Monday, May 4, 2020


Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Bishop's The Challenge of Peace which addressed the issues of war and peace in the context of the Cold War and the nuclear age. It's one of the peak contributions of the U.S. Catholic Church to Catholic social teaching and we're proud of the numerous Pax Christi USA bishops who were influential in crafting and promoting the pastoral letter -- including, of course, our former bishop-president, and now Bishop-President Emeritus,  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

The beginning of the letter, interestingly enough, resonates again today. Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the letter starts out:

"The whole human race faces a moment of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity."

Since the writing of those words, we have yet to remove the threat that the U.S. bishops addressed -- nuclear weapons and the potential to destroy all that we hold dear.  But those words take on another meaning in the context of the global pandemic we currently live under too. 

I've been disheartened this past week with the images of armed protesters at state capitols and by how vulnerable communities -- as is always the case -- are especially victimized by the coronavirus and the long-standing systemic injustices that exacerbate their suffering during a time of crisis such as this. In my more depressed moments, I'm taken aback at the disregard for others that so many of our sisters and brothers evidence in the actions they take that put others at risk. I know that incredible acts of self-sacrifice and generosity are taking place all across our nation -- and yet I am still brought up short by how prevalent are indifference, self-absorption and lack of basic human decency when people are dying, loved ones are grieving, and so many are scared and anxious because of all of the collateral damage the pandemic has caused. And though it shouldn't surprise me, the embodiment of our culture's worst characteristics are magnified in the leadership we have in this administration, from the White House. 

I pray that somehow, some way, this "moment of supreme crisis," as it is written in those opening words from The Challenge of Peace, does indeed result in an "advance toward maturity". I believe that this is exactly why we come together as Pax Christi USA.  

As people of faith, as activists and organizers, as teachers and ministers, as people rooted in the peace of Christ, our calling is not to help things return to "normal". If this current pandemic teaches us anything, I hope it teaches us how inadequate and impoverished "normal" was for our country and for the impact we have on the rest of the world.  

What has energized me in this crisis is how many other people in our movement and among our partners and friends are asserting that there should not be a return to normal, that "business as usual" is not what we long for. What we need is change: deep, meaningful, constructive, world-altering change that brings us closer to a more human, more just, more peaceful and more sustainable world -- to that which author Arundhati Roy directed us a generation ago:

During those moments of quiet stillness I sometimes experience under my own state's "stay-at-home" order, that is what my ears are straining to hear. 

A few quick notes to share: 
  • The (updated!) "Prayer for Peace and Solidarity in a Time of Pandemic", which our own Michelle Sherman wrote at the outset of this crisis, is continuing to be prayed and shared by thousands all over the world. A colleague in Nigeria wrote to us this past week sharing that they are praying it daily and printing it out to share with others. In referencing the response we've crafted in prayer, study and action to the pandemic, they wrote: "I also want to thank you for keeping the fire and the struggle to better the lot of humanity going unabated." Two other sections of Pax Christi International have shared or translated the prayer. This kind of global solidarity and the strength that we share in because we are part of a global network -- this gives me hope.
  • Keep an eye out on the website in the coming days as we introduce two new members of the Pax Christi USA team who joined us shortly before the pandemic started. We'll be sharing a more formal welcome to our new Office Manager, Nadia Espinoza, and our new Deputy Director, Dianna Ortiz, OSU, as well as a little information about them on the website this week!
  • If you didn't receive in the mail the most recent edition of our membership newsletter, The Peace Current, you can find an electronic version online at this link. One note: we finished the newsletter just before the pandemic became widespread in the U.S. (early March), so full coverage of how we've responded during this time can be found here and we'll cover it in the next newsletter. If you didn't get a copy and want to be added to the hard-copy mailing list, let us know! We've had some database challenges and while we're in the process of better organizing our information, we want to make sure you don't miss anything! 
Lastly, this is a strange time to ask for donations. I know this, and I want to make sure that you know that we honor all of the difficulties you face during this crisis and whatever choices you make about giving at this time. Many organizations -- as well as family members, friends, co-workers and others -- need help right now. As a nonprofit, we're not exempt from the vulnerability that so many of us feel during the pandemic. Tomorrow is a special global day of unity sponsored by GivingTuesday, the global generosity movement. Its focus is to offer people a chance to respond and give to alleviate the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. If you're in a position to give, we hope you will. You can wait for the email tomorrow and give through the GivingTuesday portal (our page thru #GiveLocalTogether, a GivingTuesday partner, is here) or you can scroll down below and give now by clicking on the "Click Here to Donate" button. You'll be directed to the PCUSA website and can give quickly and securely there. We know it is a tough time for so many of us, so  whatever your capacity is right now, we're grateful! 

   In peace,

   Johnny Zokovitch
   Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
We know that this is a very difficult time for many of us and that there are a number of organizations who are performing direct service to provide support for people who are sick, unemployed, and otherwise struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. We honor whatever choices you make during this time and recognize that we are all in this together. If you can also contribute and help support Pax Christi USA during this time, we'd be grateful. Just click the button above to give securely and quickly online. Thank you!