The Priority of Peacebuilding in Catholic Social Teaching
Lisa Sowle Cahill Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College The Priority of Peacebuilding in Catholic Social Teaching From Peace to War The early Church was committed to nonviolence, following Jesuss example of
love, inclusion, and reconciliation. Augustine formulated just war theory in the 4th century, when Christians gained acceptance and protection by the Roman Empire. From Peace to War According to this theory, war is considered just if done to defend the innocent, in selfdefense, if declared by a right authority, if
proportionate, and if civilians are protected. In practice, no war is completely just, and just war theory is often used to promote group interests, not the common good. Priority of Peace since Vatican II John XXIII, Pacem in terris: it is contrary to reason to hold that war is now a suitable way to restore right that have been violated (no.
127). Gaudium et spes: legitimates defensive wars, but marginalizes their acceptability and justice Priority of Peace since Vatican II G&S: It is our clear duty to work for the time when every war can be outlawed by international consent (no. 80). Christians must join with all true
peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about (no. 78). Popes since Vatican II: Paul VI Paul VI: No more war, war never again! (World Day of Peace, 1975) The Church cannot accept violence, especially the use of arms (Evangelii
Nuntiandi, no. 37) Popes since Vatican II: Paul VI Paul VI recognized the structural causes of violence: If you want peace, work for justice (WDP 1972) The new name for peace is development (Populorum progressio, no. 87).
John Paul II John Paul II: Violence is evil, a lie and the enemy of justice (Homily at Drogheda, Ireland); a defeat for humanity (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 2003). John Paul II: Development and solidarity are the keys to peace (WDP 1987)
Benedict XVI Benedict: Violence never comes from God! (Angelus Address, 2007) Benedict: Love your enemies is the magna carta of gospel nonviolence (Angelus Address, 2007) JPII accepts the idea of self-defense against terrorism, and BXVI of humanitarian intervention, but neither has justified a specific case of armed response (ex. Iraq wars). Instead they urge dialogue, diplomacy, and
development. Pope Francis The true force of the Christian is the force of truth and love, which means rejecting all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! The way of Jesus is the way of peace, reconciliation, living for God and for others
(Angelus Address, 2013). Pope Francis On Syria, he opposed US/French intervention. War brings on war! Violence brings on violence! (Angelus Address, 2013). Pope Francis led 100,000 people in a peace vigil for Syria in St. Peters Square in September 2013.
Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliationthese are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Pope Francis on Syria In August 2014, Pope Francis said regarding the Islamic State that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.I dont say bomb, make warstop him. Yet dialogue even with ISIS should not be considered a lost cause.
In July 2016, as part of a Caritas Internationalis campaign, Pope Francis created a video stating that there is no military solution in Syria, only a political solution. (Video Message of Holy Father for Peace in Syria) He called on the international community to guarantee humanitarian aid, demand that peace negotiations be taken seriously, and promote a new government of national unity in Syria. Nonviolent Peacebuilding Works
Nonviolent peacebuilding can be successful. Nonviolent resistance is twice as successful as armed revolt, producing resolutions that are less likely to devolve into renewed violence. (Maria Stephan and Erika Chenoweth, Why Civil Resistance Works.) Peacebuilding involves conflict-transforming practices such as nonviolent resistance or noncooperation, interreligious political organization, unarmed civilian protection,
trauma healing, sharing stories and experiences, dramatization of conflict scenarios, public rituals of repentance, and initiatives of reconciliation between communities in conflict. Nonviolent Peacebuilding Works Civil resistance has been effective in Syria and against Isis, by eroding popular compliance and undermining the recruitment of young men.
The teaching Church today does not justify specific uses of armed force. It is a witness to the possibility of finding alternatives. It is a responsibility of the whole Church and all its members to promote peacebuilding and the creation of just and peaceful societies.
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