Latest updates from the Pax Christi International Member Organisations. 

Issue 272 | September 2016

You can help with our future advocacy work! Fill out the questionnaire today! 

Pax Christi International believes that through our advocacy activities, we can be an effective member of collaborative efforts to influence international systems and entities in order to promote peace, justice and human rights. As we are living in times of increasing conflict around the world, we consider our international advocacy work to be more important than ever. 
At the moment, our organisation is carrying out an advocacy assessment of our work in order to make strategic choices and to prioritise issues and activities for the coming years. This is being done as a follow-up of last year’s consultation with our member organisations in which they identified advocacy as one of the core tasks of the International Secretariat. 
We kindly ask our member organisations, our representatives, other NGOs & NGO coalitions, and policy makers to help us with our work by filling in a questionnaire. We have specific questionnaires for each group. We would be very thankful if you can give us input for our future advocacy work and do it by the deadline of 25 September 2016. If you have any questions about this questionnaire or would like to give further input, please contact Alice Kooij Martinez, Senior Advocacy Officer, at:
Pax Christi International to co-host panel at IPB World Congress on the Middle East
On 1 October, Pax Christi International and the International Peace Bureau will co-host a panel discussion on "The Middle East: A Key Conflict on Our Planet" at the International Peace Bureau World Congress in Berlin. The discussion will address the question: "What is going on in the Middle East? Interests, profits and the future of possible peace in the Middle East..."
The Middle East region remains insecure and continues to be one of the most dangerous parts of our world. In many parts of the Middle East, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. The reality is that now we have permanent wars, insecurity and extremist violence in almost every country in the Middle East. Arms deliveries to all parties in these conflicts feed the tensions and escalate the level of violence. This must come to an end. The Middle East, as a region, needs the creation of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone (WMDFZ).
The nature of political violence and global insecurity has enormous impact on the daily lives of civilians and their societies. Human rights violations, migration and displacement are the results. The following questions will be tackled:
  • The disaster of Syria continues to deepen. How to stop the devastating war in Syria?
  • How can Iraq avoid further divisions or violence along sectarian lines?
  • How could civil society in Egypt contribute to peace in the Middle East?
  • How to break the spiral of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
  • What are the root causes of violence and terrorism?
  • What is the role of governments and international governmental bodies in these conflicts? How is it possible to move forward to peace processes?
  • Which lessons learned from Europe could be applied in the Middle East? Which practical steps and confidence-building measures offer the best hope for progress towards reconciliation, demilitarization and the creation of weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East?
  • Which specific steps for action can be taken by the international peace movement? 
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People for Peace in Africa issue statement on the ongoing tensions in South Sudan
With over 300 people dead since July and a million more displaced by fighting in South Sudan, observers are pessimistic about the prospects of peace since clashes between forces loyal to ruler Salvar Kiir (Dinkia by tribe) and his rival Riak Machar (nuer by tribe) began.
This must not be only a concern of the 1.6 million who have been displaced by the fighting or the 60,000 refugees who have fled to Uganda. It must be a concern to all of Africa and the global community that a country founded on optimism--when nearly 100% of South Sudanese voted to brea away from Sudan--is now on the brink of imploding.

There is disappointment in Kenya where many involved in civil society, religious communities and the government played a pivotal role in midwifing South Sudan to nationhood. There is little doubt that the new round of fighting was triggered by events from 2013 after President Kiir accused his then-first Vice President Machar of plotting a coup.

For now, every effort must be made to lessen the tension so that the millions of homeless and hungry people in desperate need of more assistance can get some relief. There are fears that the current tensions could easily escalate, especially after Machar rejected the appointment of a member of his opposition.
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Pax Christi USA explores racial justice at national conference

Earlier this month, Pax Christi USA hosted a national gathering entitled, "Building the Beloved Community," which was focused on the necessity of creative nonviolence, social justice, and racial justice. 

The gathering included a racial justice training for forty people who are now equipped to take the message of racial justice back to their communities. The training was focused on Catholic Social Teaching; the contributions of people of color to the Catholic Church since its beginning; the history of racism in the United States that many of us were never taught in school; and the perpetuation of racism today.
The conference hosted workshops on the intersection of racial justice with militarism, care for the earth, immigration, Islamophobia, and criminal justice. The big event of the weekend was to join in public witness with the residents of the 900 block of N. Carrollton, Baltimore, Maryland and the No Boundaries Coalition for a block clean-up and a block party. The conference concluded with a beautiful liturgy and the presentation of the Teacher of Peace Award to Art Laffin.

See video and photos and more from the national gathering by clicking here.
More updates:
  • Mexico: Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, AC calls for return of Maximiliano Martinez Gordillo - Read more
  • Pax Christi Montreal participates in World Social Forum - Read more
  • Celebrating 40 years of Comissão Pastoral da Terra's activities in Brazil - Read more
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New Zealand: Prayers to prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The following article by Rasmus Walther Jensen appeared in Te Waha Nui.

“Bombings similar to Hiroshima and Nagasaki could happen today”, says national coordinator of the peace movement Pax Christi Aotearoa, Kevin McBride.
He was in charge of a commemoration on Tuesday, marking the 71st anniversary of the US-led atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, which caused the death of more than 180,000 people. “If we are already condoning the kind of bombing of places like Gaza, Libya, Iraq and so on, where civilians have been bombed, then it is not a huge step to get us to condone the use of nuclear weapons,” Mr McBride said. “If you put someone like Donald Trump in charge of that sort of weaponry, then a similar thing could come about.”

Four people gathered in a circle at The Peace Place in Auckland CDB to remember the victims, pray for peace and share a moment of silence and reflection. One of them was Aucklander Paul Robertson, a member of Pax Christi, who lived in Japan from 1991 to 1994 and went to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki...

Click here to read the whole article.


More updates:
  • Japan: On the Occasion of "Ten Days for Peace" 2016 - Building Peace Begins within Ourselves - Read more
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Increased tensions in Ukraine: Call for sufficient political efforts by the international community

The attention of the world community these days is mainly on national issues related to terrorism, migration and radicalization, “to be or not to be in the European Union (EU),” or on the nationalistic rhetoric used in the USA presidential campaigns. Politicians who argue that the world is a threatening place and that building higher walls is the solution are increasingly popular.

As a consequence, conflicts around the world, in Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, are not high on the agenda of many politicians, despite the relationship of these conflicts to many national challenges.
For example, Ukraine, a country on the European border, is not sufficiently at the top of Western political concerns. This is troubling. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated this month that “[t]he escalation of hostilities and the accompanying civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine over the last two months are very worrying.”

Moreover, insufficient political efforts towards a solution can lead to further instability in the region, continued problematic relations between the EU and Russia, and increased military build-up by both parties and NATO. The international community should move quickly to take increased political action, as the costs for failing to do so could come at a very high price, a risk that is exceptionally unwise in these times of worldwide crises.

Another reason for immediate action is that Ukrainian Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Ukrainian refugees are reaching catastrophic proportions. As of 1 August 2016, there were 1.749 million IDPs in Ukraine. According to UNHCR, the total number of Ukrainians seeking asylum or other forms of legal stay in neighbouring countries now stands at 1.074.800 with the majority going to the Russian Federation (942.900) and Belarus (126.800).

Western or Russian ally?

At the heart of the conflict are underlying geopolitical tensions about where Ukraine belongs. Is it part of the West or does it remain in the Russian sphere of influence? What should be the status of Crimea that was annexed by the Russians in 2014?

The Kremlin is playing its cards very openly and is not afraid of using force to defend its goals. It recently deployed its advanced S-400 missile defence system to Crimea. The announcement came two days after President Vladimir Putin promised to take counter-measures to clashes between Russian forces and what he called “Ukrainian saboteurs” in northern Crimea.

Despite this, many Ukrainian people made a clear choice for Europe instead of Russia by supporting the Euromaidan movement in 2013-2014. Notably, students started the protests to get the government to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. To them further cooperation with the EU is of the utmost importance, as it gives them travel, study and work possibilities. Nevertheless, the agreement has only provisionally been applied...

Read the entire text here.
More updates: 
  • Pax Christi Germany welcomes peace agreement in Colombia - Read more
  • Op-ed from Pax Christi Flanders staff member on the movement to ban nuclear weapons - Read more
  • Pax Christi Flanders Bishop Jan Van Cauwelaert passes away at age 102 - Read more
  • Pax Christi Austria's Waldhuttl project - Read more
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Letters to UK and US governments to stop involvement in the Yemen conflict via arms deals with Saudi Arabia

Pax Christi International, together with Pax Christi USA and Pax Christi UK, has sent letters to President Obama and Prime Minister May in which we have voiced our concern about the continuing conflict in Yemen between the government—supported by the Saudi-led coalition—and the Houthis, as well as the US and UK involvement with arms exports to Saudi Arabia. 

The Saudi arms deals of the UK and US have been serious matters of discussion at last week’s second annual Conference of State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The treaty, which the US has signed and the UK has ratified, stipulates that arms should not be exported when there is an overriding risk that they would undermine peace and security and facilitate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
In the letters to the heads of state, we urge both governments to stop arms deals with and exports to Saudi Arabia and instead contribute to the restoration of peace talks, which have been suspended for the moment, and to deepen their engagement in support of locally- and civilian-led conflict prevention, mitigation, peacebuilding and good governance.

You can find our letter to the President Obama here and to Prime Minister May here; please share them through your networks. Moreover, we would like to call upon our member organisations and partners outside the UK and US to also write letters. Although the US and UK are the biggest suppliers of arms, others countries are selling arms as well.

In a February 2016 report of the Control Arms Coalition, of which Pax Christi International is a member, besides the UK and the US, China, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey are also named as having reported licenses and sales to Saudi Arabia. Except China and Canada, all countries are signatories to the ATT..
More updates: 
  • Iraq: After ISIS, many fear day of reckoning - Read more
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UN talks recommend negotiations of nuclear weapons ban treaty

In a dramatic final day, the groundbreaking UN talks on nuclear disarmament concluded by making a clear recommendation to start negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Known as the “Open-Ended Working Group” (OEWG), the talks have taken place in February, May and August of this year and have outlined a number of elements that should be included in a new legally binding instrument which prohibits nuclear weapons. The majority support for the ban treaty was clearly underlined by joint statements delivered by Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific as well as statements from several European states. Resistance continued to come throughout the working group from a small group of states who continued to argue that nuclear weapons are essential to their national security. Despite threatening to block a report which contained a recommendation for a ban treaty, these governments did not have the leverage to thwart the successful outcome of the group.
After long deliberations, it seemed that States were going to agree to a compromised report which reflected the views of both sides of the ban treaty issue. However, after this agreement had seemingly been secured behind closed doors, Australia made a last-second turnaround and announced that it was objecting to the draft of the report and called for a vote. In spite of the opposition from Australia and several other pro-nuclear weapon states, the majority was able to carry the day. On that basis, the working group was able to recommend the start of negotiations on a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons...
Read more by clicking here.
More updates: 
  • Strengthen the Global Ban on Biological Weapons," a Pax Christi International statement to PrepCom BTWC - Read more
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Pakistan: National Commission for Justice and Peace issues press release on attack in Quetta
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a rights based organisation of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, strongly condemns the tragic attack on the civil hospital in Quetta and the targeted killing of the President, Bar Council Quetta on 8 August 2016. As per news reports, the attack has killed over 67 people and more than 100 are injured.
His Excellency Bishop Dr. Joseph Arshad, Chairperson of NCJP (Bishop of Faisalabad) and Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, Mr. Cecil Shane Chaudhry, respectively National Director and Executive Director of NCJP in a joint statement said that killing innocent people is an inhuman act and totally unacceptable. They emphasised that the government of Pakistan needs to improve their security measures and ensure the right of life for all citizens.

They stressed that Balochistan has experienced 1400 incidents of violence and targeted killing over the past 15 years. They stated that the Commission and the Catholic Church stand firmly with the people of Balochistan in this hour of need and further pleaded with the government to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.

This tragic incident has caused bereavement throughout the country. While praying for the deceased, they extended their condolences to the families of the victims, praying to Almighty God to grant them peace, strength and courage to overcome this irreparable loss and wishes for the speedy recovery of those injured in this cruel incident.
Read more by clicking here.
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Remarks by Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis at international conference on nuclear disarmament in Kazakhstan

The following remarks were delivered by Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis in her position as a panelist at the "Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, 28-29 August. Ms. Dennis was invited by the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). The conference of parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts is being held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.
Pax Christi, a global Catholic peace movement with 120 member organizations on 5 continents, was founded at the end of the Second World War to support efforts at reconciliation between the French and the Germans. Almost from the beginning we joined the long struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons. 

Let me say a few words this afternoon from the Catholic perspective – although all of the work that we do is with people of many faith traditions and with all people of good will committed to abolishing nuclear weapons. 

First, we approach this challenge as part of a local Church - from Hiroshima and (especially) Nagasaki and the Marshall Islands; from communities where uranium miners and downwinders live; from impoverished communities, who, as Pope Francis said, “Pay the price” when resources are squandered on nuclear weapons. (Dec 7, 2014) 

Second, we are part of a Church with a long track record of working for nuclear disarmament. Most recently, in December 2014, the Holy See’s statement to the Vienna Conference revoked the moral justification for nuclear deterrence and therefore for the design, development or possession of nuclear weapons... 

Read more here.
More updates:
  • International Peace Bureau World Congress 2016 on Military and Social Spending to be held in late September in Berlin - Read more
  • Pax Christi International participates in a special session of Religions for Peace International on nuclear disarmament in Tokyo - Read more
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Leaving behind the concept of "just war"
This article is from the Church and Peace newsletter.

 “Should we become atheists in order to understand that nuclear arms do not fit with the gospel and Christian faith? Or should we be agnostics to understand that any war is a mistake, that it is a lie – because war destroys what it claims to defend?”

Such provocative questions were heard at the conference on “Nonviolence and just peace: a contribution to Catholic understanding and a commitment to nonviolence”, which took place on the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Justitia et Pax and Pax Christi International from 11 to 13 April in Rome.

The conference brought together 85 people from all over the world. Most of them are active in working for peace and human rights, and have a rich fund of knowledge about theology and peace theory. Priests and bishops, the members of Justitia et Pax are important for the support of nonviolent strategies in the work of the Roman Catholic Church. One of them was Bishop Bettazzi, one of the few remaining bishops who was at the Second Vatican Council, who radiates the spirit of Vatican II as he struggles for a church seeking justice…
Read the entire article on page 5 of the summer newsletter from Church and Peace by clicking here.
More updates: 
  • Pax Christi Italy’s study centre seminar on "Europe for Peace" - Read more
  • Germany: Political prayer on poverty in old age - Read more
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Catholics and the democratic ‘Big Tent’ by Stephen Seufert. 8 August 2016
Hiroshima survivor shares memories of atomic blast with peace activists. 9 August 2016
Pax Christi urges prayer, study, action on abolishing nuclear weapons by Tom Webb. 22 August 2016
Anniversary peace pilgrimage to Vezelay by Independent Catholic News. 25 August 2016

Pax Christi nominee keeps focus on God, others by Anita Draper. 25 August 2016

Remembering Hiroshima in London by Independent Catholic News. 7 August 2016
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Check the 'Resources' section of our website to learn more about our member organisations’ work for disarmament and security, human rights, peace education, peace spirituality, reconciliation and non-violent conflict transformation. Click, download and share with anyone who may be interested!
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For updates on planned events in the Pax Christi network and beyond, click here

Is your organisation planning any peace-related activities? Do you know of any other upcoming peace event we might have missed? Let us know and we will add it to the calendar! 
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