In a world suffused with violence, where every dispute is well-nigh resolved through the barrel of a gun, there is a need to heed the call of world leaders and all peace-loving individuals for calm and sobriety, if only to prevent society from descending into further chaos and civil disorder.
Sadly, we have not learned the lessons of the last century where the civilized world saw two World Wars causing the deaths of hundreds of millions, and the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts around every corner of the world. Arguably, we have outdone ourselves in our ability to destroy each other but every living and nonliving creature that has the misfortune of drawing our attention.
As a result, this wanton disregard for the dignity of God’s creatures is causing much suffering and even death to millions, including the unborn and the wholesale extinction of species and even the destruction of our only planet Earth. Seemingly, our capacity for self-destruction knows no bounds.
In his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis draws our attention to a a grim present-day reality—that of a horrifying world war being fought piecemeal. He says, this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents, terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment.
Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”? Pope Francis reminds us: “Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”
Francis, in his message, teaches us that the best response to hate, injustice and violence was taught to us by Jesus Christ himself. He explains: Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet is the human heart: for, quoting the gospel of Mark, “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek. When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword, Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility.
Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. Pope Francis quotes his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.
If we want to be true followers of Jesus Christ, the Pope continues, we have to embrace Christ’s teaching about nonviolence. Pope Benedict XVI observed, that nonviolence as an approach is not defeatist and a form of surrender nor is it a form of apathy and indifference but “is (in fact) realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’ comes from God.”
He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’” The Gospel command to love your enemies “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good, and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.”
Francis cites as an example the message of Mother Teresa towards active non-violence. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, he recounts, she clearly stated that “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace—just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.”
“While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times.”
The surge in extrajudicial killings tells us that our society today, much like most of the world, is facing its own demons of violence, hatred and injustice. In times like this, a firm and resolute stance of active non-violence takes more relevance and meaning more than ever. Vengeance and violence cannot be the answer; for violence will always beget violence. As most great men like Gandhi, Saint John Paul II, Mother Teresa and a host of other advocates of peace and nonviolence taught us, we can transform society for the better not by shooting down those who defy and disagree with us or take revenge against those who have done us wrong. We can instead achieve this through reasoned discourse and the application of moral norms founded on law, justice and equity.
Without peace based on justice, law and equity there can never be any progress because any form of peace and order founded on violence, hatred and utter disregard for human dignity will be counter-productive, empty and meaningless.
According to Pope Francis, Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
As we begin the New Year, lets all say no to the massacre of the poor and the death penalty, no to calls of violently overthrowing a legitimately elected government, and definitely say yes to the peace process with the Moros and the communists and everything that will unite us as a people and country. Let’s all work for peace.
Facebook: deantonylavs Twitter: tonylavs