Testament of faith

Letter by David Mumford, Dunbar

ImageI was heartened to read Nick Megoran’s article on how far the Christian church can become a movement for nonviolence.

Nonviolence is rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus.

But after the emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians in the fourth century and paved the way for Christianity to become the established religion of the Roman empire, Jesus’s teaching on violence became a problem.

However the witness to Gospel nonviolence is always present. Over the years, the Mennonites and the Religious Society of Friends have opposed war and violence and they have been joined by members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and by members of Pax Christi in the Catholic church and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship in the worldwide Anglican communion.

Those who follow the way of nonviolence also find that it speaks to and deepens their own faith and commitment to following Jesus – for the way of nonviolence is congruent with the way of the cross.

It often takes an external stimulus for Christians to explore nonviolence and to see what is involved in taking nonviolent action for social justice and peace. Racism and civil rights moved many Christians in the USA to educate themselves and to practice nonviolence. Members of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation in places as far apart as Colombia and the South Sudan are following the way of nonviolence in the face of civil strife and torture.

Globally, the Christian church is more committed to nonviolence in the global south rather than the richer north. And much of the running is currently being made by the Roman Catholic church inspired by pope Francis’s clear commitment to the way of peace.

Yes, there are many places where the Christian church is facilitating training in nonviolence and making strong theological links between such practice and Christian discipleship. Alas, the churches in the United Kingdom are less enthused. Some places have used Turning the Tide (the Quaker programme) and others the Pace e Bene material (From Violence to Wholeness) but coverage in the UK is sporadic rather than seen as an integral part of Christian discipleship.

If she were true to herself and her lord, the church should be a movement for love and nonviolence.

Topics: Religion