“THIRD-CENTURY FRESCOES in Roman catacombs hold the earliest depictions of the Adoration of the Magi. In one, three men advance in a line toward a child standing in his mother’s wide-legged stance, showing her authority. Others reveal the Magi extending platters of bread toward the child Jesus. Another illustrates men with camels approaching Mary and Jesus with gifts. The lead gift-bearer extends a disproportionately large right hand to an encircled star overhead. These are the earliest details of the nativity narrative: travelers, bread, camels, a wide-legged woman, a child, a star. Later portrayals add partially visible soldiers.”–Rose Marie Berger, “Epiphany Is a Time for Imaginative Leaps,” Sojourners (Jan 2020)
New book highlights women leaders who advance the practice of nonviolence by pursuing open and sincere dialogue. This article was published in the January-February 2021 issue of Maryknoll NewsNotes by Dan Moriarty.
The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI), a project of Pax Christi International that began with a conference at the Vatican in 2016, continues its work promoting Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence with a new book, Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World. The fruit of a global, participatory process culminating in a second Vatican conference in 2019, the book includes “biblical, theological, ethical, pastoral and strategic resources, presented to serve as a contribution to Catholic teaching on nonviolence.”
The authors of the new volume – peace practitioners, theologians, and social scientists from 39 countries around the world – describe nonviolence as a spiritual orientation, a way of life, and a practical tool. Presented as “the foundational, universal ethic for building a culture of peace, disarmament and development,” nonviolence has deep roots in scripture and spirituality.
But the CNI also illustrates the practical ways nonviolence is successfully employed to reduce, resist, and transform both direct, physical violence and systemic, institutional violence and injustice.
Women lead in dialogue
Pope Francis and his predecessors have repeatedly called for the faithful to pursue “forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation” as alternatives to violent conflict. But to critics, such concepts sound lofty and impractical in the face of real, intractable violence. The CNI offers a concrete counternarrative.
Dialogue may refer to high-level negotiations between political elites – the kind of talks diplomats and mediators have facilitated between warring parties from Northern Ireland to Afghanistan. But other forms of dialogue – at the middle- and grassroots levels, and often led by women – pave the way for such high-level negotiations.
In Mindanao, Philippines, violence between Muslim Moro rebels and the government grabs headlines worldwide. But for local peace activist Myla Leguro with Catholic Relief Services, the picture is more complicated: questions of identity, colonialism, extractivism, human rights, and autonomy are all closely tied to disputes over land.
Leguro developed “the Three B’s,” of dialogue to prepare individuals (“binding” with healing and education) and whole communities (“bonding” by expressing inclusive visions for the future) for negotiations between conflicting groups (“bridging”) to settle land issues. The three-stage process builds skills, trust, and agreements that serve as a basis for addressing wider conflicts. Leguro’s Three B’s have been adopted in conflict zones around the world, including central Africa, where other local leaders have further developed her model.
In northern Kenya, Pax Christi peacebuilder Elizabeth Kanini Kimau facilitated dialogue amid “disorganized, armed, communal violence” between warring pastoralist communities – “a situation vulnerable to political manipulation by armed militias.” Understanding the respect afforded elders, she invited elders from all sides to a neutral location, where they could dialogue safely. The elders recruited warriors to follow suit, and the warriors invited youth. The elders have now established ongoing dialogue to resolve conflicts before they erupt into violence.
While Leguro and Kimau bring a local expertise to peacebuilding, other times third parties from outside a conflict zone play a crucial role.
In Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, Sara Ionovitz with Operazione Colomba (Operation Dove), describes how ordinary Syrians came up with a plan for the creation of safe zones that allow them to return to their country, but because they were not armed actors in the conflict, they were not included in peace talks.
Operation Dove’s volunteers facilitated conversation between the Syrians and European Union leadership. “We needed schemes of listening that were outside the frames we already knew,” explains Ionovitz. “Mediation is made by dialogue, starting from the ground to the top, to governments. [We are] just the microphone: we go to the Italian government, which possibly talks to the Lebanese or German government or institutions. It’s a popular democratic diplomacy.”
Inside the camps, the presence of the international nonviolence organization was a deterrent to violent attacks on the refugees. Ionovitz and her colleagues were able to reach out to surrounding communities, building “bridges of dialogue between the local Lebanese host population, who are scared and sometimes hostile, and the Syrians themselves.”
Women at the fore
Too often in the Church and in documents on Church teaching, the indispensable, transformative leadership of women is erased and ignored. Advancing Nonviolence offers a refreshing corrective, highlighting the voices and leadership of women throughout.
A book on nonviolence could hardly do otherwise, as study after study demonstrates that sustaining peace is only possible when women are fully included. The integral inclusion of women is one of the many ways the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative is pointing the way forward for the Church and the world.
Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World, Berger, R.M., Butigan, K., Coode, J., and Dennis, M. (Eds.) is available in the U.S. from Winchester Book Gallery: http://bit.ly/3ohtBoD —Dan Moriarty, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns
“It is true that the President is actively working to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump’s actions on his call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger were an illegal attempt to defraud the citizens of Georgia and deprive them of their votes. Trump has stated his intention to overturn election results that were not in his favor since before the election and he continues to look for collaborators who will help him do so. For Republicans, the challenge over the past two months has been finding ways to appear as if they are moving toward overturning the election without ever actually reaching that point. To do so, they have relied on lawsuits, recounts, and audits that they knew would fail but which would put off the inevitable: having to tell Trump that he lost the November election.
Wednesday, Republicans will interrupt the ceremonial electoral vote count. Doing so will have as much effect on the transition to a Biden administration as interrupting his inauguration on January 20th would have: none. But the point of this exercise is not to stop the transition, it is to put off the day when Trump turns on the members of his own party.
But if Trump is attempting to overturn the election, why not call this a coup? This is not a semantic argument: Tactics that are appropriate for one situation are often counterproductive in another. A coup is a rapid seizure of power that builds momentum and requires an immediate and broad response to overturn it. A general strike and mass demonstrations have proven to be effective tactics when fighting a coup, which is why our friends at Choose Democracy spent weeks training thousands of people around the country in these methods. But because this is not a coup, employing these tactics could backfire. If Trump has signaled anything in the past few months, it is that he is itching for a fight. Large street battles between those supporting and opposing Trump might well be the one thing that would justify domestic use of the military. Unlike the theatrics being employed by Republicans in Congress, military action could interrupt the peaceful transition of power.
There are good reasons not to be distracted by the current circus. The true goals of the Republican leadership are the same as they were last year and the year before that: depriving citizens of their right to vote. The current maelstrom of misinformation created by Trump will be put to use by Republicans in the coming months to limit early and mail-in voting, purge voter rolls, and enact voter ID laws. These are the threats to democracy that we face, and we should not let the interruption of ceremonies distract us from them.”–Coup-O-Meter and Choose Democracy (4 Jan 21)
The film above has been created to recognize the day and the words of collaborators for the National Day of Mourning for Indigenous peoples. It includes explanations about the history and reverberations of the Day of Mourning by Dr. Stephanie Pratt and Marial Quezada and a poignant reading of Frank James’ suppressed text which he wrote for the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower’s sailing, which he was not allowed to read. 2020 marks the 400th commemoration of the arrival of the Mayflower. #NoNewWorlds
Learn more here.
400 years after English Protestant separatists landed in Wampanoag territory in November 1620, let us tell the story rightly and truly.
THE SUPPRESSED SPEECH OF WAMSUTTA JAMES
Three hundred fifty years after the English Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their “American” descendants planned an anniversary celebration (1970). Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their ancestors and the Indigenous Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Wamsutta James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that his views — based on history rather than English supremacy and myth — were not what the Pilgrims’ descendants wanted to hear. Wamsutta refused to deliver a replacement speech given to him by a public relations person. Wamsutta James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. Below is the prophetic speech he was never able to give:
I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction (“You must succeed – your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!”). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first – but we are termed “good citizens.” Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.
It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.
Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt’s Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry.
Massasoit, the great Sachem of the Wampanoag, knew these facts, yet he and his People welcomed and befriended the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. Perhaps he did this because his Tribe had been depleted by an epidemic. Or his knowledge of the harsh oncoming winter was the reason for his peaceful acceptance of these acts. This action by Massasoit was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.
What happened in those short 50 years? What has happened in the last 300 years?Continue reading “An American Thanksgiving”
Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and World is the groundbreaking Catholic “peoples encyclical” on nonviolence as the forward-looking theology, spirituality, and practice for the Church when engaging issues of violence and developing peace.
120 theologians, social scientists, biblical scholars, grassroots practitioners, and pastoral leaders across 39 countries met over three years to discern how to return nonviolence to the heart of the Catholic Church.
Advancing Nonviolence is edited by Rose Marie Berger, Ken Butigan, Judy Coode, and Marie Dennis and published by Pax Christi International. All proceeds support the work of Pax Christi International.
What are people saying about Advancing Nonviolence?
“We need to mainstream nonviolence in the Church. We need to move it from the margins of Catholic thought to the center. Nonviolence is a spirituality, a lifestyle, a program of societal action and a universal ethic.”–Bishop Robert McElroy, San Diego
“In reading Advancing Nonviolence, I was moved by the gift we have been given through the gospel, tradition, and teachings of peace and nonviolence.”–Josianne Gauthier, Secretary General, CIDSE
“Active, compassionate and cooperative nonviolence is essential for our future survival. This book helps chart that path.”–Tiffany Easthom, Nonviolent Peaceforce
“The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, on behalf of Pax Christi International, has now put together a significant, integral argument for advancing nonviolence globally. While discussions on just war have had such texts for centuries, it is hard to say that the movement for Catholics supporting nonviolence have had such a foundational text of compelling resources until now.”–James Keenan, S.J., Boston College
Item Weight: 13 oz.
Paperback: 322 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-178456-716-3
Dimensions: 5.75 x .75 x 8.25 inches
Publisher: Pax Christi International (October 2020)
To order Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and World go to https://www.fast-print.net/bookshop/2299/advancing-nonviolence-and-just-peace. Ships to all countries. All proceeds support Pax Christi International.
“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?”–Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings
The freedom struggle of the American south was built upon the firm foundation of Christian nonviolence. Here are the ten commandments of nonviolence that formed the basis of the pledge that Dr. King and others committed to as they engaged in courageous confrontation, wise and strategic organizing, and gentle, fierce service to a larger vision of equal justice under law and democracy that reflected the Beloved Community.
- Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
- Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
- Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
- Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
- Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
- Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
- Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
- Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
“The Torah portion this coming Shabbat is called “Va’yera” after its first word, which means “was seen” or “became visible.” The opening sentence (Genesis 18:1) reads like this:
“Now YHWH [the Interbreathing Spirit of the World] was seen by him [by Avraham} in the oaks of Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the heat of the day.”
First let me say, “in the oaks of Mamre” is an unconventional but utterly reasonable translation of “b’elonai.” Most translators say “by the oaks” because they want to point to three men who are about to appear as messengers of God, making God visible, and they are uncomfortable with the notion that God may be visible in the trees themselves. But most of the time in the Bible,” b’” means “in.”
How could God be visible in that forest? If “YHWH” is the Breath of Life, the Wind of change, the Spirit of the world, then the rustling of leaves in that forest, blown by the Wind, would make visible the Wind that is about to change the life of Abraham and Sarah and the world.
Secondly, in our own generation the scientists at last have taught us– – and perhaps long ago wise human beings knew the deep truth – that trees use chemicals to communicate with each other, that they help each other when some of them are in danger, that they breathe out the oxygen we need to breathe in and they breathe in the CO2 we breathe out.
When in Deuteronomy 20:19 Torah asks, “Are the trees of the field human?” we thought the question was tongue-in-cheek and that the answer was obviously No. But perhaps if being “human” means communicating wisdom across generations the answer is obviously “Yes!” (Consult Richard Powers’ insightful novel The Overstory.)
I have several times led prayer circles where I have invited people as part of the service to seek out a tree and listen to it breathe, then hear the tree’s own prayer, then come back to the community and share the tree’s prayer. When a dozen people do this, each prayer is unique, the prayers are as different as you can imagine — and profoundly “spiritual.”
Finally, how many of us have seen God become visible in a forest, a river, a bird, a cloud of fireflies? Time for us to welcome these bearers of life into the minyan, the quorum that makes prayer possible. Indeed, there could be no minyan without them.”–Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center