The Pope, Religion and the Culture of Peace
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 9 Dec 2019
2 Dec 2019 – In this month’s bulletin of CPNN I have written about the initiative of Pope Francis for nuclear disarmament, and, along with and the bishops and churches of the Amazon, for sustainable development and the rights of indigenous peoples, key components of the culture of peace.
One of the initial reactions to the bulletin was to object that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church do not support the culture of peace insofar as they continue to call homosexuality a disease and and to oppose abortion. This point of view considers that a person’s sexual orientation and a woman’s control over reproduction are fundamental human rights and hence components of the culture of peace.
Of course the Pope’s remarks about homosexuality and abortion reflect a long-standing dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many other religious institutions.
This debate reminds me of the excellent discussion about religion and culture of peace published in 2000 by Elise Boulding in her book Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History:
“Every religion then contains two cultures: the culture of violence and war and the culture of peaceableness. The holy war culture calls for mobilization against evil and is easily politicized. The culture of the peaceable garden relies on a sense of the oneness of humankind, often taking the form of intentional communities based on peaceful and cooperative lifeways, sanctuaries for the nonviolent….”
In my opinion, the Pope’s initiatives go beyond the usual “two cultures” of religion. I see them as an important contribution to the agenda of history. Hence, at the conclusion of the bulletin I write that they
“may be seen as a major step in the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace.”
It is the general theme of this blog that there is an agenda of history in the sense that certain problems/challenges are more urgent than others. This theme is present in the remarks quoted in the bulletin by Cardinal Czerny at the final press briefing of the Amazon Synod, that the ecological and human crisis is so deep that without a sense of urgency “we’re not going to make it.”
Nuclear disarmament is such a problem/challenge. Unless we can achieve it, the other components of the culture of peace, including human rights, will never be achieved.
As for the ecological crisis and the necessity of sustainable development, there is a sense in which they are less urgent than nuclear disarmament. The ecological threat is real but while a nuclear war could completely destroy our world in a matter of hours and days, the ecological threat is a matter of decades and centuries.
Unlike the perspective that I am presenting, it seems that people, and especially the young generation, are more conscious of the ecological threat than the nuclear threat. For them the evidence of global warming is visible every day, while the nuclear threat remains abstract and hidden. Therefore, it is tactically and strategically effective that nuclear disarmament be linked as much as possible to the movements for sustainable development.
Of course, the two issues are profoundly related in the sense that both concern preservation of our planet, and like all components of the culture of war and culture of peace they are part of a cultural continuum. This was expressed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres:
“Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods, and our lives. That is why it is the focus of this year’s International Day of Peace.”
And it was emphasized in the effective mobilizations for the International Day of Peace in France by Mouvement de la Paix and by the analysis for the occasion by their spokesman Roland Nivet:
“Climate and peace are the same fight. The struggles for peace and climate, social justice and human rights, nuclear disarmament are linked. They unite us today and must be the cement of our unity of action for tomorrow.”
The initiatives of the Pope are especially timely because they support this linkage of nuclear disarmament and sustainable development and they send out this message to the Catholic churches around the world and their more than a billion religious followers.
Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace. Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.
Tags: Culture of Peace, Peace, Peace Building, Pope Francis
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