Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pope's Message for Peace 2017: Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace

In front of a world that is present with "horrifying world war fought piecemeal" (n. 2), the only answer to building peace is the practice of nonviolence as "the characteristic style of our decisions , our relationships, our actions, politics in all its forms "(n. 1), embracing education in the family to the point of " an appeal for disarmament and the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons " (no. 5).
 
This is the proposal of Pope Francis in his message for World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, which in 2017 now in its 50th year. Signed on 8 December last , the feast of the Immaculate Conception, to ask "to the Virgin to guide us" (7), the message is themed "Nonviolence: a style of politics for peace."

Quoting Paul VI and the first Message for Peace 1968, Francis warns against the " the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces"(n. 1).

A reasonable choice

Nonviolence is therefore the most reasonable choice. Violence is however illusory: " Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”? Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to  forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military  ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and  spiritual, of many people, if not of all"(n. 2).

To love our enemies, the magna carta of nonviolence

More positively, nonviolence is the "path traced" by Jesus Christ, who "tirelessly preached the unconditional love of God that welcomes and forgives and taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn other cheek (cf. Mt 5,39) "(n. 3)

The Gospel of loving our enemy is "the magna carta of Christian nonviolence."

In confirmation, Pope Francis cites a speech by Benedict XVI on 18 February 2007 in which he claimed that nonviolence “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’ comes from God”. 

He went  on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’"(n. 3).

The fruits of nonviolence

Nonviolence is not " surrender, lack of involvement and passivity". On the contrary, it produces "impressive results" (n. 4). To demonstrate this, first of all Francis cites Mother Teresa, "an icon of our times" for peacemakers. He cites the speech that Mother gave on 1979 on receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize: "We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another... And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”. 

He cites his own homily for the canonization took place on September 4, when highlighted her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded... She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created. "

The pope also recalled "the achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular  are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray -ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia" (n. 4); the "fall of the communist regimes in Europe", and the great contribution, "of the Christian communities ... with insistent prayer and courageous action". 

"Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice” (n. 4).

In its commitment "to implement non-violent strategies to promote peace in many countries, even urging the most violent actors in efforts to build a just and lasting peace," the Catholic Church is not alone, but together with "many religious traditions , for which "compassion and nonviolence are essential and show the way of life '" (n. 4). And here he recalls that " “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war "(N. 4).

Family and politics

Jesus Christ taught that " The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and  sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.

From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society. An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. 

Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of  nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics. I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children", assuring that " the policies of nonviolence must begin within the walls of the house and then spread to the whole human family. "

The Beatitudes, inspiration for politics

The "strategy of building peace" also has a "manual": the eight beatitudes. Francis proposes a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities" (n. 6) . 

This means: "to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process"(n. 6). The Pope assures that " I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. 

On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. 

It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”(n. 6).

"In 2017 - he ends - may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to build nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”' "(n. 7).

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