Called to Nonviolence
by Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International
Invited by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International with LCWR, CMSM, Pace e Bene, the JPIC Commission of the Unions of Superior Generals (USG/UISG), the Columbans and Maryknoll, 85 people from around the world gathered in Rome last April for a conference on nonviolence and just peace. Many participants came from countries that have been at war or dealing with serious violence for decades: South Sudan, the Philippines, the DR Congo, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uganda, Burundi, South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia.
While acknowledging the difficulties, even danger, of persistent, active nonviolence, participants in the conference shared stunning examples of effective peace-building in South Sudan, Northern Uganda, the Philippines, Colombia and elsewhere under extremely difficult circumstances. They recognized that communities of faith are contributing to the development of other routes than violent ones to solve crises.
The Rome meeting has generated a lively conversation on active nonviolence as a way of life, a positive and powerful force for social change, and a process for ending violence without violence, transforming conflict, and protecting the vulnerable. Given the effectiveness of strategic nonviolent practices in different situations of violent conflict and the fact that nonviolence is often misrepresented or misunderstood, participants in the Rome conference agreed to try to move the conversation about war and peace in the Catholic Church from just war to just peace by developing a deeper understanding of and commitment to nonviolence.
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