in particular.’ The project has been organised around five international round tables, to pull together and document experiences of the theory, thinking, theology and practice of nonviolence to help the evolution of Catholic church teaching on nonviolence.

I have been involved in the round table on the power of nonviolence. As well as the models, tools and approaches that we identified through our sharings from the front line (see below), our group has offered many ways in which the Catholic church can move forward in revitalising the tools of nonviolence. Among them are these:

  • Identify and scale up existing Catholic-affiliated unarmed civilian peacekeeping programs and give them special recognition and support. Answer the question: ‘Where’s the Catholic peace army?’
  • Revitalise or institute a lay community dedicated to nonviolence that takes the vows of nonviolence. Consider integrating this with a more robust encouragement to conscientious objection to military service for Catholics. Consider a lay youth movement that takes a vow of nonviolence.
  • Institute an archdiocese for nonviolent peacekeepers to provide the Catholic church’s full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those representing the Catholic church on the front lines of violent conflict.
  • Advocate for funding, research, models and legislation for nonviolent civilian-based defence in national and international settings.
  • Review church-related investments at all levels to screen out revenue from military-related products and services or weapons manufacturing. Support positive shareowner action to address the underlying problems that lead to armed conflict and target investments to address conflict triggers and build positive peace.

As Erica Chenoweth noted: ‘We have a critical mass of actors within the Vatican institutions and outside who could mobilise, effect change.’…

Read the rest of this article in Peace News by clicking here.
Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Be brave and imaginative when it comes to a world without war

by Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate

(The following is a speech given by Mairead Maguire at the Vatican conference on disarmament in late-November.)

Buon Pomeriggio,

Eminences, Excellencies, Colleagues Nobel Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is good to be with you all, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your work for Peace and Humanity.

Thank you also for giving me the opportunity to speak about the Peace Process in N. Ireland.

N.Ireland is a deep ethnic/political conflict, and Religion plays both a negative and positive role in our society. This was brought home to me, when in the early l970s a young Irish Republican man, told me he was in the Armed Struggle of the IRA fighting a Just War and that the Catholic Church blesses “Just Wars“. We need to throw out the Just War theory, a phony piece of morality. Instead we can develop a new Theology of Peace and Nonviolence and articulate a clear unambiguous rejection of violence. Religion cannot be used to justify war or armed struggle.

There are many lessons to be learned from the Northern Irish conflict. One lesson is that violence never works, be it State, Relational, Paramilitary violence, or the violence of sectarianism, discrimination or injustice. For many years these methods were used and they plunged our country (one and a half million people) into the darkness of death and further segregation and polarization. A Light in the darkness came when in l976 thousands of people, 90% women, marched to call for an end to violence and for peace. They called for all inclusive, unconditional talks, including with those using violence, insisting we must talk to our perceived enemies, be reconciled together and find solutions. They insisted the UK Government uphold Human Rights and International Laws and not put aside the Rights of people, or use means which were illegal and counter-productive. In the first few months of this Civil Society movement for peace and reconciliation, there was a 70% drop in violence.

After a long process of dialogue, and diplomacy, across the communities, between people, paramilitary groups, and politicians, mediated by Civil Community and members of Clergy, eventually a Good Friday Agreement was reached in l998. This Agreement, based on Power Sharing between the Unionists, Nationalists, and others, was a ground breaking achievement in that it brought together many Political parties and tackled hard issues. Unfortunately, many of the Policies agreed upon were not fully implemented and continue to cause dissention within our Executive, Assembly and Community. What could have been set up was an independent body charged with the implementation of the Agreement whose recommendations for resolving disputes would be binding on the parties. In the absence of this, the Executive is obliged to address every crisis on a case by case basis and with no commitment to accepting recommendations to resolve the crisis.

Unfortunately our Executive has had many problems working on a power sharing basis but it is hoped that as time goes on they will adopt a more co-operative and compromising approach in working these institutions. For many the key to progress lies with the community where people live their daily lives. The integration of our society is very important and integrated Education, Peace Education, Therapy, Counselling, etc., will be ways in which to heal and reconcile our society. At the heart of a peace culture is a recognition that every persons life and their humanity is more important than a persons ethnic inheritance. This peace culture only develops when every citizens humanity is valued above that citizens ethnic/religious inheritance. Where a citizens’ vote is sought and cast on the basis of human worth rather than on perceived inheritance or identity. Enpowering local grassroots communities, including women and youth, to get involved in community peacebuilding, job creating, etc., will give hope and build self-belief, confidence and courage.

Post conflict we know how long and difficult the task before us. We accept this challenge to change ourselves and deepen our virtues of compassion, empathy, love, so necessary to change our society. Seeing the person in every one and loving and serving them will help us transcent selfishness, bigotry and sectarianism. Deepening our relationships, with family, friends, society, will keep us strong and give us wisdom and courage in the hard times. In a spirit of enjoyment and enthusiasm, aware of the beauty of life, creation, within and without, we can live joyfully each moment and celebrate the gift of being alive.

We join with everyone around the world to build a demilitarized peaceful world. We thank Pope Francis for his clear moral/spiritual leadership in calling for the abolition of the death penalty and Nuclear Weapons. It is an illusion that we are in control and that these weapons give us security. Above all for any of us to harbour the thought that we have the right to use nuclear weapons and commit genocide is the most disturbing thing of all. We have yet to learn the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An apology to the Japanese people by the US Government, those responsible for the genocidal act of using Nuclear bombs will help the healing of relationships and ensure such genocidal acts will never happen again. The policy of Nuclear weapons, show that we have lost our moral compass. It is long overdue that we abolish nuclear weapons and put resources, human and financial, into abolishing poverty and meeting human security as set out in UN Development goals.

However, we need to do more than this. Be brave and imaginative. Join together for a common vision – the total abolition of Militarism and war. We do not need to limit ourselves to civilizing and slowing down militarism, (which is an aberation and system of dysfunction), but demand its total abolition. We can offer a new hope to suffering humanity. Follow the vision of Nobel on global co-operation to remove the scourge of militarism and war, and implement the architecture of peace based on Human Rights and International Law.

People are tired of armaments and war, which release uncontrollable forces of tribalism and nationalism. These are dangerous and murderous forms of identity and above which we need to transcend, lest we unleash further violence upon the world. Acknowledge that our common humanity and human dignity is more important than our different religions and traditions. Recognize our life and the lives of others are sacred and that we can solve our problems without killing each other. Accept and celebrate diversity and otherness. Heal the old divisions and misunderstandings. Give and accept forgiveness and choose love, nonkilling and nonviolence as ways to solve our problem.

Peace and Justice are necessary, and the ways of dialogue and diplomacy must be seriously undertaken, must be insisted upon by the International Community, as shown in the Iranian nuclear deal, and as could work for a North Korean Peace Treaty. We can transform the erroneous mindset that violence and threats of violence works, weapons and war can solve our problems. Punative Policies do not bring peace.

We can take courage and confidence, from the fact that the Science of War, is being replaced by a Global Science of Peace based on love, Harmony, reverence for life and creation. Thank you to Pope Francis and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Disarmament. Your work of diplomacy, mediation, fearlessly speaking Truth to Power whatever the cost, gives hope to all of humanity.

Peace, Women and Peacemaking

Vatican’s nuclear disarmament conference emphasizes shift toward logic of peace

by Marie Dennis
Co-President, Pax Christi International

Shortly after participants in the recent Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament heard Pope Francis definitively condemn the “very possession” of nuclear weapons, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said: “The church is in the midst of a fundamental reappraisal of how to balance the Christian obligation to nonviolence with the need to resist evil in the world.”

Speaking on a panel about the role of the church in promoting integral disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons, he continued: “The church must be a voice in the world constantly pointing humanity toward the path of nonviolence and the logic of peace. Too often, we acquiesce in the tolerance of weapons, threats and war, concluding that the logic of war can at least hold evil at bay. But ultimately, it is the logic of war which, once unleashed, invites evil into the core of our world, our nation, [and] our hearts.”

The church’s clear rejection of nuclear weapons may well be the cutting edge of a groundbreaking shift in Catholic dialogue with the world on issues of war and peace, calling us collectively to conversion, as McElroy said, from “reliance on weapons of war to the construction of weapons of peace. … The power of nonviolence, once relegated to the category of romantic idealism, has emerged as a potent force for social transformation and the building of lasting peace.”…

Click here to read the entire article.


Report from Vatican conference on nuclear disarmament

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor

[Ed. Note: The following is a brief symposium report from Rev. Paul Lansu who took part in the Pax Christi International delegation at the Vatican-sponsored conference, “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament,” in Vatican City, 10-11 November 2017.]

Possession of nuclear weapons is illegal and immoral

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development organised an international conference on “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament” at Vatican City on 10 and 11 November 2017.

The Vatican conference represented the first global gathering on atomic disarmament after the approval of the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, signed by 122 countries of the international community (including the Holy See) in New York on 7 July 2017, and opened to signatures 20 September 2017, in the same city. The conference was organised at the right moment and wants to push the legally binding instrument by signing and ratifying the treaty by all nations. The Holy See was one of the first to sign and ratify.

The theme of the conference is related to the concerns of the Holy See on critical issues related to the human family today: development, human rights, disarmament and ecology. The conference gave special attention to the needs of the victims of armed conflicts, whose dignity is endangered. The Holy See keeps promoting peace in general and the ban of all nuclear weapons particularly.

Pax Christi International well represented

About 350 participants were registered. Pax Christi International was represented by Msgr. Kevin Dowling and Marie Dennis, Co-Presidents; Jonathan Frerichs, UN representative in Geneva; Mary Yelenick, UN representative in New York; Susi Snyder, Programme Manager for PAX in the Netherlands; Pat Gaffney, Coordinator Pax Christi UK; Msgr. Marc Stenger, Fr. Alain Paillard and Michel Drain, Pax Christi France; Sr. Filo Hirota, Former Board Member of Pax Christi International and National Commission Justice and Peace of Japan; Selma van Oostwaard, Youth Delegate PAX from the Netherlands; Fr. Renato Sacco, Secretary Pax Christi Italy; Msgr. Luigi Bettazzi, Former President Pax Christi International; Msgr. Allwyn D’Silva, Former Coordinator of the Documentation, Research and Training Centre, member organisation in Mumbai, India; Prof. Tom Sauer, Pax Christi Flanders; Fr. Paul Lansu, Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International.

Among the participants were eleven Nobel Peace Prize winners and key church leaders as well as advisors of different bishops’ conferences and delegates from international (governmental) organisations, academic institutes and civil society. The conference has been presided over by H. Em. Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery. H. Em. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness the Pope, introduced the issue of perspectives for a world free from nuclear weapons and for integral disarmament. Susy Snyder from PAX spoke about the role of civil society in educating and mobilising citizens for integral disarmament and by advocating or influencing politicians and diplomats to work for the international ban treaty being implemented.

Modernising and developing new nuclear weapons is a great expense

On Friday 10 November 2017, Pope Francis received the participants in a special audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace where he gave an official address. On different occasions the Holy Father has mentioned the threat of peace by nuclear arms and the waste of resources that could be used to fight poverty and promote development. The Holy Father lamented that the “escalation of the arms race continues unabated,” noting that modernising arms and developing new nuclear weapons is a great expense for nations and takes away the ability to address “real” priorities: “The fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects, and the development of human rights.”

Focus on the “real” problems

In this symposium you have met to discuss issues that are critical both in themselves and in the light of the complex political challenges of the current international scene, marked as it is by a climate of instability and conflict, the Pope said. A certain pessimism might make us think that “prospects for a world free from nuclear arms and for integral disarmament” appear increasingly remote. Indeed, the escalation of the arms race, the Pope stated, continues unabated and the price of modernising and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations.

If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. They exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security, the Holy Father specified.

Recently, the Pope continued, for example, in a historic vote at the United Nations, the majority of the members of the international community determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare. This decision filled a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions. Even more important is the fact that it was mainly the result of a “humanitarian initiative” sponsored by a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organisations, churches, academies and groups of experts.

In many statements during this Conference the position of the Holy See on nuclear disarmament of 7 December 2014 has been reaffirmed stating that the use, the threat and the possession of nuclear weapons are illegal and immoral.

On Saturday 11 November 2017, a Eucharistic Concelebration took part in the Saint Peter’s Basilica presided over by H. Em. Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson. The Mass was followed by a Homage to St. John XXIII, author of the encyclical Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963).

New Momentum on Sunday 10 December 2017

In conjunction with the World Council of Churches, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Pax Christi International, it was suggested to Pope Francis and to the Dicastery to call on Sunday 10 December 2017 all parishes and communities worldwide to pray and reflect on nuclear disarmament on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Award ceremony in Oslo. The focus should be on respecting human rights and to act in favour of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In Oslo on 10 December 2017, Jonathan Frerichs is representing the World Council of Churches and Pax Christi International; Willem Staes of Pax Christi Flanders will also attend the ceremony in Oslo.

Prior to the conference, Pax Christi International issued a press release. The movement congratulated the Holy See in planning such a big event in order to enforce the commitment for a world free of nuclear weapons and calling all the churches worldwide to join these efforts. Disarmament, human rights and development should be the central pillar of international diplomacy.