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Nonviolence: A path to action and conversion beyond Covid- 9

  • Pat Gaffney

Pat Gaffney at Rome meeting

Pat Gaffney at Rome meeting

Concern about the spread and impact of Covid-19 has rightly taken priority in our news and press in recent months. While there is a danger that we might just 'hunker down' and look after ourselves many of us are all too aware of its global impact and the structural violence and injustice that it is exposing.

Behind the scenes the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, has been continuing with its work to further Catholic understanding and commitment to the many aspects of active nonviolence: the role of negotiation and conflict transformation; the interruption of violence and its prevention; restorative and distributive justice; strategies such as unarmed civilian protection, accompaniment and civilian-based defence; disarmament; building and training social movements; and a multitude of peacebuilding approaches, all of which will need to be strengthened as we build a 'new normal' post COVID 19.

Most recently we have launched an Appeal to Pope Francis, who has already shown how well he understands the value and process of nonviolence, as he stated in his 2017 World Peace Day message: "In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms." The Appeal acknowledges all Pope Francis has done and calls for a companion reflection to Laudato Si' that will help us all work towards creating integral human development and a more sustainable "common home".

The Appeal is open to all to endorse, this is an invitation to ICN readers to sign:

The Appeal states:

The coronavirus has laid bare the deep roots of racism and cultural violence, economic injustice, wars "fought piecemeal," climate change and environmental destruction that are facing the human community and our planet. Response to the pandemic requires a fundamental shift from the "unjust normal" of systemic and structural violence across the globe, from systems that destroy, dehumanize and diminish, to a culture of solidarity that seeks the fullness of life for all.

Active nonviolence - a spirituality, a way of life and a program of societal action - is key to this global shift; to the roadmap laid out in "Journeying for the Care of Our Common Home"; and to the future envisioned in Laudato Si'. The two hands of nonviolence speak clearly to this moment in history: "No" to the multidimensional violences that plague our world; "yes" to human dignity and respect for the integrity of creation.

Nonviolence is a path for conversion, for deep personal and societal transformation from the old way of domination and exploitation toward a "civilization of love" (Laudato Si' #231). The universal ethic of nonviolence can shape a new, more just "normal" and guide the growing mass movement of ordinary people, including many Catholics, longing for the post pandemic world that you have helped us to envision…

The CNI have also produced an excellent series of Essays that set out responses to the structural violences caused by COVID 19 including how the pandemic has increased food insecurity; health care, security and peace; choosing a future beyond COVID 19 and more.

Find the full set of Essays here:

Pat Gaffney is a member of the Executive Committee of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.


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