Wednesday, October 2, 2019
The International Day of Nonviolence

Dear friends,

It has been just over a week since I began in the position of Executive Director at Pax Christi USA. I want to send a note of thanks to all of you who have taken the time to welcome me back “into the fold” following my three-and-a-half years at Pax Christi International. I am so grateful for all of your emails, phone calls and messages of welcome and congratulations and the offers to help in continuing to grow our movement. 

It has been almost thirty years since I was first introduced to Pax Christi by Becky Stringer of Pax Christi Florida, my supervisor at the placement site for my year of volunteer service following college graduation. She invited me to attend a retreat being facilitated by Dan Berrigan. One of the great privileges and joys of my lifetime was meeting and hearing Dan that weekend, leading to a handful of times over the next twenty years that visits with Dan would lead me more deeply into understanding and following Jesus’s way of peace and nonviolence.

10-2-19 withDanBerrigan
Johnny rocking the tie-dye and timidly approaching Dan Berrigan for the first time with a scripture question at a Pax Christi Florida retreat in 1991

From that first retreat through years of campus organizing for Pax Christi USA and then 15 years on the national staff, Pax Christi USA has been a home for me-and the people who make up this extraordinary movement have been like family to me. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to be part of this movement and to have this opportunity to serve alongside all of you.

As I get started, I want to especially invite you to reach out and share with me your experience of and hopes for Pax Christi USA. I want to know why you are part of this movement, what directions and opportunities you want to see us embrace, what incredible work you and your groups and regions are already doing to embody the “peace of Christ” in our world today, and what challenges you face in living out our shared commitment to justice and nonviolence. Email me at jzokovitch@paxchristiusa.org and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

I think that it is apropos that I’m writing to you today, the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, dedicated as the International Day of Nonviolence by the United Nations. As a movement, we promote and put into practice the spirituality of nonviolence. It is at the heart of who we are. I’m looking forward to how we together can live out the power of nonviolence and help change our world. Thanks for all your support of Pax Christi USA and of me personally. I am so excited for the journey ahead!

In peace,
Johnny Zokovitch
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA

PS: And no letter from the Executive Director is ever complete without a pitch for financial help (smile)! If you have the means and can make a donation today, I hope you will! Click here to give quickly and securely. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “A Message from Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA’s New Executive Director

  1. Thanks Johnny for your statement about the death of George Floyd and racism that still exists in the USA and the world- I am including my email sent today. I am a member of Pax Christi and I join others in Prayer and the two St. Louis, MO committees that I am a member of to have an impact on stopping the racism issue in St. Louis, MO-
    I hope you will read the following statement that was in my emails today- thought all would like to read this and I am encouraged that racism is being brought to the forefront as an issue that needs to change-and part of my encouragement is that the religious leaders, that is, the bishops are speaking out against racism instead of being silent as that was the circumstances by the religious leaders during the 20th century when lyching of Afro-Americans was continuing to occur in the USA and is written in detail by Rev. Dr. james Cone in his book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”- Non-violent protests are called for in this statement and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as a proponent of non-violence would wholeheartedly agree-May God bless this country and the bishops for speaking out-
    Blessings,
    Teresa Mancuso

    NATION | MAY. 30, 2020 from the NCR-
    US Bishops on George Floyd Killing: ‘Racism is Not a Thing of the Past’
    After widespread protest, former police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29.
    Catholic News Agency
    WASHINGTON — Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference responded to the killing of an African American man in Minneapolis this week by stressing that the fight to eradicate racism is a pro-life issue.

    “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue,” they said in a May 29 statement.

    “Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on,” the bishops said.

    “As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life.”

    The statement was released by Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee against racism; Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the cultural diversity committee; Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, head of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chair of the pro-life committee; Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, head of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, chair of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, chair of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

    The bishops responded to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody this week. Footage of the incident circulated widely on the internet. It showed Floyd, who is black, subdued and laying on his stomach, saying repeatedly, “I cannot breathe” and groaning as a police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, and other officers stood nearby and watched.

    Floyd was taken to a local hospital, where he died shortly later. His death has prompted protests in numerous cities, including rioting and looting in some parts of Minneapolis.

    After widespread protest, former police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The officers present at Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis police force.

    In their statement, the bishops said they were “broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”

    “What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences,” they said. “This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”

    The bishops called for non-violent protests, while acknowledging that people are understandably outraged.

    “Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life,” they said.

    Catholics must fight indifference surrounding the issue of racism and speak up to fight it, the bishops said. They pointed to their most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” which calls for greater engagement on the issue.

    The bishops encouraged Americans to encounter people of different cultural backgrounds and seek greater understanding and unity.

    “Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States,” they said.

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