Peace and Justice - Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston

Peace and Justice - Dreams


I have something worth millions, billions, trillions of dollars. Indeed it's priceless! I'm sure all of you have one too, a vision, a dream.

In 1540 St. Ignatius of Loyola and eight fellow students at the University of Paris dreamed of an innovative religious order. An integral part of their spirituality was the freedom from domination by inner insecurities, a freedom to have eyes wide open to what's really happening, a freedom to think new thoughts, a freedom to dream, a freedom to "make believe." Today followers of St. Ignatius strive for that same inner freedom, freedom from domination by addictions and negative drives, a positive spiritual freedom to imagine a world with structures different from what we now experience.

In the gospel of Luke 4.18, 19 Jesus has a vision of a fresh start for each human person and for our whole human family. Jesus wanted a world in which each one of us is a winner. Trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, let me share a dream with you, a vision not of a perfect world but a better one, a world more in accord with God's Word. I'm not so presumptuous as to think that the dream presented here is a dream Jesus dictated to me. But I have meditated on Scripture and the teaching of the Catholic Church and of other Churches for a long time. I have read, studied and taught the social teaching of the Catholic Church and of other religions. I think the basic outlines of the vision here is the vision of Jesus for our peace. The way of Jesus is the way of non-violence, justice, and peace. The details of the vision presented here are the result of my experience and insights. Hopefully, Jesus has co-insighted, co-felt, co-decided with me in my journey toward a just and peaceful world.

On this Web page I invite you to dialogue with me and search together how the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola can interface with the creation of a peaceful world. Because of original sin, I think our present vision of the world is murky and cloudy. Perhaps together and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can get our vision of where we want to go back in focus. We need "a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in 'a vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis.' "(Pope John Paul II, Address to Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, May 5, 2000, n. 9 cited by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. in address to 28 Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Santa Clara University, Oct. 6, 2000.)

I have a strong and deep passion for peace and justice which began with my experience as a member of the 86th Infantry Division during World War II. This passion has grown and deepened imperceptibly over the years. My long years of study and prayer have not dimmed it nor lessened the passion. Indeed my relationship with God has moved me outward toward my neighbor and the earth. The commitment of my religious order to faith and justice thrills and energizes me. Since I have come to Xavier University, my involvement in peace and justice activities has further deepened my passion. Despite my pain at what I perceive as the needless suffering of so many, I feel that my commitment to peace and justice has been a grace.

I think I need to serve others with my hands, love others with my heart, but also use my mind to study the causes of war and injustice and my imagination to vision a world of peace with justice. I strive for a revolution of consciousness, a critical mass of awareness that will push the human family forward. As Victor Hugo has said, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

When I started to study and work for a peace with justice so many immediate peace and justice emergencies crowded upon me, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I decided I needed a long-range vision to give me perspective. Once I had a vision, I could prioritize appropriate steps toward the vision. Without a vision I found it hard to decide where to begin or what to do next. Without a vision, I found my agenda was often determined by the agenda of the principalities and powers. The US invades Iraq. So I react to what those who have an opposing vision want. I may be able to fit my positive vision with current events if only to contrast what is happening with what could and should be happening. But I don't let current events distract me from my positive vision.

Reality includes structures graced by God such as the family and faith based communities like Christian Life Community. There are also sinful structures in the wasteful violent culture all around us. Social sin is the atmosphere of a community that compels us to kill each other in order to solve disputes. Social sin is an atmosphere of selfishness and arrogance. In my vision there are five major pieces, or pillars, that we need to focus on to build a world with just structures..

Like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. let me share the details of my dream with you. There are many blank spaces in my dream. Perhaps you have a completely different dream. I just hope that you will vision structures you think we need to make this the beginning of a civilized world. My dream needs as a minimum a world ethic. non-violence, basic human rights, economic democracy, a democratic world authority. Each structure would include sub-structures such as the nation state, ways of being effective citizens, corporations, ways of being effective stockholders, Labor Unions, churches, etc.

History is the truth of the past. I think we need to assimilate our past to be more genuinely present and make decisions in the Spirit for the future. Although it builds on the past, utopia is the truth of tomorrow. By utopia I do not mean heaven or perfection but the beginning of a humane world.

Utopia is a vision of the future. St. Thomas More's Utopia in 1516 built on Plato's Republic around 400 B. C. "Restrict this right of rich individuals to buy up everything and this license to exercise a kind of monopoly for themselves." Thomas More advocates laws that limit the amount of land and income an individual may have. Utopia leaves time for citizens to be human. Time is to be set aside for intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Thomas Jefferson felt that preserving the family farm was essential if we were to keep our democracy. Abraham Lincoln wanted government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt thought unemployment is morally the greatest menace to our social order. President Roosevelt was strong in his hatred for war. "More than the end of war, we want an end to the beginning of all war."

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
- Henry David Thoreau

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

God's peace is more real than anything we know. I'm glad I, like many others, have had the grace to reach out toward a peace with justice and try to bring that peace to the "real world," a world of war, violence, injustice, lack of freedom, self-deception, oppression, narrow-mindedness. The Popes have consistently said that if we want peace, we must work for justice. The struggle for a peace with justice is not always easy, requires study and analysis, spiritual discernment, and a sustained commitment. God's peace is really real. The world of war, violence, secrecy, and injustice is a world of shadows.

There is no one more dangerous than someone who has every reason to hate and nothing to lose. We need to promote the basic human rights of each human person so that each person has every reason to love and everything to lose.

What structures are necessary for there to be a world more in accord with God's Word? The rest of this web-site tries to explain my own five pillars, a world ethic, non-violence, basic human rights, economic democracy, a global world authority.

If a local community had a system that promoted the basic human rights of all, practiced at least the fundamentals of active non-violence, and enjoyed economic democracy, would that local community be a peace zone? If the local community became a peace zone, could that lead to peace elsewhere? Conversely, can the local community have a peace with justice if the rest of the world is at war and dominated by unjust structures? For a clear connection between the global and the local, see Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era.

Although I certainly want an absence of war, negative peace; I also want positive peace, a presence of justice. As I will explain elsewhere on this web-page positive peace includes basic human rights, civic, political, economic. Basic human rights include solidarity rights, the right to a democratic world authority. Economic rights would include economic democracy, the right to have a real say concerning the means of production, the factories and farms. Basic human rights can be secured through the various forms of active non-violence including a discerning and faith-filled Ignatian spirituality.

The first act of the US Revolution began in 1776. I think it remains for us to write the second act and perform it. This second act would truly bring liberty and justice for all, for each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. The second act would be non-violent, courageous, imaginative, and comprehensive.

With Victor Hugo, I believe there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. For forty years the US was enslaved by the bad idea of mutually assured destruction. Now we are imprisoned by fear of terrorism. With the help of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola we can develop enough spiritual freedom to let our courage and hope prevail over our fear and apathy.

The Millennium can mean a period of prosperity. I pray that this prosperity be for all, that each human person have at least their basic human rights. I dream of a responsible freedom in which individual growth is balanced with the common good and security of all.

"When I dream alone, it remains a dream; when I dream with others, my dream becomes a reality."
- Christian Life Community

"The Tofflers wrote, 'Toleration for error, ambiguity and above all diversity backed by a sense of humor and proportion are survival necessities as we pack our kit for the amazing trip into the next millennia.'"(Imagine What America Could Be in the 21st Century, Visions of a Better Future from Leading American Thinkers, ed. Marianne Williamson, p. 215)

Christians might reflect on St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians 1.17. "May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. May the Spirit enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe. It is like the strength the Father showed in raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heaven, high above every principality, power, virtue, and domination, and every name that can be given in this age or in the age to come. The Father has put all things under Christ's feet and has made him, thus exalted, head of the church, which is his body: the fullness of Him who fills the universe in all its parts."