In a “broken world” victim of a “horrifying world war fought piecemeal”, waged by “warlords”, nonviolence is not optional. In fact, it’s the only “cure”, as taught by Jesus. These are the highlights of Pope Francis’ Fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace, due to be celebrated on January 1st with the theme: “Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace.” Women like Mother Teresa, “an icon of our times”, and Leymah Gbowee, Nigerian activist that furthered the peace agreements in 2003, emblems of “active nonviolence”, are the role models.
“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”
is the appeal of the Pope, citing the first Message for the World Day of Peace, when Blessed Paul VI – in the wake of Saint John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris – “addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity” to reaffirm that “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order.” The Pope thus paid homage to Saint John Paul II’s “influential ministry” as peace-builder in the “eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe.”
“Violence is not the cure for our broken world”, afflicted by a third world war fought “piecemeal” in which retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords.” “Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering,” while, “at worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”
“This ‘piecemeal’ violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment.”
“To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”
Francis cited Benedict to reiterate, in the words of his predecessor, that “The Gospel command to love your enemies” is “the magna carta of Christian nonviolence”, and that Jesus himself “taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart.”
“Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.”
It’s the Pope’s tribute, citing Mother Teresa and the Liberian peace activist as primary examples of nonviolence, that “does not mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity.” “The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results”, Francis said mentioning the achievements of “Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination.”
“No religion is terrorist”, the Pope reiterated: “The name of God can never be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone, not war!”
“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.” “Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions”, Francis added.
“ If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families.” The Pope quoted from ’”Amoris Laetitia”, to reaffirm that “the politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family.”
“From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society”, Francis said, adding that “An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue.”
Then a twofold appeal “for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons”, and “to end domestic violence and the abuse of women and children.”
The Sermon on the Mount “is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives”, the Pope said. “To apply” the style of “the Beatitudes” means “to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society.” “I pledge the assistance of the Catholic Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence”, the Pope affirmed, pointing out that on 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will not be “a conglomerate of offices”, Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told journalists during a press conference in the Vatican for the presentation of the Message.