Building a culture of peace is a journey which begins with peace in our hearts and leads to peace in our local communities, nation, and world. In Columban work we understand peace as not merely the absence of war or violence, but the presence of just social systems and right relationships between different members of society.
For many decades, Columbans have worked in countries torn by violence and war. In these situations, we have worked to heal, build bridges and create mutual understanding through dialogue. Central to this mission is a commitment to building communities of peace. That means caring for creation, welcoming the stranger, promoting justice, defending human rights and creating a culture of peace and nonviolence. Columbans promote a Gospel commitment to peace that fosters a sense of interconnectedness and solidarity with all living beings and all of creation. Columbans have joined Pax Christi and so many other communities dedicated to peace and nonviolence.
The COVID-19 crisis revealed that our world and our country were unprepared to handle a global health pandemic, despite all the investment in global “security” built through military expenditure. We must reduce the overconsumption of those in wealthy countries leading to entrenched poverty in developing countries, which in turn leads to conflict over resources and violence. Building a culture of peace requires more compassion towards vulnerable people in the UK and globally, alongside an “ecological conversion”.
Much needs to be done in Britain. In early December almost 500 church leaders in Britain, including Bishop of Middlesbrough Terence Drainey, chair of the Caritas Social Action Network, wrote a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to say they are “gravely concerned” about the growing crisis of household debt that millions of families are facing this Christmas. “We have heard countless stories from people who have faced awful choices, such as between affording food or falling behind on rent,” they say in the letter. “Many of our churches have been on the frontline of providing food and essentials, and hundreds of churches provide debt advice for those at risk.” They hoped evictions can be avoided and that families burdened by debt can be given “a fresh start and a more hopeful future”.
In 2021, let us fashion a world in which all are valued and, while living in peace, can contribute their gifts, their care, their kindness to the common good. Nowhere is the call to join hands in friendship more needed than in building peaceful relations between nation states and overcoming the distrust that so damages relations between different countries.