Catholic Nonviolence Initiative Launches Global Roundtables

It’s been a busy summer! Below is an update on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project I’ve been deeply involved in. Amid the chaotic violence in our own country and around the world, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to contribute toward building positive peace–and grateful to Sojourners for supporting me in it!

Keep the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative — and Pope Francis and Cardinal Turkson — in your prayers. (Also here’s the “offering basket” in case you want to contribute. This is, of course, an unfunded global project currently supported by voluntary labor and the barter system!)–Rose

September 2017 — The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) is focused on promoting a renewed commitment to Gospel nonviolence at the heart of the Church, including the possibility of a new official teaching on nonviolence.

One part of our work toward this goal is to research and elaborate on the theological, scriptural, ecclesial and practical components of nonviolence. In order to do this, we have organized five “roundtables” each of which includes between 7-20 participants from around the world. Each roundtable, addressing a particular topic, ultimately will produce a well-curated document by the end of 2018; hopefully at that time, representatives from each group will meet for a second conference on nonviolence and just peace.

We’re humbled by the number of theologians and peace practitioners who have agreed to participate in these roundtables – all five groups have now started their work via online conversations.

1) Toward a foundational theology of nonviolence: This roundtable process will research, map and elaborate a comprehensive theology of nonviolence as a foundational basis for the Church’s re-commitment to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence. Co-conveners: Ken Butigan (CNI executive committee; DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA), Jose Henriquez (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland) and Maria Clara Bingemer (Pontifícia Universidade Católica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

2) The biblical foundations of nonviolence, including its centrality to the life and mission of Jesus: This roundtable process will illuminate the biblical roots of active nonviolence and the Gospel nonviolence at the core of Jesus’ life, mission, and way, and thus at the core of the life, mission, and way of the Church. Co-conveners: Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira (CNI executive committee; St. Paul University, Nairobi, Kenya) and Terrence Rynne (Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA).

3) Nonviolence and Just Peace: A new moral framework for Catholic theology in the context of a violent world: This roundtable process will research and frame a new moral framework rooted in Gospel nonviolence in response to the violence and injustice of our time. Co-conveners: Marie Dennis (CNI executive committee; Pax Christi International, Washington, DC, USA) and John Ashworth (adviser to South Sudan Catholic Bishops, Nairobi, Kenya).

4) Integrating Gospel nonviolence at every level of the Church: This roundtable process will imagine and elaborate concrete ways Gospel nonviolence can be explicitly integrated into the life of the Church. Co-conveners: Gerry Lee (CNI executive committee; Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Washington, DC, USA), Fr. Boniface Mendes (former director of Federation of Asian Bishop Conferences Human Rights Office and member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pakistan) and Fr. Felix Mushobozi (Union of International Superiors General Justice & Peace, Integrity of Creation Commission, Rome, Italy).

5) The power of nonviolence: Concrete experience, principles, methods, and effectiveness – Past, present, and envisioned future: This roundtable will comprehensively profile active nonviolence—its dynamics, its impact, its history, its contemporary applications, and a series of concrete examples—and frame how it can be spread and applied globally to respond to the monumental challenges of our time. Co-conveners: Pat Gaffney (CNI executive committee; Pax Christi British section, London, UK) and Rose Berger (Sojourners, Washington, DC, USA).[]

Ken Sehested: ‘Violent People Learning to Be Nonviolent’

Thank you to Radical Discipleship for posting Ken Sehested’s commentary Conflicting Memorials: The Lord’s Table of Remembrance vs. The Nation’s Vow of Preeminence

People of the Way remain committed to a peculiar allegiance and a distinctive conviction: that all violence, of every sort, is a form of evangelism for the Devil. Those who stand by this claim get no extra cookies nor receive special privilege. Pride is excluded from the armor of faith, and boasting is limited to the promise that loving enemies is the only fruitful way to lasting peace, in imitation of the one who refused the option of a militarized angelic rescue from the crucifier’s grisly work. (cf. Matthew 26:53)

We make this profession of our faith even knowing that we ourselves are not immune from the lust for vengeance. As César Chávez, the great practitioner of nonviolent struggle for justice, said: “I am a violent man learning to be nonviolent.” Indeed, we are given the grace to confess our bloodlust precisely because we stand in merciful submission to the promise of life that is to come.–Ken Sehested

May is the Month to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan

Catholics and others around the U.S. have an opportunity in May to write to their local Catholic bishop to encourage them to teach and preach on active gospel nonviolence. This is part of the global outreach offered by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to support the Catholic Church in re-centering Gospel nonviolence in Catholic life and faith.

Social concerns committees, diocesan social justice directors, youth groups, and individuals can host letter-writing events in May at churches, coffee hours, prayer groups, and other key gatherings.

Write the bishop of your diocese in May. (And you don’t have to be Catholic to join in. See bottom of post.)

Instruments of Reconciliation: A National Campaign to Amplify Active Nonviolence in the U.S. Catholic Church

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Three suggested dates below in the month of May have been chosen in the United States to ask Catholics and other concerned Christians to share their hope for greater teaching and commitment to active nonviolence with their local bishop and invite him to affirm active nonviolence as the “nucleus of the Christian revolution” by:

1: Sharing and speaking about Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message broadly within their diocese, seminaries, and other ministries

2: Concretely committing to an initiative to scale-up practices of active nonviolence within his diocese.

As Pope Benedict wrote, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’”

We want to support our Bishops in their efforts, like Pope Francis, who pledged the assistance of the church in “every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.”

Some dioceses – such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – are already experimenting with a commitment to a culture of nonviolence and practical steps to greater active nonviolence to address tensions and crime within the diocese. Pope Francis wrote them a letter of encouragement.

May 3 is the anniversary of The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (1983), the Bishop’s pastoral letter.
May 8 is the birthday for Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921) and Sophie Scholl (b. 1921).
May 20 is the Feast of Austrian conscientious objector and martyr Franz Jagerstatter who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

See here for more details, sample letter, and to report your action.

Please share.

What if I’m not Catholic and I want to participate? Thank you! The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative welcomes support from all people of good conscience who want to see greater teaching from the Catholic Church on effective and active Gospel nonviolence.

You do not need to be Catholic to ask you local Catholic bishop for greater teaching on this. Search for your Catholic diocese’s web site to find the address of the local Catholic bishop.

Pope Francis’ 4 Principles for Social Peace

I’m grateful to Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore for inviting me to speak at their spring gathering. I decided to focus on Pope Francis’ four principles for building social peace and interlace them with stories, both personal and from the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Here’s a tiny excerpt of my presentation:

Our Storied Future by Rose Marie Berger

I’m not a big one for reading church encyclicals, much less “apostolic exhortations.” But because I was excited about Pope Francis and I wanted to write about him for my work at Sojourners magazine, I decided to read the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Guadium) when it came out in 2013. This was a project that started under Pope Benedict and was taken up by Pope Francis.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but my marginal notes on the print out tell a different story.

I was really excited about what I read there. Amid my exhaustion and political anxiety, the Joy of the Gospel “spoke to my condition,” as the Quakers say—in particular the section in Chapter 4, on “The Common Good and Peace in Society.”

I experienced a strange fluttering within that I later identified as HOPE.

Pope Francis identified four principles that he said he did “out of the conviction that their application can be a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world.” Wow! With the eternal appeal of a List-icle that made me sit up!

Here are Pope Francis’s four principles for building social peace:

  • Time is greater than space reminds us that it is less important to dominate a space or claim a position than it is to generate positive processes that unfold and regenerate over time.
  • Unity prevails over conflict. Conflict exists, but it is undergirded and surrounded by unity. We must always be looking for the synthesis that will take us forward.
  • Realities are more important than ideas reminds us to avoid constructing abstractions that are separated from what people are actually experiencing. That’s why we begin with people’s stories.
  • The whole is greater than the part is an invitation to understand that our concerns and perspective are always local and partial. We must hold them in a broader and more inclusive framework.

I researched where these principles came from and couldn’t find a solid source. They are embedded in Catholic Social Teaching but have been refined by Jorge Bergoglio over years. I found reference to him using a version of them in the 1980s in Buenos Aires, when Argentina was trying to reweave its social fabric after the excruciating internal “Dirty War” and the war with Britain over the Falkland Islands. My friend and scholar Gerald Schlabach at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis has written eloquently on them and I’ve drawn on his work.

This morning, I’d like to walk through each principle and tell a few stories that I think illuminate the life of Jorge Bergoglio as well as our own lives, and perhaps give us a glimpse of where we are going as we walk into the future with Jesus, Martin, and Francis, especially as practitioners and evangelizers of active gospel nonviolence. …–Rose Marie Berger

Get Trained on January 20th – Be an ACTIVE BYSTANDER

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Learn more here: https://swamprevolt.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/jan-20-trainings/

This is what I’ll be doing on Inauguration Day. I’ve teamed up with doula Amy Ard, founder of Swamp Revolt, to organize 25 simultaneous “nonviolence and active bystander intervention” trainings on Jan. 20th in the D.C. region.

Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to train 2,500 people who are coming to D.C. for Inauguration protests and the Women’s March on Washington.

Please pray for us an our crazy endeavor! On Jan. 7 we organized a “training for trainers” and 108 people registered with less than a week’s notice. As of last night, we’ve deployed 68 people in training teams and matched them with more than 20 locations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.

We are going big on this one!

Please promote this in your networks–especially local organizations that you know are sending buses and people to D.C.

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”

Video: Live Chat with Rose Berger & Betsy Shirley on Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

Here’s a 30 minute chat with Sojourners editors Rose Berger and Betsy Shirley on the “Game Changer?” cover article in Sojourners’ December 2016 issue. (Link to this video.)

It was great to have live questions from the Facebook audience!

Find out more about the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and sign an Appeal to the Catholic Church to Recommit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence.

Get ready for the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace on the theme of Nonviolence.

 

OCT 7: Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where Are We Going?

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Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where are we Going?

Speakers: Rose Marie Berger and Judy Coode
Date: Friday, October 7, 2016 @ 7:30 p.m.
Place: Dorothy Day  Catholic Worker: 503 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW,
Washington, DC, 20010

In April an unprecedented conference took place in Rome on re-centering the Roman Catholic Church on active gospel nonviolence. Hear about the gathering from those who were there. More than 80 Catholics from around the world gathered with the Vatican to discuss how to renew active gospel nonviolence as a “instrument for peace,” to paraphrase Pope Francis. Join the global conversation on moving from a war church to a peace church.

Sign the appeal asking Pope Francis for an encyclical on nonviolence. Be part of Francis’ 3-legged legacy: A church of the poor, defense of creation, and radical Christian nonviolence.

Rose Marie Berger is a Roman Catholic peace activist and senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine. She contributed a framing paper on Just Peace to the April conference in Rome. (Read No Longer Legitimating War: Christians and Just Peace.)

Judy Coode was lead organizer for the conference and is program coordinator for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (www.nonviolencejustpeace.net).

For more info contact the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:[email protected] — (202-360-6416)

5 Hidden Gems from Global Methodist Meet-Up

UMCwater

A few highlights from the United Methodist Church’s General Convention meeting held last week in Portland, OR. This is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, which convenes once every four years.The conference can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy and economic issues. It also approves plans and budgets for church-wide programs.

There was lots of coverage on the sexuality debates (Final: “We’ll talk about this later.”) and they voted on a new hymnal, increased the budget, voted to keep fossil fuels in their investment portfolios (Shame on you! You’re Bill McKibben’s denomination!), and are in the midst of learning how to understand themselves as a global church with significant expansion and leadership in Africa.

But here are 5 items that I found particularly heartening:

1. Hearing the Plea: Safe Water For All

What happens to a community when there is no safe water supply? Look at Flint, Michigan. The lead that has leached from pipes there remains an ongoing concern. “The problem with Flint right now is this is going to be a generation’s long issue,” says Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Kiesey. “The children of Flint, particularly, are the ones most affected by this poor water.”

From Michigan to Liberia, and Portland to Philippines and Honduras, poor and marginalized communities are struggling with water contamination that threatens everyday life. United Methodist Women called attention to their plight during a lunchtime rally on May 16 at the Oregon Convention Center plaza. The event was part of the UMW Day celebration during the United Methodist General Conference.

2. The Church’s Response to Ethnic and Religious Conflict (p 863-864)
Buried in the fine print was a significant change in language on issues of war and peace–the decision to quit using language of “nonresistance” and take up language of “nonviolence.”

“We call upon our seminaries and United Methodist-related
colleges and universities to offer courses on alternatives to violence and to sponsor local community initiatives to diffuse ethnic and religious conflict. We also call on our seminaries to encourage the study of the theological roots of violence and of Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence nonresistance and resisting evil; and …”

Continue reading “5 Hidden Gems from Global Methodist Meet-Up”