CATHOLIC NONVIOLENCE INITIATIVE: November 2016 Update
Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
by Judy Coode
Catholic Nonviolence Initiative Project Coordinator
Since its formation at the April 2016 Nonviolence & Just Peace conference, the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, has moved swiftly to increase awareness of and support for its "Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence". More than 1,600 individuals and organizations have endorsed the Appeal, including many religious communities and the Catholic bishops of Japan.
International accountability is ensured through a steering committee (the planning committee for the April conference), which includes representatives of the Unions of Superior Generals (USG/UISG) JPIC Commission, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), Columban Mission Institute, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, as well as Pax Christi International. The Initiative’s executive committee includes Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International; Ken Butigan, director of Pace e Bene; Gerry Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Pax Christi International’s Secretary General Greet Vanaerschot; and project coordinator Judy Coode.
The Initiative’s website, www.nonviolencejustpeace.net, holds many resources such as:
- The five background/resource papers written for the April 2016 conference and all of the reflection papers submitted by conference participants
- Videos of the conference’s four plenary sessions, plus a link to a video of Cardinal Peter Turkson’s opening address
- The Appeal in English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Arabic, and Polish
- Reflection questions for individuals and for community prayer and dialogue
- Frequently asked questions and more
An active education committee is developing additional materials, including prayer and liturgical resources, background papers on nonviolence, just peace and related topics, suggested actions and social media messages and more, to accompany the Holy Father’s World Day of Peace 2017 message, “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace”.
Members of the steering committee and conference participants have spoken about the conference and the Initiative at colleges and universities, with church communities, and in other venues in the UK, the Philippines, Kenya, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, the U.S. and elsewhere. They have written many articles for national publications and have engaged in fruitful dialogue with moral theologians and others who are wrestling with these issues. In several countries, conference participants have had opportunities to talk about the Appeal with individual bishops or bishops’ conferences.
By the end of November, we will have held four webinars, each one hour long, focused on a theme from the conference. Each webinar has been limited to 100 participants, but hundreds more have watched the webinars on YouTube. Links to these webinars are available on the website. The fourth webinar will be held on Friday, November 18.
A few updates on activities related to the conference and Initiative include:
- International/Africa: Pax Christi International will host a regional consultation in Johannesburg, South Africa in December for its member groups and will integrate much of the work of the Nonviolence & Just Peace conference and the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative in its agenda.
- Rome: The religious promoters of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in Rome has taken the theme of nonviolence and peace for its meetings during the period October 2016-June 2017. In addition, the JPIC Secretariat and promoters are working with religious men and women and the Embassy of the United Kingdom to the Holy See regarding a six day workshop to be given in the Eastern DRC concerning the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict and the pastoral response, “Answering the Abuses: an Integral Human Development”. The possible event would be sometime in March or April 2017.
- South Sudan: The Catholic University of South Sudan is planning a three-day public symposium to mark the ending of the Year of Mercy, to be held in Juba, sometime in the first half of December; nonviolence will be a key theme. It will probably include a presentation on nonviolence that draws on the rich material from the Rome conference.
- Mexico: A paper on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative will be shared at a national peace conference.
- Philippines: At an event celebrating International Day of Peace (21 September), Pax Christi Philippines hosted a booth where people had their photographs taken holding messages/excerpts from the Appeal. These were posted on social media. Pax Christi Philippines members will design a one-day session with Catholic educators on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
- Afghanistan: From October 29-November 2, there will be a Training the Trainers on trauma awareness, “Breaking Cycles of Violence and Resilience”. The curriculum incorporates principles of nonviolence drawing from Islamic and Christian faith traditions.