Columban Vocation for Justice Newsletter: War is a choice, and so is Peace

The Summer 2022 issue of the Columban Social Justice newsletter 'Vocation for Justice' is now available. It takes the theme 'War is a choice, and so is Peace.’ This is the editorial piece written by Ellen Teague that appears in the newsletter.

The Ukrainian invasion is a living theatre of the evils of war and it distresses all humanity. But will it culminate in a new commitment to put an end to war and for humanity to grow up and out of patriarchal empire-building? Will we move to seriously address the climate crisis and the extinction of species – possibly even our own – that we face today. “If we want the world to change, then first our hearts must change” says Pope Francis.

The front cover illustration was lent by the Quakers whose dedication to peace-making is inspirational. Inward reflection and transformation towards more sustainable peace could be fulfilled by, for instance, mainstreaming peace education across education systems; taking a more systematic approach in consulting grassroots and civil society groups; and adopting a broader spectrum of peace narratives, values and practices.

Columbans know the costs of violence, with 24 Columbans killed violently in our history and Columbans today witnessing brutality in countries such as Myanmar. Columban missionaries are members of Pax Christi International and peace-making through nonviolence receives attention in this newsletter.

Our centrespread highlights some of the winners in our latest Columban Schools Competition. The fifth annual competition, covering Britain and Ireland, with two strands of articles and images, attracted 260 entries from nearly 50 schools. We learnt that young people admire those who have compassion for the wellbeing of others, have a strong moral compass and live their values. They are courageous in their service to others in need, whether that is a person, group, or community, or in advocacy and defence of certain ideals. Usually, they act knowing there is a personal risk and without expectation of reward. Most subjects of winning entries were guided by their faith and many by Catholic Social Teaching, which underlines the dignity of all. Teachers are clearly doing a great job in forming young people with a sensitivity and passion about care for people and planet.

As Christians we have to be active peace makers.  Let us actively promote the educational efforts of Pax Christi in England, Wales and Scotland and the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Columban JPIC team will be at July’s annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network with its great title, ‘Hope! A verb with its sleeves rolled up.’

First prize image created by Elijah Gilbert

Peace was the goal of the UN rising from the ashes of World War II, to prevent future world wars.  And UN work includes building peace with the planet, through its Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions. War, armed conflict and military intervention have significant environmental impacts, often triggering degradation, ecosystem collapse or even ecocide. We urge support of UN action and on page 8 we can see how Columban education in a Birmingham school engaged with the British government delegation at biodiversity talks in Geneva and Columban representatives at those talks.

Pope Francis, following Jesus, has been setting the stage for full-on Catholic engagement in this urgent paradigm shift. His visionary 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, “his clarion call for ecological conversion and for a “new post-pandemic normal” point clearly in this direction. In the 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti, he said: “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.” And the Vatican has given every support to the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative of Pax Christi International.

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