Like many of you, I am welcoming the start of a new year after all of the tension, struggle, suffering and pain of 2020. Despite all the challenges that 2020 presented, I want to share with you a short overview and some highlights of all that we accomplished together as Pax Christi USA during the past year.
Challenging White Supremacy, Supporting Black Lives Matter: In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter, we curated and developed resources for our members and the wider Catholic peace and justice community to pray, study and act to end systemic racism. We issued two major statements which figured prominently in the national Catholic media and reached tens of thousands on social media. The first came immediately after the murder of George Floyd and built on the anti-racism work we’ve been doing since 1995 to unequivocally condemn the racism that seeds terror in our communities of color and disfigures all of humanity. The second was a challenge to the broader Catholic Church to not let white fragility block the conversations we need to have in our churches on racism. We helped organize and promote an action affiliated with Black Lives Matter that attracted hundreds of people outside the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C., protesting President Trump’s photo-op there the day after his stunt at St. John’s Episcopal Church where he used the police and military to violently disperse BLM protesters so he could take a photo holding the Bible (awkwardly if you saw the photos). We helped to amplify the voices of Black Catholics on our website and the actions of organizations led by People of Color over our email network and through social media and the website as resources for prayer, study and action throughout the year. And we made racial justice the first issue addressed in our Statement of Principles regarding the 2020 elections. Thousands of Pax Christi USA members on the ground turned out in solidarity at BLM actions from Baltimore to the Bay Area.
On the 75th Anniversary, the Peace Ribbon Project Remembers Hiroshima, Nagasaki: Pax Christi USA facilitated the Peace Ribbon project to observe the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to issue a call to recommit ourselves to advocate for a world free of the threat and tyranny of nuclear weapons. Hundreds of people the world over created special “panels” expressing what they feared losing in the event of nuclear war which Pax Christi USA connected “virtually” into a peace ribbon at a special event online attended by hundreds of people and viewed by over 1,000 to commemorate the anniversary. We created a special website for the project, thepeaceribbon.org, where we featured the ribbon panels and provided resources for prayer, study and action for individuals and communities.
Election 2020 – #VotePax: For engagement by our membership in the 2020 election season, we created the campaign #VotePax with a central organizing “Statement of Principles” that was read by several thousand people on our website and social media. Bishop Stowe published a post-election reflection which we posted to our website that rooted people in hope in the days immediately after the election when the results were still being determined. The piece reached tens of thousands of people through coverage in the media, social media and on our website. Our Fall edition of the membership newsletter, The Peace Current, featured resources for groups and individuals to pray, study and act, and more resources were developed and shared through our website. A special prayer card by Sr. Dianna Ortiz, our Deputy Director, was shared and distributed and we hosted three webinars focusing on issues we wanted elevate in the election: immigration, racism, climate change, economic injustice, nuclear disarmament and military spending. Over 3,000 people attended or viewed these webinars. And as concerns arose about safeguarding the election, we highlighted steps our community could take, including mobilizing over 120 Catholic priests and deacons who preached on or otherwise engaged their parishioners on how to nonviolently respond in the event of a contested election and social unrest.
Our Pandemic Response and the Pledge to Protect Others: Anticipating by several months the politicization of masks, Pax Christi USA launched the Pledge to Protect Others in early May, with over 2500 people signing on to pledge to undertake actions aimed at protecting others, especially the most vulnerable. The effort was launched through its own special website, mypledgetoprotect.org and included a social media campaign which reached tens of thousands of others with our message of a thoughtful compassionate response to the threat of the coronavirus. The Pledge was featured in the national and Catholic media. Additionally we mobilized our members to pray for peace in solidarity daily during the pandemic with a special prayer written by PCUSA National Council member Michelle Sherman which was downloaded or shared by over 15,000 people. Since the pandemic hit during Lent, we pivoted our Lenten campaign of prayer, study and action to include special weekly reflections developed by Pax Christi USA leaders exploring Lent in the context of the pandemic.
Pax Christi USA regions and local groups led the way in their respective locales, witnessing to the “peace of Christ” in a variety of ways, including:
- Pax Christi New Jersey’s continuing leadership and advocacy for immigrants and those held in detention;
- Pax Christi Illinois’ advocacy for workers during the pandemic;
- Pax Christi Southern California’s conference on the 2020 elections and how it is impacted by our commitment to morality in a time of pandemic;
- Pax Christi Baltimore’s participation in faith communities’ rallies in support of Black Lives Matter;
- Pax Christi Metro New York’s anti-racism workshop examining both the effects of internalized racial oppression and internalized racial superiority;
- Pax Christi Metro DC’s continued leadership and advocacy addressing the evils of drone warfare;
- Efforts by numerous Pax Christi regions and local groups, including PC Rhode Island, PC Western Washington, Pax Christi Silver Spring (MD) and others, in the Back from the Brink nuclear disarmament campaign;
- Pax Christi Little Rock (AR) participated in the Take a Knee for Justice rally aimed at addressing white privilege and systemic racism;
- And we initiated or formalized new state chapters in Arkansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, bringing our regions and state chapters to a total of 19…
- And so much more!
Other items of note:
- Our work at the national level and by local groups and regions was featured in the national media numerous times, including quotes and coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Nation, The Arizona Republic, The Baltimore Sun and Reuters. In the Catholic press, we were featured in the National Catholic Reporter, Vatican News, America Magazine, US Catholic, Religion News Service, Catholic News Service, Crux, The Tablet, numerous diocesan newspapers and websites, and more. See a partial list of articles here.
- We doubled the traffic on our website from 2019 to 2020, with over 100,000 unique visitors to the site and over 200,000 page views. Our Prayer for Peace and Solidarity in a Time of Pandemic was read or downloaded over 7,000 times on the website; Bishop Stowe’s reflection after the election garnered nearly 5,000 views; and our statement following George Floyd’s murder was read over 3,500 times. Our weekly Lenten and Advent reflections regularly topped 1,000 views with some reaching over 2,000 people on the website alone (thousands more read them on social media and through our email network.)
- Our social media presence grew significantly with almost 12,000 followers on Facebook now, nearly 7,000 on Twitter, and over 1,000 on Instagram.
- We brought on 3 new staff members including our first Deputy Director, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU; our first National Field Organizer in over a decade, Lauren Bailey; and a new Director of Communications, Roxana Bendezú. We updated to a new database system, expanded our digital footprint and expanded our technological capacities in significant ways. And did I mention we did all this while juggling a whole new way of working, mainly remotely, during a pandemic? Seriously though, this is an incredible staff of people who have embraced the challenge of the past year to expand Pax Christi USA’s presence and capacity at almost every level.
- We also published and sold over 6000 Lent and Advent reflection booklets; issued a statement condemning the assassination of the Iranian general, mobilized our members to resist a war with Iran, and helped sponsor a vigil calling for no war with Iran at the White House; sponsored the first annual Catholic Nonviolence Days of Action in September, including 2 PSAs (Pray-Study-Act e-bulletins) and a webinar introducing the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) with CNI project coordinator Judy Coode, attended and viewed by over 700 people; co-hosted a birthday celebration for Pax Christi International’s 75th anniversary which included a glimpse into the work of the international Pax Christi network; and so much more.
All this is to say THANK YOU. This is the work of our entire community, from Maine to California, Michigan to Texas, Washington state to Florida and all points in-between. In an extraordinarily difficult year, together we witnessed to the peace of Christ in thousands of ways through prayer, study and action. I hope this cursory overview gives you a sense of the strength and vitality of our movement and excites you for all that we can do together in 2021!
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA