Photo caption: Sophie Gregg (EAPPI), Sylvia Thompson(Pax Christi Ireland) and Rob Fairmichael (INNATE)
Nearly 40 people from around Ireland joined the conversation on ‘Gospel Nonviolence’ at the invitation of Pax Christi Ireland and the Loyola Institute on 14 October last in the Loyola Institute. The aim was to present the work of Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI). This was done most comprehensively by the two speakers Pat Gaffney and Marie Dennis, members of the CNI Executive.
Following a warm welcome by Dr Michael Kirwan SJ, Director of the Loyola Institute and Sylvia Thompson of Pax Christi Ireland, Pat Gaffney set the scene by inviting participants to offer their own experiences of the power of nonviolence. Pat then presented a deep and broad understanding of nonviolence, rooting it within Catholic Social Teaching and sharing some of the rich experience of the work of CNI in various countries. This included a moving reflection with images of Pope Francis as a pilgrim of nonviolence to places of conflict around the world. Marie Dennis, rooted CNI in theology and spirituality virtually from Washington.
Panel members explored ‘What does the practice of nonviolence look like?’ Sophie Gregg of EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) described some of her accompaniment work in Hebron and Yanoun, in the West Bank and its vital role in protecting innocent civilians enabling them to go about their daily lives. Rob Fairmichael of INNATE, Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education reminded participants that nonviolence is not new in Ireland, and gave an enlightening overview of nonviolence in Ireland from past to present.
Rory Halpin, Chief Executive of Spirasi, the National Centre for Survivors of Torture, gave us some sobering information as he outlined the role the organisation, part funded by HSE. However Spirasi is unable to meet increasing demand for the service arising from the very high incidence of torture among those arriving in Ireland seeking International Protection. Ebrahim from Bahrain, now a member of Spirasi Board, then told his story. He, and his colleagues were arrested as a consequence of working as paramedics with a First Aid committee helping wounded protesters in the democracy uprisings of 2011. He spoke of the power of international solidarity which included advocacy by Pope Francis and some Irish academics who had worked in Bahrain.
The day closed with prayer for peace in Israel and Palestine, which included the words below:
Strengthen our faith in you, O God of All Flesh,
even when we don’t have clear answers,
so that we may still offer ourselves nonviolently
for the cause of peace. Amen. Rose Marie Berger.
The day gave networking opportunities, excellent resources and a greater understanding of Gospel nonviolence, the wide range of peace and nonviolence work and the opportunity to keep in touch with this work in the future.