Catholic groups are calling for nonviolence to be promoted in an encyclical as wars around the world, particularly in Ukraine and the Holy Land, continue to devastate regions and individuals.
Israel has ramped up air strikes across the Gaza Strip, reducing residential buildings to rubble and crushing families. This week Israeli air strikes “destroyed terrorist infrastructure” which, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run government, left 80 people dead. It is believed that a third of Gaza hospitals are shut, with resources running low. Whilst eight aid lorries carrying essential supplies arrived in Gaza on Wednesday, agencies say this is insufficient, and that at least 100 lorries a day are required.
Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International and senior director of its Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, believes a new, non-violent approach is required. “War in the Middle East is one more example of why we have to find a different way to arrange our way of functioning together as an international community,” she said.
“Nonviolence needs to be at the centre of Catholic social teaching on war and peace, in comparison to the just war-tradition which served for a very long time, but is not, as Pope Francis himself has said, as useful as it might have been given the state of the world.”
If the church aided Catholics “to deepen our understanding of nonviolence and our commitment to try it out, we think it could make a really big difference in the world,” she added.
One way the initiative believes the church can further develop Catholic social teaching on nonviolence is by urging “Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence and just peace.”
Pax Christi England and Wales has joined these calls for a non-violent response, backing calls this week by UN Secretary General António Guterres and UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, for a humanitarian ceasefire, binding on all sides. It also asks supporters to urge MPs to sign a parliamentary motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate delivery of aid, condemning both Hamas massacres and Israel’s subsequent response.
On Monday, representatives of Pax Christi and 12 other Christian organisations, and over 700 church members and leaders, signed an open letter to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly about the escalating violence. The letter, from members of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations, called on the Foreign Secretary to promote ‘de-escalation and dialogue’ in Palestine and Israel. It urged lasting ‘non-military’ solutions to peace in the region to be pursued.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said on 24th October that the Holy Land is “going through one of the most difficult and painful periods in our recent times and history.” “It is time to stop this war, this senseless violence,” he said.
Pope Francis has joined calls for the war to end and renewed his appeal for the free flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza and for the release of the hostages. On Sunday he spoke by phone for around 20 minutes with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, about “situations of conflict in the world and the need to identify paths to peace.”
Picture: A man embraces Palestinian children as people search for casualties at the site of an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in Gaza City, 25th October 2023. (OSV News photo/Yasser Qudih, Reuters)