WASHINGTON — Pax Christi International has two new co-presidents, and while they hail from different continents, they share the view that rampant violence is posing ever-growing danger to the world.
Loreto Sister Teresia Wamuyu Wachira of Nairobi, Kenya, and Bishop Marc Stenger of Troyes, France, open their three-year term hoping that the organization can boost training in nonviolence, especially among young people. They see such training as necessary so that eventually dialogue and communication become the prime options to resolve differences rather than the use of hateful words, physical attacks and even warfare.
“Nonviolence is very, very important,” Sister Wachira said. “We have to try. It may take a long time and we may be going against the grain, but I believe we must move in the right direction.”
Bishop Stenger wrote in an email that the organization “can open avenues and provide guidance for promoting sustainable peace through nonviolent strategies.”
“It can do this,” he explained, “in connection with the infrastructure available to the Church at all levels — universities, seminaries, dioceses, etc. — stressing the social teaching of the Church, always to be read in the light of the Gospel.”
While starting their term during Pax Christi International’s annual general meeting June 26-27 in Brussels, the co-presidents had yet to formally meet face-to-face due to visa issues with Sister Wachira. They have talked, and say they are eager to move forward on the organization’s priorities addressing nonviolent alternatives.
Both peace leaders have promoted nonviolence in their ministry roles. Sister Wachira has been a teacher and principal in Loreto-run schools in the East Africa nation, concentrating on training young women for peacemaking and reconciliation work.
She also advises her congregation’s office at the United Nations in New York on the role of peacemaking in the world’s trouble spots.
Bishop Stenger for years has written on nonviolence and the importance of building a culture of peace in local communities. The bishop also has addressed the precarious situation of Christians in Iraq, and after a 2002 visit to Colombia, which then was in the midst of a long-running civil war, he called on all parties to respect human rights in order to achieve peace.
The bishop expressed concern that the world’s nuclear powers are seeking to expand their nuclear weapon arsenals after decades of reductions. Plus, he stated, the widening distribution of conventional arms is destabilizing societies and increasing injustice in many nations, causing people to flee for safer lands.
Both leaders said that Pax Christi International can play an important role in easing the downward spiral toward conflict, violence and injustice.
“I believe Pax Christi is one of the organizations that can effectively work for change in society,” Sister Wachira said.
Bishop Stenger wrote that the Church’s worldwide presence gives it the opportunity to share new strategies to replace policies that have failed to achieve justice for all people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
“To motivate people to act and advocate, we must show them the challenges of the future in a clear way and make each Catholic discover that the commitment to peace is a missionary responsibility,” he stated.
The co-presidents succeed Marie Dennis of Washington and Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, who have led Pax Christi International for nine years.