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Politics for peace is a way of being

VATICAN (SE): “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour, but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle the evil one with the weapons of love and truth alone,” Pope Francis says in his Message for World Day of Peace, under the theme, Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace.

On the historic occasion of the 50th papal message to be released for World Day of Peace, which is marked on January 1, Pope Francis asks that charity and nonviolence may govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and internationally.

“When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peace-making,” he says.

Addressing his message when speaking with the newly accredited ambassadors to the Holy See on December 15, Pope Francis summarised its content saying, “The choice of nonviolence as a style of life is increasingly demanded in the exercise of responsibility at every level, from family education, to social and civil commitment, to political activity and international relations.”

The pope points out in his message that while nonviolence is sometimes interpreted as surrender or a lack of involvement, in fact history shows that it can be quite the opposite.

He cites the Indian revolutionaries, Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Adbul Ghaffar Khan, who held an empire to ransom through their nonviolent resistance, and the human rights advocate from the United States of America, Martin Luther King, as peace-makers who will never be forgotten.

To his list he adds Laymah Gbowee, who led the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, in which women, Christians and Muslims together, talked in mosques and churches, prayed and sang in the fish markets, gaining more and more media attention as they went.

They were instrumental in demanding and getting a high level peace conference which saw the conclusion of the second civil war in the country in 2003 and the end of the guerilla president, Charles Taylor.

He then quotes Pope John Paul II as highlighting in One Hundred Years the momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states that has come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only weapons of truth and justice.

“Many people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones,” he quotes his predecessor as saying.

Pope Francis then notes that nonviolence is a way of life and as such, it must be born in the family, as there is a direct connection between domestic violence and violence on the bigger scene.

“The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force, but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness,” Pope Francis says.

He then jumps from the family to the international arena, saying, “Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethic.”

Equally important is his plea for the end to domestic violence, as well as the abuse of women and children.

Pope Francis also speaks of the need for civil leaders, both national and international, to develop a nonviolent style in their consciences and administration, which he insists is not a sign of weakness, but presupposes a firmness, courage and ability to face issues of conflict with honesty and a true desire to seek the common good.

He speaks strongly in saying that violence has been an unmitigated failure in achieving peace in our times, but has produced nothing but two world wars, the threat of nuclear war and numerous conflicts in various places, which result in terrorism, organised crime, abuse of migrants and victims of trafficking, devastation of the environment and a retaliation of a cycle of more and more violence.

“Countering violence with violence at best leads to forced migration and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship and the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in the world,” he says.

“At worst it can lead to death, physical and spiritual, of many people if not all.”

The pope also quotes Mother Teresa as saying that the true heroes are not the perpetrators of violence, but the poor peace-makers who give their lives for their neighbour.

Pope Francis concludes his message for 2017 with an invitation to all people join the continuing efforts of the Church and all major religions to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms.

He insists that this can be achieved by participation in international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels.

He is inviting political and religious leaders, as well business and media executives to apply the Beatitudes, which say, “Blessed are the peace-maker… blessed are the meek… blessed are those who suffer persecution…” in the exercise of their responsibilities.

He interprets this as showing “mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost.”

Pope Francis also pledges the resources of the Church in every effort to build peace through nonviolence.

He says that he has created a new dicastery in the Vatican for Promoting Integral Human Development to promote “the estimable goods of justice, peace and the care of creation.”

In addition, its charter is to build concern in the international community for migrants, the sick, the excluded and the marginalised, those in prison and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters and all forms of slavery and torture.

He ends his appeal by saying, “All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.”

And his last words, “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”

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