Members Blog 2022

Pope Francis calls for Day of Prayer for Peace (26/1/22)

Pope Francis has written: ‘I am following with concern the increase of tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to peace in Ukraine and call into question the security of the European Continent. Therefore, I propose that next Wednesday, 26 January be a day of prayer for peace’.

How could you mark this…as an individual…parish…community?

Peace Sunday in the parish of Holy Apostles, Pimlico, London (16/1/22)

Independent Catholic News shared a report of the parish’s celebration of Peace Sunday: parish priest, Canon Pat Browne’s homily on reconciliation took inspiration from the Pax Christi Icon; children shared their own understanding of peace; and a collection was taken in aid of the work of Pax Christi.

Peace Sunday Service by Pax Christi Members from Wrexham Diocese (16/1/22)

Tony Reflects on the Labour Strand of Pope Francis’ World Peace Day Message:

Pope Leo XIII in 1891 wrote in the groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum “it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hard-heartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition … The hiring of labour and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.” 

These words could apply equally today, we have seen how some of the worlds’ richest have become even richer during the Covid-19 pandemic, while many of the poor (and not so poor) have lost incomes and even their homes. 

Did you ever make an international phone call in the early 80s? At that time Fr Seán McDonagh was working as a missionary in T’boli in the Philippines and liked to phone home to Ireland each month. To do so he had to take a bus to Davao City, the largest in Mindanao, and the only place on the island with an international telephone connection. The bus journey could take as much as 6 hrs depending on the condition of the road and the bus. Once in the city he would book a call at the overseas telephone centre, normally for ten minutes duration but the connection often broke down after four or five minutes and could not be restored. He would stay overnight in the city before getting the bus back to his base in T’boli. Contrast all that effort with the speed and ease of making such a call today from a mobile phone. This is just a simple example of technological progress made over the last 40 years from which we benefit. There are many other areas where technical advances have brought great benefit – but is all such progress good for all? 

Fr Seán has recently written a thought provoking book, ‘Robots, Ethics and the Future of Jobs’ in which he explores the impact of these developments and the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on jobs already and in the near future. We will all have seen images on TV of assembly lines in motor vehicle factories where parts are welded automatically, or vehicles spray painted, or the vast distribution warehouses of companies like Amazon where goods are selected and packed with minimal human involvement – these can be good developments in that some of these tasks could be hazardous to human health, but they used to be carried out by humans so these jobs have been lost. Fr Seán looks at other and more surprising areas where jobs are at risk. For instance 3D printing is now capable of producing larger and larger products, such as parts of aircraft wings or even houses. Supermarkets have already reduced staff numbers by installing self-checkouts, and even the legal profession is threatened where a number of tasks could be automated and junior staff no longer needed to do them. Agriculture, finance, banking, transport, retail and many manufacturing businesses are all exploring ways of reducing employment by using robots, drones and other forms of automation. In all he (and others) estimate between 40% – 50% of  all jobs could be lost to technical progress and AI in the next couple of decades, bringing mass unemployment. These developments, coupled with mass migration caused by climate change, are a real threat to future peace.

What can we do? An idea that has been around in various forms for many years has re-emerged and that is gaining momentum is a Universal Basic Income (UBI) where everyone is paid a regular fixed amount by the government. Pope Francis is known to favour such a system. This will require enough people to advocate for a government to introduce appropriate legislation to set UBI up. We can learn much more about UBI via the internet and help to get it before Parliament.

We can be ethical consumers where we check the labels to see where and how items are produced and only buy those from reputable sources.

We can buy Fairtrade labelled products and help promote Fairtrade by asking for it in shops, restaurants and cafes, and by becoming members of a local Fairtrade group. Fairtrade is a sure way of benefiting producers, their families and the local communities where they live.

We can support local businesses, buying fruit and veg at local farmers’ markets where available, looking especially for organically grown produce.

Learn about and spread the word on regenerative farming, agroforestry, permaculture, to encourage farmers to move away from industrial agriculture and to heal the damaged soil.

Let us pray:

God of Creation, you have given us life on an earth full of signs of your goodness, power, and mystery. May we always see you in all things, while resisting the temptation of making false gods of the things themselves. Make us worthy of this earth: in what we sow and in what we reap, in what we plant and what we prune, so when the last harvest comes and we are called to stand before you, it may be said “He saw it was good”. Amen.

Maria reflects on the Education Strand of Pope Francis’ World Peace Day Message:

“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.“

Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)  

Politics and Education, obviously two sides of the Peace coin –  both vital.  When trying to define what Peace Education is it was hard to be succinct.  On reflection it seems to be everything. It is knowledge, it is skills, attitudes or values, justice, it leads to action or it is useless.  

What we are aiming at with this education is a world where people can flourish in security and connection with each other.  We might call it the Kingdom of God or the Kin-dom of God.  

Human flourishing needs a culture of, not only, the absence of violence but the presence of kindness, justice, equality, respect for human rights, environmental responsibility, gender equality, tolerance of diversity, freedom and trust.  

Being aware of our history is important, so that we can humbly learn from the successes and mistakes of those who have gone before us – our elders and  ancestors. Getting to the truth of history is probably beyond us but the continual gathering of the stories of all involved, particularly the ordinary folk, deepens and widens our understanding.

Self knowledge is also important–  peace in ourselves must happen, to make the other work we do authentic.  Richard Rohr says, “ Suffering that is not transformed will be transmitted.”  We bear one another’s burdens but also the burden of one another.  Poverty, lack of equality, racism, prejudice violence, neglect, privilege.  These all shape us and can make us blind to the goodness around us, in others and the environment.  We can feel disconnected.  Good peace education needs to foster our connectivity. As a person of faith I would say that that connection with the Source of life, a Higher Power, God, is essential.  

What would it be like if education was fully funded by the state and the Military had to hold jumble sales to make ends meet?  I heard this a number of years ago and the turn around struck me deeply and showed me most government’s true priorities.  The defence budget of the US alone would be sufficient to banish global poverty with change left over.  The planned military expenditure in the UK for 21/22 is £44.5 billion, nearly 5 billion of that, is on nuclear weapons.  What would the reaction be if £5 billion was put on the side of a bus and promised to the NHS or Education?                                                                                                     Pope Francis put his finger on the pulse when he said that education should be seen as an investment not an expenditure.

 Jody Williams, Nobel peace prize recipient for her work in banning anti personnel mines, said that she didn’t believe in hope without endeavour.  We need to take action together to create peace.  She emphasised that working for peace was a creative activity.

Working for peace can be very creative.  Music, art, poetry, books, meals prepared and eaten together, films, photography these are all ways that peace education can influence culture, society and politics. Peace education that does not lead to action is sterile. 

One example of peace education in action is the Leicester Schools Peace project.  It is a collaboration between local peace organisers and activists, educators, the University of Leicester, Leicester SACRE, and the Peace Pledge Union.

It began, inspired by the centenary of the University of Leicester (1921-2021). Uniquely, the University was established as a “living memorial” after WW1, a “palace of peace”, with the Latin motto meaning “That they might have life.”

This project explores local stories, places and faiths to inspire young people in Leicester and Leicestershire to become “citizens of change” and acquire the knowledge and skills to work for a sustainably peaceful and just future. The project focusses on developing critical thinking and strong ethical understandings of conflict and reconciliation, justice and nonviolence, war and peace. Leicester is a wonderfully diverse city and they want to contribute to the peace of the city and to justice and fairness for all through this project.

A famous quote by John Powell SJ says One can only grow as much as one’s horizon allows.  The goal of peace education is to extend that horizon for all of us – child, adult, elder – develop the vision, see clearly the false freedoms and encourage confidence in dialogue, working together and mutual respect.

Recent Reflections on the World Peace Message from Independent Catholic (7/1/22)

Read Leela Ramdeen, Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice & Trinidad & Tobago Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees here

Read Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore and Primate of All Ireland, here.

Responding to Pope Francis’ Message (4/1/22)

You’ve had chance to read Pope Francis World Peace Message Dialogue between generations, education and work: tools for building lasting peace. This is your opportunity to share you response….

What words, phrases, ideas stand out for you…?

What real life stories are you reminded of…?

What hopes and plans arise in your heart…?

A tiny example of dialogue between generations.

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