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Thursday, March 30, 2017
Pat Gaffney calls for creation of 'culture of Christian citizenship'
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¬†Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, has called for the creation of a 'culture of Christian citizenship' based on peace and non-violence, in a speech delivered on Saturday to the Diocese of Westminster's Justice & Peace Commission's 2005 Annual Event, 'Peace Matters'. Drawing attention to the contrast between worldwide military expenditure, currently around $975 billion a year, and the UN Millennium Development Goals of $50 billion, she said that this disparity of expenditure was one of the main obstacles to creating a peaceful world. Speaking to an audience of priests and justice and peace groups in London she challenged Christians to: "expose the link between issues of security, poverty and injustice and to reject models of security that rest on coercion, pre-emptive violence, the strength of arms, the demonisation and exclusion of the other." Pat Gaffney also posed the question: "How seriously do we take our Christian Citizenship? in a society where the voice of Christ is so often stifled and where the state seeks to 'normalise what is really abnormal and unacceptable in human terms'." The full text of Pat Gaffney's speech is published below. Thank you for inviting me. I hope that I will use this time well and share with you why I think 'peace matters' for us today and why we need to review our understanding of Christian citizenship and its challenge to peacemaking today. Let me begin by describing a typical morning journey to work. ∑ In the lift at the station, an anonymous voice saying " Busking and Begging are illegal please do not encourage them", not the most welcoming message ∑ I walk into the shopping centre in Elephant and Castle, signs on the door say "no one wearing a hood allowed in", and this in an area with enormous numbers of young, predominantly black students - again not very welcoming.. ∑ Then the news headlines remind me of the debate on anti-social behaviour and anti-terror laws. These are added to hundreds of rules and laws brought into being or amended by the Labour Government since 1997 which are creating a very real tension between civil liberties and human rights. Only last week two peace campaigners were arrested at Downing Street for organising an 'unauthorised demonstration' and could face maximum penalty of 51 weeks in prison.. ∑ There are also many other stories describing competition between political parties on who can be most tough when it comes to law and order, fighting terrorism, keeping out the asylum seekers. Much of this is all about: ∑ Prohibitions ∑ Injunctions to exclude and fear the 'other'. ∑ Political culture that uses laws, coercion or force to achieve its ends It is as though we are either creating enemies at all levels of society or criminalising people or excluding people from their place in our society. Challenges to creating a peaceable kingdom What happens at a national level is mirrored internationally and vice versa. Professor Paul Rogers in his book Losing Ground writes of the factors most likely to influence the development of conflict, which he also calls models of exclusive security. First he talks of the increasing socio-economic divide both within and between countries which he describes as an affront to justice and a threat to security. Many of you will be involved in the Make Poverty History campaign which is trying to unmask and address this divide. Secondly, environmental constraints, with a focus on industrial states which he describes as becoming an 'elite minority' whose lifestyle drastically impacts on the environment and the poor. Thirdly he writes of the spread of militarism and military technologies, particularly within the richer countries, who not only refuse to live by their own obligations to disarm and conform to a whole variety of international treaties but continue to develop more lethal weapons technology. All three are of course interwoven but it is this last one I wish to focus on ≠ being the closest to my work/personal concern as I believe that this most challenges our commitment to the Shalom covenant and our commitment to create a peaceable kingdom. ∑ World military expenditure is rising and stands at around $975 billion a year, ($162 per capita) . to achieve the Millennium Development Goals it was estimated that we would need $50 billion, and there has been a call to increase this to $100 billion. The EU has pledged just $7 billion towards this and the US $5 billion. What a contract in priorities! ∑ The UK is the third largest military spender with a military budget of £30.8bn this year, increasing to £33.4bn by 2007. Contrast this to the money in the aftermath of the Tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan, for which CAFOD supporters have generated millions ≠ a drop in the ocean by contrast. Consider too that countries most affected - Indonesia and Sri Lanka and India and Pakistan - have been at war for many years and those wars have been fuelled with arms purchased from the from the UK and other countries. ∑ This trade ≠ the trade in arms, is one facet of the 'end poverty ' debate which is almost always left off the agenda. It has certainly not been on the Make Poverty History agenda. And I doubt that it was on the agenda of the leaders meeting in Gleneagles in July. It would have perhaps been a tad too hypocritical to the G8 members, who also happen to be the largest arms suppliers, to make this connection! But we must all learn to make the connection. We cannot make poverty history without also making militarism history too. ∑ The war on Iraq still goes on. This week marked the anniversary of the second invasion of Fallujah ≠ a town which has been the focus of massacres since April 2003. This weekend in Italy there are demonstrations taking place to draw attention to the fact that it is highly likely that chemical weapons, in the form of napalm-like materials ≠ have been used by the US in Fallujah. While the Government still argues the legitimacy of its actions and fails to look at the real human costs of the war, the UK is 'positioning ' itself to have a good place in the new arms market with Iraq. For example, Defence Export Services Organisation have already made visits to Iraq, and in September at DEISI 1,100 'exhibitors' showed their wares to 20,000 'visitors' ( 70 military delegations). A brochure promoting the event said " We will see all elements of the supply chain come together" Non-violent peace groups protested at the event, at a cost to the police of around £4 million. ∑ Perhaps the most challenging military development ≠ in terms of a challenge to Christian concepts of 'security' - are the reports which indicate that the British Government is considering the timescale and costs of replacing the current Trident nuclear weapons system. (The present system came in to force in 1994 in the form of four Trident missile submarines, each equipped with 16 American made Trident missiles with multiple warheads and is due to be decommissioned in 2024). The Government has made it clear that it will pursue an independent British nuclear deterrent, although who we are deterring is unclear. The cost of the replacement programme will be in the region of billions and there will be ongoing maintenance costs. The British Government already fails to live up to its existing obligations to disarm under Article V1 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A programme of replacement would be an act of proliferation Christian Citizenship Our challenge then must be to expose the link between issues of security, poverty and injustice and to reject models of security that rest on coercion, re-emptive violence, the strength of arms, the demonisation and exclusion of the other. It may be that we also need to ask ourselves the question " How seriously do we take our Christian Citizenship?" in a society where the voice of Christ is so often stifled and where the state seeks to 'normalise what is really abnormal and unacceptable in human terms'. I have recently been rereading some of the writing of the American Jesuit Daniel Berrigan and of the monk Thomas Merton, both very influential in the peace, civil rights and social justice movements of the '60s and '70s. I find them both very stimulating and challenging for our time. Berrigan said: " Today, anyone can worship, anyone can invoke God, anyone can be Christian . Any Christian can take any job. Any Christian can pass quietly from criminal deception, weapons production, illegal surveillance (and we could no doubt offer suggestions of our own) to Sunday worship." Does anything go? Can we do any job? Can we make life choices which are not informed by our beliefs and values? Merton had similar words, writing in the late 1960s about the perceived ' weakness' of the Christian message as lived out. He suggested that it " has come to seem empty of all intelligible content is it perhaps because for centuries the message has been belied and contradicted by the conduct of Christians themselves?... if the gospel of peace is no longer convincing on the lips of Christians, it may well be because they have ceased to give a living example of peace, unity and love" I feel it is important to be in touch with such thinking ≠ even if it is hard to hear and stomach! Our political and practical responses to the world, the tools we use to bring about change, need to come from the heart of our personal and spiritual commitments to God and to one another. Based on these commitments we need to ask ourselves how we as Christians can help to determine a vision and realise the means by which we can create a culture of Christian citizenship of peace and non-violence for our Church and our society. Source: Archbishops' House/Pax Christi
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