Category Archive: Youth News

Reflecting on Pax Christi’s Peace Education Work

This reflection was given by Matt, our Peace Education Worker, at the celebration of 35 years of the Christian Peace Education Fund on 2 November 2017.

CPEF-logo

I am particularly delighted that my reflection follows Jennie’s showcase of the Northampton Diocese Faith in Action Day – a day that I am immensely proud of my small part in making happen.

It was a great day for many reasons not least because the model – Diocesan Youth Team, School, and Youth J&P person coming together to organise a vibrant youth event rooted in Justice and Peace – is one that can be, and is, already being imitated, adapted, and used elsewhere.

But more than important I think is what the day was – a space where students from six schools (and their teachers) could step back from the day-to-day pressures and reflect upon what it means to live as a Christian – to study and work as part of a Catholic Faith Community.

Over the years I have been Pax Christi’s education worker – eight years now – we have increasingly identified our work in schools and with young people as work to foster a vocation to peacemakingthe Christian Vocation to Peacemaking. Space to critically reflect is fundamentally important to these efforts.

Anyone spending much time on Twitter is likely to encounter tweets from schools – I find them fascinating, an insight into what a school identifies as most worth celebrating of their work. But there is one style of tweet – and it is not a rare – that always bewilders me.

The tweet shows a group of young people, a couple of adults in sharp suits, and a couple of robots of some sort. The caption reads something along the lines of: Our students loved their STEM – that’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics – loved their STEM Day with BAE Systems.

Bewildering from any schools but from a Catholic School – and that is not at all unusual – I find it utterly flabbergasting. Especially given how strong our current Pope has been on the Arms Trade. You will remember his prayer intention for June this year:

It is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time, promote or permit the arms trade.

Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade and so that the merchants of death get rich?

Let us put an end to this situation. Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people.

I don’t think I am being unreasonable if I suggest that statements like this might make Catholic Schools think carefully about who is invited into their schools.

Rather beautifully, the last time one of these tweets appeared on my timeline immediately below it was another tweet that provoked a different, rather more joyful, response.

This one – also a Catholic School – tweeted an image of a couple of their students standing with a couple of military personnel dressed in rather eccentric outfits. The caption this time read something along the lines of… Our sixth form are at an alternatives to university day… I think we’ll keep looking!

Wonderful! Unthinkable that they might join the army.

The tweets had me wondering what made these schools so different in how they interacted with war and the machinery of war? And I think the answer is space to reflect.

I do not believe that the school who invites BAE Systems in is doing so out of a positive and enthusiastic choice to embrace the Arms Trade and all it stands for. I am sure that it is simply a teacher biting the hands off someone willing to provide amazingly good Science workshops well beyond the capacity of the school and, crucially, do it for free.

I would be amazed if they had even heard the Pope’s words about the Arms Trade as I reluctantly concede that not everyone has alerts on their phone whenever the Pope mentions war, peace, arms trade, nuclear weapons, or whatever.

What I think is a crucial difference is whether or not there is not space for our Catholic schoolteachers to reflect on what it means to be a Catholic School, what it means to be a Catholic Teacher, what it means to be involved in the formation of young Christians.

It is creating this space to reflect on what it means to be a Christian, on the call to follow the nonviolent Christ, that is central to the peace education work of Pax Christi.

You can see it in our work with young people – the talks, workshops, seminars, and retreats where young people have the opportunity to critically reflect on the work of Christian peacemaking.

It is seen in our resources produced to support RE curriculum – producing high quality resources for those points in the curriculum where our expertise is particularly valuable.

And it is in our assemblies, liturgies and our prayers – making space for peace in the everyday of school life.

And increasingly, it is in our work with teachers – the biggest growth area of our work is our Catholic Spirituality INSET that we offer in collaboration with the Columbans and the Salesians and the support of many others. I think we were all a bit surprised by how popular it has been – and I am struggling to get used to taking bookings nearly twelve months in advance – but perhaps this speaks of a need, a desire, to create that space for teachers to think theologically about their vocation.

We ought to be and are immeasurably grateful to the Christian Peace Education Fund – and to its supporters and funders – for all of their efforts in supporting, resourcing, encouraging, and supporting this peace education work. It has been a richly productive and valuable relationship and one I hope will continue for the next 35 years and beyond.

Find out more about the Christian Peace Education fund at cpef.org.uk

Permanent link to this article: http://paxchristi.org.uk/2017/11/17/reflecting-on-pax-christis-peace-education-work/

Youth Workers against the Arms Trade

In September the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) Arms Fair comes back to London. In this article, written at the time of the last arms fair in September 2015, Matt – our education worker – reflects on the interconnectedness between his two decades as Catholic youth worker, his background working with the Salesians of Don Bosco, and his work in peace education and activism.


In September 2015 the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) Arms Fair came to London. Again. In this article Matt Jeziorski reflects on being part of the No Faith in War day of action which formed part of the wider campaign to stop the arms fair, and quite how he ended up there.

The last amen of the Angelus has just risen heavenward as the funeral procession came around the corner. A priest in habit and stole, the processional cross, an acolyte, and then the child’s pure-white coffin carried by two heartbroken young women. The mourners follow, sadly, prayerfully.

No Faith in War 2015I am an accidental peacemaker. When I left the monastery I landed in Durham lost, hurting, and confused. I coasted through my studies, concentrating more on trying to make sense of it all and to work out what next?

Next, as it turned out, was – and remains – Pax Christi, the Catholic movement for peace. Not for any deep or noble reason – when asked in my interview why I had applied for the job I quipped that they ought to ask my bank manager before going on to give a more considered reply.

This is no ordinary funeral service. We are on the roadside in London’s Docklands. Nearby looms the ExCel centre, the week following it will be hosting the world’s largest arms fair. This solemn liturgy is a memorial for the child victims of that iniquitous trade.

I nodded a silent greeting to the acolyte as the procession passed the spot where I stood on the roadside, Katrina Alton CSJP; we were youth workers together once.

There was a time where Katrina and I would chat deeply in her Savio House office. We were both on the retreat team, both youth workers endeavouring to work in the spirit of St John Bosco. The topics discussed were broad and varied and the conversations were, to me, valuable – formative even.

These days we seem to only ever see each other at peace protests and vigils. I don’t ever recall talking peace back then, nor was it a significant aspect of the work. It is certain that my awareness was lesser in those days, my sensitivity to injustice duller – I still wonder how, later, I lived two years in Farnborough and never even realised that the local air show was an arms fair packaged as family fun.

Yet there is a thread running through all of this, from that naïve young youth worker with all the answers to the peace educator and activist who doesn’t.

Time came for committal. The coffin is placed in the middle of the road, red paint – representing the innocent blood – spilled all around. Mourners kneel in the road, weeping as they sing psalms and lamentations. Behind the congregation stand a line of trucks in reluctant and poignant vigil; their loads are the very instruments of war and death.

It would be ludicrous today to claim that I have any part in the work of Don Bosco yet the saint’s influence is there in the very fabric of my work for peace, for that, like his, is about forming good Christians and honest citizens.

Neither good Christian nor honest citizen in a sense of blind obedience or unthinking piety; but good Christians in the willingness to stand for the teachings of the nonviolent Christ in a world addicted to war, death, and violence; honest citizens in the determination to speak truth, to stand against injustice, and in the refusal to accept that things cannot be better.


stop arms fairJoin us on Tuesday 5 September for No Faith in War – a day of prayer and action against the Arms Fair.

Join us on Monday 11 September at the Silent Vigil to Stop the Arms Fair

Permanent link to this article: http://paxchristi.org.uk/2017/08/24/youth-workers-against-the-arms-trade/

Pax Christi helps make peace at Holy Rosary

There is a report in the latest Oldham Peace Times about a recent visit by Matt, our education worker, to Holy Rosary Primary in Oldham.

Holy Rosary is the latest Oldham school to sign the Pledge to Peace and our visit was to help the children begin to think about what it means to be a peacemaker as they begin the journey towards becoming a school for peace.

Pax Christi in Oldham Peace Times

Oldham council became the first in the UK  to sign the Pledge to Peace in 2015 and since then a number of local schools, community projects, and civic organisations have also become signatories as they work together to make Oldham a more peaceful borough.

Download the article about Matt’s visit to Holy Rosary
Download the Oldham Peace Times

Permanent link to this article: http://paxchristi.org.uk/2017/07/20/pax-christi-helps-make-peace-at-holy-rosary/

Northampton Schools Faith in Action Day

Working with the St Paul’s Catholic School in Milton Keynes and the Northampton Youth Ministry Office, Pax Christi co-organised the first Northampton Diocesan Schools Faith in Action Day held at St Paul’s on Thursday 6 July 2017. Below is the press release about the day which was attended by students from five of the high schools of the diocese.

Faith in Action Day

Bishop Peter speaks to the young peopleYoung people from around the region gathered at St Paul’s Catholic School for the first Northampton Diocesan Faith in Action Day.  Year 9 and 10 students from Thornton College in Thornton, St Thomas Becket in Northampton, St Thomas More in Bedford and Cardinal Newman in Luton joined pupils from St Paul’s to explore how, as Christians, we put our faith into action in our daily lives.

The Conference, organised jointly by St Paul’s, Pax Christi, and the Northampton Youth Ministry Office, began with pupils having the opportunity to ask questions of guest of honour, The Rt Revd Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton.  One pupil asked Bishop Peter “what makes you really fulfilled?” and his answer was “being open to God”.  They then participated in a series of workshops run by Columbans UK, Pax Christi, The Young Christian Workers and Northampton Youth Ministry Office.

Jennifer Rowlands, RE Teacher at St Paul’s, said:  “We held our first St Paul’s Faith in Action Day last year and thought that this year it would be a great idea to open it up to other schools and build networks between local Catholic high schools in the Diocese.”

Aleksandra Wiencis, from St Paul’s Catholic School, said: “I liked the fact that we could connect with  students from other Catholic schools’ while Dominika Mazur, also from St Paul’s, said: ‘It was really fun. I enjoyed meeting other people from other schools and getting to know how they practice their faith.”

FIA02Delegates received conference packs which contained a variety of items including sunglasses, highlighters and chocolate bars.  They also took away a conference booklet that was full of practical ideas for putting faith into action.

Matt Jeziorski of Pax Christi added, “We have been delighted with the response to this first Diocesan Faith in Action Day. It has been so well supported by the schools, the enthusiasm of the students generated a wonderful atmosphere, and the hard work of the organising team has really paid off. We are already looking forward to next year.”

Faith in Action Day Quotation

 

Permanent link to this article: http://paxchristi.org.uk/2017/07/11/northampton-schools-faith-in-action-day/

Responding to hate with love – new assembly on nonviolence

Among the gifts presented to President Trump by Pope Francis this week was a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017, Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.

In a week when we have been horrified by the terrorist attack in Manchester this gift is particularly timely. It reminds us that the best response to a world of too much violence and injustice is more love and more goodness – a response we have seen so powerfully from the people of Manchester over the past few days.

This assembly reflects on the Christian vocation to nonviolence and how it challenges us to act by responding to hate with love.

Downloads

Assembly Script pdf)
Assembly Slideshow (pptx)

I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.
(Pope Francis, Message for World Peace Day 2017)

 

Follow #ThisIsNonviolence on Twitter to hear more inspirational stories of people living nonviolently

Permanent link to this article: http://paxchristi.org.uk/2017/05/25/responding-to-hate-with-love-new-assembly-on-nonviolence/

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