Reclaiming Gospel Nonviolence – a conference report

Fellowship of Reconciliation trustee Geraldine Bridges reports on the conference held 14-16 July in St Mary’s Monastery in Perth. A video of keynote speaker John Dear is available here. A video of keynote speaker Lucas Johnson is available here

John Dear speaks at the Kinnoull conference

John Dear speaks at the Kinnoull conference

Taking the opportunity of the rise in the nonviolent movement within and without the church, and the need for an ecumenical conference, participants explored the centrality of active nonviolence to Christianity, the recent shifts from Just War to Nonviolence. We looked at work done in communities around the world, and opportunities to develop nonviolence in Scotland. As Martin Luther King said “it’s either nonviolence or non-existence.”

Reclaiming Gospel NonViolence was the title of the Conference and was held at Kinnoull, Perth in St. Mary’s Monastery. Sponsors and participants included the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, The Scottish Episcopalian Church, Quakers, Methodists, Justice and Peace Scotland, Conforti Institute and others working for peace and nonviolence.

It was a packed programme. John Dear, the American priest, author of thirty-five books and lifelong peace activist, was a keynote speaker, along with Lucas Johnson, International Coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). John gave two inspiring talks about his work for peace based on the nonviolent message, life and work of Jesus in the gospels. Lucas talked about the work of IFOR: the Beloved Community Project to bring together majority and minority groups in Europe; his recent work in South Sudan with the Organisation for Nonviolence And Democracy, a member of IFOR;  and the peace presence accompaniment work in Columbia, where international observers accompany and protect local communities striving for peace.

Lucas Johnson at Kinnoull 2017

Lucas Johnson reflecting at the Kinnoull conference

Workshops were also facilitated by both of the international speakers as well as Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi, who ran a workshop on our taking the nonviolent gospel message to our communities. Jan Benvie who has worked with the CPT did a workshop on Christian Peacemaking in Palestine/Israel based on her experiences there.

Kinnoull Hill was a wonderful setting for the Conference and work is now underway to develop the peace networks and training programmes for Scotland so that the movement will flourish and counter the violence towards each other and the earth so prevalent not only in Scotland but globally.