Why women are crucial in making 2017 the year of nonviolence and peace and why we need to listen to their voices
We need to act now to ensure the inclusion of women at all levels of the peacemaking process to transform the reality of our world and the Church.
2017 began with Pope Francis urging that we “make nonviolence the new style of politics for peace.” In the secular world, the new UN Secretary General António Guterres likewise called on renewed efforts to invest in peace and conflict prevention in his first speech of the New Year.
In order to make significant progress toward these goals, both of these leaders would do well to make formal plans to ensure that a greater number of women are included in peacemaking.
Pope Francis has already stated that “women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence” and pointed to the examples of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Leymah Gbowee, who was pivotal to ending the Liberian civil war in 2003. He also argued passionately that the impact of domestic violence can be as destructive as the threat of nuclear arms proliferation and that we needed to fight against both.
These statements should be heartening to women – and men – everywhere. They support research from a number of sources that shows when women are visibly present in the leadership of movements, chances increase dramatically that the movements will employ non-violent tactics. Similarly, United Nations data shows that women’s active participation in peace negotiations increases the chances of building a lasting peace by 35%.
We need to act now to transform the reality of our world and the Church. On March 8th, 2017 the fourth annual Voices of Faith event at the Vatican partners with the Jesuit Refugee Service and Caritas Internationalis to bring together women from around the world whose stories will inspire us and demonstrate the impact women have on peacemaking. From women’s personal stories of courage in facing domestic violence or stopping singlehandedly an angry genocidal mob to accounts of how women raise millions of dollars to counter human trafficking, lobby for social change in Washington D.C. and change the way the United Nations conducts business, the speakers will share authentic, concrete examples of action that is grounded in faith and nonviolence.
As they converge in Rome, we ask: How can their voices become seeds of concrete initiatives in the Church? How can we give their voices of faith the opportunity to be equally represented at all levels of the peacemaking processes? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sign if the Church, with Pope Francis at the helm, took the lead on this initiative, just like it did in facilitating nonviolent solutions in Cuba or Colombia?