I am finally getting a chance to sit down and read Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Peace 2017, which was released on December 8. (It is traditional for the letter to be released on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.) In it, the Pope calls for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform global politics, asking us to cultivate nonviolence in “how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.” He expresses the hope that in both “local and ordinary situations” and “in the international order” nonviolence may become “the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”
Impossible, you may say. How naive to suggest nonviolence as a response to the broken world in which we find ourselves today.
But Pope Francis reminds us in his message that Jesus himself lived in violent times, yet he taught love of enemy. The Pope writes
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is 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 behaviour 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 (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.
Nonviolence is a tall order. It will require “political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities” and it will be a “challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers.” But we are called to choose solidarity and active nonviolence.
Let us pray for all of the actors involved, as well as playing our own part in “active and creative nonviolence.” In the Pope’s words, “may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words, and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home.”
Impossible? The Pope ends his message by reminding us that nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer and that everyone can bean artisan of peace.