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A Universal Ethic of Nonviolence

Friday, August 23, 2019


A Universal Ethic of Nonviolence
Friday, August 23, 2019

To create peaceful change, we must begin by remembering who we are in God. The following came out of a recent meeting of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative:

Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation.

The nonviolent life to which we are called is rooted in the life of God and in God’s longing for humanity. God is unconditional love that grounds, creates and maintains all life, rooted in the infinite goodness that the three Persons of the one God endlessly and inseparably share with one another and with all creation. This eternal communion is the ceaseless mutuality of ontological nonviolence in action, grounded in the foundational relationality of God. Our God of unconditional, self-giving love calls all humanity to this way of primordial nonviolence.

Jesus made visible the nonviolence of God, who created the universe not out of violence but out of love. Creation is good, as the Book of Genesis tells us, and human beings are made in the image of the God who declares this goodness. Nonviolence is the nature of creation and points us toward the “new creation”, where all will be reconciled.

Jesus lived and proclaimed this universal ethic of nonviolence: a paradigm of the fullness of life putting love into action, returning good for evil, rejecting violence and killing, and nurturing a just, peaceful, sustainable, and reconciled world. It springs from his foundational understanding of God and of the nonviolent life that God calls us to live: to make peace with one another; to resist the violence and injustice that threaten or destroy this peace; and to foster a world where the fullness of peace is the birthright of all. Jesus showed us how to live this way of faithful nonviolence, even in the midst of violence and oppression, by calling us to love our enemies, to not kill, to put down the sword, and to respond actively to the cry of the poor.

Nonviolence is the foundational, universal ethic for building a culture of peace, disarmament and development. A spiritual orientation, a way of life, and a practical tool, nonviolence confronts violence without using violence, creates constructive alternatives and calls us to share the fullness of life with one another on this fragile planet, what Pope Francis has called “our common home.”

Adapted from a forthcoming document by Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative entitled “Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World: Biblical, Theological, Ethical, Pastoral and Strategic Dimensions of Nonviolence.” Learn more about the Nonviolence Initiative at

Image credit: The Sleeping Gypsy (detail), by Henri Rousseau, 1897, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Nonviolence is the universal ethic at the heart of creation. —Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
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