(Vatican Radio) Is non-violent protest an effective means of combatting war and oppression? Are today’s conflicts caused by deep rooted problems of poverty, injustice and exclusion? And can Catholics continue to support the Just War theory in the face of modern, high-tech militarization? These are just some of the complex questions facing participants at a Rome conference organised jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council.
Papal message to the meeting
In a message sent to the opening of the meeting on Monday Pope Francis praised the initiative of “revitalizing the tools of non-violence”, particularly during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The three day encounter brings together some 80 theologians and peace activists from many conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines. Its goal is to explore ways in which their positive experiences of non-violent activism can shape theological thinking and Catholic teaching in schools, universities, seminaries and parishes, moving away from ‘Just War’ towards the concept of a ‘Just Peace’.
Philippa Hitchen sat down with Pax Christi co-president Marie Dennis to find out more about the origins of the conference and the questions that participants will be discussing at the closed door meeting….
Marie Dennis notes that in the last part of the 20th century, the successful experiences of non-violent struggle in many countries moved Church teaching on this subject more centre-stage, alongside the Just War theory.
But many in the peace movement, she says, believe that the Just War theory has been “used and abused by political leaders”, raising the question whether its continued application “prevents creative thinking” about non-violent alternatives.
She recalls that in the context of 1st century Palestine, in the face of “a very threatening and violent occupation and a strong movement to overthrow the oppressors”, Jesus consistently modelled and called for a non-violent response.
She says the meeting will listen closely to the first hand experiences of peacemakers from places of war and oppression across the globe. In many of today’s conflicts, she stresses, experience has shown that “violence really does beget violence”, adding that “we’ve failed to focus on early warnings or to develop non-violent ways of protecting people in danger”.