Pat Gaffney writes…
At a ceremony in Casa La Salle, Rome, Italy, on 5 December, Pax Christi International awarded its peace prize to Concordia Social Projects, who work across several central and eastern European countries. Concordia board member, Fr Markus Inama sj said that this had been a very turbulent year. Conflict has increased the number of people on the run from war, poverty, climate catastrophe. Particular mention was made of Concordia’s work in Tudora, Moldova, just 5km from the border with Ukraine, at their center which is called Empathy.
Veronica Montage who leads much of the work said: “When the war began we found ourselves with thousands of frightened people… all shared their burden and pain. To cross the border many stayed out in the rain for days. We were shocked because this was unprecedented. We wasted no time. We were there 24/7. Our team showed great empathy, this moved the whole community. Families started sharing the best things they had – food, blankets. People opened their homes and Tudora has become home to 100 refugee families.
The Peace Prize has been awarded over the past 25 years, in recognition of peacemakers in our midst. Pax Christi hopes to promote and share these stories. Past awards include JRS in Syria, indigenous activists in Mexico and lawyers defending asylum seekers. The ceremony took place during the Pax Christi International and Catholic Nonviolence Initiative conference, Pope Francis, Nonviolence and the Fullness of Pacem in Terris.
In offering the Price, Pax Christi Co-President Sister Wamuyu Wachira said: “You live by the Gospel. I was hungry…thirsty…a stranger… in need of clothes and you helped me. You have responded to thousands of Ukrainian families, with great love and in your own unique way. PCI is proud to also acknowledge that your work with children in great need in Bucharest which started in 2008, continues today. You have chosen a path of peace… nonviolent actions speak louder and move hearts to compassion. Thank you for calling us back home, sharing one mother earth.”
Report: Pat Gaffney
Liverpool: Remembrance Day
Members of Merseyside Pax Christi Group joined with other peace organisations to mark Remembrance Day.
St Albans: Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Sheila Clegg, Anne Rose, Mary Harber, Barbara Bolgiano, Sue Clacher sent news of their activities to mark the anniversaries of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
The St. Alban and Stephen Justice and Peace group met at the Peace Obelisk at St. Albans Abbey at 3 pm to pray for peace worldwide and to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and also met with the new Dean at the Abbey. They hope that the two Peace and Justice groups can work more collaboratively in the future.
New Barnet: Service to Commemorate the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Sheila Gallagher let us know about the Service held in the Peace Garden of her parish, St Peter’s, New Barnet on Saturday 6 August to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The service interwove Decades of the Rosary led by the parish Rosary Group with reflections on peace which included: facts about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; prayers for forgiveness; stories of Good News; issues to consider when making decisions about nuclear deterrence; and words of hope from Pope Francis.
Sheila described the twenty participants in the service as ‘mothers, aunts and grandmothers’ and hoped that they found something in the service that they could share with family and friends.
Birmingham: Annual Commemoration of the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On Saturday 6th August, West Midlands CND held its annual commemoration of the bombings of Hirsohima and Nagasaki in the grounds of St Philip’s Anglican Cathedral in Birmingham. This is an area where members of the public walk through or relax on benches, so posters were put around the area. Poems were read and a minute’s silence held. Ann Kelly shared memories of Bruce Kent as a tribute to his contribution not only to the cause of nuclear disarmament but to the wider peace and justice movement. Music was provided by the Clarion Singers and after together making a Community Affirmation to declare their hope in the future, they ended the event by joining in a rousing rendition of ‘Don’t You Hear the H-Bomb’s Thunder’.
(Pax Christi materials relating to disarmament were also put out at St Chad’s Cathedral in the weeks including Hiroshima and Nagasaki days.)
Annual Commemoration of the Life and Witness of Bl Franz Jägerstätter (9/8/22)
Independent Catholic News carried a report of the evening of prayer and reflection organised by Pax Christi Members which took place in the Crypt of Westminster Cathedral. Read the report here. The text of the reflection given by Pat Gaffney can be read here. in it she draws on extracts from the letters Franz and his wife Franziska exchanged during his imprisonment for refusing to fight. More information on Franz Jägerstätter.
Liverpool: Annual Commemoration of the Bombing of Hiroshima (6/8/22)
The devastating bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago this month were reminders of the terrible effects of such weapons being used. The issue of nuclear war is on many peoples minds and we seemed to attract more attention than usual with our walk through the city for the annual commemoration.
It was also significant that the Army were out in the main square showing their weapons and so it seemed important for us to stop there and hold our banners for some time. [The army are in Liverpool in the holidays on a recruitment drive out with weapons to attract people. So, it seemed really important to stop and bear witness to peace.]
At The Peace Garden The Lord Mayor of Liverpool laid a wreath remembering all the victims of nuclear war, as well as nuclear testing, the Pax Christi International message was shared and there were various songs and reflections to draw us into the suffering that was the result of those two bombs.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the new treaty which came into force last January and which has already had its first meetings of states parties in June in Vienna. It is testimony to all those who have worked to keep the issue in the public eye, especially CND, the survivors, prominent individuals including the late Bruce Kent and many others
Reflection by Paul McGowan: ‘Mary of Bethany’
How long does it take to make a friend? More than one visit, probably. We knew him for quite a while before he was famous. Of course, there has to be a first time. For us, it was the day he came home with Lazarus. They had met in the city and since he was making his way back up north, Lazarus invited him to stay with us on the way. Two young men, restless, not finding their way through the questions that seethed in their heads, and no one to give them the answers they needed.
Like so much else in what you may have read, ours is just a story that circulated for years before anybody wrote it down, and then it had lost bits of its original context and texture. After twenty years you will understand that I can’t remember why Lazarus wasn’t at home that day. He was often in the city, so it could have been that. If he’d known Jesus was coming he would have made an effort to be here, I’m sure. Jesus probably came this way in the hope of seeing Lazarus.
This time, though, he wasn’t on his own any more. Now he was going about with a bit of a crowd following, so it put a strain on our resources to cope. On top of the visitors there were the villagers who came along to get a closer look at this new phenomenon. A lot of hospitality to find all of a sudden!
Whenever he had come before – and this started several years ago – there were just the four of us and we all sat around talking together. There was a lot to talk about. Problems in the towns, problems on the land, trying to pin down where we were in relation to our history, why people were finding things so hard to maintain the ways of our religion, what to make of the politics and cultures of the Greeks and the Romans, why so many of our people were going abroad. Those were very special times for us all, the meetings in the seclusion of the house. We could speak freely, nothing was off-limits. Men, women, at those times none of that mattered. That was when I knew that such things could, in fact, happen. They could be a reality because we lived those times, albeit short, and I didn’t know then just how out of the ordinary they would turn out to be.
We were from opposite ends of the country; there were some big differences between us and Jesus, and not just the accents! Living so close to Jerusalem, we all have an element of superiority, no doubt. We tend to think of the city and the religion as the same things. Visitors are inferior; at best an irritation, at worst an irrelevance. Getting to know Jesus showed us what we had overlooked. We found ourselves on a fast ride to a new place. He had seen things from a different angle up north. He had the religion from his parents, and he had the realities of life on the land from the locals.
So, that day when they all piled in and we had nothing ready. I suppose Martha just panicked. I didn’t give it a thought myself. Look, there must have been about twenty of them. We had no chance of feeding them. But that wasn’t actually what I was thinking. They just came in and took over. They knew nothing about us, apart from the fact that we were a pair of women. It never crossed their minds that we might be old friends of Jesus. Their business was not our business. We were just expected to keep out of the way and serve up the food. Well, I’m not having this, I thought. If they want refreshments they’ll have to wait. Not that it was easy to find a way through. None of them were inclined to budge so I just pushed and squirmed until I was at the front and then I plonked myself down on the floor right next to him. Stories, debates, moral guidance, it all came tumbling out from him. And questions, questions all the time from the listeners, even me, the only woman in the room. I say ‘woman’, but really I was not much more than a girl at the time.
When I think about it now, this may have been the high point, and also the moment when things began to turn.
Don’t be too hard on Martha. She was only doing what she had been brought up to do, and when that crowd burst in I suppose she just reverted to what she knew best. But I was sorry she did that, because then she and I (no one else in the room would have cared – Jesus was just putting some woman in her place) had to listen to Jesus telling her she was wrong and I was right. I didn’t mean it to be a family quarrel. I didn’t like to hear him speak like that, even though I wouldn’t have changed anything I did. Martha was my big sister. She had looked after me and she had been part of those hours with Jesus and Lazarus. I don’t even know for sure what Jesus meant by me having chosen the right thing to do and I must not be stopped from doing it. Did he understand what it had cost me, what an effort it had been for me? I had upset the men sitting there glowering away (What’s she doing here?), as well as my sister (You can’t go doing that!). I just thought we could carry on as we always had when he was around. But it wasn’t possible. There were things not even he could control, pressures and constraints too strong for anyone to overcome.
Things were never the same again between Martha and me. Not long afterwards Lazarus fell ill. A week later they arrested Jesus and killed him. Lazarus died, too. Died of a broken heart.
None of his followers ever came back this way. I think there were some other women among them, but I never met any of them. No one mentions Bethany any more. There is just me and Martha. We run the house and the farm. The days pass. I do the cooking. I know my place. I had thought there would be more to it than this.
Ideas and themes to explore.
We all sat around talking together. There was a lot to talk about.
We could talk freely; nothing was off-limits.
That was when I knew that such things could, in fact, happen.
He had seen things from a different angle.
None of them were inclined to budge so I just pushed and squirmed until I was at the front.
She was only doing what she had been brought up to do.
There were things not even he could control.
Things were never the same again between Martha and me.
I had thought there would be more to it than this.
Copyright ©️2022 Paul McGowan
Reflection by Paul McGowan: Nicodemus (9/7/22)
We read a lot of St John’s Gospel from Lent to Pentecost, but nothing much about Nicodemus, who makes three appearances in this Gospel and none elsewhere. John must have had a reason.
The only time we spoke, he told me to go back and start my life again. I didn’t get it then, and I still don’t. But here’s how I try to think about it.
In the end…
They all knew me. Or at least about me. My name, my status, my slightly dodgy commitment. Maybe they didn’t quite trust me. But where were they that evening? And how come it was me still standing here on this hill? How did we get into this position? Scrabbling about in the dust and rubbish of this ghastly place. Pilate could just have said No to Joseph. That’s the normal procedure. Procedures, ha! Leave the bodies hanging there, as a warning. Didn’t want any more trouble, I suppose. It’s only a Jew anyway. There’ll be another one along soon. Maybe he thought Joseph was one of the troublemakers from earlier in the day. The ones who threatened to report him. Well, who cares now? Here we are. Dark soon. End of a very long day. Hard work, moving a body, even one as slight as this. Not heavy, but so ruined, wasted. Go back and be born again? This is how we all end. No second births. I told you: I don’t get it. It was hard to touch, hard to bear. Individual wounds still identifiable. This is where they… Stop! Enough! Now we must honour what this, this thing, used to be. Pharisees though we are. Night coming on. Quick now! Have we got everything we need?
In the Council chamber…
There was uproar, and it was not surprising. He respected no one. He feared no one. He was like a man possessed. He would debate and challenge anybody about anything. Some remembered him turning up as a child. Well, whatever they might have been prepared to put up with from a child, they weren’t going to take it from a man. Some would have done him in there and then. There are rules, of course, but making them apply is another matter. Life is cheap here, whatever anyone says. He’s had other close calls, even up north in Nazareth. My objections were a bit of a last, tame, throw. The place was corrupt. Of course we could set the procedures aside! How often had we not! People make their minds up long before they see the evidence. They can manage without evidence at all, if need be. Just look at what comes next, in Chapter 8, if you want to see how easy it can be. Anyway, they say, you’re just a friend of his trying to look objective. You’ll start talking like him before long. What did they mean? That they suspected I was a follower of his already? I didn’t know if I was. An admirer, yes, but how far would I be prepared to go? I had never been anyone’s disciple, just a pious believer. Disciples get taken out of their old ways and led to strange places. That wasn’t me. I was a respectable fellow, a pillar of the people. Why else would I get a seat here?
In the dark…
I thought he would be pleased with my opening. I thought I was definitely on the right track there. No one could doubt that you have been sent to us from above. We see the proof of this in everything you do and say. You see nothing, was his reply. How can you, unless you start again? You look with old eyes. You need new eyes. You think in the old ways, so what you see is what they used to see. So you do not understand what is happening here, however hard you try. They probably think you are a good man, and maybe you are. It’s not for me to say. But you are supposed to be a leader. How can you lead if you know nothing, see nothing? Time you stepped down.
I had thought he might be a bit more welcoming. A bit more sensitive to my position. Appreciative of my efforts. I was who I was. Nothing I could do to alter that. There it is again. The same old question. What difference to anything would it make for one person, me in this case, to achieve that transformation? Did he say this to everybody he met? Or maybe it was my choosing the cover of darkness. My fear of being out in the open. Maybe he wanted me to see where my real problem was.
Copyright ©️2022 Paul McGowan
How do we stop the arms trade?
Pax Christi member Paul McGowan has written clear and practical suggestions for anyone wishing to challenge local councils on their pension fund investment. Read more in Independent Catholic News .
The indefatigable Liverpool Pax Christi group in action again
“Another day of campaigning lots of interest for our petition in support of the Treaty For Nuclear Ban.
Lots of support today as we approach the state parties in Vienna to implement the Nuclear Ban Treaty.”
A Death-dealing Understanding of Trinity (1/6/22)
In Independent Catholic News, Patricia Pulham meditates on ‘Trinity’: which she tells us was – chillingly – the code name for the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1945.
Pax Christi’s Ann Milner walks the Camino
Pax Christi member Ann Milner has blogged her pilgrimage along the camino through which she is raising money money for CAFOD. The accounts of her walk published on Independent Catholic News are both interesting and inspiring. Do have a read…
- Camino for CAFOD Blog 1
- Camino for CAFOD Blog 2
- Camino for CAFOD Blog 3
- Camino for CAFOD Blog 4
- Camino for CAFOD Final Blog
Ann’s justgiving page is at: https://walk.cafod.org.uk/fundraising/camino4hunger
Pope Francis and Nonviolence
Eagle-eyed Vatican-watcher, Pat Gaffney reports that “At last, Pope Francis has used the word nonviolence in his message! “.
Peace I leave with you: Jesus demonstrates that meekness is possible. He incarnated it specifically in the most difficult moment, and he wants us to behave that way too, since we too are heirs of his peace. He wants us to be meek, open, available to listen, capable of defusing tensions and weaving harmony. This is witnessing to Jesus and is worth more than a thousand words and many sermons. The witness of peace. As disciples of Jesus, let us ask ourselves if we behave like this where we live – do we ease tensions, and defuse conflicts? Are we too at odds with someone, always ready to react, explode, or do we know how to respond nonviolently, do we know how to respond with peaceful actions? How do I react? Everyone can ask themselves this.
Candle for Shireen (20/5/22)
A photo of the candle for Shireen which the Sisters of Mercy in York are using as a focus for their prayers for her and her family.
Call for Coventry, City of Peace and Reconciliation, to end Investment in the Arms Trade (19/5/22)
Paul McGowan writes…
Between Christmas and Lent this year our leaders thought it wise to put the finishing touches to their long-running European manoeuvrings and finally plunge us into a real war again, notwithstanding the trail of smouldering destruction that their previous efforts had left scattered across the globe, or the aftermath of the pandemic, or the ever-growing climate emergency, or the cost and availability of food and fuel.
No, nothing else would do but a good old-fashioned land war in Europe, pitting Good against Evil, would you believe? It’s enough to make you think they might just have done it deliberately to put a stop to the campaigning nuisances who simply won’t leave those innocent arms investments alone. Let’s see how they get out of this one, we seem to hear them saying!
Because for three months we have had to live with an incessant media narrative which changes not one iota from channel to channel or from newspaper to newspaper or from political party to political party. The momentum to re-arm, stockpile, chuck weapons into the fight, eliminate neutrality, stoke militarism, drive out analysis and habituate ourselves to the use of nuclear weapons shows no sign of slowing, let alone ending.
And where does all this leave our little Coventry Justice and Peace Group and its ten-year struggle to rid the West Midlands of its publicly-funded (Council Tax) arms trade investments? Up the proverbial creek, maybe? Well, yes, actually, quite possibly.
Nothing daunted, and more than likely under the influence of instinct, we found ourselves carrying on as normal outside Coventry Cathedral last Thursday morning. Except that we had treated ourselves to a new banner and a new set of leaflets. Every May, the City Council holds its AGM in the new Cathedral, after processing from the ruins of the old Cathedral. All very symbolic, you notice? From the old to the new, from the ruins to the future, out with the old Lord Mayor and in with the new Lord Mayor. Renewal of commitment to the City’s ideals – Peace, Reconciliation, Sanctuary, and most recently of course, Culture. Who would not endorse these words? Who could be against them? Who could not be inspired by them?
Meanwhile, our representatives are content to syphon off a proportion of our Council Tax for the benefit of fifteen of the leading nuclear arms-manufacturing companies, as they have done year after year since the West Midlands Pension Fund was set up, decades ago. And every August 6th they have the bare-faced cheek to invite a representative of the Japanese Embassy to attend another Cathedral ceremony purporting to deplore the use of nuclear weapons and vowing to ensure they will never be used again.
Well, maybe this year they won’t be doing that. Things seem to have changed.
‘’Why don’t you take your leaflets to Russia?’’ was heard this year. For the first time in ten years. I couldn’t think of the reply until it was too late….
Ann Farr writes…
For the tenth year running, members of Pax Christi, Coventry Justice and Peace Group, Coventry Quakers and the Passionists met to call on Coventry, the City of Peace and Reconciliation, to take the lead in the West Midlands in ending investments of the West Midlands Pension Fund in companies involved in the Arms Trade.
Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley, Solihull and Walsall, members of the West Midlands Pension Fund, all invest our money in fifteen of the major international Arms Manufacturers. This includes those who make nuclear weapons.
Gathered outside Coventry Cathedral this morning, with a banner and posters saying, ‘End ALL investments in nuclear weapons’, we distributed leaflets drawing the attention of those attending Coventry City Council’s AGM and Mayor Making, to the fact that Council Tax payers in this region are paying millions of pounds to these arms companies. The top five are, AIRBUS 16.7 million; BAE SYSTEMS 10.6 million; UNITED TECHNOLOGIES 10.3 million; BOEING 9.3 million; SAFRAN 9.3 million. The WMPF and its investments are the responsibility of our elected councillors. Despite 10 years of suggesting to Councillors that these investments are incompatible with Coventry being the City of Peace and Reconciliation and a City of Sanctuary, our call has been ignored.
At meetings and in letters we have pointed out that as well as well as even the smallest of nuclear weapons being larger than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons are now illegal.
On Friday, 22nd January 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into legal force and made nuclear weapons illegal under international law.
The TPNW is a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons and other related activities. This includes:
- Banning use, stockpiling, testing, production, manufacture, stationing and installation;
- Banning assisting with prohibited acts, such as the United States leasing Trident missiles to the UK;
- Banning allowing nuclear weapons to travel through territorial waters or airspace;
- Requiring assistance to the victims of nuclear weapons, included for the first time in a treaty.
We have also reminded Councillors that Coventry has been a member of “Mayors for Peace” for many years and that one of its objectives is to ‘Realize a world without nuclear weapons.’
‘With cities and the citizens who live in them being their targets, and catastrophic consequences on a global scale to be inflicted by their use, nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to the safety and security of citizens’ lives. We will urge global leaders to effect peace-oriented policy change by calling on the UN and national governments, especially the nuclear-armed states and their allies, to take concrete action for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.’
The vision for all who are members is, ‘to contribute to the attainment of lasting world peace by arousing concern among citizens of the world for the total abolition of nuclear weapons through close solidarity among member cities as well as by striving to solve vital problems for the human race such as starvation and poverty, the plight of refugees, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation.’
We ask Coventry to take this commitment seriously and earn its title of City of Peace and Reconciliation by taking the lead to,
End ALL investments in nuclear weapons.
Ann Farr, Chair, Pax Christi England and Wales
Valerie Flessati on the 2022 Conscientious Objectors Day Ceremony
At yesterday’s CO ceremony Sahar Vardi, who served three prison sentences for refusing to take part in Israeli military service, spoke about CO as something for everybody. She said she was often introduced as someone who had been a CO – in the past tense. These are direct quotes.
“Conscientious objection is not something you do once and just ARE that. It’s a call for continuing action.”
“We’re not just talking about people needing to refuse and be conscientious objectors to actually take arms and fight, but also to support the entire system around it.”
“Conscientious objection is saying ‘I will first be conscience to what is happening around me and object to being part of that mechanism of war’.”
“Conscientious objection is an ongoing action.”
The whole ceremony can be seen on co-day.org. She comes in at 36 minutes. Well worth watching.
Reflection by Paul Mcgowan
Good Shepherd’ Sunday May 8, 2022
‘Jesus’ talks about his background and the experiences that shaped his way of thinking. This extended metaphor of the shepherd is found only in the Gospel of John, Chapter 10, though it echoes images found in what we now call the ‘Hebrew Bible’, the scriptures to which Jesus turned for inspiration and guidance.
When I was a boy in Nazareth, there were about five hundred sheep in the communal village herd. That was too many to look after in one flock, so we had several shepherds who shared the work. Almost everyone in the village had one or two animals, so the responsibility on the shepherd was very great. Every animal was just as important as every other. If one got lost, it might be the one that belonged to the poorest family, and therefore extremely valuable to them. In some cases, the difference between life and death. A lot of people live hand to mouth here. Precarious lives. Sometimes we would go out to the fields with the shepherds. I think I learned a lot by doing this, about the wider world and where the village and the family fitted into it. I even learned how lines from the scriptures fitted into this. You yourselves, in your own time, should understand this. You still have poets who can show you how truth comes from the land:
“Nothing I cared in the lamb-white days that time would take me
Up to the swallow-thronged loft by the shadow of my hand.”
That’s very good. I like that. We have swallows too…. But I was telling you how we do things here, or used to.
As I said, we had several shepherds, to divide up the flock. There was a stone enclosure outside the village, about five feet high and topped with thorn branches, tall enough to keep out the wild animals and the rustlers. I don’t know when it was built. Before we came to live here, at least. For me, it was just one of those things that was always there. You know how it is with things at home, when you’re a child. You just take them for granted. You never wonder where they came from.
Sounds elaborate, perhaps, that stone enclosure. But sheep-stealing is a real problem. Some of the gangs are made up of men driven to criminality by circumstances. Some have lost their land and their livelihood. They’re manipulated and used, of course. If they’re caught they pay dearly for it.
“…the gatekeeper lets him in…”
There’s a limit to what you can do to protect your stock. But the wall must at all times be kept in good condition. That’s why no one goes climbing over it, under any circumstances. We see that sort of behaviour as an insult to the whole village. When you grow up here, you just know that. It’s built into you. You absolutely must go in through the gate. The gate itself is a solid and heavy affair and the work of the gatekeeper is vital. Naturally, he is responsible for keeping the gate, and the walls, in good repair. In some ways, the gatekeeper is the key element in the whole arrangement.
The herd embodies everything that is precious to us. It represents our basic equality. One enclosure, one gatekeeper, one team of shepherds. Same grazing for all, same welfare, same protection.
“…the sheep listen to his voice…”
The bond between the shepherd and his sheep is hard to believe, if you’ve never seen it. It’s all in the voice. It was the voice that counted. That’s what they went for. That’s what reassured them. Not the words. The words, as we would call them, make no difference to the sheep.
“…but they did not understand what he meant…”
For us humans, though, it’s the other way round. We have to know what the words mean, and whether they mean the same thing all the time. We don’t have the simplicity of sheep. There is a melancholy in this, but we have to wrestle with it and I have come to realise it has to be accepted. There is no end to it. It cannot be stopped. As it has been for me, so it is for you. People give up because they don’t get all the meaning all at once. So then they have to have more words to explain the words they didn’t understand.
“So he spoke to them again …. “
”And the Sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.”
(With acknowledgements to Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill)
Copyright ©️2022 Paul McGowan
Pax Christi and the Synod
In response to Pope Francis call for the whole Church to engage in a synodal process of listening, Pax Christi International and the Catholic Nonviolence Movement is inviting members to share thoughts about how the Church can embrace nonviolence.
In a recent online gathering, Pax Christi Members from England, Scotland, Ireland and the US met to listen to each other and to feed their deliberations into the process: ‘there was a wide spectrum in the discussion – nonviolence needs to replace current violence toward planet and people – so many people marginalised’; ‘there’s a need to let go of power’; ‘how do poverty issues relate to nuclear issues?’; ‘where are young people?’.
If you want to know more, watch this clip
Pacifism in the Face of Aggression (27/3/22)
Pax Christi Member, Maggie Beirne, who coordinates the Westminster J&P Network, wrote a challenging article published in Independent Catholic News looking at Christian responses to war in Ukraine.
Celebrating Nonviolence and Women Peacemakers
Joan Sharples writes…
In the online event Celebrating Nonviolence and Women Peacemakers held on the eve of International Women’s Day, and ably facilitated by Pat Gaffney, Pax Christi members heard Colette Joyce and Patricia Stoat reflect on what drew them into nonviolence. I was struck by the variety of contexts of the women in my small group: working with those suffering domestic violence; with prisoners and their families; with those concerned for the welfare of animals. Nonviolence – a way to be practised in every aspect of our lives.
Bruce Kent delivers letter to Russian Embassy
Independent Catholic News reports Yesterday, Pax Christi member and CND Vice-President Bruce Kent today delivered a letter to the Russian ambassador condemning the invasion of Ukraine and calling for the rights of Russian anti-war protestors to be upheld.
Vigil against War (28/2/22)
” Vigil against war at Abingdon local war memorial drew lots of supportive beeps & thumbs up & no negative reactions. War solves nothing.”
How can we stop the West Midlands funding the arms trade? (4/2/22)
Pope Francis has spoken most forcefully against the international trade in arms. How can we bring it to an end? It is not easy. Our small Justice and Peace Group in Coventry has been trying for nine years to find a way to stop local investments. Here’s what we, and you, face.
If you pay Council Tax in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Walsall, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell or Coventry, some of your money is taken to invest in the arms trade under the banner of the West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF). You can’t stop this from happening. Even if you object loudly, refuse to pay, go to prison, your money will still be taken. On top of that, if you are a member of the WMPF you also make a personal contribution to the Fund, and if you are a pension-holder you derive some of your benefits from the arms trade investments.
The only way to end this is to force the Councillor-Trustees of the West Midlands Pension Fund to end the investments they make in the arms trade (with public money) and put that money elsewhere.
Where is the money invested? In all the major arms manufacturers – conventional and nuclear: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics …. Believe me, I could go on. How much is invested? Approximately £100 million directly into firms of this sort. There are other ways in which much more Council Tax money gets to the arms trade, by indirect investment in banks and other financial institutions. We have limited ourselves to those direct investments which are itemised in the Fund’s Annual Statement of Equity Investments, published every March 31st.
Having said that, this document is harder and harder to get hold of, but it is the only source of the detailed information needed to carry on the campaign.
So, we are caught up in this situation, hundreds of thousands of us across the West Midlands, whether we like it or not. And the same situation is repeated many times over across the country, in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and wherever else a municipal pension fund makes investments of this sort.
To return to the figures for a moment. The WMPF is worth £17 billion; we estimate direct investments in arms manufacturers to be approximately £100 million. That is, roughly 0.6% of the total value of the Fund. This is not a huge amount, and could easily be ended and reinvested in other sectors, given the will to do it. The decision-makers in this case are the 16 members of the WMPF Pensions Committee, all local Councillors.
The Councillors currently sitting on this committee are,
Wolverhampton: Councillors Jaspal, Collingwood, C.Smith, Inston, T.Singh, Page, Sweet, Simkins, P.Singh, Randle.
Birmingham: Cllr Davis
Solihull: Cllr Sandison
Dudley: Cllr Taylor
Sandwell: Cllr Allen
Coventry: Cllr B.Singh
Membership changes from time to time, but can be checked on the Fund’s website, https://www.wmpfonline.com/contactus
The committee meets quarterly, in March, June, September and December. Meetings are open to the public and are held in the Wolverhampton Civic Centre. All information is available at: wmpf online.
Three Unions attend the quarterly meetings as observers: Unite (I.Smith, M.Clift), Unison (M.Cantello) and GMB (J.Wardrup).
Committee members are all elected Councillors and their contact details are publicly available. The greatest pressure can be applied by their Ward residents but other councillors in the District may be able to add to this. At the moment, in Coventry, we are starting on an initiative to lobby as many individual councillors as we can, in order to find out how much support there is for our aim, and to persuade them to talk to their colleagues about what they have learnt from us in discussions. It is tempting to think we can do this more easily by email, but we are keen to know whether face to face meetings can be more successful. We are hoping to build up support across the City Council so that the Coventry representative knows they are speaking on behalf of the City when they attend the Pensions Committee.
If you live in the West Midlands please join us in taking action to divest money invested in the Arms Trade by the West Midlands Pension Fund.
You can write to the Councillors listed above, to your own Ward Councillors and try and get local unions and faith groups to do the same, putting pressure on them to divest.
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org 07484246810
Scripture Reflection from Paul McGowan
Originally prepared to preface a meeting of the Pax Christi Executive Committee (14/2/22)
To begin with, a couple of verses from last Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke, chapter 6.
Then, fixing his eyes on his disciples. he said:
Luke makes it very clear that these words are for the disciples in particular, not the crowds in general.
How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now; you shall laugh.
Our Lord is prompted to speak this way by the display of dejection which he must have seen in front of him. He really does see a bunch of poor, hungry, tearful individuals. Remembering that at least some of them, until recently, had been running successful businesses and leading stable lives, they seem to have fallen a long way. They are obviously in need of some words to raise their spirits. But such comfort as is offered is soon overwhelmed by assurances that there is worse to come. Our Lord has a distinctive form of pep-talk.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.
These things are far more consequential than the occasional shortage of food and sore feet. The list of misfortunes heaps misery upon misery. It provokes the question: what sort of discipleship is this? What sort of Teacher is this?
Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.
Our Lord liked to make his points with exaggerations and ironically gross contradictions. It is just possible to make out the humour, with hindsight, if you try quite hard. Did the disciples get the joke, though?
This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.
With this, Jesus puts all their present worries into context and perspective: this is what you have been called into – fellowship with your great predecessors. And perhaps he reveals to the disciples a new understanding of these great figures.
Fr Daniel Berrigan SJ provides a link between this Gospel sitiation and out own times. Three points of contact are given to us by the following sections from a recent book about him.
During the last two decades of his life, Berrigan’s published work centred on biblical studies and meditations. He produced books on Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Job, Lamentations, the Psalms, the Acts of the Apostles and Revelation. The prophets – among them Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel – became a major focus of his writings.
Jesus referred the disciples back to their spiritual roots, and his own spiritual roots. Berrigan demonstrated how we need to go back again and again to these roots ourselves.
Asked if he had a favourite prophet, Berrigan singled out Isaiah. It impressed him that Isaiah was part of a community. ‘We tend to think of the prophets as loners, but that is not true of any of them. All of what went on got in the scroll somehow – somebody listened and somebody took notes. So there was community all over the place, as far as I can judge. And these writings went through many hearts and minds and pens before they arrived in our hands. It’s very good that we at the other end of this tradition are meant to absorb it in community because that’s the way it got started and transmitted.’
This is a really instructive observation. Many hearts and minds and pens need to be at work for the scriptures to become Scriptures, and we now understand that this process of feeling and understanding and communicating has to take place in every time and place and community. And not in a mechanical repetition, but in a new and courageous transformation of what was handed on.
Berrigan stressed that attention to the prophets [showed] that one need not achieve a state of inner tranquillity before engaging in peace work. ‘This focus on equanimity is actually a narrow-minded, selfish approach to reality, dressed up in the language of spirituality, […] a quest that goes nowhere.’
‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me’. ‘Be the change you want to see.’ And so on….
Berrigan does not mince his words. We cannot wait until we are perfect. Otherwise, we would wait for ever.
(extracts from ‘At Play in the Lion’s Den’, a biography of Daniel Berrigan, by Jim Forrest, 2017)
Peace Sunday at All Souls, Coventry
Paul McGowan writes…
” We managed to get the message through in a number of ways. There was a sizeable announcement in the weekly bulletin; prayer cards were given out to everyone attending the two Sunday Masses; the children’s liturgy group used the materials and gave out Peace badges; the Special Needs group had the badges to wear and come to Sunday Mass with.
More News of Parishes Marking Peace Sunday… (7/2/22)
Thank you to those parishes who marked Peace Sunday during the last few weeks. We know that it was mentioned in parish notices/prayers or by special collections in:
Abingdon, Altrincham, Coventry, Croydon, Liverpool, Pimlico, St Albans, Thames Ditton, West Green (London) …
if you have localities to add, let us know at email@example.com
Remember it’s possible to use the Peace Sunday resources all through the year.
Voices from Afghanistan (29/1/22)
Pax Christi Executive Member, Henrietta Cullinan, writes on the Independent Catholic News site about the current situation in Afghanistan, sharing updates and reflections of her contacts.
Peace Sunday at St Michael and Sacred Heart, Kensington, Liverpool (16/1/22)
The parish celebrated Peace Sunday using the Pax Christi bidding prayers and hymns and songs for peace. They also used the powerful creed by Dorothea Sollee and promoted the Pope’s peace message with copies for parishioners to take as they left church. Children’s prayer cards featuring the dove of peace and the word ‘peace’ in many languages were also distributed to children and adults. The rainbow peace banner was draped across the altar. Families took home copies of the peace quiz to test their knowledge and were encouraged to discuss peace in their homes.
Croydon JPIC learns about Pax Christi (25/1/22)
The JPIC group in Addiscombe, Croydon, London contacted Pax Christi to find out more about its origins and current activities. Members of Pax Christi’s Executive gave a presentation which members said they found ‘interesting and informative’ over zoom.
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.