REFLECTION BY THE CO-PRESIDENTS OF PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL ON POPE FRANCIS 53rd WORLD DAY OF PEACE MESSAGE (for 1 JANUARY 2020)
Pope Francis’ 52nd World Day of Peace message in the year 2019, invited us to reflect on the theme “Good politics is at the service of peace”. The Pope’s message was that politics, though essential to building human communities and institutions, can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole. This year, 2020 Pope Francis’s 53rd World Day of Peace theme is “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”. The reflection on this theme is captured in the following sections of his message (i) Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial. (2) Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity. (3) Peace, a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion. (4) Peace, a journey of ecological conversion.
In a world devastated by war and conflicts which often affect the marginalized and the vulnerable of our society, we are being invited to reflect on peace as the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. The virtue of hope inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem overwhelming. The Pope discusses the different forms of violence that are tearing humanity apart and their true significance. He points out: “Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood and [sisterhood]”.
The message of Pope Francis is a very strong message, a vocational message. This vocation is that of children of God, brothers and sisters. But the Pope underlines “our inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of … domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other”. He emphasizes the fact that “war is fueled by a perversion of relationship, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuse of power, by fear of others and seeing diversity as an obstacle”. On the contrary, in respecting, trusting others and seeing them as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, we can ‘break the spirit of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope’. …
Read the full letterfrom Pax Christi International’s co-presidents, Bishop Marc Stenger (France) and Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira (Kenya)
In this webinar, we hear from a scholar and two members of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative as they described CNI’s efforts to deepen the Catholic Church’s understanding of and commitment to “active nonviolence” with a particular focus on civil resistance as a key tool in promoting social justice. Marie Dennis introduces the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and its engagement through two major conferences with the Vatican. Sharon Nepstad gives more context on the historical role of Catholics in civil resistance movements. Eli McCarthy shares what the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is doing now to increase the understandings and skills of nonviolent resistance among Catholics.
For those interested in teaching about Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative in churches, schools, or community gatherings, this is a compact, 1-hour webinar to start the conversation.
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.
Order bulk copies of Choosing Peace from Orbis, so they know this is a popular title and ask your local bookstore to carry it.
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.
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!
Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, traveled in May to Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, to deliver messages of hope and support to Syrian refugees from people around the world who had participated in a solidarity fast for Syria.
“…According to the OCHA chief Valerie Amos, humanitarian convoys are regularly attacked or shot at, and staff are intimidated or kidnapped. For example, in late March a convoy carrying medical assistance for 80,000 people was hijacked by an armed group on its way from Tartous to Aleppo, and all of the supplies were stolen. And yet, in spite of the threats, humanitarian workers continue their critical work. “I want to pay particular tribute to the work of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteers,” she said at an April briefing. “They have shown incredible dedication, impartiality and courage since the beginning of the conflict. Many of them do not hesitate to risk their lives every day to bring assistance to people in need, whether they live in government or opposition-controlled areas…. Given its network across the country and its capacity to negotiate access to almost all areas affected, SARC is an invaluable partner for the UN and other humanitarian organizations in Syria.”