By: Pat Gaffney
When I started looking back through my files and our Pax Christi archives, I realised I too have been a part of the justice and peace world for 40 years. First at the end of the 70s in my parish J&P group in Hayes, West London. Then through my work in the development education department at CAFOD between 1980 - 1990 and since then, with my work in Pax Christi.
In my early days in CAFOD I found a Justice and Peace Handbook on how to do things. Here are some of the scenarios it pointed to: What to do in the event of a tear gas raid. What to do if you are shot with buckshot. No, not London but South Africa, during some of its darkest days. It could as well have been Central or Latin America where violence and repression were part of daily life. Today, same struggle, different place, and we could be talking about Gaza or Syria or Yemen. This is one lesson I have picked up over the years: same struggle, different place and time. Contexts matter and help to create an agenda; they call us to action for those in another part of the struggle, trying to offer solidarity and work for change.
The role of agencies has been central to the evolution of Justice and Peace in England and Wales. Back in 1978 a gathering was held in Spode House with CAFOD, CIIR, Pax Christi, CHAS and others too, to map out divisions of labour and interests in the work and since then these, and many more agencies have been an integral part of NJPN in its various incarnations: The Standing Conference of Diocesan J&P Group; the National Liaison Committee for Justice and Peace to the National J&P Network (NJPN) of today.
Between 1984 and 1994 these agencies worked together on three handbooks: a basic J&P Handbook of contacts and issues, and two more reflective handbooks, one on group skills entitled 'Working Together' and the third 'Doing Justice', helping individuals and groups to undertake theological reflection on their work for J&P. Although out of print now, I still find them of great use in planning and preparing workshops and conferences.
I would like to highlight a particular period as one of real growth and consolidation of vision and outreach - the project that was run in the three-years leading to Tertio Millennio Adveniente, The Coming of the Third Millennium, and beyond. With a national worker, Rosemary Read, supported financially by religious congregations, a series of projects were launched: a mapping and analysis of J&P work nationally, the creation of a series of training workshops around the country - some issue-based and others skills based. There was the challenge to promote a range of models for "Bringing Forth the Kingdom" beyond the usual J&P group structure: so a campaign model; a catechetical model, a whole parish model, a school model and always encouraging collaborative work with other agencies, churches, and faith groups.
The handbooks which I have mentioned and the national training programme were all built on the long established and tested, see-judge-act model of working. Further enhanced by its use, especially in Latin America and Africa, NJPN adopted the pastoral cycle as a sound practice for engaging and sustaining people in the work: always beginning with people's personal experience, building on and developing questions to help analyse situations, reflecting on this through the eyes of faith and Catholic Social Teaching, moving people into action for change.
So over the years we have adapted and innovated to meet the needs of the time. We should not be afraid of looking to the future - change must and will happen and it can bring with it new opportunities that build on the solid foundations created by so many great people.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, spoke at NJPN's 40th anniversary meeting on 12 May.
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