Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace 2017 was published with the title: “Non violence: a style of Politics for Peace” . Fifty years have gone by since Paul VI, with an almost prophetical intuition, established that the first of January each year would be dedicated to the crucial issue of peace. This year, the Pope has proclaimed that active “non violence” is “ a peace-building strategy”, the pivot on which the message revolves. The names of great, non violent peace builders come to mind such as Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela and also the enormous commitment of the Italian Radical Party in such a delicate field.
The first violence is that of the eye; we work for peace and build it, learning day after day to look at the world with the eyes of the Spirit, learning how to examine the signs of our times. Fatalism, judgement without the right to appeal, are only ways to hide our disengagement, to seek shelter outside the real world. The Pope challenges us, instead, to “construct Society and communities with the style of peace builders”. We can see it clearly even today: the repercussions of war fall above all on the poor. However, we can also see the strength of the evangelic message, which has survived through the ages and is always able to ring out resoundingly: «blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek…». When the poor regain hope, then war is stripped naked showing all its absurdity and uselessness. We see many wars in these times but also much hope not defeated or annihilated by the warlords.
Moreover, we are faced with an inexorable decadence in a part of the world which has created history and is now using arms to try and stop history changing. History has, however, already changed and now the shadow of death, caused not by war but by self-destruction, hangs over many Western skies. The future has migrated elsewhere and passes through those places in the world where the outcasts, widows, orphans and the poor live; the evangelical categories of those who have never counted as anything in the eyes of the warlords and their silent and opulent accomplices. None of us can allow ourselves to stay on the outskirts of this true revolution of the poor who are seeking peace. In order to be efficient, this revolution must always begin in the private sphere and the distinction between private and public is, in this sense, a deception worked out across the board by a part of that culture of which we are heirs. Pope Francis writes: “ may charity and non violence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life”.
We must begin to live the change by modifying the private spaces of our responsibilities. Only men of the Beatitudes can build peace and integrate naturally into the great peace processes of history. The powerful, the privileged, the lobbies will always be foreign bodies in the peace process and will become, almost without realizing it, allies of war. When I want to qualify non violence, I say, justice, respect of diversity, peace, common good. I say the Beatitudes, words which give many names to this single truth to which Jesus was the first witness. Jesus is the witness of non violence, this non violence of the many names, which are the beatitudes.
When someone has authority, a company a position of leadership, or when a country owns resources, they should not defend them by the sword. Jesus said to Pilate: if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight. To fight by the sword is to kill, is the violence which creates only defeats and no victors. In fact, our history is a river of blood spilt in the name of the principle that without a sword a kingdom cannot go on existing. This is why we are always at war. «Put your sword back in its sheath» said Jesus to Peter, otherwise right will always be with the strongest, the most violent, the cruellest and the best armed. Certainly, at times, we must even be afraid when the powerful make peace. We must never forget and underestimate the fact that Jesus was crucified when Pilate and Herod became friends and made peace over his tortured body.
We must never ask Politics to defend religion; how many times do we hear that politician, that party defends Catholic values. We must never ask Politics to defend religion because we risk turning the Lord’s house into a market and a cavern of thieves; indeed, it is not even a risk but a certainty. We must demand instead that Politics, the kingdoms of this world that is, to defend the dignity and liberty of mankind, of every man and woman and especially today, migrants and all minorities.
Let us then world leaders, to make peace, real peace, and not on the shoulders of the poor. Let us pray for peace which is not a burden for the poor. For example, a peace envisaging the continuous use of arms and leads to famine in half the world is not peace. Let us pray then to our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Peace. A kingliness which, with the enormous efforts of Pope Francis, is freeing itself from all the robes and crowns of the age of Constantine, becoming a ripe seed to build a non violent world where: “we don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace but to get together, to love each other” ( Mother Teresa of Calcutta speech when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979).