Appointment of New Chief Executive (26/11/22)
Pax Christi is pleased to announce the appointment of Andrew Jackson as its new CEO. Andrew is currently Director of CHIPS (Christian International Peace Service). He has a legal background and long-standing involvement in social justice.
He will take up his position at the beginning of January and looks forward to meeting Pax Christi Members and supporters.
Updates on nonviolent peacemaking projects in Ukraine and Russia (8/10/22)
Members will be encouraged to read these reports of nonviolent initiatives in Ukraine and Russia and find ways of supporting this work financially. This is an Italian based NGO, Un Ponte Per, Building Bridges not Walls, creating solidarity links with groups in Ukraine and Russia, organising peace caravans and more. Here you can sign a petition in support of Conscientious Objectors in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus. See Justpeace issue on Ukraine for more on this theme.
Statement from Faith Communities to Nuclear Weapons Conference (5/8/22)
Pax Christi England and Wales was one of the signatories of a statement made to the tenth Review Conference of the Parties on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) currently taking place in New York. In the statement, the group of faith-based organisations and individuals express ‘their deep concerns about a potential escalation of nuclear war [and pledge] as faith communities to keep on working toward a future without nuclear weapons’. Report in Independent Catholic News.
2022 AGM Talk by Reverend Mary Gregory, Canon of Arts and Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral (18/7/22)
What is the peace of Christ?
Let me begin by thanking you for the invitation to be you this afternoon. It’s a very great honour to speak to Pax Christi, an organisation born at the end of the Second World War when Coventry Cathedral’s particular ministry of reconciliation was also beginning. I like to think, then, that Pax Christi and Coventry Cathedral are sisters in peace and reconciliation. As one of three sisters, I know how precious, how sustaining, a sorority can be. Perhaps we can renew our sisterhood this afternoon!
I’m aware that I’m speaking to you just a few days after Bruce Kent, your former vice-president, died. His is a life to be celebrated and honoured. His is a death to be mourned, even as we rejoice in his new life in heaven.
His death also underlines what you may already have felt: that this is a time of change and particular challenge for peace-making, perhaps including for your own organisation. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the Rwanda deportation policy, the ’changing of the watch’ at Pax Christi— all add to the feeling that these are uncertain and troubling times—and that we need to understand how to be peace-activists ‘at such a time as this’, to use a resonant phrase from our Bible reading.
And so, as you continue to understand how to be, what to do, as Pax Christi ‘at such a time as this’, I wanted to focus with you on some first principles; to explore afresh just what pax Christi, ‘the peace of Christ’, is; how we might describe it; what characterises it—and so what it asks of us as the Body of Christ. I’m going to do this in conversation with Esther’s story, and with Coventry’s. After I’ve spoken for about 20 minutes, I suggest we hold a short time of silent reflection, and then I’ll gladly answer any questions you may have, before we turn to discussing those on your handout.
So what is the peace of Christ like? I’m going to suggest seven qualities; that it’s
- local and particular
- inhabited, and
Firstly, pax Christi is confrontational. Now, that might feel counter-intuitive, deeply uncomfortable. How can the peace of Christ, the Prince of Peace, be confrontational? – surely confrontation is the opposite of peace?
I want to suggest that confrontation need not be the opposite of peace, but can become the route towards peace. Why? – because deepest peace can be found only in fully attending to the stories of others, in bearing witness to their pain, and in working with them for justice. Righteous confrontation is about naming injustice, about bringing conflict into the open, and so taking others’ woundedness seriously.
In Jeremiah 8, God calls out the priests and the prophets who speak of peace in denial of the conflicted reality: ‘They have treated the wound of my people carelessly’, God says, ‘saying, “Peace, peace” where there is no peace’ (v11).
Pax Christi is not to proclaim peace where there is none. Instead, it is to take seriously the woundedness of God’s people, to name a lack of peace, and to insist on a journey towards the richest understanding of justice.
And so in the Temple courts, Jesus will disrupt the business of those who have monetised a worshipful approach to God (Matthew 21), and Jesus will call out the Pharisees who have, he says, ‘locked people out of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 23.23) with their inhibiting legalism. In these confrontations he clears the way towards peace.
When Mordecai hears about the planned holocaust of the Jews of Susa, he provokes Esther into a confrontation. Keeping silent, he says, is not an option. She cannot live as if there is peace where there is none. She has to take seriously the woundedness of her people.
Pax Christi asks, ‘Where in the world is there a lack of peace? To whose woundedness do I need to pay attention? What do I need to confront in order to initiate a journey towards peace?’
The peace of Christ is confrontational and, secondly, it is from the outside-in; that is, when Jesus brokers peace he most often starts, not with those in power or at the centre, but with the weak and the marginalised. It is these people for whom he has, in the language of Liberation Theology, a ‘preferential option’.1
And so, to bring peace to the tormented Gerasene man, Jesus will disrupt a village’s economy; the loss of a herd of pigs a small price to pay for the freedom of one tortured soul. Or, to see Zacchaeus reconciled—to his townspeople, to his God, to himself – Jesus will go to his house for supper, bypassing the hospitality of the great and the good. Or to bring peace to the woman caught in adultery, Jesus won’t stand with the phalanx of her male accusers, but will squat in the dust where she lies too.
The peace of Christ is outside in, brokered beyond the corridors of power, beyond respectability, outside the city to bring people to the very heart of God.
Transgender Christian poet Jay Hulme, has expressed some of this outside-in peace-making in his poem, ‘Jesus at the Gay Bar’ –
He’s here in the midst of it—
right at the centre of the dance floor,
robes hitched up to His knees
to make it easy to spin.
At some point in the evening
a boy will touch the hem of His robe
and beg to be healed, beg to be
anything other than this;
and He will reach His arms out,
sweat-damp, weary from dance.
He’ll cup the boy’s face in His hand
my beautiful child
there is nothing in this heart of yours
that ever needs to be healed.2
It is from outside the city that peace comes to Esther’s people, too. Mordecai has heard of the plot to murder the Jews and, in anticipatory mourning, has put on sackcloth and sits at the city gate. It is from there that he provokes peace.
Why is that pax Christi is so often won from the outside-in? It is, perhaps, that those who are ‘in’ have the most investment in the conflicted status quo. And it is perhaps because those Jesus came to seek and save are the ‘lost’: those who have been de-centralised, pushed to the margins, overlooked; those most in need of peace.
Let this be an encouragement to you when you find yourselves on the edges, when the language you speak is foreign to those whose native-tongue is wealth and influence. When the centre feels a long way off, and you are voice crying in the wilderness, you are just where you should be, with Christ, brokering his peace.
The peace of Christ is confrontational, from the outside-in and, thirdly, it is violence-subsuming.
You’ll note that I’m not borrowing the language of ‘non-violence’: where there is conflict there is always violence. There is just the question of who perpetrates it, and who bears it, and who transfigures it.
Certainly, Jesus neither perpetrates violence— ‘a bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not quench’ (Isaiah 42.3) – nor advocates for it—‘Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5.44). But Jesus does engage with violence. He takes it into himself to save others and to transfigure it.
And so, as the tide begins to turn in his ministry, Luke tells us that ‘[Jesus sets] his face to go towards Jerusalem’ (9.51): he walks towards the violence that awaits him, opens himself to be wounded for our transgressions (Isaiah 53.5). And Esther having resolved to speak to the King does so declaring, ‘If I perish, I perish’ (4.16).
To work for the peace of Christ is to walk towards woundedness. It is to consent to the possibility of having to take violence into ourselves.
The worshipper’s journey at Coventry Cathedral is towards Graham Sutherland’s enormous tapestry ‘Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph’ which dominates the vista from the west screen to beyond the altar. This glory is always the destination. But it is gained only by walking through the thorns that throng around and above the choir stalls. Transformation, eternal peace, is accessed through suffering. Even in glory, woundedness is woven into Christ’s hands and feet.
Pax Christi is the subsuming of violence. No cheap grace, Bonhoeffer said. No easy peace.
The peace of Christ is confrontational, outside-in, violence subsuming and, fourthly, local and particular.
In reflecting on pax Christi as local and particular, I’m thinking of the peace Jesus brings before his death since, in his crucifixion and resurrection, he reconciles all things to himself (Colossians 1.20), re-births all those who died with Adam (1 Corinthians 15.22).
I want us to focus on Jesus’ earthly ministry, for much as we might long to reconcile all things, that might be a stretch for us—certainly before the next cup of tea. It might be a stretch for us, and considering all things might become so overwhelming that it inhibits us from doing anything.
So: local and particular. What do I mean? Well, of all the broken people who ebb and flow around Jesus, he restores some, not all; he raises some, not others. Take the pool at Bethsaida, for example, where, we read, there are ‘many’ invalids, yet Jesus heals only one (John 5.2-9).
What’s this about? – well, perhaps because time is short for Jesus in terms of his earthly ministry, he can only offer signposts to God’s peaceful reign: this is inauguration, not fulfilment. And perhaps it is a reflection of his incarnation that, like all of us, Jesus inhabits particular time and space; that for him, as for us, life is local.
In the same way, Esther isn’t charged with protecting her fellow Jews against every holocaust that will tragically beset them across history. No, her call is for ‘such a time as this’, in that particular royal palace.
Again, let this encourage you: you’re not called to all time, to everywhere, to everything. You are called to your here and now. This is not an appeal to localism, of course: you may well be called to work for peace in Palestine—vocationally, this may be your backyard. It is, however, a call to discovering your place and focusing on it.
The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland, a community committed to peace and reconciliation in their locality, offer a simple act of commitment in their Morning Prayer. ‘We will live the life we are living’, they declare.
‘We will live the life we are living.’ This seems to me to be such a profound and important prayer for us as peace-makers. It says that whatever our circumstances, whatever our abilities or limitations, whatever the demands on our time, we will live this life, the life that we are living; we will work for peace here.
If the life that you are living is at home, pray, write to your MPs, encourage those on the front line. If the life that you are living enables you to go on one protest a year, live that life. Don’t forget: even Jesus’ peace-making was local and particular.
The peace of Christ is confrontational, outside-in, violence-subsuming, local and particular and, fifthly, communal: before his arrest, Jesus gathers around him a group of followers whom he trains in the ways of peace; from the cross, he forms a community of peace—’Woman, here is your son. Son, here is your mother’ (John 19.26-27); post-resurrection, these believers, and we who are believers now, become his peace-making body.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul encourages each of us to take up our part in the body; to recognise how indispensable we are to one another, those who work unseen as much as those who inhabit the headlines. As Mother Theresa said to Bob Geldof when they met in Addis Ababa airport in 1984, shortly after Band Aid, ‘Remember this: I can do something you can’t do, and you can do something I can’t do. But we both have to do it.’
We discover a peace-making community in Esther’s story which is, perhaps, more properly described as Mordecai’s story, for it is he who instigates the peace-making, he who provokes and encourages Esther to speak to the king. And as she does, her people surround her in spirit, fasting and praying for her protection and success.
Last month, we hosted the Peacemaker’s Loom in Coventry Cathedral. Conceived of and worked by artists Peter and Heidi Gardner, this giant loom is a work of communal creativity and peace-making. Accompanied by Peter or Heidi, who hold out the wool, the weaver makes stitches, walking round and round the circle as they do. In this accompanied walking, stories are told, and held; questions explored; new peace found. Find those who will walk the circle of peace with you, that perambulation that repeats until all the loose ends are woven into something beautiful.
Peace-making and feelings of isolation, even abandonment, can go hand in hand. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27.46), Jesus cries, on the cross temporarily displaced from peace even as he forges peace for us. Even so, he has a community of women who stand and bear witness to his suffering (Matthew 27.55). Gather to yourself people who will watch, pray, and bear witness to you.
The peace of Christ is confrontational, outside-in, violence-subsuming, local and particular, communal and, sixthly, inhabited: Jesus not only works for peace, brings peace, but he lives in peace, sleeping through the storm (Luke 8.22-25).
Where is this element of pax Christi to be found? – in relationship with his Father and in embrace of his vocation. In John’s Gospel, as he turns for the last time towards Jerusalem, Jesus is troubled by the end that he knows is coming. How does he answer those concerns? – by appeal to his Father and by restating his calling: ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say? – “Father, save me from this hour?” No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name’ (John 12.27-28).
In the same way, even as we confront injustice, even as we walk towards violence, in our pursuit of peace we are to be at peace within ourselves, knowing that ‘The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge’ (Psalm 46), offering all our concerns to the Lord who is near to us, and receiving, in exchange, ‘the peace that surpasses all understanding’ (Philippians 4.5b).
And hold your calling close to you. Remember who you are; that you are peace-makers, and that God blesses you in your vocation and names you, for it, God’s children (Matthew 5.9).
We’ve been asking what pax Christi is like as a way of renewing ourselves for the sacred task entrusted to us. I have suggested that it is confrontational, outside-in, violence-subsuming, local and particular, communal, inhabited and, in all of this, foolish.
For Jesus, this foolishness was to empty himself of power, not to grab it (Philippians 2.6-7); for Esther and Jesus to walk towards death, not to run away from danger; for Jesus, to be enthroned, not in splendour, but on a cross. ‘The message of the cross,’ Paul writes, ‘is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1.18).
Did Provost Dick Howard get ridiculed for speaking of a shared need of forgiveness during the Second World War? Yes. He was doing God’s work. Do you feel foolish handing out leaflets about nuclear disinvestment to a City Council who might appear more or less indifferent? Good. You are doing God’s work.
Take heart: ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing the things that are’ (1 Corinthians 1.27-28). At this time of uncertainty for your organisation, at this time of disruption post-pandemic, with conflict in Europe and sanctuary being outsourced to Rwanda, are you feeling foolish, weak, low, despised, insignificant? Me too. But God uses people such as us to bring in pax Christi. Take heart.
The peace of Jesus Christ is
- local and particular
- inhabited, and
My sisters and brothers, think on these things as you renew yourselves for the work of peace. First, in a time of silence, and then through questions for me and in discussion with one another. Peace be with you. Let us hold peace between us and within us.
1. Coined by Fr Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Jesuits, 1968.
2. ‘The Backwater Sermons: Poems by Jay Hulme; Canterbury Press, 2021
Copyright ©️2022 Mary Gregory
Mennonites respond to Trauma in Ukraine (30/6/22)
Speakers at the Fellowship for Reconciliations’s weekly Friday night prayers for Ukraine slot often give a refreshing slant on the Russia/Ukraine war and last weeks’s contribution from Andrea Shalay, Peace Engagement Co-ordinator of Mennonite Central Committee was no exception.
After mentioning some of the well-known examples of nonviolent action – Ukrainian’s phoning the mothers of Russian soldiers, a woman in a Russian flat with a Urainian flag in her window… – she cautioned that stories of nonviolent resistance do not always, or indeed often, have a happy ending. She was clear that it was not up to those of us living ‘on the outside’ to advocate nonviolence, but commended those who do choose such response because they’ve ‘felt nonviolence in their hearts’.
She told us that the Mennonites are putting their energies into creating a network of practitioners who can work with those in Ukraine who have experienced trauma. This seems a very practical example of peacemaking – and sadly, there is likely to be no shortage of those needing their services.
Paul McGowan ‘struggling to make sense of what he is told’ (29/6/22)
On this morning’s Today programme, the UK’s Defence Minister, Mr Wallace, announced that Russia was particularly dangerous because it was the sort of country that might ‘’lash out’’ at other countries, if it perceived them to be a threat to its own interests. And these countries might be far from Russia itself.
What a strange country Russia must be, I thought, compared to the likes of us and our friends. We would never do such a thing. It is scarcely comprehensible to us.
We live in extraordinary times. What a struggle it is to make sense of what we are told. The Bible isn’t always much help, either. Even those famous bits that we usually count as plain and simple.
Take Psalm 137, for example. ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept, remembering thee, Zion.’ Displaced people recalling their homeland, unable to be themselves any more, cut off from their roots. It’s a poignant scene. But it doesn’t stop there. It ends with these same exiles calling down God’s punishment on their captors and wishing on them the same horrors they themselves had suffered. ‘Let their children be dashed against rocks and smashed to pieces, as ours were.’
Or take the Book of Job. How familiar it all is. The good man robbed of everything important to him, counselled by his unscathed friends to bear it all stoically, and who finally comes to accept that God is in charge of everything, for which he is reinstated to his first condition of comfort. Except that Job insists to the end that he has done nothing to deserve his fate, and for this, too, he is favoured by God. God declares that Job alone has spoken rightly of the things that befell him. And those who thought it best to explain them away see their explanations rejected by God.
Or shall we take the parable of the Prodigal Son? Here, the father gets the last word – forgiveness is the right thing to do. Except that the elder son says nothing. Silence here does not give consent. The end of the story is two men in a field looking at the same situation and seeing completely different things.
So what are we being taught by these works?
Do not bring the horrors to an end until justice is done? Do not pretend that things are not as we know they are? Do not imagine things can be easily wrapped up?
And what might the Today programme learn?
The horrors do not come from somewhere else. Fantasy and distortion will never describe the world as it is. The truth never fits neatly inside one person’s head.
Copyright ©️2022 Paul McGowan
Joint Statement on Refugee Flights (16/6/22)
Pax Christi Scotland and Pax Christi England and Wales deplore the UK Government’s policy to deport people seeking asylum offshore to Rwanda.
The decision of the courts on June 14 that prevented the first intended flight carrying people to Rwanda was welcome, but we are aware from the statements of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, in the House of Commons on June 15 that the government has no intention of changing this policy.
Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles and Bishop President of the Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Interreligious Dialogue Committee says: “These people have fled violence, hunger, and poverty and only want to make a fresh start in life. They have much to offer our country. Nevertheless, they will be cruelly deported…May the Holy Family, who were themselves forced to seek asylum in Africa, move our hearts to discern that we are all brothers and sisters.”
Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Migration Issues for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has said,
The UK’s plans to forcibly deport to Rwanda some of those seeking refuge in our country is shamefully illustrative of what Pope Francis has called the ‘loss of that sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters on which every civil society is based’.
‘With greater force we insist that asylum seekers are not commodities for profit, nor are they problems to be rejected and deported by government. Instead we should be guided by the four verbs provided by Pope Francis in our approach to migrants and refugees, ‘Welcome, protect, promote and integrate’.’
The protest journey is just starting. The Home Office intends to push forward its Rwanda police and to make it illegal to seek asylum in the UK, which goes against international law. We would encourage people to pray for those under threat of deportation, and to act by writing to their MPs, signing the petitions seeking a change of policy, and demonstrating non-violently in public arenas.
Our voices are their voices.
Marian Pallister, Pax Christi Scotland Chair
Ann Farr, Chair Pax Christi England and Wales
Greet Vanaerschot, Secretary General, Pax Christi International
Ukraine: Advocating Dialogue
Insight from Marian Pallister, Pax Christi Scotland Chair
It is understandable that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would want more arms. The Russians are relentless and he must see this as the only way to save Ukraine.
But of course, peace movements like Pax Christi don’t see it that way, and it was encouraging to hear that an interfaith delegation recently returned from Ukraine believe in the peace-making power of a wave of such humanitarian visits, focusing on dialogue.
A Zoom call organised by Pax Christi International’s Nonviolence Group brought first hand reports from Sr Rose Berger, Eli McCarthy, and Sheila Kinsey – down-to-earth delegates who have previous experience of conflicts. Sheila Kinsey suggested parallels with the Bosnia war when neighbour was turned against neighbour.
And that’s the thing about war. From the outside we might consider only statistics – how many, how far, how long – but on the ground, war is devastatingly personal.
Like Sheila Kinsey, I was in Bosnia during the war there. I spoke to so many neighbours of different faiths who had previously lived happily side-by-side, but because of the influences of the war, those relationships ended in betrayals, deaths.
In Ukraine, so many people have strong ties with Russia and speak Russian rather than the Ukrainian spoken by their next-door neighbour. As this war continues – and some say it will last a year – deep-seated prejudices based on language, customs, religion, and festering hangovers from World War II could emerge and destroy relationships.
That’s why dialogue within Ukraine as well as between Ukraine and Russia is essential to save lives and promote peace. Of course, some say it is too late for dialogue – these three delegates, like Pope Francis, disagree.
Pax Christi Scotland sent a letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia seeking his support for dialogue. We got leaders of all faiths in Scotland to co-sign it, and we received a response through Агсhimапdгitе Philaret, Viсе-Сhаiгmап of the Dерагtmепt fог Ехtегпаl Сhuгсh Relations in the Moscow Раtгiагсhаtе.
Patriarch Kirill’s message was “It is vегу imрогtапt that Сhгistiап Сhuгсhеs, including оuг Сhuгсhеs, do not bесоmе, bе it voluпtагilу ог iпvоluпtагilу, iпvоlvеd in those соmрlех, сопtгаdiсtогу tendencies that аге ргеsепt оп the wогld agenda tоdау… we stгivе to take а peacemaking роsitiоп, in the face of the сuггепt conflicts as wеll, bесаusе the Сhuгсh cannot bе а рагtу to а соfliсt – it сап опlу bе а peacemaking fогсе.”
I asked the delegates at the Pax Christi International event if it was worth sending another letter or if that would simply be an irritant. They encouraged us to write again, appreciating the difficulties of the Russian Church and seeking to share the prayers Archimandrite Philaret said were now included in the Russian Orthodox liturgy for “the soonest restoration of peace”. Although warned that the Patriarch couldn’t change his position, we’re optimistic.
Pumping more, bigger and better armaments into the country can only escalate the conflict. Prayer, dialogue humanitarian aid and many more peace delegations are what Pax Christi Scotland believes Ukraine needs. Can we share plans?
Marian Pallister, Pax Christi Scotland Chair
Pax Christi Responds to War in Ukraine
Recent Pax Christi International resources, articles and events relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war are available here.
Paul Oestreicher in conversation with John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral. Part of the Healing the Wounds of History in a Time of War.
Community of the Cross of Nails online gathering, May 2022.
Reflection by CCND’s Russell Whiting originally given at the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Friday Evening Prayers (29/4/22)
It is good to see that so many Christians around the world have continued to dedicate time to praying for peace in the light of the war in Ukraine. When we cast our minds back to the beginning of the conflict, Vladimir Putin held a briefing with his top military leaders live on TV where he ordered them to put Russia’s nuclear weapons on a “high level of readiness”. This was initially met with shock in UK and elsewhere, but soon experts were saying that this is not a recognised step in Russian military doctrine and was probably just sabre-rattling by the Kremlin.
As the war has progressed the threat of nuclear weapons being used has been on the agenda and in peoples minds in a way it hasn’t been for the past decades. The situation is incredibly dangerous, it will only take one rocket from Russia to start into Poland or another NATO Member State and the situation could escalate very quickly.
Just a few days ago a senior editor of RT – Russian state media – a very close ally of Vladimir Putin, Margarita Simonyan spoke at a conference. Her remarks are worth quoting at length:
“Either we lose in Ukraine, or the Third World War starts. I think World War Three is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader. The most incredible outcome, that all this will end with a nuclear strike, seems more probable to me than the other course of events. This is to my horror on one hand, but on the other hand, it is what it is. We’re all going to die someday.”
The first time I read those words I almost laughed at the simplicity of the sentiment, but I think it demonstrates that we can take nothing for granted when it comes to the mindset of the Russian leaders. There have also been times in the past two months when the language of British and other western politicians cause us to question their commitment to finding peace in the situation.
We seem to have lost our shared humanity. Those fighting on the Russian side are human beings – as Christians we believe they are created in the image of God. Most of them don’t want to be there, they don’t want to be fighting and they have families at home worrying about them. The way our media somehow romanticises war from one perspective and demonises the other side is not helpful.
We all know that wars either end with a negotiated settlement, or they continue to rage. Between today and the end of this conflict potentially millions more will die, suffer injuries and experience unimaginable loss, anguish and pain. What we need to do is skip the bit where all that happens and we can end this quickly and minimise the future suffering of the people of Ukraine and Russia.
During this time of conflict and unceratinty about the use of nuclear weapons I have found it incredibly helpful to find time for silence and for pray. To re-centre ourselves on God, to declare Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, with the government on His shoulders.
Throughout history there are stories of struggles and conflicts which seemed hopeless, until situations change. We continue to pray for all those leaders involved in this conflict, including Vladimir Putin and those around him. We pray that those who suffer and mourn will be comforted and most of all we pray that the people of Ukraine will be able to live in peace, and the threat of nuclear weapons use will be consigned to history once and for all.
Being a Conscientious Objector in Ukraine/Russia (20/4/22)
Independent Catholic News shares this report…
The following post, on Friends House Moscow Facebook page, republished with permission, explores the issue of the right to be a conscientious objector… Read More
Bishop speaks out on Nuclear weapons (5/3/22)
Independent Catholic News reports the address given recently at a public meeting by Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, Anglican Bishop of Coventry.
The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Anglican Bishop of Coventry gave the following address in a public meeting of the Lord Mayor of Coventry’s Comm… Read More
Ukraine – Resources for Understanding, Prayer and Action
Prayer Service of 59th Anniversary of Pacem in Terris
This recording contains stories about what religious congregations are doing in Ukraine and stories of nonviolent resistance…
Listen to Bonhoeffer’s Prophetic Message…
Project Bonhoeffer is a UK-based organisation set up to ‘inform and remind today’s Christians of the challenges of discipleship that Dietrich Bonhoeffer addressed in his radical theology and Christian witness’. Project Bonhoeffer’s challenge to faith Communities can be read in full on Independent Catholic News: “We call on Orthodox and other Faith Communities to bear witness to the message of Bonhoeffer for our times – that wars of aggression and the Christian message are incompatible”.
Plea for Peace from Mary Hale 92/4/22)
Confused and distressed amid the clamour and din of claim and counter claim by the belligerents in the current tragic situation in Ukraine, I sought solace in silence.
There I came to understand that victory and defeat are two sides of the same coin: that victor and vanquished are inextricably bound together by bonds of hubris and humiliation by guilt and shame but also by grief for the loss of family, friends and homes.
Those who choose the path of kindness and compassion as taught by all the world’s great religionsfind true freedom though it may cost them their lives.
Copyright ©️2022 Mary Hale
Fellowship of Reconciliation Resource (1/4/22)
Members may find this resource from Fellowship of Reconciliation of interest.
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.
Pope calls for Abolition of War before it Erases Humanity (27/3/22)
Pope Francis strong condemnation of war in his Angelus address on Sunday is reported by Independent Catholic News.
There is a need to repudiate was, a place of death where fathers and mothers bury their children, where men kill their brothers without ever having seen them, where the powerful decide and the poor die.Pope Francis
Global Campaign on Military Spending – UK Statement on Military Spending (23/3/22)
In a challenging statement published on the eve of the UK budget announcement, GCOMS UK asks: Is the invasion of Ukraine really the fault of NATO under-spending? read it here.
Pax Christi Member Bruce Kent sends a message to Putin and makes suggestions for actions all can take (6/3/22)
In his speech at a rally in Trafalgar Square on 6 March, Bruce Kent sent a message to Putin
—-. ‘for the sake of the millions of us who will perish if the heightened risk of nuclear war turns into a nuclear conflict, we urge you to halt the attacks, withdraw the troops and nuclear threats.’
He then went on to make suggestions for action
- Get our own Government to sign up to and support the new UN Treaty on Nuclear Weapons Abolition and to send a delegation to the June meeting in Austria
- Increase general knowledge of UN structure and work, in churches, schools, libraries etc etc
- Make contact with those brave people who support peace moves in Russia
- Do all you can to help all refugees. (Including those who are not Ukrainians, but are fleeing across the Channel.)
An A4 Sheet with the words of the preamble to the UN charter is available for 50p from Movement Against War. https://abolishwar.net/shop/preamble-to-the-united-nations-charter/
Poem by Rob Esdaile: Breakfast In The Safety Of A War-Zone
The radio crackles into life beneath my clumsy early morning thumb,
bringing the latest from a basement under siege.
As the kettle boils a plume of smoke rises in the distance,
followed seconds later by the dull thud of the landing shell.
The loose dry leaves cascade like shrapnel into the pre-warmed pot.
The clatter of machine-guns punctuates my stirring of the brew.
I reach the fridge door just in time
as a jet swoops fast and furious,
retrieving the milk bottle while a kindly grandma explains
the best recipe for a successful cocktail – petrol, rags and cooking oil.
On the stove the surface of the porridge pan erupts
as exploding cluster bombs pock-mark their city streets.
Slavic voices fully convey in words I do not ken the anguish of the hour
as I spoon sweet honey into my steaming bowl of oats.
I check my e-mails while a doctor checks a wounded fighter’s pulse.
A child screams as I pour myself a glass of juice.
Zelensky pops up with another impromptu speech,
while more exhausted exiles clog his nation’s roads.
I go to wash, to dress and clean my teeth. I say my prayers.
Another day dawns on the frontline of our hearts.
Copyright ©️2022 Rob Esdaile
Copies of Rob’s latest collection of 27 poems: ‘A Word In Edgeways’ which includes the poem shown above are available for £7 inc. p&p (or £10 together with the previous volume, ‘An Invaded Life’) from Our Lady of Lourdes parish office. e: firstname.lastname@example.org; t: 020 8398 2191. Proceeds to Cafod/DEC Ukraine Appeal.
Poem by Anne O’Connor (11/3/22)
In the midst of horror
the kindness of others shines a light in the darkness
a simple, practical gesture
unknown mothers reaching out to women they will never meet
As the war escalates with new atrocities
a Russian air strike destroys a children’s hospital ward
A Russian soldier,
no more than a boy,
weeps as his captors show compassion.
A Ukrainian woman embraces him,
not his mother
the mother of an enemy.
With a mother’s love
she calls the frightened boy’s mother to tell her he’s ok one mother to another.
She calls her by name: ‘Natasha’.
Copyright ©️2022 Anne O’Connor
A JustPeace Approach in Ukraine from Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Project (7/3/22)
In mid-February, before Russia invaded Ukraine, Eli McCarthy, Ph.D. from Georgetown University and John Reuwer developed the following proposal in response to President Putin’s threats to Ukraine. Their proposal is based on a “JustPeace” ethical framework being explored by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and many others as an approach to identifying nonviolent solutions in violent or potentially violent situations.
On March 7, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Eli developed their thoughts further (see below) and Pax Christi International’s Nonviolence Advocacy Working Group is facilitating a continued discernment process that involves many Pax Christi member organizations from around the world sharing ideas for nonviolent approaches to a just peace in Ukraine.
Read the article here
Pope Francis’ Plea for Peace in Ukraine (6/3/22)
“Dear brothers and sisters, Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine. It is not merely a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction and misery. The number of victims is increasing, as are the people fleeing, especially mothers and children. The need for humanitarian assistance in that troubled country is growing dramatically by the hour. I make a heartfelt appeal for humanitarian corridors to be genuinely secured, and for aid to be guaranteed and access facilitated to the besieged areas, in order to offer vital relief to our brothers and sisters oppressed by bombs and fear. I thank all those who are taking in refugees. Above all, I implore that the armed attacks cease and that negotiation – and common sense – prevail. And that international law be respected once again!Let us pray together for Ukraine: we have its flags in front of us. Let us pray together, as brothers and sisters, to Our Lady, Queen of Ukraine. Hail Mary…The Holy See is ready to do everything, to put itself at the service of this peace. In these days, two Cardinals went to Ukraine, to serve the people, to help. Cardinal Krajewski, the Almoner, to bring aid to the needy, and Cardinal Czerny, interim Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The presence of the two Cardinals there is the presence not only of the Pope, but of all the Christian people who want to get closer and say: “War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!” “
Archbishop’s Call for Solidarity and for Peace
Independent Catholic News (28/2/22) reports the Archbishop of Southwark’s call for solidarity with the people of Ukraine and for peace at the Ukranian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family yesterday.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols calls for end to Russian attacks in Ukraine
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference, has called for an immediate cessation of the Russian attacks in Ukraine and for the protection of innocent civilians.
“I appeal for all to pray for the people of Ukraine, who are suffering the brunt of this conflict. I pray for their strength and perseverance under this onslaught.
“The international community must unite in seeking an end to this conflict through peaceful means, including dialogue and negotiation, as the only way forward.
“It is their responsibility to ensure that international law and territorial sovereignty are respected. We must also keep in mind the plight of those who will become refugees as a result of this attack and the humanitarian crisis that will inevitably follow.
“In this precarious moment for the people of Ukraine and further across Europe, I pray for the victims of this conflict and their families.” From Catholic Church England and Wales (24/2/22)
Pope Francis calls for a Day of Fasting for Peace, Ash Wednesday, 2 March
Pope Francis has invited everyone to make 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace.
“I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war,” [Pope Francis] said. Independent Catholic News (24/2/22)
A statement from Pax Christ International on Ukraine. (24/2/22)
A statement on Ukraine from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. (23/2/22)
The Northern Friends Peace Board has collated a page of resources which might be helpful in understanding the crisis. (14/2/22)
Pax Christi International is promoting a webinar on possible diplomatic ways to resolve the Ukrainian crisis organised by Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security on Wednesday 2 March, 15.00 GMT Diplomatic Paths to Resolution of the Ukraine/European Security Crisis Russian, European & U.S. Perspectives. Speakers include: Alexey Gromyko: Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia) Tarja Cronberg: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Finland) Daryl Kimball: Arms Control Association (United States). Register here .
On the website of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Ukranian Catholic Bishop of the Holy Family of London asks for prayers and support. (22/2/22)
Pax Christi Members joined in an online service of prayer Prayers for Peace in Ukraine with our friends from the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship. The presentation made in the service is available here .
Dr Inderjit Bhogal, Honorary President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, has written a prayer for use during this time of heightening tensions in the Ukraine.
We hold before you all who live close to war and conflict; and all who live close to the threat of war and violence.
We remember especially at this time, people in Ukraine and Russia. We pray for nonviolent and peaceful resolutions of conflict.
Give to us all hearts of hospitality and sanctuary, forgive us all our hostility and hatred.
Bring all people to the humanity you give us, and to the reconciliation and healing for which you give your life.
Strengthen us all to work with you to build justice and peace, reconciliation and healing, in our hearts and homes, in our streets, in all communities, neighbourhoods and nations.
Bless all who live lives for the peace and wellbeing of others, and make their service fruitful.
In the name of Christ.
WCC appeals for Peace
“God’s people – and members of the ecumenical fellowship – find themselves on both sides of the current confrontation,” added Sauca. “But our God is a God of peace, not of war and bloodshed,” he said. “Though the things that make for peace may be hidden from the eyes of those driving the march to war, we pray that they may yet be opened, and that peace may yet prevail.” A report is available on ICN.
Pax Christi International has written to Pope Francis about the escalation of tensions in Ukraine and the need for coordinated international action to ensure peace and the avoidance of war. We expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for his leadership in calling for a nonviolent resolution and initiating a world day of prayer for Ukraine, in which our movement has faithfully participated.https://paxchristi.net/2022/01/27/appeal-to-pope-francis-for-peace-in-ukraine/
Cardinal joins peace prayers for Ukraine (29/1/22)
Independent Catholic News reports today on the short service of prayer attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and the Papal Nuncio at London’s Ukranian Cathedral, after which the Cardinal gave the following blessing:
May God, our Merciful Father, look with kindness on our broken world in which there is so much conflict. May God, our Merciful Father, give wisdom to those who are trying to sustain, protect and build peace through negotiation and diplomacy, and may God bless us all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales have background information on the current situation in Ukraine and prayer resources on their website
Pope Francis calls for Day of Prayer for Peace on (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’.
Prayer & Reflection on Ukraine
As an individual or in a J&P group/prayer group/scripture group…
- Share (without discussion) some of words you have read or images you have seen.
- Ask: Has anyone in the group got personal knowledge of Ukraine or Russia?
- Deepen this sharing by asking the question, ‘Who is doing what to whom and why?’
- Hear words from scripture: Stilling the Storm: Matthew 8: 23-27, Mark 4:35 – 41, Luke 8: 22 – 25Resurrection appearance to the disciples: John 20: 19Prayer for peace: Psalm 29: 11The peace of God’s Reign: Isaiah 32: 16 – 18Act justly…: Micah 6: 8 You will be able to find many more examples
- Pray in silence or in words…
- (There are many statements and articles and prayer resources available through the Pax Christi website https://paxchristi.org.uk/news-reports-2022/ )
- Hold a time of prayer for those affected by the crisis – remembering all those affected.
- Attend the Pax Christi/Christian CND Ash Wednesday online service 2 March, 7.00 pm. Register here.
- Keep an eye on Pax Christi’s website and social media for more information and actions – and do share your ideas with us at email@example.com
- Try not to feel overcome by the news: take actions that bring life and hope to yourself and those around you.
- Say the Pax Christi Daily Prayer in solidarity with others working for peace.
It is important that members of the group respect each others views, opinions and perspectives – and practise peace!
Pax Christi Daily Prayer
Members and supporters might like to use this on a daily basis
Thank you loving God:
For the gift of life;
For this wonderful world which we all share;
For the joy of love and friendship;
For the challenge of helping to build your kingdom.
My determination to work for a world of peace and justice;
My conviction that, whatever our nationality or race,
we are all global citizens, one in Christ;
My courage to challenge the powerful with the values of the gospel;
My commitment to find nonviolent ways of resolving conflict;
– personal, local, national and international;
My efforts to forgive injuries and to love those I find it hard to love.
To share the gifts you have given me;
To speak out for the victims of injustice who have no voice;
To reject the violence which runs through much of our world today.
Holy Spirit of God
Renew my hope for a world free from the cruelty and evil of war so that we may all come to share
in God’s peace and justice. Amen
Gweddi ddyddiol Pax Christi
Diolch, Dduw cariad:
am rodd bywyd;
am y byd rhyfeddol hwn a rannwn;
am lawenydd cariad a chyfeillgarwch;
am yr her i helpu adeiladu dy deyrnas.
fy mhenderfyniad i weithio dros fyd o heddwch a chyfiawnder;
fy argyhoeddiad ein bod, waeth beth ein cenedl neu’n hil, i gyd yn ddinasyddion byd ac yn un yng Nghrist;
fy newrder i herio’r grymus ag egwyddorion yr efengyl;
fy ymrwymiad i ganfod ffyrdd di-drais o ddatrys gwrthdaro – personol, lleol, cenedlaethol a rhyngwladol;
fy ymdrechion i faddau cam ac i garu’r rhai rwy’n eu cael yn anodd eu caru.
I rannu’r rhoddion a roddaist i mi;
I godi llais dros rai sy’n dioddef anghyfiawnder ac nad oes ganddynt lais;
I wrthod y trais sy’n rhan mor annatod o’n byd heddiw.
Ysbryd Sanctaidd Duw:
Adnewydda fy ngobaith am fyd rhydd o greulondeb a drygioni rhyfel er mwyn i ni gyd ddod i rannu yn nhangnefedd a chyfiawnder Duw.