Pax Christi addresses non-violence in middle east
Non-violence and education for peace was on the agenda for Pax Christi members, as they attended their annual general meeting at the weekend.
Members from ten dioceses around the country, gathered in Birmingham on Saturday to hear Fuad Giacaman, Director of the Arab Educational Institute (AEI), in Bethlehem speak passionately of the importance of education for peace and nonviolence for the young of his own country and in Europe.
He said that since September 11th many young people have been exposed to what he called "fear "education , by their governments and the media.
What is needed, and what his own Institute and movements such as Pax Christi can offer, he said, is 'hope' education. Much of the work of the AEI is bringing young Christians and Muslims together to live and work as one community - to challenge negative stereotypes of the 'other' as a threat or enemy.
Where possible the Institute tries to engage with young Israeli's too but this not always practically or politically possible.
In recent months the Institute has helped to organise a number of nonviolent actions - such as vigils and pilgrimages - to resist and challenge the occupation.
They have started the 'Open Schools' campaign to draw attention to the way in which education is disrupted by closures, curfews and the limitation of movement.
The Institute also encourages three-way sharing on the Jewish, Muslim and Christian scriptures - engaging young people in reflection and discussion on themes such as 'compassion', justice' ,'land' to help focus on common concerns and teachings. The Institute is affiliated to Pax Christi International.
Members also heard that the work of the movement will continue to challenge the idea that military alliances create security. Through its work on Britain's role arms trade and the Britain's continued possession and intended use of nuclear weapons, Pax Christi will seek to be a prophetic voice in the church. It will aim to link these concerns to the peacemaking in the Middle East - to work in solidarity with movements such as the AEI, drawing on the human stories of violence and occupation.
Pax Christi has also launched a Condolence Book for all those who died in the war against Iraq and will host an ecumenical service of Remembrance and Reconciliation in central London on 24th June.
The peacemaking efforts of three people were given special recognition at the meeting. Mark James, who has served Pax Christi for more then 30 years as staff member, Executive Committee member and key player in establishing Pax Christi's youth projects in the 1960's; Clare Edwards, member from Salford Diocese who has been a faithful campaigner and lobbyist for 30 years as well as founding the Pax Christi group in Salford and Jean Kaye from Oxford, involved in direct action to militarism at Greenham Common, Upper Heyford and Aldermaston as well as her involvement at local level in asylum and refugee projects. Bishop Malcolm McMahon, National President of Pax Christi, presented each with a medal of the Neve Shalom community in Israel (a village founded by Fr Bruno Hussar to bring Jews and Muslims together)