This year the national catholic peace organisation, Pax Christi, held its AGM and conference in Yorkshire at the Oxford Place centre in Leeds. Both the Leeds Pax Christi group and the Justice and Peace Commission were actively involved in organising and promoting the event locally.The overall message was that Pax Christi’s work in schools, parishes and internationally is thriving. Anne Dodd, outgoing Chair, opened the meeting by thanking Exec, staff members for all they do to support and resource members to put their faith into action and bring peacemaking, reconciliation and peace-building to the heart of the Church community.
Schools and youth officer Matt Jeziorski spoke of an increased demand for workshops and sessions in schools and of the cooperation that is being developed with local members around schools work. Although based in London, Matt is available to work with schools in any part of the country and would welcome invitations from schools in the Leeds Diocese.
A highlight of Pax Christi’s outreach was the report given by Valerie Flessati and Pat Gaffney on the recent international conference in Rome on Non-violence and JustPeace. Co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace it brought together eighty participants from around the world, peace practitioners, theologians, academics to explore four themes: Experiences of nonviolence, Jesus’ way of nonviolence, nonviolence and just peace and moving beyond unending war. Valerie, Pat and Chris Cole participated from the UK and helped with the process. We have great opportunities now to work with others, including Pax Christi sections around the world, to flesh out for the Church a deep understanding of active nonviolence and the processes and tools needed to replace Just War approaches to conflict with Just Peace approaches.
Subversive Peacemakers was the theme for our afternoon Conference. Clive Barrett introduced something of the lives of First World War CO and presented some of the music that gave strength to those in prison – representing either commitment to internationalism, socialism or faith. Everyone happily joined in singing the People’s flag and a peace version of the National Anthem with the words: ” may peace her sway extend, foe be transformed to friend, and Britain’s power depend on war no more”!
Active peacemaking today was presented in the work of Lindis Percy. In the 1990s Lindis founded the Campaign for Accountability of American Bases to expose and oppose their presence in the UK. Through often painstaking legal challenges Lindis is using local and international law to challenging US military presence in the UK. Arrested most recently at Menwith Hill in May Lindis awaits the outcome and consequences of this action.