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 Pope calls for nonviolence in 2017 World Day of Peace message

 12 December 2016

Pope Francis's World Day of Peace message calls us to “make active nonviolence our way of life.”  

Today in his message, “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace,” for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated each year on 1st January, Pope Francis urges people everywhere to practice active nonviolence and notes that the “decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.”

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a global effort to affirm the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church, is heartened by and deeply grateful for the Holy Father’s call to political and religious leaders, heads of international organisations, and business and media executives to “apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. … To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict.”

The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative was formed to advance the requests made in the "Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence", the final statement of the landmark Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome in April 2016 and cosponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pax Christi International, and other organisations.

“It was especially noteworthy that we received Pope Francis’ message at this time,” said Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. “Last week we gathered with member organisations in Africa for our regional conference, ‘Nonviolence in Africa: Creating a future of hope,’ during which time the attendees endorsed the "Appeal to the Catholic Church to recommit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence". Much of our time together during those days focused on how to reclaim civil space and how to promote nonviolence in many ways. The Holy Father’s message for 2017 deeply resonates with us as the work Pax Christi International and its member groups has been dedicated for years to finding creative and peaceful solutions to violent conflict.”

SOURCE: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/press-release-pope-calls-nonviolence-2017-world-day-peace-message/6440#sthash.kr7fvUpS.dpuf 

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Pax Christi International statement on the occasion of the Action Day for Peace in Syria, 24 October 2016

On this UN Day of Action for Peace in Syria, we join all friends of peace around the world in calling the international community:

1. To immediately halt all aerial attacks on Aleppo and to expedite medical evacuations and unimpeded humanitarian access. Simultaneously efforts must be encouraged to restore a nationwide ceasefire with strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.  

2. To lift all sieges in accordance with the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 2139 and 2165, and to especially demand an immediate end to the “surrender or starve” siege strategy by the Syrian government. The UN should also strictly adhere to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.  

3. To protect civilians and promote accountability in Syria. EU member states need to support current calls for the UN General Assembly to hold a special Emergency Session on Syria.  

4. To support the hundreds of peaceful Syrian civil society organizations delivering services and laying the foundations for a future peaceful Syria. Such organizations form a middle ground in between the Syrian regime and extremist terrorist groups.  

5. To impose additional coercive measures on Russia and the government of Syria if they continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Aleppo and other places in Syria.  

6. To undertake bolder diplomatic efforts like the recent condemnation of Russia and the announcement of a dialogue with key regional actors to prepare the ground for a political transition and post-conflict preparations. 

7. To demand that Russia stop its military support of the Syrian authorities and extend the short term cease-fire.  

8. To impose an arms embargo to all warring parties in the Syrian conflict.  Syria is and will continue to be a broken, war-torn place for years to come, perhaps decades, if the international community doesn’t act more forcefully to stop the conflict. We call upon the international community to increase its support for a solution in Syria and bring the killing to an end. 

SOURCE: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/pax-christi-international-statement-occasion-action-day-peace-syria-24-october/6375

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Japan: On the Occasion of "Ten Days for Peace" 2016 - Building Peace Begins within Ourselves

 

 The following statement was released last month by Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan. 

In response to the strong "Appeal for Peace" at Hiroshima by Saint Pope John Paul II on February 25, 1981, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan designated the days from August 6 to 15 as "Ten Days for Peace." These days were chosen because the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Days and the Commemoration Day for the end of World War II all occur in this period. This year marks the 35th time we mark this period. It goes without saying that our prayers for peace, and the responsibility to learn and think about peace and to act for peace are never limited to this period. For example, we must not forget Okinawa Memorial Day on June 23. 

We must pray for peace, learn and think about peace and act for whatever is needed for peace throughout the year. And yet, we are required to spend this particular period giving even more attention than usual to peace. World peace has been shattered and is constantly threatened by such events as the Syrian War, terrorist activities by fundamentalists and others, armed conflicts involving control of resources and hegemonic shows of force. Numerous people including children and women are killed or injured, forced to leave home, deprived of a normal life and even life itself. 

Terrorist attacks occur in major cities in Europe, the United States or in Muslim nations. Many Japanese people have become victims. Terrorist attacks are waiting to happen at anytime and anywhere in the world. That is why we pray that powers in both Asia and the West will move toward reconciliation rather than a sort of cold war, and that the spirit of peace enshrined in the European Union (EU) will spread globally and tensions in East Asia will be reduced. 

U.S. President Obama stressed in his speeches seven years ago in Prague and this past May in Hiroshima that we seek and pursue "a world without nuclear weapons." We should look to "mankind’s capacity to act together in solidarity and, on the basis of our interconnection and interdependence, to demonstrate concern for the more vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and for the protection of the common good" (cf. Pope Francis, Message for "World Day of Peace" 2016, 2). 

Depending on the power of humanity and the grace of God, we want to realize the high ideal of eliminating not only nuclear weapons but all types of weapons and violence from the world. Within our country, we cannot be indifferent to murders that occur on a daily basis, or to discrimination based on nationality, culture or gender, to domestic violence, hate speech, or sexual or power harassment. Appropriate steps are required to be taken constantly. And we must not fail to be wary of security-related laws and the movement to change the Constitution which will inevitably involve the Japanese people in the cycle of violence. 

The Hebrew word "shalom," which for Christians is the original language of "peace," has various meanings: prosperity and success; wholeness; greetings; well-being; public and private peace; friendship; freedom and salvation. In other words, "peace" means that each one of us lives a fulfilling life, while valuing the dignity of one’s own and others’ lives and building friendly relationships with God and others. As Pope Francis points out, we must make efforts not to exclude a single person, but must love, forgive and accept each other because we all are embraced by the mercy of God. There is no peace where someone is excluded, dominated, disrespected or discriminated against. By making efforts to complete the fulfillment and happiness of heart and body, work and private life, and relationships with God and people in particular, we must begin building peace within ourselves. We all can do that and we all must do that. That is the sure path to realizing world peace. May the God of love and peace be with us (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:11). 

7 July 2016 Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, Archbishop of Nagasaki, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan

SOURCE: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/japan-occasion-ten-days-peace-2016-building-peace-begins-within-ourselves/6230#sthash.1bEA97Ev.dpuf

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Brussels, 15 July 2016

 

 

Statement: Pax Christi International stands with the victims in Nice, calls for actions in support of justice and human security.

We awoke this morning to another shocking attack, this time in Nice, France, leaving at least 84 people dead, many of these children, and hundreds more injured and traumatised. The attack was perpetrated at festivities for Bastille Day—during which the French celebrate the ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité—values which stand in stark contrast to the agenda of violence and extremism. 

Yesterday’s events and the frequency of such attacks leave us stunned but resolute. We at Pax Christi International stand in solidarity with the people of Nice, with France, and with all people in every nation around the world who live in this reality where violence and the insecurity it breeds is the norm. 

We condemn the horrific attack in Nice as we condemn the use of violence in every form, everywhere. The perpetrators of this violence must be brought to justice and held accountable for their crimes under the rule of law. Let it be a testament to the victims of this attack and all who have suffered in attacks like this in every corner of the world that we will not tolerate violence nor the root causes which contribute to violence—oppression, inequality, exclusion, greed, discrimination and fear. 

Let us embrace the hope that we can do better, that we can find solutions which do not resort to the false promise of violence. 

Let us work to foster the conditions that lead to peace and nurture the systems that address conflict by working for human rights and justice for all. 

Pax Christi International is concerned that the government of France, in collaboration with others in the international community, will respond to this attack by increasing military action in the Middle East. We believe that an appropriate response is one which upholds human rights and promotes justice—not further military action which plants the seeds of future attacks like the one in Nice. 

Our movement asserts that violence only leads to more violence and that it can never achieve the peace and security in which every human being deserves to live. It is actions like the attack in France that strengthens our resolve to work for justice and peace in our world. Our 120 member organisations work for this on five continents, and today, in solidarity with the victims of this attack, the people of Nice and all those who yearn for a world free of violence, we pledge our commitment to cultivate the justice and peace which honour human dignity. Today we share our grief for all those who have died and we pray for all those affected by the brutality of this attack. As we firmly believe that violence will not ultimately prevail, our grief will not make us numb nor distract us from the work to be done.  

Source: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/statement-pax-christi-international-stands-victims-nice-calls-actions-support-justice-and-human#sthash.H3tlmIdX.fqJxkejR.dpuf

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12th July 2016

 Pax Christi International: Fifth anniversary sees South Sudan mired in violence

Pax Christi International denounces the fighting taking place in South Sudan between soldiers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition. Hundreds of people have been killed in the last few days. Despite the 2015 peace agreement, hostilities continue, causing many people to be killed and thousands more to be displaced, forced to shelter in churches and other locations during the heavy rains.

Humanitarian assistance is needed throughout the country and people should be able to safely reach that help. They have immediate need for food, health care, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene services. We pray for the people of South Sudan, who have been experiencing decades of violence and, consequently, humanitarian problems.

We are deeply concerned about the escalation of violence contrary to the commitments made under the peace agreement. Also, we find that the recent attacks against the UN, its officials and on vulnerable people under their protection, to be outrageous. It is not the first time that UN sites have been under attack.

As long as parties do not settle their differences peacefully, grave human rights violations, crimes against humanity and severe humanitarian crises will continue to take place. Under these conditions, no stable future can be built and the South Sudanese people will only know what it is to live in war, not peace.

We urge all parties to the conflict to immediately cease the hostilities. Also, as the UN Security Council has unanimously requested in its latest statement [1], the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) and humanitarian actors should be allowed access to civilians in need. Nevertheless, Pax Christi International wishes to underline that the main responsibility for protection of civilians remains with the South Sudanese transitional government.

Furthermore, we urge the leaders of the nations of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), who brokered the 2015 ‘Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan’, to take an urgent and proactive role in resolving the current conflict in South Sudan and to ensure that the agreement is fully implemented.

Pax Christi International would also like to underline that an end is needed to the flood of deadly weapons around the world that facilitate violence and make the road to a just and lasting peace extremely difficult. In line with this, the South Sudan Council of Churches has reiterated the message of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International at the April 2016 conference on ‘Nonviolence and Just Peace’, that violence is never the solution and simply leads to more violence. [2]

With regard to the violence of recent days, we also support the latest statement of the South Sudan Council of Churches in which it states the following: “We pray for those who have been killed and for their families and we ask God's forgiveness for those who have done the killing. However we also urge repentance and a firm commitment from all armed individuals, forces and communities, and from their leaders, to create an atmosphere where violence is not an option.” [3]

This year, the state of South Sudan marks its fifth anniversary as a nation, but there is little reason to celebrate, as many citizens are suffering from hunger, in constant danger and traumatized. We therefore call on our global member organisations to pray and to stand in solidarity with all the victims of violence, with our member organisations in South Sudan, PAX [4] and Holy Trinity Peace Village, Kuron [5], and the Church and its leaders who have had an important role in grassroots and political peace-making. [6]

SOURCE: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/pax-christi-international-fifth-anniversary-sees-south-sudan-mired-violence/6182#sthash.JvAYClG4.AEwGmz9U.dpuf

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The following statement was affirmed by the participants of the Nonviolence and Just Peace gathering held in Rome, 11-13 April 2016. The gathering was co-convened by Pax Christi International, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, UISG/USG and many other international Catholic organisations.

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.  

SOURCE: http://www.paxchristi.net/news/appeal-catholic-church-recommit-centrality-gospel-nonviolence/5855#sthash.RkIk6WZX.UIsHQuzR.dpuf

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Statement from Pax Christi International & The World Council of Churches - issued 15 March 2016.

Negotiations should end the conflict and bring political transition in Syria

In March 2016 we mark the 5th anniversary of the popular uprising in Syria. The first cessation of hostilities after five years of war in Syria began on 27 February 2016. Although there have been dozens of violations of the ceasefire daily, many communities have for the first time in years witnessed a period of calm and respite from bombardments. This fragile ceasefire follows UN Security Council Resolution 2268.[1]

Despite renewed diplomatic efforts, there is little hope for an early end to the fighting in Syria. This ongoing war presents one of the greatest political and moral challenges of our time. Now an international conflict, it has the potential for additional destabilisation at the regional and international level.

The World Council of Churches and Pax Christi International urgently appeal to all involved parties to demonstrate good will and to take part in negotiations in Geneva. A fundamental ingredient for peace, political will, has been lacking in Syria. We call upon those governments with influence in this conflict to address the root causes of so much death and destruction and that are driving so many people from their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of victims have been claimed by the violence in Syria, which has left many millions more without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and, at the same time, to engage in dialogue toward a political transition that enables the country to return swiftly to peace. The intra-Syrian talks which begin on 15 March in Geneva must create the conditions for such a political transition. The Syrian people must be at the centre of the resolution of the conflict.  Other states (in particular the members of the International Syria Support Group) and non-state actors must support a Syrian-led process.

Large-scale humanitarian aid to the afflicted populations throughout Syria and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring countries also must be assured. Increased aid to besieged areas and a lull in the violence could show the Syrian people that a political process could lead to results, thus contributing to public support for the necessary revival of the Geneva peace talks.

In recent weeks we have seen a new wave of peaceful demonstrations in Syria.[2] The Syrian people are clear about what they want: a united, democratic Syria where all citizens enjoy equal rights. The demonstrations spoke out clearly against dividing the country. That political momentum should not be lost. All parties must support civil society in its critical role in the process of ceasefire and human rights monitoring, violence reduction, trust building, facilitating public debate and conflict transformation.

The massive call for freedom and democracy in Syria underlines the urgency of prioritizing political transition to an inclusive and democratic state. That should be a primary goal in Geneva. A "Syria First" strategy is needed, instead of an "ISIS First" strategy. Only when the democratic forces in Syria are supported and protected can ISIS be defeated.

A large scale reconstruction programme which includes the reform of state institutions should be started and supervised by the United Nations. In the long term, a transparent process of transitional justice and reconciliation in which all ethnic, political and religious groups are included should be initiated and include active participation from the different sectors of civil society.

Our hearts break for the suffering experienced by people from all religious traditions who have become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence. The diversity of the region must be preserved and the rights of all regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender must be secured. The religious and social values of the Syrian people, including freedom, dignity and tolerance, in addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are essential references in the protection of the rights of all citizens.

As Christian organisations we stand with our brothers and sisters in the region and will support them in their efforts to restore peace in their countries and make sure they and other religions and ethnic groups will all be active participants in the future of the region.

Geneva/Brussels, 15 March 2016 

Pax Christi International
Rue du Progrès, 323
B-1030 Brussels
Belgium 

World Council of Churches
CP 2100
1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

[1] http://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12261.doc.htm

[2] https://www.facebook.com/ActivistHive/videos/1671451539759645/

- See more at:  http://www.paxchristi.net/news/negotiations-should-end-conflict-and-bring-political-transition-syria/5723#sthash.Eg5sT6js.0RxmYtmv.dpuf