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
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”.
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”
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
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
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
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).