The peace witness of Fr John Dear

7th September 2012 - by Nathalie Marytsch

Mauricio Silva and John Dear
Peace campaigner John Dear SJ and Columaban Lay Missionary Mauricio Silva
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Mauricio Silva, a Chilean Columban lay missionary in Birmingham, reports on a talk he attended given by prominent peace campaigner, Fr John Dear SJ.

John Dear, a US Jesuit priest and respected leader of the Ecumenical peace movement, visited Birmingham and delivered a talk at St Chad’s Cathedral on 3 September. His talk, entitled ‘The Cost of Peace – Violence or the Non-Violent Jesus?’, commenced with a celebration of the achievements of the international peace movement as well as a reminder of the challenges of advancing peace in a world ‘addicted to violence’. Drawing from his personal experience and ultimately from the message and witness of Jesus, the Son of the God of Peace, John invited the audience to reflect on where each one of us was in this journey to Peace, on how much each one has moved out of violence. This journey – he reminded us – means making peace with ourselves , letting go of past wounds and bitterness , and living out the gift of forgiveness. Peace begins within each of us.

In each sentence of this talk we could hear the echoes of the greatest prophets of peace and justice in our time: Ellacuría , Romero, Dorothy Day, Gandhi, Dr. King, Dom Helder Camera and others. They are, he said, the great witnesses that constantly urge him to persevere in his journey. He has spent several spells in US prisons for his peace protests.

This is a personal journey that has led him to the conviction that inner peace unavoidably must take one to an active and public commitment against war and violence. Today, more than ever, it is evident that war does not work, he insists; and nonviolence is the answer. Peacemaking requires that we stand up actively and publicly to resist systemic injustice and violence. Following John Dear’s witness and listening to his word, one quickly realises that he has also become one of those great witnesses.

I have heard lots of meanings for the word mission, but listening to John Dear I realise that, personally, mission can be simply described as a journey to peace: Peace within myself, with those around me and with all Creation. Here in Sparkhill, Birmingham, I hear all the time from the lips of many wishes of Peace (Salaam), and that is precisely what we, Columban missionaries, have come to share and promote in the community. This may seem little of insignificant in the eyes of some, but we continue to take heart in the prophetic witness of John Dear, who proclaims that the vision for peace is shared for more and more people every day in different corners of the globe. Scales fall from our eyes; weapons fall from our hands; suddenly the great truth hidden since the creation of the world is revealed: we are already reconciled to one another and to God. We are already one.