Nonviolence as a style of politics
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Every day, we hear about war, terrorism and social violence, issues that affect us and our brothers and sisters around the world. The problems can seem so complex that they leave us wondering, “What can I possibly do?”

In his message for the 50th World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, Pope Francis gives direction. He urges us to overcome inertia by replacing cautiousness with courage and cynicism with hope and asks us as Catholics to focus this year on Christian nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.

“To be true followers of Jesus today includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence,” Pope Francis says in his message, appropriately entitled “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.” He tells us, “The eight Beatitudes provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic” and adds, “This is also a program and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities.”

Pope Francis reminds us that “Jesus himself lived in violent times” and “marked out the path of nonviolence” when he taught his disciples to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek.

In his message, the Holy Father highlights great peacemakers, including Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in India, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States, Leymah Gbowee in Liberia, as well as Saints Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Thérèse of Lisieux to illustrate that nonviolence is more powerful than violence.

Pope Francis pledges “the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.” One way he plans to fulfill this pledge is through the work of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which opened at the Vatican on Jan. 1. This new office, says the pope, is designed to help the Church promote in a more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace and the care of creation and concern for migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.”

Faith in action:

  • Read and share the 2017 World Day of Peace message of Pope Francis. Gather your faith community to ask: How might the Holy Spirit be calling our community to be creative and active peacemakers?
  • Pray-study-act for Gospel Nonviolence with the 2017 Lenten Reflection Guide: A Journey with Gospel Nonviolence produced by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
  • Host a viewing of The Sultan and the Saint, a new film about St. Francis of Assisi’s heroic peacemaking adventure in 1220.
  • Take personal action Adopt a creative and active nonviolent practice in your daily life from the “64 ways to practice nonviolence,” initiated by a national grassroots campaign in Los Angeles called “A Season for Nonviolence.” The first practice is courage: “Today, light a candle and accept the courage to practice living nonviolently.”

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit or email

Featured image:Giving the peace sign, a boy returns to his village near Mosul, Iraq, after it was liberated from Islamic State militants last fall.
(CNS/Thaier Al-Sudaini, Reuters)


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About the author

Susan Gunn

Susan Gunn is director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.