Report of the Pax Christi International Workshops in Brussels 29- 30 June 2011
Pax Christi International hosted two days of workshops after the Annual General Assembly, from the 28th to the 30th of June 2011 in Brussels. The workshops covered concerns of the international movement and provided a moment for reflection, debate, and inspiration for present and future campaigns.
The topics discussed varied, but linked the traditional themes of the Peace Movement to current events and future challenges. The workshops highlighted critical aspects of the Spring Revolutions in North-Africa and the Middle East, provided insight into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) nuclear deterrence policy, clarified the intentions and agendas of NATO member states’, and provided details that refined and renewed Pax Christi’s position on the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention.
The second workshop focused on disarmament and demilitarisation. The workshop had a very interesting introduction on the consequences of drone use in warfare. The workshop also provided details on an ongoing campaign to universalize the ban on Cluster Munitions (2010) and for a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty (2012).
The last seminar focused on the European Union, Conflict Prevention, and Peace Building. It explored the roles of civil society in conflict prevention and peace building in post-Lisbon.
This report contains the minutes of the following workshops:
1. Spring Revolutions in Arabic World: North Africa and the Middle East
2. Workshop on Disarmament and Demilitarisation
- On Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe
- On the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention
- On Drones and New Technology in Warfare
- On Cluster Munitions, Arms Trade Treaty and Arms Control Legislation
3. European Union: Conflict Prevention and Peace Building
The report can be accessed via Ref: 2011-0362-en-gl-SD
South Sudan: A New Nation is Born
On 9th July 2011, the community of nations will welcome the Republic of South Sudan as its newest member. After decades of war and bitter suffering, self-determination and independence for the southern Sudanese people are at last within reach. Many thousands of men and women have died in the hope of seeing this day. Their memories will be esteemed by the people of South Sudan for generations to come.
For many years, Pax Christi International has endeavoured to accompany the Sudanese people in their struggle to attain a just and sustainable peace for their country. We heartily commend them for the peaceful conduct of the referendum that has led to this historic moment. We greet them this day with joy and in the spirit of solidarity.
However, our joy is tempered by the tragic events presently unfolding in Southern Kordofan. We call upon the Khartoum government to cease immediately all military operations in the area around the Nuba Mountains, to fully respect and implement the Two Areas Agreement and to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the conflict. Acting in the spirit of this Agreement will prevent a similar tragedy occurring in Blue Nile.
We urge all parties to do everything in their power to ensure the way forward toward peace, security and good relations. This includes the respect and protection of the ethnic, cultural and religious identity of the Nuba people.
Humanitarian organisations must have free access to regions that have been affected by the fighting. We urge all parties to ensure this access immediately.
Born from courage, tenacity and hope, the new Republic of South Sudan faces many challenges. Pax Christi International assures the people of South Sudan of our prayers, continued solidarity and best wishes for the road ahead.
Marie Dennis Msgr. Kevin Dowling
Co-President Pax Christi International Co-President Pax Christi International
A report on the recent International Meeting in Vukovar
Some Thoughts on Pax Christi from Vukovar
Just recently, Barbara and I were in Vukovar, Croatia, for meetings of Central European Regional members of Pax Christi and a meeting of the Executive Committee of Pax Christi International. It was at the same time, a chastening experience, representing both the actual brutality of civilised human being to each other, and a sign of hope, showing how ordinary people can rise above the restricted vision of their leaders to follow the call of the Gospel with courage and trust. We couldn’t help making comparisons with other sites of unimaginable assaults on human dignity, as in the Jaffna Peninsula, Gaza, Afghanistan and Ivory Coast, knowing that at the worst of times, compassion and courage continue to affirm the essential goodness of people of faith, hope and love.
Pax Christi members at massacre memorial, Ovcara
Everywhere we went in Vukovar, we were confronted with the intensity of the 1992 siege which had reduced a once-beautiful city to rubble. Eventually, the sad remnants of a thriving community were herded into concentration camps on the other side of the Danube, except for those who were made more special targets of the hatred of their assailants. We visited Ovcara, the killing field where more than 200 men and three women, one of whom was pregnant, were taken from the Vukovar hospital, tortured and shot in cold blood as reprisal for defending their town. It was little consolation to realise that in the minds of their murderers, this act of deliberate violence was linked to similar acts of vengeance going back through World War II to repeated historical memories of attack and defence and like acts of revenge nourished from generation to generation.
To meet in such a place was a challenge to the Pax Christi vision of peace made through dialogue between sworn and traditional enemies. It meant assembling Catholic Croats, Serbian Orthodox and Bosnian Muslims with a scattering of those who had lived an alien faith among a dominant majority – Serb Orthodox in Croatia, Catholics in Bosnia or Serbia, Muslims across the borders of each, with some Muslims from Chechnya and Russian Christians to add to the mix. The atmosphere was not improved by the recent indictment of three Croatian generals for war crimes during the 1992 – 5 war; the tension was illustrated by a display of shoes sitting on a field of eggs in the lobby of the hotel where the meeting was held and occasionally it broke through with sharp words or shaken fingers. But the organisers of the meeting had been working across lines of violence since early in the war when they had crossed sectarian lines to begin preparation for the peace.
Walking on Eggs, Vukovar
Perhaps the best illustration of this cross-cultural collaboration was personified by the Pontamina Choir whose own creation and continuing performance showed what is possible if people think beyond traditional lines of division. A Franciscan priest in Bosnia, disappointed that so few turned up to sing in his parish choir, took his invitation into the wider community, welcoming Serbian and Croat Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of no professed faith to sing their own songs in his church. We were treated to their skills and his achievement, both in the local cathedral and on the occasion of their being awarded the Pax Christi Peace Prize for 2010, as a living sign of what is possible when people come together to celebrate their common humanity in the exercise of shared artistic talent.
Bishop Kevin Dowling at Cathedral Mass
Their performance at the heart of a peaceful dialogue in search of lasting peace embodies the dreams of Pax Christi’s founders, Marthe Dortel Claudot and Bishop Theas, emerging from the horrors of World War II. They hoped that people coming together in shared prayer for peace might find ways to heal the deep wounds that brought Europe into repeated and increasingly inhuman conflict over centuries and generations. Their movement has spread across all continents and is present in many of the centres of violence, encouraging people of goodwill to find the peace that can never be achieved in violence and war but only through acknowledging the essential dignity of every person and the integrity of the Creation of which they are part.. As the meetings in Vukovar showed, its members will encourage, support and work with all, seeking the fulfilment of the Good News for all, everywhere. in witness of the Peace of Christ.
Kevin and Barbara McBride
Pax Christi International is a non-profit, non-governmental Catholic peace movement working on a global scale on a wide variety of issues in the fields of human rights, human security, disarmament and demilitarisation, just world order and religion and violent conflict.
A Global Profile
Pax Christi was founded in the ashes of World War II as a Catholic voice for peace and reconciliation. It soon expanded to work in a global context and is currently active in the following areas:
East – West contacts
Integrity of Creation
Demilitarization and the arms trade
Economic Justice and Development
Faith, Dialogue and Reconciliation
Alternatives to Violence
Pax Christi believes that Christians should be in the forefront of the search for new approaches in the above fields and the linking of these issues. Pax Christi tries to heighten awareness about justice and peace issues and strives for dialogue with other Christian associations as well as with all people of good will.