Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence

I’m pleased to introduce you to Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence (edited by Marie Dennis) that includes a chapter by me on Catholic Just Peace Practice, based on the paper that I wrote for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative gathering in Rome in 2016. Others included here are: South Africa’s bishop Kevin Dowling, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Maria Stephan, Terrence Rynne, Ken Butigan and John Dear, with the guiding voice and direction of Marie Dennis. It includes the voices of many more within the chapters, reflecting a worldwide conversation happening within the Catholic Church on the centrality of gospel nonviolence. This is the first major release of the work that the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is stewarding and curating across the Church, especially in the majority world where Catholics are most numerous.

Action steps for Choosing Peace:

  1. Order bulk copies of Choosing Peace from Orbis, so they know this is a popular title and ask your local bookstore to carry it.
  2. Send a copy of Choosing Peace to the Catholic bishop in your area. Even if you are not Catholic, you can look up the Catholic bishop in your area and send him a letter along with the book asking for him to offer leadership in the area of gospel nonviolence. Tell him that you appreciate that he is a moral leader in your area and you respectfully ask that he give this book and its message prayerful consideration.
  3. Order Choosing Peace for your book group! There’s lots in this book that addresses current conversations in the Catholic Church related to the leadership of Pope Francis. But it’s also useful reading for groups committed to Christian nonviolence. It raises provocative questions and opens up a little know history on Christians and peace. (See Nonviolent Fight Club for more on the provocative discussion!)

It takes a movement to respond to the Holy Spirit’s charge to turn away from violence. Be part of the movement!

 

Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message

Pope calls for nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace message
U.S. religious leaders respond

Today in his message “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace,” for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1 January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

Pope Francis writes: “The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

“Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”. This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace. Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”. I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”

U.S. religious leaders and nonviolence scholars and strategists are beginning to respond to Pope Francis’ message:

“There is no place for violence in a heart at peace and in a world that is just. As Pope Francis said, “Everyone can be an artisan of peace. ” We all can cultivate peace by looking within, committing to a spirituality of active nonviolence, by moving beyond our comfort zones to embrace the suffering of the world, and collaborating with others for a sustained just peace.”—Sister Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA

“In this advent time of waiting for the coming of the one who is peace eternal, we are grateful for the challenge of Pope Francis to commit ourselves to peacebuilding through active Gospel nonviolence. Let us join in solidarity with all who know the injustice of violence, oppression, and poverty to build God’s beloved community.”—Ann Scholz, SSND, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

“With his breathtaking World Day of Peace Message, Pope Francis has broken new ground by calling on people everywhere to unleash the power of active nonviolence as a way of life and as an effective alternative to the scourge of violence. This first official papal document on active nonviolence offers a way forward to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.”—Ken Butigan, senior lecturer, DePaul University, Chicago and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service staff
Continue reading “Pope Calls For Nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace Message”

Remembering Sr. Rosemary Lynch: Apostle of Peace

It’s with sadness that we mark the death of Sr. Rosemary Lynch, early founder of peace witnesses at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. And it is with deep gratitude that we recall this woman who was a shining light of faithful leadership and nonviolence in modern American history.  She was also co-founder of Pace e Bene, a Catholic peace organization promoting nonviolence.

Rosemary died in Las Vegas on Sunday at age 93 after being hit by a car while out walking. Her legacy will be carried on by the many lives that she touched in her rich and vibrant life. The Las Vegas Sun notes:

Born in Phoenix, Lynch became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity community in 1932. After taking her vows in 1934, she went on to teach at a Catholic school in Los Angeles followed by a stint as principal at a high school in Montana. From there, she went to Rome as a representative for her congregation. Her 15 years in Rome included the Second Vatican Council.

Pace e Bene’s Ken Butigan expanded on Rosemary’s history:

After returning to the United States in 1977, Lynch settled in Las Vegas where she joined the staff of the Franciscan Center.  That summer, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was seeking funding from Congress to develop the “enhanced radiation” or “neutron” bomb.  Soon afterward, news was leaked that the neutron bomb had already been developed and tested at the Nevada Test Site.  Lynch decided to do some research on this program and the test site in general.  In the course of her exploration, she discovered that a group of Quakers, including Larry Scott and Albert Bigelow, had held the last demonstration at the test site on August 6, 1957.

Spurred by this, she and a group of friends in Las Vegas organized an event at the gates of NTS to mark the 20th anniversary of this activity, to protest the impending production of the enhanced radiation weapon developed there, and to remember the bombing of Hiroshima thirty-two years earlier.  They dubbed themselves “Citizens Concerned about the Neutron Bomb.”  As it was later reported:

Nineteen people met at the main gate of the NTS before dawn to hold a prayer vigil and conduct a teach in about Hiroshima.  The vigilers held signs along the road that led into the Test Site and they were very careful to make signs that supported the workers but objected to testing.  One sign read: “NTS Workers Yes, Nuclear Bombs No.”  The vigil was highlighted by the visit of Japanese Hibakusha [survivors of the atomic bombings] who wanted to present a book of drawing of the bombs dropped on Japan to the Test Site officials.  The vigilers went directly to the guard house at Mercury Station.  The Japanese approached the gate house but the guards refused to accept their book.  An older Japanese lady, a Hibakusha, extended her hand to the guard and he refused to shake her hand.  The small group began a chant, “Take her hand.  Take her hand.”  Finally the guard gave in and shook her hand. (Michael Affleck, The History and Strategy of the Campaign to End Nuclear Weapons Testing at the Nevada Test Site, 1977-1990 (Las Vegas, NV: Pace e Bene, 1991).

Rosemary was part of the first “Lenten Desert Experience” at the Nevada Test Site in 1982 to protest ongoing nuclear testing and violence. The movement later became known as the Nevada Desert Experience, which still exists today.

It was during those protests that Ediger said Lynch’s character was exposed: She protested issues involving the test site — not the people on the other side of the debate, he said. In fact, Ediger said, through her social activism, Lynch developed “very warm human relationships” with the people in support of the test site.

Rosemary was an apostle of peace. “Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon her.”