Toward a More Peaceful Community
Reflection by Mary E. Latela, M.Div.
Representatives of The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the global Catholic peace network Pax Christi International gathered April 11th to 13th to focus on the hope and actualization of a way of living which would displace the centuries-old just war theory as the main Catholic response to violence.
Terrence Rynne, a U.S. theologian (and a founder of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University) said before the meeting that he considers it “phenomenally important.” It is possible that Pope Francis will write about this shift of thinking, which would open up discussions among people are living in an age of conflict to choose and build the tools for peacemaking in the church and beyond.
“We live in a time of tremendous suffering, widespread trauma and fear linked to militarization, economic injustice, climate change, and a myriad of other specific forms of violence”.(Summary of Proceedings.) Taking the perspective that every person can be engaged in peacemaking, we admit that violence is widespread, a daily side-dish on the menu of life. We have become numb to the presence of violence, mass shootings, persecution, in our own towns.
Two years ago, a white supremacist entered a high income area in Kansas City, Missouri, near the Menorrah Hospital, with the intention of “killing some Jews.” This 70-ish man did kill three people – none of them Jewish – and was tried and found guilty of murder with special circumstances, i.e., hate crimes. Perhaps this is how hateful people see their way to fame and glory, but it surely smacks of insane self-absorption, and depersonalization of – in this case, an elderly man and his young grandson, and a woman who volunteered on Sundays at the hospital.
“The time has come for the Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices.”
We know that wars come and go, and there is the in-between time when it seems that peace is planted. However, violence, war, terror, torture, expulsion seem to never end. And it would be a mistake to believe that a few well-place bombs could destroy the worst perpetrators while leaving the innocent unharmed. When we learned that the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks had been killed in a well-coordinated military detail, some celebrated. Others, more and more, feel shame and disgust that we still can only destroy an evil warrior with extermination.
When we choose to send in the military, we do not win conflicts. We inflict damage upon soldiers, their families, their children. In this age, those surviving warriors return accompanied by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury, and with life forever compromised.
Peace begins in the heart of one person, is spread within a couple, a family, and into the community. Peace on earth may seem only a dream, but we can each take the first steps.