Category Archives: General Discussion

Anything that ties to the general concepts of peace and justice.

Pope Francis Says, “Good Politics Is At The Service of Peace”

world-day-of-prayerfor-peace-2019

January 1st, 2019 was the International World Day of Peace, and Pope Francis offered the following message:

Good politics is at the service of peace

  1. “Peace be to this house!”

In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).

Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.[1]The “house” of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.

So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”

  1. The challenge of good politics

Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated.[2] It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.

Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.[3]

Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.

  1. Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace

Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”.[4] This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.

In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.[5]

Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.

  1. Political vices

Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.

  1. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others

When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.[6]

Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need. Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.

  1. No to war and to the strategy of fear

A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.

Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.

  1. A great project of peace

In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.[7]

Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).

From the Vatican, 8 December 2018

Francis

[1] Cf. Lk 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”.

[2] Cf. Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu, Paris, 1986.

[3] Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 46.

[4] Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 7.

[5] Cf. Address at the “Civitas” Exhibition-Convention in Padua: “30 Giorni”, no. 5, 2002.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Authorities of Benin, Cotonou, 19 November 2011.

[7] Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), ed. Carlen, 24.

 

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by | January 2, 2019 · 2:54 PM

ICE Agents Detaining Another Mexican Mother

Infant child OK in foster care.

Mexican Mother

Happy New Year 2018.

Image from the Des Moines, Iowa, Catholic Worker newsletter.

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NYTimes – America’s New Religion: Fox Evangelicalism

By AMY SULLIVAN                                    DEC. 15, 2017

To hear the Christian right tell it, President Trump should be a candidate for sainthood — that is, if evangelicals believed in saints.

Ugly Trump Ornament - NYT“Never in my lifetime have we had a Potus willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like Donald Trump,” tweeted Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham. The Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress sees a divine hand at work: “God intervened in our election and put Donald Trump in the Oval Office for a great purpose.”

Testimonials like this confound critics who label conservative evangelical figures like Mr. Graham and Mr. Jeffress hypocrites for embracing a man who is pretty much the human embodiment of the question “What would Jesus not do?”

But what those critics don’t recognize is that the nationalistic, race-baiting, fear-mongering form of politics enthusiastically practiced by Mr. Trump and Roy Moore in Alabama is central to a new strain of American evangelicalism. This emerging religious worldview — let’s call it “Fox evangelicalism” — is preached from the pulpits of conservative media outlets like Fox News. It imbues secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declares sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture.

Journalists and scholars have spent decades examining the influence of conservative religion on American politics, but we largely missed the impact conservative politics was having on religion itself. As a progressive evangelical and journalist covering religion, I’m as guilty as any of not noticing what was happening. We kept asking how white conservative evangelicals could support Mr. Trump, who luxuriates in divisive rhetoric and manages only the barest veneer of religiosity. But that was never the issue. Fox evangelicals don’t back Mr. Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.

Consider the so-called War on Christmas, which the president has made a pet crusade. Mr. Trump has been sharing Christmas greetings since October, well before decorations had even shown up in most stores, when the Values Voter Summit crowd gave him a standing ovation for declaring, “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” He has spent November and December taking victory laps, telling crowds at political rallies in Utah and Florida that “Christmas is back, better and bigger than ever before.”

Every one of Mr. Trump’s predecessors declared “Merry Christmas,” too — including Barack Obama, whose message at last year’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony was virtually indistinguishable from Mr. Trump’s. What matters to Fox evangelicals, though, is not that Mr. Trump observes Christmas but that he casts himself as the defender of the Christian holiday.

From the beginning, the War on Christmas was a homegrown Fox News cause, introduced by the so-named 2005 book by John Gibson, a former Fox News host, and promoted annually by Bill O’Reilly. But it was never really a religious argument. Mr. O’Reilly and company weren’t occupied with defending belief in the Virgin Birth or worrying that the celebration of Christ’s birth had become too commercialized.

In an irony appreciated by anyone who remembers the original anti-consumption, anti-Santa meaning of the “Reason for the Season” slogan, Fox and allies like the American Family Association focused on getting more Christmas into stores and shopping malls. For more than a decade, Fox News hosts have kept viewers updated on which stores were “in the Christmas spirit,” and the American Family Association, which operates nearly 200 radio stations in the United States, maintains its very own “naughty and nice” list for retailers.

As a result, the War on Christmas has moved one of the holiest Christian days out of the church and into the secular realm. That may suit conservative activists who promote Christian nationalism and want to see Christianity officially dominate the public sphere. But at a time when a new Pew Research Center study shows that only about half of those Americans who celebrate Christmas plan to do so as a religious holiday, the War on Christmas may be damaging Christian witness by elevating performative secular practices.

These days, even though Mr. O’Reilly declared “victory” last year in the War on Christmas, Fox News still gives the supposed controversy wall-to-wall coverage and has folded it into the network’s us-versus-them, nationalist programming. The regular Fox News viewer, whether or not he is a churchgoer, takes in a steady stream of messages that conflate being white and conservative and evangelical with being American.

The power of that message may explain the astonishing findings of a survey released this month by LifeWay Research, a Christian organization based in Nashville. LifeWay’s researchers developed questions meant to get at both the way Americans self-identify religiously and their theological beliefs. What they discovered was that while one-quarter of Americans consider themselves to be “evangelical,” less than half of that group actually holds traditional evangelical beliefs. For others, “evangelical” effectively functions as a cultural label, unmoored from theological meaning.

But if the conservative media has created a category of Fox evangelical converts, it has also influenced the way a whole generation of churchgoing evangelicals thinks about God and faith. On no issue is this clearer than guns.

In fall 2015, I visited Trinity Bible College, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in North Dakota, to join the conservative evangelical students there for a screening of “The Armor of Light,” a documentary by the filmmaker Abigail Disney. The film followed the pastor and abortion opponent Rob Schenck on his quest to convince fellow evangelicals — the religious demographic most opposed to gun restrictions — that pro-life values are incompatible with an embrace of unrestricted gun access. I found Mr. Schenck compelling, and my editor had sent me to see if his target audience bought the arguments.

It did not.

As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.

These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”

This worldview is familiar to anyone who has spent time watching Fox News, where every day viewers are confronted with threats to their way of life. It’s also profoundly un-Christian. One of the most consistent messages of the Bible is the exhortation “Do not be afraid!” Before young evangelicals can read, we memorize verses reminding us to “be strong and courageous” and “trust in the Lord.” “Fear,” says Mr. Schenck in the documentary, “should not be a controlling element in the life of a Christian.”

Fear and distrust of outsiders — in conflict with numerous biblical teachings to “welcome the stranger” — also explain Fox evangelicals’ strong support for the Trump administration’s efforts to bar refugees and restrict travel to the United States from several majority-Muslim nations. After Mr. Trump’s initial executive orders during his first week in office, more than 100 evangelical leaders, including the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, published a full-page ad in The Washington Post denouncing the refugee ban and urging the president to reconsider. But those leaders didn’t speak for most white evangelicals, three-quarters of whom told Pew pollsters they supported the refugee and travel bans.

That disconnect underscores the challenge many pastors face in trying to shepherd congregants who are increasingly alienated from traditional Gospel teachings. “A pastor has about 30 to 40 minutes each week to teach about Scripture,” said Jonathan Martin, an Oklahoma pastor and popular evangelical writer. “They’ve been exposed to Fox News potentially three to four hours a day.”

It’s meaningful, Mr. Martin says, that scions of the religious right like Jerry Falwell Jr. are not pastors like their fathers. “There was a lot I didn’t agree with him on, but I’m confident that it was important to Senior” — Jerry Falwell — “that he grounded his beliefs in Scripture,” Mr. Martin said. “Now the Bible’s increasingly irrelevant. It’s just ‘us versus them.’”

The result is a malleable religious identity that can be weaponized not just to complain about department stores that hang “Happy Holidays” banners, but more significantly, in support of politicians like Mr. Trump or Mr. Moore — and of virtually any policy, so long as it is promoted by someone Fox evangelicals consider on their side of the culture war.

“It explains how much evangelicals have moved the goal post,” said Mr. Martin. “If there’s not a moral theology or ethic to it, but it’s about playing for the right team, you can do anything and still be on the right side.”

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Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

Hate in America has become commonplace. What can we do to stop the hate?  The Southern Poverty Law Center has come up with a easy-to-read guide that offers useful and do-able ideas.  You may download the printed copy of the booklet HERE  .  You may also watch the brief video version, FOUND HERE .   Either way, it’s important that we do what we can to stop the current insanity. 

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

 

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Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’

| 31 MAY 2017

Reflection By His Grace Bishop Angaelos on the recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere

Bishop Angaelos to the Terrorists: ‘You Are Loved’
Bishop Angaelos (Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

 

Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.

I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.

This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.

You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.

You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.

Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.

This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.

I grieve, certainly for those who have lost their lives, for those who mourn and for those who will continue to be adversely affected by these tragic experiences; but I also grieve for a young man who sees it not only justifiable, but glorious, to take the lives of other young men and women and deprive his and their families of enjoying them as they grow and mature.

No family should lose a son in this way, even if they are partially or wholly responsible for his flawed ideology. This loss might be to that ideology, to incarceration as a result of his actions and choices or, in the worst case, in taking his own life, along with others, regardless of the great cost to those left behind. In the same way, no family deserves to lose children and members who merely go about their day to enjoy their God-given right to exist, whether it be by attending a concert, taking a pilgrimage to a monastery, simply walking through city streets, or in any other way.

I also grieve for those who considered it a victory to board a bus filled with pilgrims and execute children, women and men purely for refusing to denounce their faith, as we saw happen to Coptic Christians in Menia only yesterday [May 26].

What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.

What is important is not that this message be read, but that it be communicated; not that it be accepted, but that it be understood as another perspective; and not that it should be fully embraced, but that it may create at least a shadow of a doubt in the minds of those intent on inflicting harm and pain.

His Grace Bishop Angaelos is the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.

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Bombing Syria Will Not Create Peace

An Official Statement from Pax Christi USA

Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.

Syria.png

The years of war and the recent tragedies in Syria are heartbreaking. The tortuous deaths caused by chemical weapons are another example of the depths of human depravity.

War and preparations for war accomplish nothing. The President’s decision to violate international law by this act of aggression, along with a lack of consultation from Congress, to launch missile attacks on Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons, adds to the years of crushing hardship experienced by the Syrian people. The solution to war is not more war. Retaliation will not bring justice or peace but only perpetuates death and injustice.

The trauma of war creates short and long term consequences that are the deepest pain human beings can experience. The immediate horror of losing loved ones to the long-term consequences that destroy the bodies, spirits, and psyches of human beings are tragic for individuals and for society. The environmental impact of war is passed on for future generations.

Pope Francis said, “I appeal to the conscience of those with political responsibility both locally and internationally to cease this tragedy and bring relief to that dear population that for too long has been exhausted by war.”

Pax Christi USA believes that peace comes with justice. Voters with political responsibility have the great ability to influence situations and policies that create justice, and consequently, peace, and clearly, sending drones and missiles into Syria is a decision that promotes neither justice nor peace.

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Standing with our Brothers & Sisters

Greetings,

Pax Christi USA deplores the three executive orders President Trump has recently signed. One is in favor of resurrecting the Dakota Access pipeline, another in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, and another for advancing the deportation of immigrants and the

construction of a wall on the US southern border. The common thread of these orders is the blatant disregard for the will of the people, care of the earth, and personhood and struggles of the migrant.

Our hearts are with the Standing Rock nation and all indigenous people who have worked so hard to protect the water and the land from the Dakota Access pipeline. The will of the people was heard when it came to changing the route of this pipeline just a few months ago, and now the people are being overlooked in the interest of corporate growth. We believe in people over profit. We believe in the care of the earth over the desire for oil. Mark Charles, a Navajo man and activist said, “No matter how much money you have. No matter how powerful you are. No matter what alternative facts you quote. The truth of the matter is – You CANNOT drink oil.” In the end, travesties against the earth will affect us all – even those who make much profit off pillaging the earth.

Our hearts are with our immigrant brothers and sisters living in fear of deportation and separation from their families. No one flees their countries of origin on a whim. We honor the multiplicity of reasons people migrate to the United States, many of which are poverty, gang violence, and terror. People are not the enemy, but that is the myth we are being told by President Trump. Building a wall is the visual symbol of these political lies. We do not believe this story, and we will not support this wall.

We need a country where people feel safe, welcomed, and know the only prerequisite for their rights is being human. All human beings, regardless of skin color or country of origin, should be able to rely on having safe water, a safe family, and a clean earth. President Trump’s executive orders set us on an immoral course we cannot endorse. Pax Christi USA is committed to the vision of justice that trumps hate and builds bridges instead of walls.

Peace of Christ,

Sr. Patricia Chappell;  Executive Director – Pax Christi USA

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Pope says NONVIOLENCE is the only response to a world at war

August 26, 2016
PopeFrancis

For his annual message for the World Day of Peace, which on Jan. 1st will mark it’s 50th Anniversary, Pope Francis has chosen nonviolence as the only effective response to what he’s repeatedly described as a ‘Third World War in Pieces’.

VATICAN CORRESPONDENT

ROME- Facing a cascade of bloodshed around the world, including wars in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, a six-decade civil conflict in Colombia, the rise of fundamentalist movements throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and the Philippines, and a seemingly endless string of terrorist attacks, Pope Francis on Friday called for a non-violent response.

“Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace” is the theme chosen by Francis for his yearly message for the Church-sponsored World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1.

According to a Vatican statement summarizing the pope’s approach, non-violence, when understood as a political method based on safeguarding the rights and equal dignity of all, “without any discrimination and distinction,” can overcome armed conflict.

“In this perspective, it becomes important to increasingly recognize not the right of force, but the force of right,” said the statement released on Friday.

Although this will be Francis’ fourth message for a World Day of Peace, it has special significance because it marks the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace, an annual launched by Pope Paul VI.

The message will be sent to all foreign ministries around the world, signaling the Vatican’s top diplomatic concerns for 2017.

“Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” Friday’s statement said. “The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences.”

“Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress,” the statement says.

Pope Francis has often spoken of a “Third World War in Pieces,” referring to the many sprouts of violence and active wars around the globe. Taking into consideration only the four bloodiest ongoing conflicts, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria, close to 90,000 people were killed in 2015 as a direct result of fighting.

This number doesn’t include those who died trying to reach a safer place, nor those who died of war-related starvation or lack of health care.

Often seen as a short summary of what will be a several-page papal message, the statement released on Friday called for “negotiated ways of peace” even when they seem “tortuous and impractical.”

Thus, non-violence “will not only consist of desire, of moral rejection of violence, barriers, destructive impulses, but also of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.”

Among other things, in the message to be released at a future date but before Jan. 1st, Francis is expected to show “a path of hope,” calling for the settlement of disputes to be reached through negotiation instead of armed conflicts, overcoming a sense of superiority from one nation over the other.

He’s also bound to call for an end of illegal arms trafficking, something he’s done many times before.

Non-violence, however, “does not mean that one nation can remain indifferent to the tragedies of another. Rather it means a recognition of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms,” the statement said.

Previous themes chosen by Francis for the annual peace message include this years’ “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” and 2015’s “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.”

In the one for 2016, the pontiff listed many of the world’s conflicts, but he also described some rays of hope, including the Paris’ agreement on climate change, interreligious dialogue, and his own Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“Sadly, war and terrorism, accompanied by kidnapping, ethnic or religious persecution, and the misuse of power marked the past year from start to finish,” Francis said. Yet, he added, some events of 2015 inspire him “to encourage everyone not to lose hope in our human ability to conquer evil and to combat resignation and indifference.”

The eight-page document was a call not to lose faith in mankind because “God does not abandon us,” while appealing to civil society to take care of its most vulnerable members: prisoners, migrants, the unemployed, the infirm, and the unborn.

“Peace is both God’s gift and a human achievement,” Francis wrote.

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PCM Statement on Gun Violence

stop_handgunsSignificantly more deaths from gun violence occur each year in the United States than any other developed nation in the world. A February 2016 American Journal of Medicine study reveals that, with 10.2 deaths from firearms per 100,000 citizens in 2010, the U.S. suffered nearly three times the rate of fatalities as any other country in the study. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that between 2009 and 2013 nearly 109,000 people were shot in the U.S. each year, with an average of 32,964 dying from their wounds annually, including 2,624 children and teens. The effective lack of restrictions on access to guns contributes to gun violence. The Washington Post reports that Americans now own an astonishing 112.6 guns per 100 citizens, compared to the worldwide average of just 10.2 guns per 100 persons.

Numerous mass shootings have scarred the American landscape: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Aurora and Virginia Tech are among the communities where innocent lives have been lost. After each devastating incident, gun advocates and their primary spokesman, National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, respond by calling for more guns and fewer gun safety laws, and by accusing those calling for greater gun safety of “politicizing” tragedy. Hopes for reasonable federal gun control legislation are stymied with Congress effectively “bought off” by the NRA, with $650,000 in donations to members of Congress in the 2012 election, and over $808,000 in 2014.

Special mention must be made of what Pax Christi USA, in its July 2016 Statement on Racial Violence in the U.S. calls “a crisis of racism and fear – political and media sources brand certain people as presumptive enemies. Our uncivil political rhetoric, amplified by the media, reinforces the fear of whole groups of people: young black men, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community. This only serves to fan racism, bigotry and the ‘blaming of victims’ of impoverishment and marginalization.” It is essential to involve such marginalized communities in the search for solutions to gun violence.

The Hebrew prophets repeatedly warned against idolatry; as a prime example, placing trust in weapons. “God will judge between nations and render decisions for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation will not lift up the sword against another, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4). In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism posed the question, “Is the need for sensible gun-control a religious issue?” Its Director, Rabbi David Saperstein answered, drawing on the same prophetic tradition of his faith: “You bet it is. The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity. Our gun-flooded, violence prone society has turned weapons into idols. And the appropriate religious response to idolatry is sustained moral outrage.”

The Catholic Church has, as the American bishops remind us, “… been a consistent voice for the promotion of peace at home and around the world and a strong advocate for the reasonable regulation of firearms.” In his January 1, 2014 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis proclaimed, “I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”

Pax Christi Michigan agrees that “reasonable regulation of firearms” is urgently needed, and long overdue. Specifically, we advocate comprehensive federal legislation that would:

  1. Require universal background checks on all prospective firearms and ammunition purchasers, including at gun shows and on private in-person or online gun sales;
  2. Require a waiting period of a specified number of days between a firearm purchase and when it is physically transferred to the purchaser;
  3. Require persons seeking to purchase or possess a firearm to: obtain a firearm safety certificate by successfully completing a safety training course; register their firearms and obtain a license; notify law enforcement when their weapons are lost or stolen; and, safely store their firearms and ammunition in the home to prevent access by children and other unauthorized users;
  4. Require gun dealers to obtain a local permit, conduct employee background checks, and obtain liability insurance;
  5. Ban semi-automatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines;
  6. Ban licensed and unlicensed open carry of loaded and unloaded firearms;
  7. Require the personalization of handguns, that is, equipping them with technology that prevents them from firing when operated by an unauthorized user; and, prohibit the manufacture, importation, purchase and transfer of non-personalized handguns;
  8. Legalize comprehensive ballistic identification through “microstamping” technology;
  9. Repeal the “Dickey Amendment” that prevents the Center for Disease Control from spending funds “to advocate or promote gun control,” and restore funding for research on gun violence;
  10. Offer a gun buyback opportunity to private gun owners, without fear of prosecution; and,
  11. Pass campaign finance reform and reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to reduce the role of money in the U.S. political system, and to diminish the role of lobbying.

As part of the Catholic peace and justice movement that seeks to model the Peace of Christ, Pax Christi Michigan considers the current situation, with gun violence ravaging our families and communities and terrorizing our children, to be unconscionable. With this Statement on Gun Violence, we declare unequivocally that we reject gun violence, and that we follow the One who said, “Peter, put away your sword.”

August 2016

Graphic from Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence

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Filed under Ending Gun Violence, General Discussion, Study

An appeal to the Catholic Church to recommit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence

Gospel-NV

Conference Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence Rome, April 11-13, 2016

As Christians committed to a more just and peaceful world we are called to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence and against all forms of violence. With this conviction, and in recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International on April 11-13, 2016 in Rome.

Our assembly, people of God from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania included lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops. Many of us live in communities experiencing violence and oppression. All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. We are grateful for the message to our conference from Pope Francis: “your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution”.

Looking at our world today

We live in a time of tremendous suffering, widespread trauma and fear linked to militarization, economic injustice, climate change, and a myriad of other specific forms of violence. In this context of normalized and systemic violence, those of us who stand in the Christian tradition are called to recognize the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus; to the life and practice of the Catholic Church; and to our long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.

We rejoice in the rich concrete experiences of people engaged in work for peace around the world, many of whose stories we heard during this conference. Participants shared their experiences of courageous negotiations with armed actors in Uganda and Colombia; working to protect the Article 9, the peace clause in the Japanese Constitution; accompaniment in Palestine; and countrywide peace education in the Philippines. They illuminate the creativity and power of nonviolent practices in many different situations of potential or actual violent conflict. Recent academic research, in fact, has confirmed that nonviolent resistance strategies are twice as effective as violent ones.

The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model.

Jesus and nonviolence

In his own times, rife with structural violence, Jesus proclaimed a new, nonviolent order rooted in the unconditional love of God. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5: 44), which includes respecting the image of God in all persons; to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil (Matthew 5: 39); to become peacemakers; to forgive and repent; and to be abundantly merciful (Matthew 5-7). Jesus embodied nonviolence by actively resisting systemic dehumanization, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3: 1-6); when he confronted the powerful at the Temple and purified it (John 2: 13-22); when he peacefully but determinedly challenged the men accusing a woman of adultery (John 8: 1-11); when on the night before he died he asked Peter to put down his sword (Matthew 26: 52).

Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence was the power of love in action. In vision and deed, he is the revelation and embodiment of the Nonviolent God, a truth especially illuminated in the Cross and Resurrection. He calls us to develop the virtue of nonviolent peacemaking.

Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.

We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.

We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence. A different path is clearly unfolding in recent Catholic social teaching. Pope John XXIII wrote that war is not a suitable way to restore rights; Pope Paul VI linked peace and development, and told the UN “no more war”; Pope John Paul II said that “war belongs to the tragic past, to history”; Pope Benedict XVI said that “loving the enemy is the nucleus of the Christian revolution”; and Pope Francis said “the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible”. He has also urged the “abolition of war”.

We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence. A Just Peace approach offers a vision and an ethic to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of violent conflict. This ethic includes a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships, with specific criteria, virtues, and practices to guide our actions. We recognize that peace requires justice and justice requires peacemaking.

Living Gospel Nonviolence and Just Peace

In that spirit we commit ourselves to furthering Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace. As would-be disciples of Jesus, challenged and inspired by stories of hope and courage in these days, we call on the Church we love to:

  • Continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence. In particular, we call on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and Just Peace;
  • Integrate Gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life, including the sacramental life, and work of the Church through dioceses, parishes, agencies, schools, universities, seminaries, religious orders, voluntary associations, and others;
  • Promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies);
  • Initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the Church, with people of other faiths, and with the larger world to respond to the monumental crises of our time with the vision and strategies of nonviolence and Just Peace;
  • No longer use or teach “just war theory”; continue advocating for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons;
  • Lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust world powers and to support and defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice put their lives at risk.

In every age, the Holy Spirit graces the Church with the wisdom to respond to the challenges of its time. In response to what is a global epidemic of violence, which Pope Francis has labeled a “world war in installments”, we are being called to invoke, pray over, teach and take decisive action. With our communities and organizations, we look forward to continue collaborating with the Holy See and the global Church to advance Gospel nonviolence.


Pax Christi International:   Rue du Progrès, 323, 1030 Brussels, Belgium.    

 Phone: ++32 (0)2 502.55.50

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