At the February meeting of the Justice and Peace Commission we were treated to an inspiring and encouraging morning, facilitated by Sr. Katrina Alton. Katrina is a member of the congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace based in Nottingham. Their charism – ‘peace through justice’ was at the heart of her presentation which was based on Pope Francis’ message for Peace Sunday.
‘Peace, a journey of listening based on memory, solidarity and fraternity’
It is important to keep the memories of past events alive for the present generation so that the suffering endured by so many can become a positive step for the future.
“What is more, memory is the horizon of hope. Many times, in the darkness of wars and conflicts, the remembrance of even a small gesture of solidarity received can lead to courageous and even heroic decisions. It can unleash new energies and kindle new hope in individuals and communities”(Pope Francis)
A group exercise derived from the ‘Road to Emmaus’ helped us to focus on our own responses to situations of fear, to reactions to ‘strangers’ and to conditions of trust and risk.
What would we have done if we had been in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion? Would we have stayed in the city or fled in fear? Would we have confided in a perceived stranger as we hurried along the way?
Again to quote Pope Francis: “ War, as we know, often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others….Every threatening mistrust leads people to withdraw into their own safety zone. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence.”
We considered aspects of our own lives which had been mired in distrust, suspicion and discomfort because of perceived differences – whether in skin colour or accent or family origin. Through our experiences, we each bring our own wisdom to the journey to peace, we are all witnesses to the truth.
Katrina led us in a consideration of the strength of both dialogue and forgiveness. This is not easy – especially in our present climate of ‘hate crime’ – especially when we experience people’s attitudes to race and religion. We can readily get in touch with our own strong feelings of fury and desires for revenge. “When we learn to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace.”- Pope Francis
Katrina concluded by focusing on ecological conversion which is central to future peace and reconciliation. We must become reconciled to one another and to our crucified earth – through personal and group action, (no action is too small), through listening, through contemplation of the world that has been entrusted to us and through joining in solidarity with others wherever we can.
Perhaps the most powerful message Sr. Katrina left us with was to ‘live in forgiveness’. This is the true path to peace and reconciliation.