The following is the official statement from Pax Christi USA addressing alternatives to violence in the wake of what we are witnessing in Baltimore, Maryland this week.
We are once again witnessing violence and outrage, this time it is within the city of Baltimore, MD. Years and years of disregard for the dignity of communities made poor by unjust systems, a blatant disregard for the quarter of the city’s population living below the poverty level, inferior schools and polarized relations with police, all of these have contributed to the tension, destruction, violence, looting and arson we are witnessing in Baltimore.
While violence is a way of calling attention to the injustices that exist, Pax Christi USA, the National Catholic Peace Movement, does not condone the violence and calls for an active nonviolent approach to deal with systemic injustices that lead to violence:
- We invite all people of faith to hold in prayer the citizens of Baltimore during this time of struggle.
- We invite Catholics along with all faith-based organizations to collaborate with grassroots organizations in Baltimore and elsewhere who are calling for nonviolent systemic change. We encourage your participation in rallies, demonstrations and vigils that are happening in U.S. cities.
- We invite all people of good will to continue looking at the relationship between poverty, racism and militarism and make connections as to how these systems play into the inherent injustices that communities of color are living under in Baltimore and beyond.
- We invite religious and secular organizations along with diocesan Catholic organizations, religious communities, parishes, civil servants and elected officials to dialogue with those suffering the impact of violence so as to understand the root causes of violence, and to begin to develop action plans pertaining to community policing, job training and employment opportunities, to name a few. An excellent resource for these dialogues is the recent Pastoral Letter by Bishop Edward K. Braxton entitled “A Racial Divide in the United States”. Both the Text and Study Guide can be found at diobelle.org
Peace begins with taking a long and hard look at what we have ignored for years, i.e. systems that have been created specifically to exclude whole populations of people, systems that have misused power to act without accountability, transparency or care for the common good of all. Peace requires an honest look at the lack of justice inherent in these systems and the will to listen to the voices of those crying out, a desire to be transformed by that listening and the revolutionary courage to act on behalf of justice.
While our hearts ache for the suffering people of Baltimore, Pax Christi USA profoundly desires peace with justice for the people of Baltimore and in all of our major U.S. cities. The process of achieving this just peace is a long, difficult and arduous process but it offers concrete hope to a people who have lived with false and empty promises for far too long.