Introduction

The centrality of Gospel nonviolence and just peace is fundamental to our charism and living out the mission, particularly in light of the times in which we live.  Every day we hear of war, terrorism, social violence, and trauma that affect us and our brothers and sisters around the world.  We may wonder, “What can I possibly do to bring about peace in the world?”  In his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, on January 1, 2017, Pope Francis urges us to overcome such challenges by replacing cautiousness with courage, and cynicism with hope.  He asks us to focus on Christian nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.

Call to Prayer

Provident God, aware of our own brokenness, we ask for the gift of courage to identify how and where we are in need of conversion in order to live in solidarity with Earth and all creation.    Deliver us from the silence that gives consent to abuse, war and evil.  Grant us the desire and the courage to risk speaking and acting for the common good.  God of love, mercy, and justice, acknowledging our complicity in those attitudes, actions, and words which perpetuate violence, we beg the grace of a non-violent heart.   – Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN

Experience

Read the following scenarios and statements quietly.  Try to get in touch with the feelings that are aroused by each, and how you might practice nonviolence and peace in response to each situation.   After a few minutes of reflection, please share your thoughts with each other.

  • I am participating in a women’s discussion group. During the coffee break, I am chatting with three other women when one of them begins complaining about seeing a Muslim woman in a hijab (veil) shopping at a store in town.  “They should go back to their own country or at least dress like the rest of us.  And they should speak English.  What if she is a terrorist in disguise?”
  • The owner of a popular Thai restaurant convinced a young man to come to the United States for an education. He attended high school briefly, but then the owner pulled him out and put him to work at his restaurant for less than $1 an hour.  He lived in squalid conditions in the basement of the owner’s house.  The owner also threatened him with a knife and demanded sex.  He also took away his passport.
  • Last night I was watching the national news with my community and suddenly found myself enraged. How can they deny climate change given all of the scientific proof? Do they really think we can bomb our way to peace?  How can we take politicians seriously when they lie to us regularly?

Reflection

John Dear, in his book, The Nonviolent Life, proposes a simple vision of nonviolence that every one of us can aspire to.  He stresses three dimensions of nonviolence: practicing nonviolence toward ourselves; practicing nonviolence toward all others, all creatures, and creation; and practicing nonviolence by joining the global grassroots movement of nonviolence.  All three dimensions are important.  We are called to a new kind of centered mindfulness where we consciously practice an interior and exterior nonviolence, in our private lives as well as working publicly and actively in the movements for disarmament, justice and peace through creative nonviolence.  Dear raises some challenging questions:  Where do we need to improve our nonviolence among our families, friends, workplace?  Who or what challenges our nonviolence most, and how can we deal with that?

Action

  • Share a smile with at least three people a day, knowing that your smile contributes to peace.
  • What is your own dream for peace? What is one thing you can do to honor your dream?
  • Choose not to engage in any form of gossip today. Choose to see the good in others rather than find fault.
  • Offer praise to at least three people today for their personal qualities, achievements or helpful service.
  • Focus on what you appreciate most about the person you like least.
  • Perform three random acts of kindness today.
  • Today be an ally. Without blaming or judging others, speak out for those who are disrespected.
  • Suggestions taken from 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence https://www.k-state.edu/nonviolence/media/64ways_list.htm

Closing prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;  where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,  it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Prepared by S. Jeanne Wingenter, SSND, Central Pacific Province for the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy
Graphic from a design by Gen Cassani, SSND; Watercolor map: Elena Romanova

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