NewsMediaThe path to peacebuilding

The path to peacebuilding

In November 2007, several dozen Pax Christi members from around the world gathered in Belgium for the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The event included a pilgrimage to the World War I cemeteries in Flanders, where thousands of soldiers killed in combat are buried. After visiting a few Allied cemeteries, the group stopped at Vladslo, a cemetery for German soldiers, where the sculpture “Grieving Parents” by artist Käthe Kollwitz is displayed. Everyone was given a votive candle and asked to stand at a headstone – it was clear from looking at them that the men buried there were very young when they died: most of them were 18, 19 or 20 years old, like Kollwitz’s son Peter, who was 18 when he was killed. Once everyone was in place, a prayer of mourning was recited, recalling the many ways that war corrodes and destroys life.

That evening, back at the retreat center where the AGM was being held, a woman from Pax Christi Germany stood up and asked to say a few words to everyone. Thank you, she said as her voice broke with emotion, for praying for their dead. No one remembers that German families lost children, too. 

Decades after Marthe Dortel Claudot and Bishop Pierre Marie Téas, the founders of Pax Christi International, extended an invitation for French and German Catholics to reconcile after World War II, our movement continues to promote dialogue, solidarity and peace through a commitment to human rights, justice and Gospel nonviolence, and a belief that we are one human family. Today, Pax Christi — inspired by Gospel values and by the rich history of Catholic social teaching — is a network present in more than 50 countries on six continents with over a hundred Number Organisations worldwide. 

Pax Christi International (PCI) has a deep commitment to active nonviolence – we believe that nonviolence is the most effective way to build a peaceful world. It is more than a tactic for civil disobedience: it is a way of life and a spirituality. PCI spells “nonviolence” deliberately, too, without a hyphen, because nonviolence is not simply “not violence” (non-violence) – rather, it is a positive and life-affirming strategy for real social change. 

Several years ago, PCI initiated a conversation with the Vatican on the topic of nonviolence, with the goal that the Catholic Church would more clearly and definitively promote nonviolence and integrate it more fully into its ministries. A significant step was made in April 2016 when the first nonviolence and just peace conference was held in Rome, co-sponsored by PCI and what was then the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. About 80 people – theologians and peace practitioners from around the world, many from places of conflict – met for two and a half days of dialogue and reflection, and ultimately presented the Church an appeal to embrace and teach nonviolence in all its dimensions.

Judy Coode


The full article is available in SIGNIS Media. Is peace on earth possible?


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