“I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”—Pope Francis (World Day of Peace, 2014)
Our faith tradition offers invaluable witness and Spirit to embody and risk peacemaking even in the most violent situations. Jesus called us to not only love our friends but also those who seriously sin and who might be called enemies. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Pope Francis said “peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.”
Our world continues to struggle with large-scale violent conflict in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Libya, Palestine, Israel, among other nations. Yet, there have been notable, effective, and sustainable peacemaking practices developed which offer us a great deal of hope. Research has shown that nonviolent resistance movements are twice as effective as violent resistance and at least ten times more likely to lead to durable democracy. Other effective practices include restorative justice approaches, trauma-healing programs, unarmed civilian protection, inter-religious dialogue, and multi-level diplomacy. We have seen women play a vital and effective role in peacemaking in many instances including in Liberia and South Sudan.
In contrast, war and preparations for war continue to fuel further violence, acts of terrorism, and a “whack-a-mole” game of “terrorist groups” that never ends. With war, people living in poverty suffer the most in terms of death, displacement, and disease. Pope Francis said “war is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment;” and “justice can never be wrought by killing a human being.”
As Catholics who follow the way of Jesus, we are called to humanize even our enemies; not to excuse injustice or violence, but to see them as children of God, with dignity, with value, with good in them and with genuine human needs. Hence, Pope Francis boldly proclaims “the true force of the Christian is the force of truth and of love, which means rejecting all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible!”
Thus, we support a robust commitment and strategy of creative, multi-level, and sustained diplomacy at all stages of conflict. We support increasing investment not only in poverty-focused development aid, but also in innovative, effective peacemaking programs, both domestically and abroad. We call for the U.S. to take steps to end our nuclear weapons program, invest much less in military programs, and instead become a global leader in training people in the skills and strategies of nonviolent ways of resisting injustice and transforming conflicts.
Questions to Consider When Reading About or Listening to Candidates:
- What is each candidate’s approach to conflicts in other parts of the world? Does she or he talk about lessons learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
- How does each candidate talk about the role of diplomacy and peacebuilding in preventing conflicts? Do they promote investing in peacemaking programs?