A Christian Peace?

EDITORIAL, 23 Dec 2013

#305 | Johan Galtung

What a Christmas gift to all of us from that amazing Pope Francis, his first Message for the World Day of Peace,  Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace.  A tightly reasoned statement in ten sections; here is an effort to summarize some key points:

  1. An irrepressible wish for fraternity enables us to see others not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters.  However, reference to a common Father is needed; otherwise it becomes “a mere do ut des /I give so that you give/ which is both pragmatic and selfish”.
  2. The story of Cain and Abel /the first brothers, sons of the first couple, Adam and Eve/ “teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling”: Cain killed Abel out of jealousy because God preferred Abel.
  3. Human fraternity is regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection–the Cross is the definitive foundational focus of that fraternity-/no/ separation between the people of the Covenant and the Gentiles–not party to the pact of the Promise.
  4. Fraternity is the foundation and pathway–peace is work, an opus solidaritatis, a duty of solidarity, of social justice, of universal charity, of a more human and sustainable development.
  5. Fraternity is indispensable to fight poverty, poor relationships, increasingly pathological dependencies–but it has to be in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows– /to inspire/ policies that lighten an excessive inequality.
  6. Rediscovery of fraternity in the economy should overcome the greedy pursuit of material goods and impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations, /lead to/ a rethinking of our models of economic development and to change of lifestyles in favor of prudence, temperance, justice and strength–in favor of human dignity.
  7. Fraternity extinguishes war by hearing the cry of suffering of the defenseless victims, and instead of seeing the other as an enemy to be beaten, discovers your brother and sister and goes out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, /making/ peace a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for every other right.
  8. Corruption and organized crime threaten fraternity–people should compete with one another in mutual esteem remembering that we are brothers and sisters, overcoming corruption and criminal organization, money trafficking and financial speculation, prostitution and rape.
  9. Fraternity preserves and cultivates nature as a common gift from the Creator  by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and exercise a responsible stewardship over it, like in the agricultural sector to avoid the continuing disgrace of hunger in the world.
  10. Fraternity must be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed, witnessed through love, not technical know-how bereft of ideals and unconcerned with the transcendent dimension through service, the soul of a fraternity that brings peace to each person on our beloved earth.

So much beauty and wisdom, also based on many predecessors. A humanity struggling for peace can be grateful to a pope reminding us of direct peace through solidarity, of structural peace through development, and of the spiritual quality of peace, cultural peace. Take the spiritual dedication to something beyond ourselves away from human beings and we get human machines with technical know-how and exchange dominated by pragmatism and selfishness. So far so good.

The problem comes with the fraternity–later broadened to brothers and sisters–brought about by having the same Father, the Christian God, confirmed through the faith in the Son, the Christ, as the savior. The Pope bases fraternity on the Christian narrative and the family model.  But there is a broader concept: the we-culture of exactly sharing joys and sorrows, as opposed to an I-culture based on individual ethical budgets that become pragmatic and selfish.  Like a marriage without the love of the we-ness.

Thus, for peace among Nordic countries, among EU countries, in the whole world, there must be some feeling, not only an idea-value of being Nordic, European, a part of humanity. There are faultlines in our soul to be overcome to expand the circles of we-ness against all the efforts by media and power-hungry “leaders” to deepen them as reasons for killing.

Actually, the Pope explores fraternity only for believers in the Father and the Son, bridging only the gap between Jews and Christians.  But no Christianity is needed to see the other as a possible dialogue partner and not an automatic enemy.  This is already spiritual in its we-ness.  The Pope’s Christian pathway may work for the believers but fortunately there are many others, some of them more global.

The ever expanding human rights from individualism to collective rights is one; and the Pope sees peace as prerequisite for the other rights ([7] above). So does the Universal Declaration in Article 28:

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

We find in this path-breaking text cooperation for mutual and (less un)equal benefit, harmony as sharing joys and sorrows, pardon and reconciliation, but not Francis d’Assisi conflict resolution, the key to negative peace as reduction of violence.  We find a Father who prefers one brother to the other, engendering jealousy; who admonishes Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac but in the last second stays his hand; yet sacrifices his own son Jesus who cries for mercy rather than the mystery of John 3:16 [For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life].  We find Jesus and his opus solidaritatis gone, the stern Father and the Roman Empire surviving.

Imagine an alternative Christian narrative.  The two women, Mary and Magdalena, mediate in the hexagon conflict with Father and Son, the Jews and the Pharisees, Pontius Pilate and the Roman Empire. The Father liberates the Son from the Cross for many years of samaritan work inspired by compassion and conscience (and fulfilment of love with Magdalena), the Pharisees are assured that the kingdom of which Jesus spoke is within and beyond, not as INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum), the king of Jews, who then pardon both him and Barrabas. Pontius Pilate argues with Rome in favor of an empire more as a community of nations, one of them Jewish, possibly with him as the first governor, presaging the Muslim Ottoman Empire–the extension not that different–1500 years later.  The Son, jointly with his wife, focuses on ministry; the Father on love and fraternity-sorority by deed and faith, not by fear of punishment like the horror of the Machiavellian Italian prince–De Principatibus was written 500 years ago–so obviously modelled on the stern Father (and for that reason given model character in the West).

It may be objected that this is not the Christianity of the church of Pope Francis.  True, but the Roman Empire collapsed, and the world is moving, with the role of women and democracy-autonomy-human rights at least as ideals, not authoritarianism-empire-sacrifice.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit.  Maybe more Son, less Father?


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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