No pangas, violence in 2018!

At the beginning of 2018, we offer heartfelt wishes of peace to all our readers, advertisers and supporters.

We wish peace to all Zambians in all their diversities and complexities and hope that as we enter the New Year, the image and likeness of God in each one of them will enable them to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity.

Let’s put behind us the conflicts of the past years and begin to respect this deepest dignity and make active nonviolence our way of life. Peace is the only true direction of national   progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious politics, nor hegemony by violence, nor repressions, which serve as mainstay for a false civil order. There’s great danger when some of our politicians start to think that political differences cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of crashing others “like a tone of bricks”. Instead, let’s turn to the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love.

As we start 2018, let’s reflect and meditate deeply on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. Let’s ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. Let’s allow charity and nonviolence to govern how we treat each other as individuals, within our communities and in national life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking.

Let’s allow nonviolence to become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms. Violence is not the cure for our broken communities. Countering violence with violence leads to enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to law enforcement ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people.

Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mark 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts.”

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching on nonviolence.

That teaching is realistic because it takes into account that in our lives, there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the Christian revolution. The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.

Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practiced before all else within families. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the nation and radiates to the whole of society. An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue.

Hence, we plead with urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children. No pangas, violence in 2018!

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