Conference blog #6: Reflecting on Francis’ message

Matt Jeziorski is the education coordinator for Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organisation actively educating and campaigning for a more just and peaceful world. Here are his reflections on the message Pope Francis gave on New Year’s Day and how we might accept the challenge of peace.

Reflection on Pope Francis’s message for World Peace Day 2014

In his message for World Day of Peace (1 January) Pope Francis reflects on what peace is and how it is to be built. In placing fraternity as the foundation for peacebuilding he imagines a world where, recognising one another as brothers and sisters, indifference is impossible and we become deeply concerned with the sufferings of others. Other people, nations, and communities are not commodities to be exploited in order to maintain or promote one’s own power and prestige. They are our neighbours and helpers in building the common good.

A natural consequence of this is that violent conflict becomes impossible when we see a brother or a sister to be loved where once we saw an enemy to be beaten or conquered. Yet Pope Francis goes further than dealing solely with armed conflict and also considers the ‘less visible but no less cruel war fought in the economic and financial sectors’ which are similarly destructive of lives, families, and businesses.

His call is that every interaction with the other, every transaction, every relationship be rooted in love and service in order that the foundations for peace are secure.

This is a message that challenges how we live from day to day. If we are serious about loving and serving all other people then not only does it demand that we work for the ending of the crime of warfare and the sinful arms trade but it demands plenty of us with regard to the smaller things.

The cost of my food and clothing says a great deal about the value I place on the people and planet that produces it. The welcome extended to the asylum seeker and the economic migrant will differ if they are seen as family rather than a threat to our jobs, culture, and way-of-life. And the delight in what I own will only be enhanced as I remember that the right use of my wealth and possessions is in serving my poorer, weaker, and more vulnerable sisters and brothers.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrated Peace Sunday last weekend (19 January), where we reflect particularly in our liturgy on this peace message of the Holy Father. It may cause some discomfort in the pews.

If I am to heed this call to lay aside selfishness so I can truly respond to Pope Francis’s call to love and service – which simply echoes Christ’s own commandment that we are to love one another – then I must be willing to consider how I, daily, can love and serve my neighbour however near or far she may be. Then I can be confident that I am helping lay the foundations for peace.

Find out more about conference and book your place here.

Conference blog series: #5, “We interrupt this war…”

Andii Bowsher is the co-convenor of the Newcastle’s joint universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee and Anglican chaplain to Northumbria University. He explains why peace is more inherent to life than violence, particularly for Christians.

We interrupt this war …

Christmas Eve 2014 sees the centenary of the unofficial Christmas truces. They commonly began with German soldiers and officers putting up Christmas trees, shouting Christmas greetings, and singing songs recognisable to ‘Tommy’ such as Stille Nacht.
I’m involved in some local projects to make something of remembering the Christmas Truces because they represent a moment of sanity and tell us something important about war and peace.
WWI was a war arising from Imperial ambitions clashing. At the heart of it were supposedly Christian nations mirroring each other’s official ‘theologies’ of war and nationhood and painting their opponents demonically. But how did supposedly Christian countries with good civilisational credentials end up demonising each other and slaughtering one another and claiming it was God’s will?

Let’s start with the creation stories of the Ancient Near East. Though these varied in detail of character and plot, the stories portray order created out of chaos by violence. Human beings are not shown to be high in the value and dignity stakes -we’re almost afterthoughts made from disrespected defeated enemies in order to slave for the gods and their representatives on earth (royal elites). In this scheme the created order is violently produced and maintained: ultimate reality is violent, ‘agonistic’.

So it’s interesting to read how Genesis 1 looks against this background. We see a counter-story: emphasising that creation is founded in original peace rather than original violence, and that we humans have a dignity since we all image God -a view which automatically flattens hierarchy and delegitimises kingly and priestly claims of privilege. We are also created for rest as well as to participate in the work of God.

The Ancient Near East stories are essentially myths of redemptive violence: a way of proposing that violence is what effects important change and brings about good; the goodies must employ violence to make sure that their ‘good’ values prosper and prevail. It is a myth that is propagated in many -most- Hollywood films. It encourages us to think that means are not necessarily or inherently related to ends; that we can create good by doing harm.

Our societies are held captive by the Myth of Redemptive Violence. The Judeo-Christian traditions question that. Jesus’ teaching strongly undermines it. Our faiths have been co-opted by the Myth and our imaginations colonised by it. The Christmas Truce reminds us that our imaginations can be challenged and awakened to more peaceful and just dreams and our faith can fund another way of relating beyond the reinforced enmities we’re socialised into. It allows us to glimpse a truth: that peace is more fundamental to the order of the universe than violence.

Find out more about the conference and book your place here.

#PeaceProphets14

Conference blog post #4: In Sight of Peace

Fourth post in our conference blog series: Amelia Sutcliffe, divinity student at Edinburgh university, worked at a photography exhibition last summer; she shares her reflections on how some unexpected photographs can be powerful witnesses for peace.

#InSightOfPeace

This August I worked as an intern for the Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI), in Edinburgh, on their summer project ‘In Sight Of Peace’. I was initially unsure about taking up the opportunity but, having found out more, I decided to take the plunge in the name of fun and experience.

My role was to help with the day-to-day running of their exhibition, “In Sight of Peace”, its associated events at the Just Festival and social media. “In Sight Of Peace”, by Magnum Photographer Ian Berry, shows South Africa from 1960 to 2005 and its move from segregation to equality and reconciliation. Although I assumed from its title that it would be emotive and interesting, I could not have estimated the impact it would have on me or its many visitors.

And what photos they were, from one of the only pictures taken at the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, (which was used in the trial against the police), to those of school children in newly integrated primary schools. As I oversaw the exhibition I got to know each image and although each held a shocking and heart-breaking story, the power of Berry’s photography allowed visitors to see and understand without a word of explanation. I believe this was the reason CTPI wanted to show it, not just for the public to see Berry’s skill (though this would be reason enough), but for them to think, question and wonder the place of photography in sharing a story without using words. And not just any story, but a story of Peace building: while some of the images depicted appalling violence, many showed great joy and, critically, change. Ultimately this was what ‘In Sight Of Peace’ was about: portraying change and, as part of CTPI’s wider discussion, questioning whether the media can represent and play a part in building-peace when usually it chooses to portray or incite violence. Largely without knowledge of this wider question, visitors’ comments showed that it can, describing both “how far we’ve come” and “how much more we must do for true peace”.

Seeing peace is difficult, as mostly it happens under the surface. Although some may question how an exhibition which includes images of violence and injustice could possibly show peace, I would argue that it does, albeit perhaps unconventionally. It shows peace in the reactions and emotions it draws out of people when they desire that peace. It shows peace by bearing witness to horrific events, teaching that it’s wrong and that there must be something else. And most of all, the set of photos shows peace as a journey of development, change and hope; that peace is not stagnant but something fluid to work towards, hence “In Sight Of Peace” not “a concrete peace point”.

This project, the visitors’ comments and the further discussions of CTPI had a great impact on me – as did reflecting on it now – because they made me think (which in a long student summer can be a challenge!) and they made me see; think and see peace and peace-builders in more things/people. While Ian Berry may not call himself a peace builder – he believed he was just doing a job bearing witness to an event for others to see – his witness created peace-builders, rendering him one too and showing that we too can be peace-builders even if our talents do not fit the usual idea of the “actions” of peace-building.

As you can see, I loved my internship (although it was not without its stresses), so I thoroughly recommend taking up any random interesting opportunities!

If you would like any more information on the project or to see some of the pictures visit:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8422396/ISOP/In_Sight_of_Peace_GS_site/Photos.html

Coins into Ploughshares

The Royal Mint has brought out a new £2 coin to mark the centenary of the outbreak of WW1. View it here.
Our campaign featured in the Guardian diary column (4th paragraph) and the Oxford Mail.

Here’s the press release we sent out.

“Christian charity criticises new £2 coin for glorifying war.”

The Fellowship of Reconciliation – one of Britain’s oldest Christian Peacemaking groups – is calling upon the public to make “Coins into Ploughshares” by turning the new £2 coins depicting Lord Kitchener’s famous call to arms from 1914 into an investment in a just and peaceful future.

FoR Director, Millius Palayiwa said:

We are very concerned that the launch of the new £2 coin design is in danger of glorifying war and drawing public attention away from the horrors of the trenches and the continuing need for peace, healing and reconciliation in the world.

In the spirit of our founders, we are calling upon Christians, and everyone who wants to see the establishment of a world order based on love, forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation to save the new coins when they come across them and donate them to one of the many organisations working to build a just and peaceful world for everyone.

Chair Richard Bickle added:

The Fellowship of Reconciliation began, literally, on the eve of the First World War with a group of Christians from across Europe meeting to explore alternatives to armed conflict, and to assert their belief in Jesus’ call to build a world order based on love.

In this our centenary year, that need is as pressing as ever, and we want to challenge the many WWI centenary commemorations which appear to glorify the “Great War”.

Our International Peacemakers Fund is a practical way that people can invest in building a just and peaceful future by supporting grassroots peace and reconciliation projects in some of the most divided and violent communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Oceania.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. The Fellowship of Reconciliation was founded in 1914 in response to the horrors of war in Europe. Throughout its 100 years history, the Fellowship has taken a consistent stance against war and its preparation. Perceiving the need for healing and reconciliation in the world, the founders of the Fellowship formulated a vision of the human community based upon the belief that love, nonviolence and reconciliation in action have the power to transform unjust political, economic and social structures.
Worldwide, there are 85 branches, groups and affiliates in 48 countries. In its 100 years, the Fellowship has had 6 Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Chief Albert Luthuli of South Africa and Martin Luther King Jr.

2. The International Peacemakers Fund is the Fellowship’s way of showing practical solidarity with nonviolent grassroots peace making organisations in areas of the world afflicted by violent conflicts. Such peace organisations have very limited financial resources to carry out the important healing and reconciliation work amongst their communities. To such organisations, small amounts of £500 to £5,000 do make a really difference. If nonviolent peacemaking were given a real chance, it could transform our global society, relieve human suffering and make our communities more secure. This is why the Fellowship of Reconciliation established the International Peacemakers Fund.

3. The phrase “Coins into ploughshares” is an adaptation of a Bible verse, Isaiah 2:4, “…they shall beat their swords into ploughshares…”.

4. There is petition to redesign a commemorative coin at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/royal-mint-replace-the-kitchener-2-coin-with-one-that-truly-commemorates-the-millions-who-died-in-the-first-world-war

Should you have any queries, please contact the Director, Millius Palayiwa at director@for.org.uk. Telephone number (01865) 250 781.

Website: for.org.uk
Twitter: @forpeacemaker #CoinsIntoPloughshares

Thank you.

Prayer for the new year

This prayer is in fact a Franciscan blessing. Not to be said lightly!

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you really can make a difference in this world,
so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

Amen.

Happy new year – go forth and be fools.

Conference blog #3: Catholic worker

Susan Clarkson, from the Catholic Worker Farm‘s Oxford community, reflects on the theme of our conference and on the importance of language.

Three things struck me when I saw the title of the conference; that true peace comes from within, that protest often emphasises the negative, and that we can describe ourselves as ‘pilgrims’ and leave the attribution of ‘prophet’ to others when they see what we do.

The truth that peace begins with us can often become a truism but it is the basis of all our work for a nonviolent world. The key is that although it begins with us, it shouldn’t stop there! I have met many peace activists in my life and those who are rooted in their own spirituality, whatever the source, are the ones who bring to their activist communities encouragement, comradeship, compassion and above all, love. True peace activism is grounded in love and it catches fire!

Sometimes it’s good to look at words we use for what we do. We all know what we mean by ‘protest’ but it can give a sense of negativity. On protests, it’s often easy to see what we are against but sometimes not too clear about what we are for. It’s a useful exercise to design banners and placards with only positive messages and the challenge is to make them as powerful as negative ones. One of my favourites is “Mourn the Dead, Heal the Wounds, End the Wars”. Alternative nouns for ‘protest’ can be ‘witness’, where walking is involved, or ‘vigil’, for one which involves standing at a chosen site.

A glance at prophets and prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures shows us that the title ‘prophet’ is one which is given by others. Indeed, we have the examples of the reluctant prophet in Jeremiah and Jonah. Individuals and communities which describe themselves as prophetic can be on shaky ground. ‘Pilgrim’ is a better word, rich and complex which yields unexpected depths. The most striking aspect is that everyone is on a pilgrimage, a journey through life, whether they are fully aware of it or not. The peace activists who see themselves as pilgrims are aware that they are in a community on a shared journey with a common goal. The hardships, joys and struggles are eased by companionship and compassion. The weak are nurtured and encouraged: the strong are willing to go the extra mile while still remaining part of the community. On the journey, the pilgrims for peace accept the help of strangers and take time to listen to the concerns of those they meet along the way. I could go on because the vision of of the pilgrim peace activist community is an engaging and energising one. And, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced it!

Conference blog #2: “Beyond Protest”

Our second in the conference blog series is brought to you by Harmon Gattis of the Darvell Community.

Throughout history, people have protested injustice, discrimination, hate and other social issues.
From the Israelites protesting their harsh treatment under Pharaoh, to today’s uprisings against
oppressive governments, the world has seen countless movements rise and fall.
However, for a Christian there needs to be something more. Because we have found fulfilment in
Jesus we have the opportunity, even the obligation to proclaim a new way and show a positive
solution.

Every successful protest results in some kind of change – the fall of an old regime, or the abolition a
law – making an opening for something new to be established. This opening can be filled by injustice
and a regime that is even worse if the movement lacks true leadership or a common goal. The Arab
Spring uprising led to the demise of the Mubarak regime which was subsequently replaced by an
equally repressive government that has since been deposed.

In contrast, the cases where true leadership and a positive common goal were present had far more
successful outcomes. The fight against apartheid in South Africa was led by Nelson Mandela, who
instead of inciting violence to counteract the injustices his people were facing, promoted peaceful
protest and strove for reconciliation between the opposing sides. He stuck to the goal of a united
peaceful country even through years of imprisonment and finally realized his dream when he was
elected as the first black president of South Africa.

So how does this apply today?

Right now militant groups in Syria are waging civil war, causing untold suffering to millions of
civilians. Dissatisfied minorities and outspoken free thinkers in many countries across the world are
taking to the streets to protest the injustices of their governments and society. But I believe that as
Christians our task is different.

We can’t just be against something. We need to stand for something – and as Christians this must be
Jesus. This is our greatest calling; to stand for Jesus and his way of peace. As He says in Matthew
10:32-33:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But
whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Acknowledging Jesus cannot be only in words. As Jesus teaches, deeds of love done to those around
us are deeds of love done to Him. This means going beyond protest and living Christ’s message of
peace for all men and love to others in daily life. This is our task as Christians. If we want to be
counted as worthy of God’s Kingdom, we have no other option.
– By Harmon Gattis, November 2013

Find out more about conference here.

WWI centenary dates

This is going to be a busy year for peacemakers. A few important dates to start with are

2014

14-16th February: Our conference with the Student Christian Movement on active nonviolent peacemaking
14th April: Global Day of Action on Military Spending (did you know that hundreds of millions of pounds have already been spent on replacing Trident, before the decision has been made whether to renew it?)
15th May: Conscientious Objectors day at Tavistock Square, London.
17th – 23rd May: Our week on Iona focussed on peace and reconciliation
28th July: Centenary of the outbreak of WWI
1st-3rd August: In Cologne – centenary celebrations! More details here.
3rd-10th August: In Cologne – our centenary quadrennial for the international FoR.
4th August: Centenary of Britain joining the 1914-18 war. Nationwide vigils detailed below:

Liverpool: 12 noon – 2.00pm a silent vigil in the Peace Garden, St John’s Lane, Liverpool

(contact Jan 0151 263 5623)

Grassington: 11.00 am – 12.00 noon, Grassington Square.

(contact 01756 794924 or 01756 753918)

Skipton: 2.00pm – 3.00 pm, outside the Town Hall, Skipton.

(contact 01756 794924 or 01756 753918)

Glossop: 12 noon – 1.00pm, vigil in Norfolk Square. Organised by Glossop Peace Group

(contact Linda 07976 653610)

Glasgow: 10.30 – 11.30 am, Donald Dewar Statue, Sauchiehall St, Glasgow.

(contact the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre 0131 229 0993)

Bath: 12.30 to12.50pm at the Amphitheatre, University of Bath

(contact Tim disarm@quaker.org.uk)

Oxford: 11.00-3.00pm gathering in Bonn Square, Oxford OX1 1LQ. ‘War to end all Wars?’  Event with poetry, music and lots more. Organised by CND.

(contact: Irene 01865 242919 or Nuala 01865 749459)

Portswood, Southampton 7 – 8 pm , Immaculate Conception RC parish, 346 Portswood Road, Southampton, SO17 3SB. A vigil of silent reflection, prayer for peace in the Middle East, and for the victims of conflict throughout the world on this anniversary of the start of the First World War. (contact Audrey frankandaudrey19@hotmail.com)

Quakers in Needham Market have a silent Peace Vigil at room 4 Christchurch, ( United Reformed Church ) Needham Market. Suffolk.
from 10am until 12.00 midday.

Wisbech, East Anglia: 8.00 -9.00 pm a silent candlelit vigil will be held at the Clarkson Memorial. Open to all. (Bring and share meal at the Friends Meeting House, North Brink, Wisbech commencing at 7.00pm, then walk to the Clarkson memorial). Sponsored by Pax Christi Wisbech, Kings Lynn and Wisbech Stop the War, Wisbech Friends, Wisbech Peace Forum. (contact: Jacqueline jackiemulhallen@btinternet.com or Sean 01945584737)

Event to mark women’s anti-war actions in First World War

11.00–12 noon women will gather opposite Holborn tube station (original site of Kingsway Hall) to commemorate a peace rally held there on 4 August 1914. They will deliver a resolution to Downing Street requesting a meeting to discuss peaceful solutions to world conflicts and greater involvement of women in peace processes. The women will be ‘joined’ by Kathleen Courtney, Chrystal Macmillan, Catherine Marshall and Emmeline Pethwick-Lawrence, key organisers of the 1914 rally.

(Contact: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Katrina katrinagass@yahoo.co.uk or 01873 855760)

No Glory – No More War evening event

6.30pm, Parliament Square London. MPs, actors, historians, campaigners, war veterans and others will be speaking and reading from anti-war authors and activists in 1914-18.

(Contact No Glory in War 020 7561 7484)

6th August and 9th: Anniversaries of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945
21st September: International Day of Peace and Peacemaking Sunday
11th November: Armistice Day
24th-25 December: Centenary of the Christmas Truce
28th December: Holy Innocents Day – watch out for something special

2015

15th May: Conscientious Objectors Day
6th August and 9th
: Anniversaries of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945
20th September: Peacemaking Sunday
21st September: International Day of Peace

2016

March: Centenary of conscription
15th May: Extra special Conscientious Objectors Day commemorations for the centenary of Conscientious Objection

Add any new events you hear of, or key dates, in the comments box (if reading this in the news feed, click on the post title link and it’ll open on its own page) and we’ll add them to the list.

Conference blog series

Welcome to the beginning of conference!

In order to get us all thinking about the theme before conference, we’ve put together a blog series, roughly one a week for the couple of months leading up to conference (14-16 Feb, make sure it’s in your diary!). Contributors are as varied as the day is long (24 hours worth of varied?) because we’re all coming from different places and, well, who doesn’t love diversity? We’ve got people who live together in community, people working on projects to do with transforming conflict and those affected by it, ministers, students and others.

So what does it mean engage with the Prince of Peace? Somewhere along the way, we’ll need to ask God for some guidance. And somewhere else, we’ll need to Act. This conference is about how we can do just that, and how we can do so together and take ideas away to build on afterwards. Jesus calls us into community with one another and blesses the peacemakers; what an opportunity to gather, be inspired by brilliant speakers, panellists and contributors, and move forwards in exploring God’s will for peace in the world today.

We hope you enjoy the blog series. It’s for you, to reflect on peace and so that hopefully the theme of the conference doesn’t come as a shock when you arrive (It’s Peace, Power and Protest: Prophets for a new world in case you missed it). You’ll know when a new blog is out because we’ll tweet about it and post in on our websites and the Facebook event (see links below). They’ve kept the posts brief, because making peace and/or studying doesn’t leave much time for reading long things.

See you in February!

Emma Anthony, Membership and Outreach Officer emma@for.org.uk

Twitter: @forpeacemaker and @SCMbritain #PeaceProphets14
Facebook: /peacepowerprotest
Websites: for.org.uk and movementg.uk

Book your place, £50 before 31st December: http://www.movement.org.uk/peacepowerpr

Arms are for cuddles

army spendSave the date: 14 April 2014
55,000 arms trade jobs.  Govt funding: £700m.
56,000 NHS jobs: for the chop.
Think it’s squiffy? Join FoR and a flurry of peace organisations to call for a shift in priorities.
Watch this space.