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Violence is a Social Illness: Interview with the President of Pax Christi

Violence as a social ill (RE: Boston bombings)


Chiara Santomiero - published on 04/18/13

The organization will be having a gathering on the theme of non-violence at the end of the month

The Boston Marathon – traditionally a day of celebration and peaceful civil gathering – turned into a tragedy as the direct result of an attack that was driven (as evidenced by its manner of execution) by a clear desire to cause widespread harm and death.

Aleteia spoke with His Excellency, Giovanni Giudici, Bishop of Pavia and President of Pax Christi Italy on the eve of the organization’s National Congress, held in Rome April 26-28 under the title: “Time for Nonviolence: Opening the window of the future, planning together, daring together.”

What has the reaction been to the attack in Boston?

Bishop Giudici: The attack in Boston makes it even more tragically clear that violence has acquired the character of a “social illness” in today’s world. Yet even amid the shadows of violence, the desire to help one’s brother (especially when he has been senselessly and tragically injured) still shines forth. This desire, which springs from the human heart in the face of an emergency, is what inspired the many gestures of all those who worked in various ways after the attack to bring relief to the victims.

Why do you think violence has become “almost endemic” in countries across the world?

Bishop Giudici: Globalization and migration have led to peoples with different cultural perspectives, experiences and even different religious convictions living beside one another. This situation is relatively new as compared with the past when, for the most part, there was a correlation between geographic region and religious affiliation.

Another aspect of this phenomenon is participation in world events – in unison and in read time – that’s been made possible by the media. This brings violence into the home through images that arouse deep emotion and various reactions.

Both of these aspects are occasions given by the God’s Providence to rediscover the unity of the human family, the preciousness of diversity and the mutual enrichment that comes from it. However, the same historical events can be either stumbling blocks or opportunities for salvation.

Can the United States, where the general sale of arms continues despite the massacres that have taken place even recently in schools, be considered an example of this attitude of violence?

Bishop Giudici: We are certainly dealing here with a traditional image pertaining to their very identity, which was forged in times when both weapons and the social context were quite different. We might think of the time of the conquest of lands by the pioneers, when they needed to defend themselves. The perpetuation of this tradition to the present day leads to problems because it makes a national identity revolve around the right to arms. However, certain features stand out more, because American society lives in a relatively idyllic environment; it does not have many of the darker aspects that other countries do. For example, think of mafia violence in Italy. The majority of U.S. citizens are living out the democratic debate in the proper way.

Why is Pax Christi proposing the “demilitarized schools” campaign to young people?

Bishop Giudici: It seems to us that we need to help promote a non-violent mentality among the young that aspires to the utopia of a society without war. Removing the need for violence at the origins of personal and societal relationships: this is the educative perspective that seems most effective to us, insofar as it prevents certain strands present within society that hold that weapons are still necessary, and somehow an entitlement we are due, from finding a place within the schools.

This year we remember the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Don Tonino Bello, Bishop of Molfetta and President of Pax Christi from 1985 to 1993. What legacy has he left us?

Bishop Giudici: Don Tonino left us two things in particular: a passion for peace and an attention to the most vulnerable and weak in society who, regardless of their circumstances, have the right to belong. This attention is the harbinger of peace, since peace is placed in crisis through situations in which justice is absent and the dignity of the human person is not respected. In the words and gestures of Pope Francis, we sense a harmony with all that Don Bello said and all that the movement proposes. This harmony encourages and helps to reawaken sensitivity to issues of peace, justice and human dignity in the Christian community, and this is what we strive for.

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