the Catholic Peace Movement
Pax Christi was founded in the ashes of World War II as a Catholic voice for peace and reconciliation. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of that founding we wish to look ahead to the tasks that lie before us as a faith based movement rooted in the realities of current experiences. As national sections of Pax Christi we have shared our understanding of the critical issues facing Christian peacemakers, and our vision of the spiritual, practical and political paths our work should take. Our statement combines the contrasting and complementary elements which come from the varied perceptions and experiences of our members.
SIGNS OF TIME: CHALLENGES
The end of the Cold War, for which we worked, has awakened us more acutely to a broader spectrum of problems across the world. The high objectives of the United Nations Charter, to which more and more nation-states have become signatories, have not rectified the malfunctioning of the world community.
Throughout the regions of Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, Europe and the Pacific there is violence of all kinds, misery, oppression, militarism and acts of terrorism. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War we have been confronted with new kinds of war in the world, causing an ever increasing number of civilian victims.
Security may be less threatened externally from guns and bombs; security is, however, threatened internally by injustice, cultural and social disintegration, and by the weakness or decomposition of political authority.
Our world needs to move forward from a security assured mainly by weapons to a security guaranteed primarily by sustainable human development.
There is contempt on a universal scale for individual and group rights including self-determination for numerically small peoples, and for ethnic and cultural minorities within national states.
The gaps between rich and poor, between North and South, and between humans and nature, grows wider and ever more scandalous. These gaps are the source of future conflicts. The concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few institutional and private decision-makers imposes manifestly unjust structures on the world community. The burden and injustice of international debt for developing countries, and the consequent increasing unemployment, impels us to reject our present global economic and monetary structures.
The worldwide arms trade is used as a means of economic growth or political gain, despite the fact that it encourages and fuels militarism and crime everywhere. The nuclear threat continues. Wars, internal disputes, environmental pollution and economic decline create a large number of refugees. Attempts are made to stop refugees from entering the rich countries.
In spite of a growing awareness of the realities of environmental degradation and the imperatives of conservation, excessive consumption of the earth’s resources is still the basis of the world’s economic systems, and pollution is virtually out of control.
In some parts of the world there is an alarming increase in personal violence and sometimes a total disregard for the dignity and sanctity of human life. Family life is increasingly fragile, especially due to domestic violence. The mass media bombards us with images of greed, anger and violence. Political opponents are quickly demonised, ethnic hatred is encourage and wars are sacralized. No system seems able to diminish racism, sexism, xenophobia, fundamentalism or aggressive nationalism. Even the Christian churches do not always speak and act clear enough against structures of social sin.
SIGNS OF TIME: HOPE
Pax Christi International is deeply conscious of these enormous challenges, but is still encouraged by many signs of hope in this time of change.
Significant political change has taken place in Europe in 1989 without massive violence. The movement towards enduring regional peace, albeit still delicate, in South Africa, the Middle East and Northern Ireland bolster our hope for effective peacemaking.
The activities of non-government and people’s organisations all over the world encourages us. There is a growing interest in the development of conflict resolution techniques, and in exploring nonviolent alternatives, thus continuing the Christian tradition of nonviolence. On every continent more and more women are emerging as agents of change and as new leaders in the struggle for greater equality and peace. There is no lack of goodwill among a large proportion of the population if only ways can be found of harnessing their desire for justice and peace to realistic programmes of social justice.
A growing sense of dialogue between the world primal or traditional cultures and religions also gives new hope. Many discover in their rejuvenated cultures, alternatives to a valueless consumerism. In the military field, chemical and biological weapons have been outlawed by international convention, and there has been some initial reduction in the stocks of nuclear devices. We continue to join forces worldwide to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction on a global scale and support all efforts to eliminate the whole arms trade and overcome negative environmental trends. Grassroots projects of fair trade and ethical investment are embryos of a more just economic order.
As a movement of reconciliation based on Christ’s gospel of peace, Pax Christi International will continue its prophetic role within the Church and the world. We will dedicate ourselves to the promotion of active Christian nonviolence by living and proclaiming nonviolence, and will promote nonviolent transformation towards the world. We will uphold the belief that waging war, aggression and destruction can never be acceptable. Pax Christi International seeks to be a leaven within the Catholic Church and to help to transform it into a church which gives unambiguous witness to the nonviolent Jesus. In this way we hope to contribute to the development of the Church’s social and moral teaching Within the Church and society we will continue our efforts to foster a culture of nonviolence, to nurture programmes of peace education and training, mediation, reconciliation and nonviolent action. Our aspiration is to realise the vision of Isaiah, when swords may be turned into ploughshares and to implement the words of Paul VI to the United Nations “War never again!” and of Pope John Paul II “War whether nuclear or otherwise may never be used as a means as resolving differences.”
TOWARDS THE VISION
Pax Christi International will develop a greater variety of practical strategies rooted in a vision of a world which revolves on principles of peace with justice.
We proclaim that peace in its fullest sense cannot be achieved unless we treat the whole of God’s creation in a respectful and just manner and recognise our responsibility toward future generations.
Spirituality, prayer, study, research and practical action will shape our work; solidarity and compassion will guide our daily efforts.
We will encourage serious enquiry, debate and fact finding missions on the sources of injustices, violence and oppression.
In the spirit of Jesus we will actively work to eradicate injustices and foster reconciliation among all those who consider one another as enemies.
We will accept the challenge of reaching out to young people and of truly valuing their contribution to our work.
The peace we seek is a peace that flows from justice and a commitment to nonviolence. It stems from a recognition of the innate dignity of all creation and of every human person and the autonomous rights of peoples.
We shall continue to exercise our influence as a non-governmental organisation, accredited to the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
We shall intensify the struggle to achieve universal human rights, including the right to life, health, housing, education, dignified work and basic material needs, giving special attention to the rights of minorities, refugees and migrant people, in the spirit of the beatitudes.
We will also join in the struggle with greater respect for humanitarian law in war situations, as set out in the Geneva conventions and protocols. We will work to free our world from the dominance of socioeconomic forces which are profit driven.
We will support those who work toward socially just, sustainable and ecologically stable development in all parts of the world.
In our efforts to realise our vision we will continue the ongoing discussion within our movement and the world at large around the scriptural and traditional roots of nonviolent resolution of conflicts by means of dialogue, active resistance and reconciliation. Therefore we will strive to ensure a serious scrutiny of the use of limited military force even when the UN Charter appears to allow it.
We will continue to engage in inter-religious dialogue, and intercultural experience as essential ingredients of peacemaking. We recognise the richness of all the great spiritual traditions, and the consequent strength that comes from a vigorous ecumenical dimension. Thus Pax Christi International strongly affirms the need for people of all faiths and good will to work together for peace, justice and the integrity of creation.
We Christians are called to continual conversion and the institutional church herself is in constant need of reform. We will try to ensure that respect is maintained when controversies arise, which stem from our different perspectives and from the rich variety of spiritual gifts. As a faith based movement in an increasingly secularized world, we face the challenge of being open to the needs of all and of bringing them the hope that comes from a Saviour who was crucified and is risen.
We will endeavour to reflect Christ’s love and acceptance of everyone, especially those who for personal, ethnic, sexual, cultural or economic reasons, are often marginalized. This may not make us popular nor numerous, but it is often through the witness of small groups and minorities that change is facilitated.
As we reflect on our first fifty years we recognise that we now face a vast challenge as we embark on the future. May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom and courage to accept the challenge of peace with hope, with joy and with openness to God’s creative power.
Assisi (Italy), 1995