Jesus’ words, as he wept over Jerusalem, are probably more compelling today than ever: "If this day you only knew the ways that make for peace…" (Luke 19:42). Haunting images of violence in schools and communities in the U.S. appear in broadcasts too frequently. The violence of terrorism and wars are undermining the global community and bringing suffering to millions in the human family.
Jesus’ words, as he wept over Jerusalem, are probably more compelling today than ever: "If this day you only knew the ways that make for peace…" (Luke 19:42). Haunting images of violence in schools and communities in the U.S. appear in broadcasts too frequently. The violence of terrorism and wars are undermining the global community and bringing suffering to millions in the human family. We need to understand local and global conflicts and seek to transform the structures and systems that cause them, but we must also work to transform our hearts so we truly understand that "peace is the way."
Christ’s words challenge us more than ever to teach and live the ways that make for peace. How central this task is to Christian education is clear from the statements of the US Catholic Bishops: "Those who are dedicated to the work of education, particularly the young, should regard as their most weighty task the effort to instruct all in fresh sentiments of peace" (Human Life in Our Day, 1968, #132). "To teach the ways of peace is not to weaken the nation’s will but to be concerned for the nation’s soul" (The Challenge of Peace, 1983, # 304).
One of the ways to promote peace is to encourage your classes or groups to take the Pledge of Nonviolence that was created by the Institute for Peace and Justice in St. Louis. This Pledge has been the unifying tool of the Families Against Violence Advocacy Network (FAVAN) of the Institute for Peace and Justice. FAVAN emerged in the wake of the bombing at Oklahoma City and the school killings as a coalition of national and local organizations, national church offices and local faith communities, public and parochial schools and families throughout North America and beyond. In the year 2000, the Pledge became a concrete way of living out the message of the United Nation’s Decade for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Sake of the Children.
In the face of the escalating violence in the world around us, the Pledge of Nonviolence offers individuals, families, faith communities and schools a way of promoting love, compassion and nonviolence each day, making nonviolence a much more accessible reality to individuals, groups, and whole communities. The seven components of the Pledge offer each individual dozens of opportunities each day to create a culture of peace in their own lives and communities, a culture that will be the realization of God’s will for the world — the peaceable kingdom or beloved community where all are one (John 17: 21) and where all creation is reunified in Christ (Ephesians 1: 10). The ways that make for peace have been articulated in a unique way in the School, Youth, Family, and Parish Pledges of Nonviolence.
The Institute of Peace and Justice’s Pledge of Nonviolence offers a holistic approach to peacemaking:
- It involves making peace or being in harmony with ourselves í¢â‚¬” respecting ourselves, honestly sharing our feelings and needs, and forgiving ourselves when necessary.
- It challenges us to be in harmony with or compassionate toward other humans. The first four components of the Pledge stress the interpersonal peacemaking involved in recreating nonviolently and standing up for other individuals when they are being treated unfairly.
- The Pledge asks us to be compassionate and in harmony with the rest of creation and to see ourselves interdependent with, and spokespersons for, all species of life.
- The Pledge challenges us to be peacemakers in the society and institutions of which we are a part, challenging institutional violence and working to change public policies that promote violence.
- Finally, the Pledge focuses on being in harmony with God and becoming the instruments of God’s peace, compassion, and harmony in the world around us.
This pledge offers schools and Christian education programs vision, values, strategy, and the concrete skills for becoming a peacemaking community. Different versions are available (see below). The pledges can be used with your constituents on the International Day of Peace (September 21), the International Day of Tolerance (November 16), and/or the World Day of Peace (January 1), when the Pope issues his annual message of peace. You can introduce the pledge through discussions of violence and conflict (see http://www.coc.org/bin/view.fpl/1200/article/1880.html) and with one of the many prayers or prayers services for peace on the EfJ Web Site (go to http://www.coc.org/ej/justice/topics.html?ID=9014).
School Pledge of Nonviolence in English – Go to http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Pledge%20Versions/school_pledge_of_nonviolence.htm.
Youth Pledge of Nonviolence in English í¢â‚¬” See http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Pledge%20Versions/youth_pledge_of_nonviolence.htm.
Family Pledge of Nonviolence in English í¢â‚¬” See http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Pledge%20Versions/family_pledge_of_nonviolence.htm.
Parish Pledge of Nonviolence in English í¢â‚¬” Go to http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Pledge%20Versions/parish_pledge_of_nonviolence.htm.
For more on the Pledge of Nonviolence and the ways it is tied to the vision of Catholic Social Teaching, visit the Institute’s web site at www.ipj-ppj.org.
- For the biblical underpinnings of the Pledge components and its basic vision, see the essay by Jim McGinnis on "Sowing the Seeds of God’s Peace." Go to http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Reflections%20-%20Advocacy%20Suggestions%20-%20Lesson%20Plans/seedsofpeace-updated.htm
- For resources for living and teaching the Pledge, follow the "Resources" link on the above page. Especially helpful is A CALL TO PEACE: 52 Meditations on the Family Pledge of Nonviolence. See http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Resource%20Pages/a_call_to_peace.htm
- For classroom activities on the Pledge, go to http://www.ipj-ppj.org/Reflections%20-%20Advocacy%20Suggestions%20-%20Lesson%20Plans/Group%20Activies%20on%20School%20&%20Youth%20Pledge.htm
- For additional variations of the Pledge, click on "Pledge of Nonviolence" or go to http://www.ipj-ppj.org/pledge.html
Institute for Peace and Justice
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Date Added: October 7, 2004