A day in advance of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May, more than 50 Pax Christi members and friends gathered online for a time of prayer, reflection and action with a focus on 'Peace, Not War'.
The Zoom service included international partners from the Holy Land - particularly the Arab Educational Institute and Wiam in Bethlehem - and from South Africa and Uruguay.
The Penitential Act included laments for global expenditure of US$ 1.8 trillion on the military and for Britain's role in being a leading arms-trading nation. It was noted that BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms company, was holding its AGM the same day, and they were being challenged on social media about supplying arms to Saudi Arabia. There was repentance, "for the times we have valued victory instead of a just peace".
As well as the ending of the Second World War, another key event from 1945 was the founding of Pax Christi International. It grew out of the experience and prayerful reflection of the French, Catholic woman, Martha Dortel-Claudot. Valerie Flessati gave a presentation on the history and its inspiration for the 75 years of Pax Christi's mission since then. As well as a Gospel reading, we listened to stories about how, for some, terrible war experiences inspired a lifelong commitment to the work of human rights and peace.
During a sharing on 'How do we feel about VE Day?' some felt it should avoid being triumphalist when there was so much suffering on all sides in the Second World War. "It is important not to trivialise the suffering of war" said one. Another felt the UK is obsessed with the Second World War, to the extent that there is a blindness about Britain's role in perpetuating war right up to the present time. Pax Christi was applauded for being an international movement that focuses on reconciliation and the promotion of techniques of nonviolence to resolve conflict. Bruce Kent was concerned at how charity legislation hinders charities from speaking out about the links between war and hunger, which should be made.
We spoke of the importance of looking forward, of looking outwards to other parts of the world, and to international organisations which can promote co-operation, sustainable development and a just peace. For VE Day, Pax Christi invited everyone to focus not on the past but on working towards a future where we all live in justice and peace.
After a time of quiet reflection prayers were offered for the people of the Yemen and all victims of war.
Together we learned how to say 'peace be with you' in sign language, sharing this message with each other on our screens.
We said a prayer provided by Pope Francis for the month of May:
'Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.'
We brought before Jesus, the Prince of Peace:
'Those striving to resolve conflict through nonviolent means, the people of Palestine, and those who have responded to the call for a global ceasefire'.
All Pax Christi's Zoom liturgies are on its website: https://paxchristi.org.uk/resources/prayer-and-seasonal/
Peace Pledge Union resources: www.ppu.org.uk/
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