From Pax Christi Peace Stories (March 1, 2019)
Pat Gaffney is graduating/retiring as the General Secretary of Pax Christi UK this year. She wrote the reflection below on her nearly 30 years in that role. I have had the honor of working with Pat since 2016 on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative–though, after meeting we quickly found lots of connections, including that she’s the godmother of the children of my highschool ceramics teacher! Pat and I have spent hours on Skype and even spent a week in London together, Pat’s home town. She is a phenomenal woman and friend. Sharing these stories of women doing gospel work over the long haul is how we extend God’s circle of hospitality and justice. Sign up for more Pax Christi Stories.—Rose Berger
FROM PAT GAFFNEY:
1 April 1990: the day my contract with Pax Christi began. 29 years on, I am still here (how did that happen?) but preparing to move on and create space for some new thought and energy. This article takes a long view of our work over this period, of changes within the global and domestic arenas, and in technology. Our movement has undertaken so many challenges with a spirit of ingenuity, flexibility and faithful persistence to Gospel peacemaking.
1990 was a good time to come on board. Talk was of a Peace Dividend. With the Cold War behind us, new opportunities were unfolding for economic and social growth. Spending on defence would decline and investment in arms conversion would follow. The Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp had helped to get rid of cruise missiles. Pax Christi’s valiant East-West group, coordinated by Peggy Attlee, having worked towards one Europe, was prepared for the new challenges of creating a common home. In the summer of 1990 our British section of Pax Christi hosted in Clifton Diocese an international ‘route’ for young people, with the theme, Let’s build a Europe of Peace. Sadly, many of those hopes crashed on 2 August when Iraq invaded Kuwait and what was to become protracted war in the Gulf and Middle East began. Goodbye peace dividend.
As a ‘new’ person four months into the job, the prospect of sliding into war was daunting! Thankfully, friends in the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Christian CND, the National Peace Council (NPC) and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) were ready to create common plans. Could we de-escalate the tension by urging our Government to prevent a full military response from the USA? Setting up communication systems was key. Pax Christi at that time had one temperamental computer, an old but sturdy Adler typewriter, and a photocopier. My first big purchase was a FAX machine – essential for getting out press notices, sharing drafts of leaflets, sending letters to Government and so forth. By Spring 1991 we had established the Christian Coalition for Peace in the Gulf and a ‘Call for Action’ supported by church leaders, religious communities and groups around the country. In response to military attacks and then years of sanctions against Iraq, weekly vigils were held nationwide. The NPC ran a conference that became a springboard for much joint work, including the creation of the Peace Education Network (PEN) and a more focused response to the UK’s arms trade to the region – in particular that of British Aerospace.Continue reading “Celebrating Women: Pat Gaffney on 30 Years with Pax Christi UK”