Christians called on to ‘revitalise’ nonviolence

IssueOctober - November 2016
News by David Mumford

In mid-September, Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi was invited to Scotland to share her experience of a conference in Rome in April which called the Christian church to recommit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence. Pat’s visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh was organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Scottish Christians against Nuclear Arms and the Scottish Justice and Peace Commission.

The Rome conference looked at all the ways in which Jesus proclaimed nonviolence. In words, he called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44), not to offer violent resistance to one who does evil (5:39), and to become peacemakers and reconcilers. In his relationships with people and in his life and example – treading the road to Calvary and leaving the legions of angels unsummoned – Jesus repudiated the way of violence.

Some of the conference participants were from countries riven by civil strife and violence. People from Uganda and Colombia shared their experiences of courageous negotiations with armed groups and of living with the threat of torture and kidnapping. Accompaniers from Israel/Palestine shared their insights, as did those engaged in nationwide peace education in the Philippines.

Arguments from just war proponents suggesting that nonviolence was utopian and bound to fail if faced with uncivilised opponents were powerfully refuted by those with direct experience of using nonviolence in such settings.

Pope Francis in his message to the conference called for the need to ‘revitalise the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular’. The conference called on the church to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training Christians in effective nonviolent methods.

As well as speaking at many meetings in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Pat visited the Scottish parliament at the invitation of Bill Kidd MSP, who is heavily involved in the effort to get the United Nations to outlaw nuclear weapons.