A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Archive for the ‘Culture of Peace’ Category

“Peacemaking is more courageous than warfare….” Pope Francis

Iraqi Children

A perspective from religious leaders to consider before President Obama’s address:

Dear President Obama:

As religious communities, leaders, and academics, we write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. While the dire plight of Iraqi civilians should compel the international community to respond in some way, U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. As difficult as it might be, in the face of this great challenge, we believe that the way to address the crisis is through long-term investments in supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy, nonviolent resistance, sustainable development, and community-level peace and reconciliation processes.

Pope Francis has affirmed that “peacemaking is more courageous than warfare,” and more recently said that “it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop;’ I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him.” But how, we ask?

In addition to the complex factors spilling over from the civil war in Syria and pressure from other neighbors, decades of U.S. political and military intervention, coupled with inadequate social reconciliation programs, have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.

The current state of crisis and the breakdown of state institutions in Libya provide another stark example of the failure of a militarized strategy. Like Libya, the air strikes in Iraq will ultimately fail to build and maintain sustainable peace in the long-term.

We understand and deeply share the desire to protect people, especially civilians. However, even when tactics of violent force yield a short-term displacement of the adversary’s violence, such violence toward armed actors is often self-perpetuating, as the retributive violence that flares up in response will only propitiate more armed intervention in a tit-for-tat escalation without addressing the root causes of the conflict. We see this over and over again. It is not “necessary” to continue down this road of self-destruction, as Pope Francis called the hostilities of war the “suicide of humanity.”

There are better, more effective, more healthy and more humanizing ways to protect civilians and to engage this conflict. Using an alternative frame, here are some “just peace” ways the United States and others can not only help save lives in Iraq and the region, but also begin to transform the conflict and break the cycle of violent intervention. To begin, the United States should take the following steps:

  • Stop U.S. bombing in Iraq to prevent bloodshed, instability and the accumulation of grievances that contribute to the global justification for the Islamic State’s existence among its supporters.
  • Provide robust humanitarian assistance to those who are fleeing the violence. Provide food and much-needed supplies in coordination with the United Nations.
  • Engage with the UN, all Iraqi political and religious leaders, and others in the international community on diplomatic efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq. Ensure a significantly more inclusive Iraqi government along with substantive programs of social reconciliation to interrupt the flow and perhaps peel-back some of the persons joining the Islamic State. In the diplomatic strategy, particularly include those with influence on key actors in the Islamic State.
  • Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include regional peace and stability. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.
  • Support community-based nonviolent resistance strategies to transform the conflict and meet the deeper need and grievances of all parties. For example, experts have suggested strategies such as parallel institutions, dispersed disruptions, and economic non-cooperation.
  • Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.
  • Bring in and significantly invest in professionally trained unarmed civilian protection organizations to assist and offer some buffer for displaced persons and refugees, both for this conflict in collaboration with Iraqi’s and for future conflicts.
  • Call for and uphold an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict. U.S. arms and military assistance to the government forces and ethnic militias in Iraq, in addition to arming Syrian rebel groups, have only fueled the carnage, in part due to weapons intended for one group being taken and used by others. All armed parties have been accused of committing gross violations of human rights. Along with Russia, work with key regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait to take independent initiatives and meaningful steps towards an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict.
  • Support Iraqi civil society efforts to build peace, reconciliation, and accountability at the community level. Deep sectarian and ethnic divisions have long been exacerbated by various factors, including the U.S. military intervention in 2003. Sustainable peace will require peace-building and reconciliation efforts from the ground up.

With hope, deep-felt prayers, and a splash of courage, we ask you to move us beyond the ways of war and into the frontier of just peace responses to violent conflict.


Susan T. Henry-Crowe, MDiv.DD
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

Janet Mock, CSJ
Executive Director
Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Shan Cretin
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. James Moos
Co-Executive, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Sandy Sorensen
Director, DC office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Eli McCarthy, PhD
Director of Justice and Peace
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Patrick Carolan
Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Sr. Patricia Chappell
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International

Gerry G. Lee
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Scott Wright
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Rev. Michael Neuroth
Policy Advocate for International Issues
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM
U.S. Regional Superior of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX
Provincial Superior of Xaverian Missionaries in U.S.

Very Rev. Domenico Di Raimondo, M.Sp.S.
Provincial Superior of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
Christ the Priest Province

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

María Teresa Dávila, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Andover Newton Theological School

Bill Barbieri, PhD
Professor of Religion and Culture and Moral Theology/Ethics
Catholic University

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
Professor of Theology
Chicago Theological Seminary

Sr. Marianne Farina, CSC
Ethics Professor
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology

Laurie Johnston, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Emmanuel College

Rev. Priscilla Eppinger, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion
Graceland University/Community of Christ Seminary

Peter Phan, PhD
Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought
Georgetown University

Fr. Ray Kemp, S.T.L.
Theology Professor
Georgetown University

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Parkman Professor of Divinity
Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard University

Betty Reardon, PhD
Founding Director Emeritus
International Institute on Peace Education

Maureen O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of Department of Religion
LaSalle University

Amir Hussain, PhD
Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

Kathleen Maas Weigert, PhD
Carolyn Farrell, BVM Professor of Women and Leadership
Loyola University Chicago

David Cortright, PhD
Director of Policy Studies
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Notre Dame University

Margaret Pfeil, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology/Ethics
Notre Dame University

John Berkman, PhD
Professor of Moral Theology
Regis College, University of Toronto

Gerald W. Schlabach
Professor of Theology
University of St. Thomas

John Sniegocki, PhD
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Director, Peace Studies Minor
Xavier University

Kathryn Getek Soltis, PhD
Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics
Villanova University

Suzanne C. Toton, EdD
Theology and Religious Studies Department
Villanova University

Rev. Louis Arceneaux, CM
Promoter of Peace and Justice
Western Province, Congregation of the Mission, USA

Fr. Robert Bossie, SCJ
Priests of the Sacred Heart
Chicago, IL

Fr. John A. Coleman, SJ
Saint Ignatius Parish
San Francisco, CA

Fr. John Converset, MCCJ
Director, Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
North American Province of Comboni Missionaries

Doreen Glynn, CSJ
Justice Coordinator
Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Albany Province

Bro. Michael Gosch, CSV
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director
Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Jude A. Huntz, Director
Office for Peace and Justice
Archdiocese of Chicago

Bro. Brian McLauchlin, SVD
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Promoter

Bro. Frank O’Donnell, SM

Brian Reavey

Bro. Jerry Sullivan, SM

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Wells
Justice LED Organizer
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Bro. Stan Zubek, SM


  • Secretary of State John Kerry
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
  • Department of State, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall
  • USAID, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg
  • Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Shaun Casey
  • Special Assistant to the President for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers

Breathe out hope



Below is a guest post from 8th Day Center for Justice

In the wake of the violent deaths in Newtown, Conn., 8th Day Center for Justice joins with the nation in grief and despair. We grieve the loss of these lives; we despair over the violent culture that allows such atrocities. Such expressions of violence do not exist in isolation; they exist in the context of a long, shameful history of perpetuating violence through our lifestyles, mentalities, actions, and wars.

We remember the children lost in Newtown. We remember all children who die through violence. We remember children who die from gunshot wounds in impoverished cities across the nation. We remember.

Afghan and Iraqi children who have died at the hands of the United States’ war machine. We remember children who have died because of poverty and hunger. We honor and mourn their lives.

We breathe in the memory of all who lose their lives to violence, and we breathe out hope for a new world. We envision a world that creates itself anew by changing this culture of violence. We envision a world where the tragedies of war and school shootings truly are unimaginable, a world where nonviolence surrounds us and is within us, a world where our lives are guided not by the works of war, but by the works of mercy.

In the darkness of tragedy and violence, 8th Day Center for Justice works and hopes for a spirit of peace to be born anew into our hearts and our world.

Elections 2012

As a country we take a collective sigh, whether of joy or disappointment, the rigor and drama of an election season has passed. We have a re-elected a Democratic President, a slightly stronger Democratic Senate, and a  Republican controlled House of Representatives.

We have committed as a country the peaceful transfer of power as a transparent expression of the people’s will. Tuesday night’s news was full of stories of the people’s will – people waiting for hours to vote, voting with a flashlight in districts hit by Hurricane Sandy and here in Chicago a woman experiencing contractions five minutes apart voting before going to the hospital!

Young and old, conservative and liberal, Democrat, Republican and Independent: we came together and gave ourselves and the world a snapshot of what we value and are concerned about at this time.

It seems there is a mandate to take seriously most of the platform offered by the Democratic Party: environmental concerns, reducing unemployment, taxing a wealthier income bracket, and taking seriously immigration reform. With the Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House there is also a mandate for many of the traditional Republican concerns like debt and the support of the military.

However the biggest mandate seems to be that youth and communities of color, who parties may have grown comfortable ignoring, came out in strong numbers for an America that has room at the table for more than Super PAC wealth. An America that is conscious of climate change, redefining households, and ready to rebuild a domestic economy that cannot be outsourced.

The work comes now, and not just for those who now hold office, but for every one of us. As President Obama stated last night civic participation is not just about voting it is about a full embrace of working locally and nationally to create a country that reflects a diversity of dreams and hopes. And may it be so…

Grief’s wisdom

Sunday, not even one month after the Aurora, Colo., tragedy,  we saw another mass shooting . In fact so far this year there have been four instances of mass shootings.

April in Oakland, Calif.,  a man opened fire in a classroom at his former University killing seven and injuring three.

June in Seattle, Wash., a man entered a cafe killing five and injuring one.

July in Aurora, Colo., a man entered a movie theatre killing 12 and injuring 58.

August in Milwaukee, Wis., a man enters a temple killing six people.

So far in 2012 30 people have been killed in mass shootings and 65 injured. Since 2003, 195 people have been killed in mass shootings and more than 207 injured.

The numbers are hard to look at and the stories with their own unimaginable grief and terror become hard to remember because they overwhelm. The desire as a culture is to turn away, turn toward anything else that does not leave us with such hard questions. We turn toward any media hook in its voracious 24 hour news cycle that allows us to leave behind the paralyzing questions: What is happening to our society? Why did it happen? What does this mean?

These questions cannot just be answered by the victims; it is not their burden alone to comprehend this trauma. Nor can they only be answered by us individually in private or with a few friends. These questions need to be understood collectively, in a common space that acknowledges the narratives of the shootings are multifaceted, complex and belong to each of us.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes getting a divorce is given more space in our culture to be “understood” than many of the traumas and tragedies we see in war, natural disaster and man-made disasters like shootings. Why do we create the collective psychological space to feed on private struggles, like the divorce of celebrities, but the public traumas after the initial facts are exploited are left behind?

When  we go to funerals, deal with the death of a loved one, we confront questions as an individual or as a family that are hard. And yet which one of us would give up that journey or that ritual simply because it is hard? We deal with the radically difficult journey because it heals the loss.

So in this moment, facing another tragedy, what if we approached it as a country like a funeral and not a news cycle? A ritualized, collective grieving that is committed to the hard journey so that we can heal from the loss together and create a new way forward. Take a break from the “new” news of the day and stay right here in the hard and the sad  and let grief’s wisdom lead us to a new place.

After Trayvon: Black boys speak

A powerful conversation between nine Black and Latino boys about their experience growing up as young men of color in the United States. The locus of their reflection surrounds the events of Trayvon’s murder but extends further into the realities of race that implicitly and explicitly impact the lives of young men of color. The boys answer questions like: when was the first time you were frisked? what does it mean to look suspicious?

A powerful video that reveals the lived struggles of young men of color as they grow, live, learn in a world that deems them dangerous, untrustworthy, and in need of social control. Take some time and listen to these young men as they share what it means to live in a world where a hoodie may decide your fate.

Enter by the Eastern Gate

Trayvon Martin at 17.

This Palm Sunday, for some reason, the image I had in my head was of Trayvon Martin and his grieving parents. I wonder what it means to live in a society that upholds the law that the shooting of an unarmed minor is legal? That the death of your son was his own fault for appearing suspicious and threatening to an armed adult who was told by the police, prior to shooting, to cease and desist. Suspicious in this case being the wearing of a “hoodie” and apparently being a young man of color.

We know the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and is greeted in many ways as a king by the crowds of people who have come to believe in his preaching. What is not often taught with the story is that through the other gate, the Western gate, the military of the Roman empire entered the city of Jerusalem as well. They entered on big horses, in full uniform, a spectacle of terror to all the Jews who were gathering for Passover week. A reminder that the empire had the power to  arrest and put to death anyone who did not conform to the laws of Roman occupation.

Jesus’ entering on a donkey was a way to challenge the empire, to create a new image of power that was grounded in the people. The common folks who traveled on a donkey and bore the burden of the Roman’s taxes and laws. A way also to challenge religious powers who colluded with the empire in oppressing the people.

In the weeks since Trayvon’s death I have seen image after image of people putting on a “hoodie” to show that wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up does not equal being dangerous. I have seen protests and rallies across the country of communities calling on the Department of Justice to challenge the “Shoot First” law that makes Trayvon’s death an act of self-defense rather than murder.

I see people entering by the eastern gate, choosing the donkey over powerful horses to be present to those who are oppressed, left out and disappeared in the failed and terrifying logic of “Shoot First”.

This Holy Week I invite you to the eastern gate, to gaze from a perspective that is the opposite of powerful or mainstream, and see where it takes you.

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