Europe was the setting for both World Wars, where tens of millions of people lost their lives in the horrible carnage that lasted for far too many years. Pax Christi International was born in Europe at the end of World War II as a faith based organisation that advocated for peace in war-torn Europe.
The post World War eras
The devastating “hot” wars were followed by a “cold” one, which exacted its own terrible price – that of dividing Europe ideologically in two, under the looming spectre of nuclear domination. In the 1990s, we saw the tragic wars in the Balkans, which painfully reminded us of how weak the structure of our societies was, and the need to build stronger social cohesion and inclusiveness.
The unification of Europe
The enormous task of healing and reconciliation still lies ahead - healing the divisions of Europe, and building trust and confidence among people worldwide. Today, Europeans are being urged to embrace a new openness and inclusiveness; a willingness to overcome barriers, both emotional and spiritual. Member Organisations have been organising international exchanges among youth in the Balkans and Chechnya, but also in stimulating healing processes between Germans and Poles.
Europeans should not lock themselves into a fortress Europe or have a horizon limited to the North of our world. Europe is a continent headlong in a process of unification bringing the diversity of the European peoples into one family, both in the context of the Council of Europe, as well as in the European Union.
Pax Christi – as diverse as Europe
As the unification processes continue, a large number of differences remain within Europe – differences that are also reflected within the Pax Christi network. While in Western Europe, one can find some of the most developed member organisations running a multitude of activities, while the groups in the Eastern part remain small.
For a while now, Pax Christi International has been enriched by networking with other NGOs who do not carry the Pax Christi name in countries such as Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, the Russian Federation, Poland, Sweden, France, and Ireland.
We see positive and negative evolutions in Europe. In Northern Ireland, parties have decided to follow the road of democracy and non-violence. There are examples of “unsolved conflicts” or “frozen conflicts” such as those in Kosovo, Chechnya, the South Caucasus, and Cyprus. In many of these cases, Member Organisations have been active in developing peace initiatives.
Extending towards Central and Eastern Europe
The European Union is in a process of enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe. A common security and defence policy for the EU has been developed. We also see the possible enlargement of NATO towards the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Since October 2001, NATO has deployed an “out of area” operation in Afghanistan. Member organisations have issued position statements on these developments.
During and following the wars in former Yugoslavia, many member organisations became very actively involved in the Balkans and the South East Europe region in supporting local peace initiatives. For example, a dialogue process between young Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo was organised. This was before the outbreak of the war in the province, which undermined such work.
In the aftermath of the war, however, Pax Christi has retained its commitment to this process, reengaging the dialogue. The political, social, and economic situation in the Balkans is still a cause for concern and the attention of Member Organisations is often drawn to the rights of minorities, displaced peoples, and children.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Pax Christi International, the annual Peace Prize was awarded to Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, in recognition of his efforts to create enduring peace and stability in Europe by building an open society, and a social and peaceful European Union.
Pax Christi and the Church in Europe
The three European Ecumenical Assemblies – Basle 1989, Graz 1997 and Sibiu 2007 – have given new input among the churches in Europe on issues such as peace, justice, creation, migration, environment, racism, and more. Pax Christi International and many of its Member Organisations have been very active in preparing these events and in participating in official church delegations.
Pax Christi International has developed relationships with Caritas Europe, the European Conference of Justice and Peace Commissions, Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network, Commission of the Bishop’s Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), Council of European Bishops Conferences (CCEE) and with the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
At the interfaith level, Pax Christi International has contacts with the European Council of Religious Leaders, and the Expert Group on Interfaith Dialogue of the European Youth Forum.
Pax Christi International has participated in historical dialogue processes on issues that divide Christian Churches deeply, such as with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church.