Happy are the peacemakers

JDPMC of Osogbo meets politicians for dialogue on women participation in politics

Education or the culture of peace is putting into practice, day after day, values, attitudes and behaviours that help society rid itself of all patterns of life that lead to violence, conflict, war, tribalism and racism.

Centres for justice, development and peace

In Nigeria, each diocese has taken the initiative to establish its own Justice, Development and Peace Centre to facilitate education and the culture of peace. The Diocese of Osogbo, in south-west Nigeria, also has a Justice, Development and Peace Makers Centre (JDPMC). This centre’s mission is to promote justice, sustainable development and peace, leading to the transformation of the world. Its coordinator is one of the diocesan priests, assisted by another priest, 18 staff members, five administrative staff, three assistants and four drivers. According to the coordinator’s 2023 Annual Report, the centre focused on inclusive and credible elections, defended the rights of the weak, helped vulnerable people through campaigning against violence against the disabled. It also promoted the role of women in the governance of Osun State, peaceful cohabitation, rural development and food security. Furthermore, it campaigned for mass enrolment before the 2023 elections and organised sessions in the various communities in Osun State to ensure peaceful cohabitation and security.

The Justice, Development and Peace Commission has also done a lot to promote justice and human rights. For example, it received 43 complaints relating to violence, 70% of which concerned gender-based violence; it intervened on behalf of 17 prisoners in various courts; 10 criminal cases were concluded, and 3 people were released from prison; it also intervened for the release of vehicles and other belongings confiscated by the police; it has advised people in different parts of the diocese and Osun State; seven cases of child abuse were prosecuted; children arrested by the national police were released; finally, it has set up justice, development and peace commissions in different parishes. 

Peace and development are inseparable.

The inseparable nature of development and peace is best explained by Paul VI’s words to the UN on its 20th anniversary: “Never again war! Peace is necessary, the inescapable condition of humanity, and this is the ultimate reality that is emerging”. The Pope defined peace as “the reflection of God’s plan for the progress of human society on earth” (cf. Lucien Guissard, Vers la nouvelle histoire, La Croix, 6 October 1965).

Therefore, no one can ignore or refute that peace and integral development are strictly inseparable. Peace is the key to progress; without peace, there can be no prosperous economy. Development projects such as education, trade, agriculture and infrastructure construction, can only be carried out, when and where there is peace.

Attitudes for the peaceful resolution of conflicts

How long will we keep repeating the psalm: love and truth meet, justice and peace embraced (Psalm 85:11)? If we don’t get to the root causes of conflict in love and justice, we will simply be “beating around the bush”. To resolve conflicts, mediation and dialogue must be based on love, justice and peace, in order to move forward in life. At Ejigbo, for example, to resolve conflicts between individuals, families and groups, we bring them together for dialogue so that they can see the consequences of violence; at the same time, we help them reach a consensus in love and truth. Above all, we invite them to simplicity, respect, love, truth, forgiveness, mutual help, refusal of corruption, violence and manipulation of young people, and impartiality on the part of pastoral workers.

Missionaries of Africa’s contribution to peace

In our Sector here in Nigeria, I cannot overlook the contribution of the Missionaries of Africa to education and the culture of peace. Since peace is linked to the rights of all human beings and restores them to a dignified life, our Sector participates in peace education by living out the charism of the Society; we strongly advise parish communities to set up a JPIC-ED commission in collaboration with the diocesan commission. In our own parishes, we have set up justice, development and peace groups whose members meet once a month and report back to the parish council.  

The Gospel, the main tool for promoting peace in the world

Peace is central to the Christian faith. And the Gospel is the most excellent tool for promoting it. We cannot talk about Jesus without talking about peace because “Christ is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14); “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is a call and a challenge that Jesus made to all Christians. Jesus sends us out as his disciples with the instruction that “in every house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house'” (Luke 10:5). The first word of the risen Jesus to the apostles was “peace” (Luke 24:36; John 20:21). In John 14:27, Jesus says: “I do not give you peace as the world gives”, because his peace eliminates evil and violence of this world right down to its roots.

The Eucharist, another tool for the culture of peace

The peace of Jesus – not that of the world – is always shared at Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is an education in the culture of peace. Right from the start the participants are offered peace, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, and at the end they are invited to “go in the peace of Christ”. Before the invitation to greet one another, the principal celebrant always prays as follows: “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your Apostles: ‘Peace I leave you; my peace I give you’…”; then he wishes the participants “the peace of the Lord be with you always” and invites them, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace”. Yes, the Eucharistic celebration is an opportunity to instil peace.

By: Pierre Chanel Ulama, M.Afr.