With gratitude to the students of Bellerive FCJ Catholic College in Liverpool, UK for this presentation. And with gratitude for the youth and religious leading Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement for dignity and freedom.
A man and woman who were wearing Trump 2020 shirts and walking away from the #UniteTheRight2 rally, had water and some other chemical thrown on them. Counterprotesters followed them for blocks pic.twitter.com/SEI9r4h6vj
— Christal Hayes (@Journo_Christal) August 12, 2018
The man and woman wearing Trump shirts finally got to police. Counterprotesters pulled their hair, threw things at them and poured water on their heads. They’re now being escorted out of the area by police. #UniteTheRight2 pic.twitter.com/s3286TzPdg
— Christal Hayes (@Journo_Christal) August 12, 2018
In collaboration with the local community, DC Peace Team deployed 24 trained persons as an unarmed civilian protection (UCP) unit on Aug. 12 during the Unite the Right rally in Washington DC.
DC Peace Team is not affiliated with the police or the city government. We are independent trained civilians deployed to prevent violence.
DC Peace Team deployed to accompany and protect people, particularly those who are most in danger. For example, the UCP unit was requested to assist with the resistance movement at Freedom Plaza from 11 am-3 pm and then to accompany them on their march to Lafayette Square. During our time at Freedom Plaza, our unit was broken into four affinity groups which
worked the outer perimeter and engaged in many conversations as we handed out de-escalation tip sheets. Some wanted to know who we are, how they could join the DC Peace Team, to simply offer a thank you for the team’s presence, and to express that they felt safer with the team in place.
DC Peace Team held conversations to build trust with people from the various groups at the rally, such as Antifa. This enabled the team to be more effective later in the day when hostility built up and arguments ensued even within partner groups. DC Peace Team was able to defuse a pair of persons close to getting into a fight about the tactic of throwing objects.
We also spent the afternoon in Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets, particularly on the west side toward Foggy Bottom. We continued our conversations with people in the northern part of the square. We sent two affinity groups west to monitor possible clash points and to engage what we could. We monitored the arrival of the Unite the Right group, although they ended up being quite small (15-20 people) and they were escorted by police. We de-escalated some actors involved in the blocking of an intersection near the White House which led to a stand-off between the police, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others. DC Peace Team sought to persuade the police not to harm the protestors. Many objects were thrown and fire-crackers were shot up in the air. But it did not escalate from there.
DC Peace Team was also present at a later stand-off between police and Black Lives Matter which ended after some chanting and attempts by BLM to persuade the police to open the street.
As some of the Peace Team affinity groups arrived back in Lafayette Square, they found other members in the midst of an unexpected incident. Two people who entered a space of an adversarial group had been engaged
in multiple conversations. At some point, the larger group asked them to leave and the two persons asked the marshals (who were not DCPT) nearby to help them. As they did this, a more hostile crowd gathered. Some of our DC Peace Team in the vicinity recognized the danger for escalation and many people getting hurt or arrested beyond these two persons.
In turn, for the protection of everyone in the scene, some of our team worked to create a safer space between these two people and the group as they walked out of the square. Some of our team engaged with some of the more hostile actors as spray paint was used, de-humanizing language,
as well as water bottles being thrown, which hit one of the persons leaving the area and one of our DCPT member’s in the head. As the Peace Team engaged with some of the hostile actors, we worked to acknowledge their anger as a way to connect and de-escalate. Some of Peace Team said to these actors they were our brothers or sisters, that we loved them, and that we were there to protect them not interfere with their frustrations. Others spoke about how we don’t want to just replicate the violence we detest in others, and how they don’t need to hurt people to get the change they are
looking for. We needed to do similar de-escalation work as the police became part of the scene, since for some, the police presence escalated the energy. Eventually, the police drove the two persons out of the area. No one else got hurt or arrested in this incident.
Eli McCarthy, DC Peace Team member, said, “Overall, by recognizing the dignity of every person, DC Peace Team worked to interrupt de-humanization, prevent violence, and when possible engaged in constructive dialogue. Even when we might disagree with some political positions or strategies used by some people, we still recognized their dignity. Yet, we also recognized that there is constructive conflict, such as expressions of resistance to injustice, racism, and white supremacy.”
This is what unarmed civilian peacekeeping looked like at the anti-Nazi rally. No one was hurt.
“Our alternative to dehumanizing, scientific, economic objectivity is not sentimentality or shapeless love. It is objective love—a dispassionate passion. It is the passion of God for all people—regardless of habit or custom, race or disposition, gender or economic status. It is a daring and brave position, but it is one that sides with God who stretches our hearts and minds this Advent to see the stranger, the dispossessed, and the outcast, and invites us to love. O God, enlarge and warm the caverns of our hearts this Advent.”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine … And the Lord will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations.”—Isaiah 25: 6-7
The God who creates and destroys is fundamentally ambiguous to our human mind. It is an assault on our attempt to create moral order and coherency in the world. It is an assault on our need to control.
The mountain of God is sometimes compared to a nursing breast. The people are entranced by it. It is their whole world. It provides essential nourishment. They can’t live without it. They are completely vulnerable and dependent on this mountain. It is this dependency that creates fear. What if the life-giver becomes the life-taker? This fear may then generate separation and, eventually, individuality.
It is this process, which is repeated many times through one’s life, which makes us distinct and unique.
How can you learn to embrace creation and destruction, life and death, certainty and doubt?
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad……vent.
“Advent is a season of silence and rest with God. Take time to focus and examine your conscience. What is the shape of your emptiness? How are you still connected to God’s abiding beauty? This Advent, how will you fulfill the work of giving Christ life?”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.'” —Matthew 8: 5-6
Advent is a time of ambiguity. It invites us to embrace conflicting images. Not to harmonize them into one, but to simply let our soul be tempered and strengthened by the fire this conflict creates.
In the story of the centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant, we have the warrior and the weak. Our imagination expects several things.
First, since Jesus has just healed a leper, one of the least of these, maybe he’s tired and doesn’t need to heal again.
Second, Jesus isn’t a collaborator with the Romans. Why would he even speak with a centurion—storm trooper of the state?
Third, we expect the mighty centurion to ask for something for himself or one of his family—not to act with compassion for a servant.
Finally, we don’t expect the Roman commander to become an occasion for Jesus to be amazed, saying, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
Today, pay attention to your response to ambiguity.
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad…..vent.
“When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense. It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of self like a little tent around the child’s frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish and, some day, to bring forth life. A closing upon it like the petals of a flower closing upon the dew that shines in the heart. This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the wellspring of Life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of Abba in heaven.”—Matthew 7:21
On December 2, 1980, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan—Catholic missionaries from the United States—were murdered by National Guardsmen in El Salvador. Dorothy and Jean were driving to the airport outside San Salvador to pick up Maura and Ita.
On the way back from the airport, they were pulled over at a roadblock by National Guardsmen. The four women were taken to an isolated location, raped, tortured, and shot. Then they were buried in a shallow grave beside the road. The National Guardsmen were also “good Catholics.”
These four women died in the same manner as many of the poor Salvadoran people they served. They are martyrs because they laid down their lives in love for the poor—just as Jesus calls all Christians to be prepared to do. The witness of these four women teaches us about listening to the call of Christ, taking up the cross and following Jesus, and being born again.
A stone cross and small plaque mark the country road where the four women were buried. It reads: “Receive them Lord into your Kingdom.”
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
This April 1 gathering in DC will be a wonderful opportunity to hear some deep Bible from Terry Rynne and some soul-jolting power from Lisa Sharon Harper–and I’ll do my best to bring the wisdom of Francis (past and present) into the mix.
1 April 2017 at 8:30a – Noon. “WALKING INTO THE FUTURE WITH JESUS, MARTIN, & FRANCIS.” Location: Friends Meetinghouse (Dupont Circle 2111 Florida Ave. NW, Washington, DC). Register here.
As the Trump presidency unfolds, panelists Terrence Rynne, Lisa Sharon Harper, and Rose Marie Berger will situate this historical moment in the context of Jesus’ radical Gospel Nonviolence, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, and our hope for renewal in the church and the world.
Rose Marie Berger, Senior Associate Editor at Sojourners, has rooted herself with Sojourners magazine (sojo.net) and ministry for more than 30 years. She is currently active in the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, which formed in 2016 following a landmark April meeting in Rome on Catholics and Nonviolence (nonviolencejustpeace.net). Terrence J. Rynne is Professor of Peace Studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he founded the University’s Center for Peacemaking. Lisa Sharon Harper is Chief Church Engagement Officer at Sojourners.
Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore is a region of Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace and justice movement. Through prayer, study, and action, we work as individuals and in groups to build a just and peaceful world, witnessing to Jesus’s message and example of nonviolence. To register, go to http://paxchristimetrodc.org/2017/02/walking-into-the-future-with-jesus-martin-francis/
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”
“This Advent, our Advent, is a time of creation. God’s spirit abides in us—brooding over our waters—shaping and forming us, being formed and shaped by us. God alone knows what we shall become. God has visited us with grace and favor. Are we ready to become Light?”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers … And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately, they left their nets and followed him”.—Matthew 4: 18-20
There is a church near my house called “Fisherman of Men Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.” The insistently masculine language always makes me laugh. It’s as if the church-namers knew that the narrow image of a patriarchal God was on its way out and so over- compensate. Or to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Me thinks they doth protest too much.”
Paradoxically, I find this invitation from Jesus to Peter and Andrew, then James and John, to be distinctly subversive of patriarchy. Jesus woos them like a lover. He seduces them into leaving their fathers’ houses, like young women leaving home to join the home of their husband’s family.
These men respond to Jesus as if they are in love. There is no cognitive decision making. They fall in love. They drop their nets—representing their known world. They follow, like a lover after her beloved. They have eyes only for him.
When were you last in love?
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad……vent.
At the Vatican conference on Just Peace, held in April, I was so pleased to meet Fr. Claude (left), a leader in Catholic social justice movements in Australia-Oceania. He has a delightful artistic eye and brought a stunning image of the Aboriginal Christ by Richard Campbell into our gathering.
Fr. Claude is working with Asylum seekers in Australia who are living in brutal conditions under the anti-immigrant policies of the government. On the eve of ANZAC day, an event marking Australian and New Zealanders involved in military action in World War I, Fr. Claude participated in a discussion on national radio about how we can “rethink just war.” See more below and listen to the podcast.
Last week amidst the news of the Pope’s latest message on the family, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International hosted a conference titled “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence.”
The three day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from many conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The goal of the conference was to explore ways in which their positive experiences of non-violent activism can shape theological thinking and Catholic teaching in schools, universities, seminaries and parishes, moving away from ‘Just War’ towards the concept of a ‘Just Peace’.
In a message sent to the meeting Pope Francis praised the initiative of “revitalising the tools of nonviolence”.
Around the world it raised headlines suggesting that the Catholic Church was moving to shift ground on one of it’s most venerable teachings, the Just War Doctrine.
So on this eve of ANZAC day, marking Australians participation in the War to End Wars, we are taking a look at just what sort of new thinking may be on the horizon.