April, 2019

On the Road to Peace

A Monthly Newsletter from Fr. John

April, 2019

Dear Friends, Greetings from Rome! I’m here attending the 2nd Vatican Conference on Nonviolence, meeting friends, reflecting on Gospel nonviolence, sharing with officials and feeling hopeful for new breakthroughs of peace.

We are being hosted by the Vatican Dicastery, the main office of justice and peace, led by Cardinal Peter Turkson and his staff, as well as by Pax Christi International, led by Marie Dennis. Seventy-five of us from around the world have been sharing reflections on nonviolence, Jesus, the church, and our hope that Pope Francis will publish an encyclical on Gospel nonviolence. We remain hopeful that these gatherings will bear good fruit overtime in the universal church.

My friend and colleague Ken Butigan drafted some general talking points for the participants, which I thought you might like to read. They make up the groundwork for our common vision and hope. Feel free to share them and spread them far and wide. God bless you, Fr. John



Nonviolence is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus was nonviolent. He taught us to put down our sword, to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil, and not to kill. He consistently practiced nonviolence in an extremely violent context, calling us to love our enemies and to join in building the nonviolent Reign of God.

Nonviolence is not passive or naïve. It is broader than pacifism or only the refusal to do harm. It is an active force for justice and peace.

Nonviolence is the calling of the Church. Following Jesus, the Catholic Church is called to be a global leader of nonviolence. In our time of enormous violence, we invite the Church to reaffirm the centrality of nonviolence and to teach, preach and practice nonviolence at every level of its global community.

Nonviolence is at the heart of a culture of peace. A sustainable culture of peace cannot be established or maintained by violence. Active nonviolence is foundational to creating and deepening a true culture of peace.

Nonviolence is a way of faith and action. Nonviolence is a way of life, a spirituality, a central virtue, and an active method for stopping or preventing violence without using violence; for transforming and resolving conflict; for protecting all people and our common home; and for building cultures of peace and justice. When we live nonviolently, we become signs and channels of God’s nonviolence.

Nonviolence is an effective alternative. We live nonviolently because this is the way God wants us to live. The results are in God’s hands. At the same time, living the way of nonviolence—in our lives, our church, and our world—can open creative and powerful possibilities of ending violence and creating just and peaceful alternatives. Nonviolence is being practiced and lived all over the world, including in the midst of extreme violence. Empirical research has demonstrated that active nonviolence can be an effective response to violence and injustice.

Nonviolence includes a broad spectrum of approaches and activities, from trauma healing to diplomacy, from nonviolent communication to restorative justice, from nonviolent civilian protection to atrocity prevention, from nonviolent civil resistance to nonviolent social change, and beyond.

Nonviolence is the core of a new moral framework. By adopting a new moral framework based on nonviolent practice, the church could help the world move toward a new culture of peace. Given what we now know about the consequences of horrific violence and war—the cost in human life, psychological trauma, moral injury, environmental damage, climate disruption, etc.—and given the vast resources spent on preparations for war, resources that are desperately needed for integral human development, the church repeatedly calls for an end to war and for spending to meet real human needs. If it teaches and proposes a new moral framework of nonviolence, the church could help the world envision new paths to disarmament and new cultures of nonviolence.