12/12/2016, 16.27
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The small steps of nonviolence against the great designs of war

by Bernardo Cervellera

In his message for the World Day of Peace 2017, Pope Francis counters armed violence, finance and fundamentalism with education in the family and becoming witnesses and peacemakers. World leaders invited to take on the Beatitudes as a "manual" for their policies. In a world plagued by “a piecemeal war", we must foster collaboration with all religions and people of good will. No more "just wars" and "humanitarian military intervention." An appeal to Islam (and religions): violence is not of God.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Education in the family is the basis from which to build effective anti-nuclear and anti-war programs; the eight Gospel beatitudes are a manual not only for pious Christians, but for "political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives". With his characteristic and disarming simplicity, Pope Francis today launched a program to defeat the  "piecemeal war", a possible third world war, with the practice of nonviolence as "a style of politics for peace".

In the Message for the 50th World Day for Peace, released today, the pontiff speaks of the “reasonableness" of choosing nonviolence in the face of all the violence that not only kill thousands of people, but by using money on armaments, diverts resources away from "the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world."(n. 2). The examples are legion: from China which each year increases its military budget, despite the hundreds of millions of poor people in its borders, to North Korea with its nuclear program and its starving and sick population. A significant example is the Middle East, where high youth unemployment has resulted in militancy among radicals in the wars in Syria and Iraq, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar becoming the biggest byers of weapons. In this case what is even more disheartening is the fact that Western countries (United States, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, ...), who preach peace in that region, are also the suppliers of those weapons that destroy entire populations and highjack their development and their future. Now terrorism along with the countless wars scattered across the planet have become an item in global financial budgets.

Faced with this world projection, Pope Francis is not discouraged.  Instead he calls on all those who desire to become "a peacemaker", taking a lead from the great leaders of nonviolence in history: Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, etc ... He proposes a new culture of nonviolence that starts from education in the family, radiated out into society. Moreover, on other occasions, Francis himself has often denounced what he perceives as a "war" being waged worldwide on the institution of the family. A harmonious, loving, family that helps each other is the primary contribution against violence in society and solidarity among work mates and school mates. This reality is backed up by psychological and sociological studies.

The Pope extends this invitation to take up the nonviolence to all those who harbor the same desire: first, members of other religions ( "No religion is terrorist", n. 4), but also with politicians, businessmen, heads of international institutions. To all of them  he proposes the eight Christian Beatitudes as a “manual”, inviting them to accept "a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers." (n. 6).

In this universal momentum for nonviolence Pope Francis clears in one stroke all the problems of the "just war" or "humanitarian intervention" which in past years have fed fiery debates among believers over the military intervention in Kosovo, in the Gulf, in Somalia. Perhaps because it is now clear that those interventions served  geopolitical and financial aims more than they saved people.

The message also comes out in absolute defense of religion as a path to peace, even as the world discusses the violent nature of Islam. Reading the message carefully, rather than in defending Islam, the Pope seems to invite all those who say they are religious to take the path of non-violence. In this Pope Francis seems to align itself to all those Muslims who attribute the violence present in their religion to "Arabic – Sunni interpretation" with its Salafi and Wahhabi inheritors.

The global nature of the message is to be a positive proposal, not a list of complaints, scandals and accusations. Even Mother Teresa's speech in Oslo for her Nobel Prize in 1979 is cited not as a direct denunciation of abortion as a threat to peace, but as an "active nonviolence message" which includes "the acceptance and defense of human life, the unborn and the abandoned and rejected "(n. 4). Perhaps because the fate of peace is really hanging by a thread, and now there is a need to gather all men and women of good will.

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Pope's Message for Peace 2017: Nonviolence, a style of politics for peace
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