Saturday, November 09, 2013

Pax Christi USA: Still Reawakening the World to the Nonviolence of Jesus

Response to “What Peace Movement” (Aug.2, 2013 NCR) and Tom Cordaro’s “The Catholic Peace Movement: dying and rising” (Sept. 27, 2013 NCR) By Antonia Malone, Middletown, NJ Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace Any analysis of what’s happening with the Catholic Peace Movement, and for that matter, other peace movements, and any discussion as to where we are going has to take into account the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and its geo-political consequences. The peace movements, both in the eastern and western blocks took a serious blow at that time. When I visited Russia in the 1980’s the going riddle was, “What do you do if the United States launches a nuclear weapon at us?” And the answer was, “Wrap yourself in a sheet and walk to the cemetery.” In the USA we talked about MAD (mutually assured destruction) and the clock at 1 minute before midnight… and the bishops wrote their careful historic peace pastoral, The Challenge of Peace. After 1989 the urgency felt on both sides by the general populace in both blocks disappeared to a large extent. In the former East Germany, at a meeting I attended in 1993 with some pastors who had been leaders of the resistance, it was clear no one knew what they should do now. In Berlin, the talk in church circles was of “Die Wendung”, the turning to the West, and not everyone thought of this as positive. Fear of the influence of Western materialism and individualism was also present in Russia by those still preferring Gorbachev’s careful realism to Yeltsin’s impetuous turning to the free market. And in the USA people in general thought the crisis resolved, and got back to business as usual. Now, of course, this didn’t happen all at once within the peace movement, but it definitely set the present crisis (as referred to in the aforementioned articles), in motion, and forced a reassessment of Pax Christi’s priorities. The 1992 PCUSA National Assembly celebrated both our 20th Anniversary and began the process of formulating for our movement a new Statement of Purpose and set of priorities. Those priorities, The Spirituality of Nonviolence and Peacemaking; Disarmament, Demilitarization and Reconciliation with Justice; Economic and Interracial Justice; and Human Rights and Global Restoration, are still our priorities today. Other peace movements, such as the Coalition for Peace Action chose to remain focused on the abolition of war and nuclear weapons. Both of us are still in business. The beauty of Pax Christi was and is, that it has always tried to address the many avenues to peace and social justice promoted by Scripture and the Catholic tradition, (and perhaps improve on the latter a little bit along the way). Cordaro and O’Neill note that “the Catholic peace movement ain’t what it used to be.” (NCR, Aug.2). Well, right, nothing is. Everything evolves, and paths need to be redefined as awareness and consciences evolve, but Pax Christi USA was never, including in the 1970’ s, “founded to serve the needs of White Catholic peace activists.” (Cordaro, Aug 2, 2013). It was founded to reawaken the world to the nonviolence of Jesus and to address the signs of the times, in particular the evil of war. In the 70’s and 80’s Pax Christi did this by focusing on the nuclear issue and the violence against the poor in Latin America and the marginalized, especially in the cities of the developing world. Since PCUSA’s refocusing of 1992-93, the need to address the internal issues of immigration, racism and the death penalty has become increasingly apparent, while at the same time we are reminded by our great leaders, such as Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, that the nuclear danger and the violent wars of today require our constant vigilance and the best of our brains, spirit and bodies to address. Pax Christi and the larger peace movement can do both, and O’Neill’s article illustrates excellently that there are many conscientious grassroots organizers working on it. We just need to keep our eyes on the Nonviolent Jesus. In the 1980’s I was at a large social justice and peace conference in Washington DC run by Sojourners. I remarked, perhaps naively, to a leading black activist, a friend of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., that there were so few people of color present. He simply told me that these were not his people’s issues. “Our concerns are jobs, getting enough to eat and the ever present racism.” I’m sure he would be pleased to note that he has been heard, at least by the peace movement, and that we don’t live in parallel universes. The members and staff of Pax Christi USA, the NCR, Pope Francis and our authors Patrick O’Neill and Tom Cordaro are all working on peace and social justice, each in their own way, and for that we thank God and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide us all.


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