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The Rome Conference on Nonviolence: A Turning Point in History

Posted by Ryan Hall
04.20.16

By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner

It was a joy for me to join eighty people from around the world meeting in Rome from April 11th to the 14th at the “Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence.” Members of the three day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Catholic Peace Movement Organization, Pax Christi, strongly called on Pope Francis “to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and Just Peace,” and on the Church to “no longer use or teach ‘just war theory’ and to continue advocating “for the abolition of war and nuclear weapons.”

The statement of appeal to the Pope said clearly: “We believe there is no ‘just war.’ Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a ‘just war’ is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.”

The gathering in Rome consisted of lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, and priests and bishops from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania. In his opening address, Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, read a welcoming statement from Pope Francis.

The final statement, released at the end of the conference, entitled “An Appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence,” can be read at the Pax Christi International website, www.paxchristi.net.

This was indeed a historic gathering and the participants made a brave and history-making call to Pope Francis and the Church.

I believe we are at an important and hopeful turning point in human history, from violence to nonviolence, war to peace.

We called upon Pope Francis to give strong spiritual leadership to the world’s Christians and reject war for peace and nonviolence. We are all conscious of the growing militarization of our societies and countries and the myth being perpetrated that militarism, nuclear weapons and war, are acceptable.

I hope that Pope Francis will call upon Catholics not to join the military and remind them that killing cannot be with Christ.  I believe the misguided age of “blessing wars, militarism and killing” must end. The responsibility lies with Pope Francis and all religious/spiritual leaders to be true shepherds of peace, nonviolence and nonkilling, to help us follow the command of Jesus to love our enemies and not kill each other.

I also hope that Pope Francis will unambiguously proclaim that violence is always wrong, that violence is not the way of Jesus, that Catholics cannot take up arms to kill people, and that we are called to become a true peace church.

The Appeal is now in the hands of Pope Francis. We can all now pray, fast and work for a new encyclical on nonviolence and nonkilling. We hope that Pope Francis will continue to show courage, be brave and bold, and be a true Prophet, a loving Shepherd and a bright light in these dark days for the human family. Together, we can herald the coming of a more nonviolent world.

***

Mairead Maguire received the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland. She founded the Peace People movement and lives in Belfast. Her book, The Vision of Peace (ed. By John Dear) is available from www.wipfandstock. See: www.peacepeople.com

See further media coverage of this conference here.

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