Pax Christi's peace education outreach in schools, work with the Vatican on nonviolence initiatives, lobbying for UK expenditure on Trident nuclear weapons to be redeployed, and highlighting apartheid policies in Israel/Palestine were among the areas of work highlighted at the AGM of Pax Christi England and Wales yesterday. More than 60 Pax Christi members attended by zoom from at least 10 dioceses in England and Wales, and from Pax Christi Scotland, the Catholic Workers, Drone Wars UK and the National Justice and Peace Network.
Retiring chair Holly Ball called for a "revolutionary agenda for the post pandemic world". Pax Christi would be further engaging with the climate crisis, sustainable energy and mass extinction, as they relate to peace, along the lines suggested in Laudato Si'. "This is not an era of change but a change of era" she said and concluded with "Let the revolution begin". Pax Christi's National President, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool, thanked Holly for her four years of service as chair and led a zoom clap. "She has put her heart and soul into Pax Christi, offering inspiring leadership and great sensitivity to the organisation" he said.
She is succeeded as chair by Ann Farr, who has a special interest in advocacy for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel after working for three months in the West Bank as an Ecumenical Accompanier on a World Council of Churches Programme. She has served on the Board of Pax Christi International for six years and is a member of its International Working Group on Palestine and Israel.
Pax Christi's Director in England and Wales, Theresa Alessandro, expressed appreciation for Archbishop Malcolm "who has issued two statements over the past year in support of our work". There was one last November endorsing Pope Francis' opposition to nuclear weapons, and another last month supporting a new interfaith group report looking into divesting from financial institutions which support the production of nuclear weapons. The gathering of many members at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall for a Liturgy of Repentance on Ash Wednesday was the last before restrictions on assembling came into force. Pax Christi's small staff has run popular zoom liturgies during lockdown which have always attracted more than 50 people and have been very much appreciated.
Income is a concern with donations to the Pax Christi Peace Sunday collection falling in January 2019. It is hoped that the organisation's membership of around 1,000 people can be boosted by at least 75 in the 75th anniversary year of the movement. Legacies are up and there was gratitude to people who remember Pax Christi in their wills. Pax Christi England and Wales reaches more than 3,000 people on twitter and a new Instagram account already has more than 100 followers.
Aisling Griffin, Schools and Youth Officer, spoke of her outreach work over the past year, although it has been severely disrupted since March. She visited 21 schools across eight dioceses and delivered 80 sessions, on topics including 'Faith and Justice', 'Work of Pax Christi', 'Religion and Conflict' and 'Conflict and Refugees'. There have been inset sessions for teachers, a Million Minutes' workshop and Clifton Diocese summer camps in 2019. Two parishes asked for Confirmation sessions. A Peace Education Day was held at a school in Birmingham and she has worked with SPARK Social Justice in Leeds Diocese.
Video messages to the AGM were sent in by international partners, including Pax Christi in Germany, Japan and Russia. Pax Christi USA appreciated being part of "this worldwide movement for peace which can change the world through peace and reconciliation". Pax Christi Australia named Pat Gaffney, Ann Farr and Bruce Kent as inspirational people in the movement from England. Valerie Flessati's overview of Pax Christi's history over 75 years, also underlined the international nature of the movement. The next five-yearly international gathering of Pax Christi International is scheduled for Hiroshima, Japan, in May 2021, after being postponed this year.
During the concluding liturgy, spontaneous prayers were said by participants for people in refugee camps across Europe suffering starvation and neglect, people with mental health problems during lockdown, George Floyd and all people suffering racial discrimination. There was a prayer, "that we are better agents in passing on the fire and inspiration behind the Pax Christi movement", acknowledging that we are better peacemakers "because we are part of the Pax Christi community".
Reflecting on the first zoom AGM, which included efficient polling on resolutions on-line, many felt it has gone very well. One couple from Leeds said they would not travel to London for an AGM and very much appreciated involvement by zoom.
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