Inter-generational conversations on faith, peace and justice. CPEF trustee John Williams took part!
Pax Christi, along with other organisations, has been involved in a project promoting inter- generational conversations. The conversations have taken place around the country and brought together people from different generations to discuss their faith and its role in their engagement in justice and peace. As well as feedback being given to the Bishops of England and Wales at the current Synod on youth in Rome, Pat Jones has written an insightful article, ‘Bursting the Bubble’, for The Tablet on the conversations and what we can learn from them. You can visit the website at www.peoplefaithjustice.org.uk for more information on the conversations, including some interesting videos and resources to hold your own inter-generational conversation.
Pax Christi welcomes Aisling Griffin as the new schools and youth education worker. Aisling is looking forward to getting started working with young people, teachers and schools to promote peace, nonviolence and reconciliation. Get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries, or have a look at the peace education pages for some great resources and ideas. The CPEF provides core funding for this work
John Williams reflects on 35 years of the CPEF and the nature and purpose of Peace Education
At the 35th anniversary celebration of the Christian Peace Education Fund, I was impressed by Valerie Flessati’s quote of the founding statement. She read:
‘Pax Christi’s understanding is that what is needed is a life-long process of education in the ways of peace. We seek to promote several elements:
an understanding of the origins of personal, national and global problems;
the development of a critical attitude to contemporary conflicts so that young people can be well informed and able to make judgements on the basis of moral values;
the acceptance of all people of the world as members of the human family.
As important as ‘knowledge about peace and war’ is, the development in young people of the abilities to affirm themselves and others (self-confidence), to listen respectfully, to communicate effectively, to build community by co-operation and to resolve conflicts constructively rather than destructively is paramount.’
Thirty-five years on I can think of no better way of saying what we still embrace. This is a 21st century statement pertinent to all involved in education at every level, pre-school, primary, secondary and adult.
John Williams is a trustee of the Christian Peace Education Fund.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, National President of Pax Christi, hosted an evening celebrating 35 years of the Christian Peace Education Fund. Archbishop Malcolm thanked all those who had contributed to the Fund through donations and legacies and acknowledged all the work of the Trustees and supporters who have maintained the Fund for 35 years.
The Fund was set up by Pax Christi to support its own peace education work and to ‘promote peace by means of meetings, lectures, seminars, the production of books and publications and lots more besides.’ Valerie Flessati, Pax Christi General Secretary when the fund was created, reflected on the difficulties experienced by schools and teachers at that time, when peace education was seen as suspect and one-sided. Pax Christi was determined to support teachers and educators in their work to help young people reflect critically on the world in which they lived.
Matt Jeziorski, Pax Christi’s current Peace Education Officer spoke of Pax Christi’s role in creating space within schools and work with teachers to allow time for discussion and discernment on difficult issues of war, peace and conflict and the Christian vocation to peacemaking.
The future challenge was set by James Trewby, the education worker for the Columban Missionaries. Imagination and collaboration were two of the key elements of this challenge, using approaches that engage young people beyond their own reality to create understanding and empathy and building networks and opportunities to mirror how many of the world’s problems today, war, poverty, climate issues, are interconnected Over the years grants have been given to more than 120 projects, including Peace Trails, school exchanges, conferences, dvd’s and study guides. The Movement for the Abolition of War had received grants towards their annual Peace History Conference. The Interfaith Wolverhampton hosted an exhibition and study day on the theme of forgiveness with the grant they received from CPEF. Most recently, St Paul’s School, Milton Keynes hosted a day for six schools on the theme of Faith in Action.
Peace Trails, school exchanges, peace history conferences, dvds and study guides are just some of the many project that have been funded by the Christian Peace Education Fund since it was established in 1982. Set up by Pax Christi to support its own peace education work the Fund also wanted to ‘promote peace by means of meetings, lectures, seminars, the production of books and publications and lots more besides.’ All of this work will be celebrated at a gathering to be held in London on 2 November and hosted by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, National President of Pax Christi.
In 1985 the Fund supported an exchange visit of sixth form students from Leeds on a visit to Belfast. David Jackson, the teacher who coordinated the visit said, “They emerged from their short visit with some appreciation of the reality of sectarian conflict and its effects on families… they had a more empathetic approach to all those caught up in violence”. A Cambridge Peace Trail was created in 2013 by Pax Christi member Arn Dekker. “It has been successful and many visitors to Cambridge, as well as local residents, have used it to learn about people of peace and social justice who have a connection with this city.”
The Fund has also supported four Pax Christi peace education workers, the first was actually appointed in 1980. This work has flourished over the years and today Pax Christi produces high quality on-line educational resources on themes ranging from the vocation to peacemaking, the lives of contemporary peacemakers to peacemaking and conscience in times of war. With others Pax Christi facilitates INSET training days for teachers.
Direct contact with students and teachers is an important part of this work and Pax Christi’s education worker spends an average of 40 days a year in schools, offering workshops, seminars and talks on peacemaking.
At the launch on 2 November, guests will hear Pax Christi Vice President Valerie Flessati speak of the origins and aspirations of those who established the fund and from those who have benefited from the Fund. Most recent is the Faith in Action Day held in July at St Paul’s School in Milton Keynes. As well as offering financial support for this day, Pax Christi contributed with resources and workshops.
Young people from around the region gathered at St Paul’s Catholic School for the first Northampton Diocesan Faith in Action Day. Year 9 and 10 students from Thornton College in Thornton, St Thomas Becket in Northampton, St Thomas More in Bedford and Cardinal Newman in Luton joined pupils from St Paul’s to explore how, as Christians, we put our faith into action in our daily lives.
The Conference, organised jointly by St Paul’s, Pax Christi, and the Northampton Youth Ministry Office, began with pupils having the opportunity to ask questions of guest of honour, The Rt Revd Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton. One pupil asked Bishop Peter “what makes you really fulfilled?” and his answer was “being open to God”. They then participated in a series of workshops run by Columbans UK, Pax Christi, Young Christian Workers and Northampton Youth Ministry Office.
Jennifer Rowlands, RE Teacher at St Paul’s, said: “We held our first St Paul’s Faith in Action Day last year and thought that this year it would be a great idea to open it up to other schools and build networks between local Catholic high schools in the Diocese.”
Aleksandra Wiencis, from St Paul’s Catholic School, said: “I liked the fact that we could connect with students from other Catholic schools’ while Dominika Mazur, also from St Paul’s, said: ‘It was really fun. I enjoyed meeting other people from other schools and getting to know how they practice their faith.”
Delegates received conference packs which contained a variety of items including sunglasses, highlighters and chocolate bars. They also took away a conference booklet that was full of practical ideas for putting faith into action.
Matt Jeziorski of Pax Christi added, “We have been delighted with the response to this first Diocesan Faith in Action Day. It has been so well supported by the schools, the enthusiasm of the students generated a wonderful atmosphere, and the hard work of the organising team has really paid off. We are already looking forward to next year.”