Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace — By Fr. Rich, OP

FrRichWebIn the first bulletin of the new year, I committed a large portion of our weekly bulletin to sharing Pope Francis’ message celebrating the 50th World Day of Prayer for Peace. In the almost 3,000 words, his Holiness speaks about “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.” In the letter, Francis offers a concise history of the power of Catholic nonviolent participation in global politics over the last 50 years. Beginning with Blessed Pope Paul VI’s declaration, “Peace is the only true direction of human progress…” he brings us to Benedict XVI’s observation of Jesus’ teaching on nonviolence, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely a tactical behavior 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.”

Francis acknowledged that the challenge of peace is not simply a mandate for our Church. He spoke of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. He remembers Martin Luther King Jr. and Leymah Gbowee, a woman who was a key figure in non-violent protest that helped to bring about the end of the second civil war in Liberia.

Our pope writes clearly in his letter that:

This is also 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. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is 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.” To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected. Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides.”

He is inviting us to make some fundamental changes in how we approach conflicts in our personal, public and faith lives. He offers a biblical blue print that would form the foundation for those changes:

Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. e eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.

If you have not had the opportunity to read this 50th anniversary prayer for peace, I invite you to do so. Even further, I would like to take this opportunity to invite each of us to make the closing line of Pope Francis’ letter a commitment for the coming year:

In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building 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.”

All blessing and joy be yours in the coming year!

Fr. Rich, OP