by Marie Dennis
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Senior Advisor to the Secretary General, Pax Christi International
Despite the tremendous challenges of the past year, my heart is filled with gratitude for the diversity and creativity I continue to witness in our Pax Christi International movement. Both – diversity and creativity – are particularly evident in the leadership and staff of Pax Christi USA and in the phenomenal ways PCUSA is responding to the hunger for spirit-nourishment in bleak times and to the urgent need to address the violences baked into our U.S. “way of life.”
Systemic racism, poverty and inequality, the prioritization of weapons and war over health care and education, failed immigration policies, a disastrous response to the cry of the earth — so much brokenness has been laid bare by COVID 19, by Black Lives Matter, by Indigenous peoples, by immigrants and youth, by all of you! But Pax Christi USA’s monthly Mass for peace, literary circles for liberation, webinars, and thoughtful articles or statements on so many critical issues have added much to the hope that continues to reside in our international movement. Grounding that hope, I believe, is our deep, long term commitment to nonviolence.
In the last few years, Pope Francis’ powerful reflection in Laudato Si’ on the cry of the earth; his assertion that everything is connected; his description of “one complex crisis which is both social and environmental”; and his invitation to ecological conversion have generated in many of us a deeper understanding of nonviolence. He describes ecological conversion “as a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” (Laudato Si’ 220)
Nonviolence is a process for nurturing such an ecological conversion to right relationships among humans and between humans and the rest of the natural world – from the old way of domination and exploitation toward universal communion. Michael Nagler, founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, writes in his excellent book, The Third Harmony: “Violence is a tendency that pulls us back, away from the recognition of unity; nonviolence pulls us forward, toward the recognition of unity….”
With increasing clarity we have seen that the destruction of earth’s ecosystems and the suffering of the creatures living on this planet are intrinsically interconnected with human violence. The cultural violence of indifference and domination; the direct violence of war and militarization; the violence of economic injustice; and what Thomas Merton called “the polite, massively organized, white-collar murder machine” have seriously damaged earth’s ability to sustain life.
Many communities around the world are already tapping into the tremendous creative potential unlocked by a commitment to nonviolence as they develop strategies for realizing the vision of Laudato Si’. That is what Pax Christi around the world and so many of you are trying to do as well.