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May – August 2018

9 August 2018: Pax Christi Annual Commemoration of the life of Franz Jägerstätter

Bruce Kent and Ray Towey

More than 60 people gathered in the Crypt Chapel at Westminster Cathedral to remember the life of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.  Franz was executed in Berlin in 1943 for his refusal to serve in Hitlers army and beatified in 2007.  The first such commemoration service took place in 1989.   This year the guest speaker was Dr Ray Towey, a lay medical missionary and member of Catholic Peace Action, who organised the first service and encouraged Pax Christi to mark the anniversary annually.

Ray began his reflection with these words:

The story is simple, a peasant farmer in Austria is conscripted to fight for Hitler, refuses claiming being a Catholic and being a soldier in Hitler’s army is incompatible so they kill him to preserve military morale. In 1943 German military morale was in serious jeopardy. The battle of Stalingrad had been lost.

The German state needed men at the eastern front. Franz was isolated in the Church, in the village, in his country. To his knowledge then no-one had taken a stand like this. I use the word peasant farmer purposefully not so often used now about Franz, to us it has negative connotations but the Gospel writer is clear about what is a negative:

I thank you Father Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to children. (Luke ch10: 21)

This Gospel passage is uneasy reading because ever since I entered formal education I have strived to be someone who is both wise and learned.  To the Gospel writer that comfortable self-image or illusion was an obstacle that Franz did not have.   Full text here   

10 July 2018 – Northampton High Schools come together for Faith in Action day with Bishop Peter

Sixty year ten students representing half of the High Schools of the Northampton Diocese gathered with Bishop Peter at St Paul’s, Milton Keynes for the second annual Schools Faith in Action Day on 5 July 2018

The day, organised by St Paul’s, Pax Christi, and the Northampton Young Ministry Office, began with a chance for students to grill Bishop Peter on issues as varied as the importance of prayer, how he puts his faith into action, and the role of women in the Church.

Workshops gave the students chance to delve deeper into the issues with sessions on the dignity of work, peacemaking, and a presentation from Siobhan Doyle, a past pupil of St Paul’s who is currently a CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer. Meanwhile the teachers had their own workshop exploring how peace and justice education can be incorporated more fully into the classroom.

In the afternoon James Trewby from Columban Justice and Peace Education led an entertaining and inspirational presentation reflecting on how we are called, as Christians, to act for justice and peace in our World.

Tracy Bempong, a St Paul’s student said ‘I felt like it was a great, fun experience’ while Eva Ukeleghe, also from St Paul’s said ‘I enjoyed learning and experiencing new facts about faith with new schools. I would recommend doing it.’

Jennifer Rowlands, a teacher from St Paul’s said ‘It was fantastic to see so many young people from across the diocese coming together to share their faith and to learn from one another’.

2 June, Pax Christi Annual Gathering, Nottingham

Liverpool Pax Christi members share a joke

They came from Sussex, Leeds, Southampton, Liverpool, Abingdon, Leicester, Salford, London, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Lincoln and beyond, Pax Christi members and supporters attending the Annual Gathering in Nottingham.  More photographs here .

They heard Pax Christi Chair, Holly Ball, outline a time of transition and long-term planning as the movement prepares for the retirement of its General Secretary, Pat Gaffney, in spring 2019 and a change in its Peace Education work when Matt Jeziorski leaves this summer.  The movement is in a stable financial  position and planning will include a commitment to develop a theology and practice of active nonviolence ; the strengthening of peacemaking communities around the country and a deepening of Pax Christi’s work  with teachers, chaplains and schools . Treasurer Joe Burns reported that Pax Christi currently has 1,100 members who contribute around 15% of income and 1,700 supporters, mostly parishes, who support the annual Peace Sunday appeal to the tune of around £102,000, 43% of income.

Two Pax Christi members were elected for the first time to the Executive Committee, Lorraine Mirham and Theresa Alessandro  both from Leicester.  Each brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the Committee.  Holly Ball, Chris Cole and Helen Gilbert all agreed to stand for another term.  Paul McGowan stood down from the Committee after six years.  Paul ‘s great achievement in persuading the West MIdlands Pension Fund to divest from Cluster Munitions was noted.

Maya Evans and Pat Gaffney

Administrator, Fausta Valentine, thanked members for their ideas and engagement in their own parishes on Peace Sunday.

Pax Christi team member Valerie Flessati spoke of plans to commemorate the lives of Catholic COs from the FWW on 2 October, International Day of Nonviolence and of joint work in preparation for Remembrance Day  that will enable parishes and groups to raise a much-needed commitment to peaceamaking in this season.  A new logo/image has been created entitled ‘No More War: Let‘s make peace happen’.

Pax Christi’s on-line shop attracts much attention and new nonviolence resources, including Choosing Peace – the Catholic church and Gospel nonviolence were presented. This will be developed by publications worker, Peter Hickey

Speakers Maya Evans and Max Brookman Byrne up-dated the gathering on drone warfare today. Maya, a campaigner who has worked with Voices for Creative Nonviolence related her experiences in Afghanistan, where the continued use of drones has a major impact on young people in particular, creating fear and damaging their health. She spoke of ‘signature strikes’, where information is gathered about potential targets who may be deemed terrorists and of the way in which the military calculate their tolerance for ‘collateral’ damage – equating the value of a target in terms of the number of civilians who might be killed in the process. Max, an academic researching and teaching  international law  at Lincoln University, spoke of the need to develop and use political and ethical challenges to drone warfare in addition to legal challenges, which can all too often justify their use. Concepts of self-defence and necessity often dominate discussion about the use of armed drones making it very hard to uphold claims that their use is in contravention of international law.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, President of Pax Christi, commented on the drone warfare discussion in his homily, speaking of the importance of truth – seeking and highlighting the distinction between legality and morality.  As people of faith, we are called to challenge the legality of action when the cross the line of morality and ethics. He was joined in the celebration of Mass by Bishop Patrick McKinney, Bishop of Nottingham.  We were delighted to welcome Bishop Patrick to his first Pax Christi event.

The day, held at the church of Our Lady and St Patrick,  was supported by the Nottingham J&P Commission who worked behind the scenes to make the day such a success.

 

15 May 2018 – Conscientious objector day in Tavistock Square, London

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C/O day gathering at Tavistock Square

Today over well over a hundred people came together in Central London for the annual commemoration of International Conscientious Objector Day.  Pax Christi members as well as some of the office team gathered together with various groups from the peace movement to celebrate and remember those who refused to fight and continue to suffer persecution today for refusing to engage in violence and war.

 

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Speakers Hannah Brock and Selam Kidane

Hannah Brock of War Resisters International gave us a frank and informative update on the situation in South Korea and also on the new laws being passed in Sweden.  Selam Kidane from Eritrea spoke to us about the situation in her own home country where forced conscription is still in force and where a ‘shoot to kill’ policy still controls the border for those who try to leave.  Many who passed by the busy Tavistock Square stopped to take a few moments and listen to the engaging speakers and share this special time with us.

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Remembering true heroic bravery

People were then invited to take a white rose and to lay it on the C/O stone as the names of conscientious objectors from some 80 countries were read out. One of those names was Blessed Franz Jagerstatter who was killed on 9 August 1943 for refusing to fight in WW2.

We heard some great music and spent a moment in silence together to remember all those who have died and continue to suffer so much for conscience.

Other similar events have taken place up and down the country and Internationaly also. See which events are happening near you.

To all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill’

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