National and International Pax Christi Meetings

Volume 12, Issue 2, August, 2004

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Pax Christi Meetings in New Jersey
Gustavo Nystrom and Faye Butler

This May, a series of extraordinary meetings took place in New Jersey. For the first time ever, Pax Christi International had their four-year working meeting in the USA. A “Festival of Hope” was held so normal Pax Christi USA members could interface with all of our foreign affiliates. Representatives of twenty USA regions met. And finally, the PCUSA board had one of their periodic meetings. Pax Christi Bay Area was very well represented: Gustavo Nystrom and Tom Webb represented PCUSA in the International sessions, Tom Webb participated in PCUSA board meetings, and Faye Butler was our representative to the regional meetings. All three participated in the Festival of Hope. Gustavo and Faye report on their meetings below.

Pax Christi International Meeting
Gustavo Nystrom

It was a great honor to participate with the fifty national groups throughout the world that make up Pax Christi International. The formal meetings consisted of liturgies, plenary sessions, and working group sessions. The liturgies were held at 7 am, and each morning a different continent took the lead. Most liturgies were in English, but the Americas liturgy contained some Spanish and Portuguese, and the African liturgy contained French and several African languages.

The plenary sessions resembled United Nations meetings, with each national delegation sitting behind their country’s name, paddles for voting, and instantaneous translation between French, Spanish, and English. Our International President, Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, gave a wide-ranging address, and our International Secretary General, Etienne de Jonghe, gave a most interesting report looking into the future. Plenary sessions were also used to take formal votes, such as on elections and approval of statements.

The Working Group sessions the first day were broken down by issues. The second day they were broken down by regions of the world. In each case, we reviewed what worldwide Pax Christi has done over the last four years and what we needed to do over the next couple of years. It was most enlightening! In the Working Group on Security and Demilitarization, there was discussion regarding mines, cluster bombs, nuclear, chemical, and conventional weapons. I was struck by the work done by a Buddhist affiliate from Thailand working on the destruction of handguns. In the Working Group on Asia Pacific, much of the discussion dealt with areas of warfare and with relations with other religions. I had a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the leader from India, who works on women’s issues and justice for the lower classes in India.

Festival of Hope:
The Festival was made up of morning liturgies, fish bowl discussions, and workshops. The fish bowl discussions provided an opportunity for us to hear how the War on Terrorism is affecting our Pax Christi affiliates throughout the world. One of the two workshops I attended dealt with improving relations between the world’s religions as a form of peacemaking. It was fascinating to hear about some of the efforts taking place all over the world.

Personal notes:
I was struck by the opportunity to meet Pax Christi people from all over the world. The first Pax Christi member Faye and I met was from Ethiopia. We had the great pleasure to spend much of the week together, and I learned a bit about life as seen through his eyes. The bishop from Guatemala and I also became friends and spoke quite a bit of Spanish. When he was called back to Guatemala on an emergency (the unexpected death of one of his pastors) I was happy to occupy his seat behind the Guatemala banner during the final plenary session. Finally, the one night that we Internationals had off, we talked about twenty into taking a train into Manhattan. As it turned out, the two informal tour guides turned out to be Tom and Gustavo, both from BAPC!

Pax Christi USA Regional Meeting
Faye Butler

This year our regional leader’s meeting, which was held at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, was so much bigger than our
regions! As our work in our own country can’t be separated from the global struggles we witness, our meeting was interlaced this year with Pax Christi’s International Festival of Hope. This powerful weekend event enriched our own sharing and work, integrating our local/regional peacemaking with interaction and information from our Pax Christi world-class experts and peacemakers, as well as Pax Christi membership drawn in for the festival.

The Regional Council meeting began on Thursday evening, with 20 regions represented. We were given a report of the number of members in each region. BAPC has 1047 members, which is second highest in the country. The importance of encouraging people on our mailing list, as well as those in our faith communities to join Pax Christi (even if no money is sent) was emphatically stressed as the regions receive credit for each membership.

Phyllis Jepson announced that PCUSA is looking for 5 or 6 campuses across the country that do not have ROTC or sweatshops. Future assemblies would be rotated among these campuses. Among the other items discussed was the upcoming election and the importance of being well informed. Faithful Citizenship is an excellent tool and has a very good statement by the bishops. Regions were also encouraged to meet with their local bishops and encourage them to become members if they have not yet joined.

It was an intense two days as we met at 7am the next morning and ended at 10 that evening. In between our meetings, we were allowed to attend sessions of the International Working Groups, which was a wonderful experience. A high light for me was having dinner with D. Reinhard Voss, Secretary General of Pax Christi Germany. He was very anxious for PCUSA groups to establish a relationship with groups in Germany. Both Gus and I were excited about his plan and have exchanged information with them. Fremont Pax Christi has agreed to continue the dialogue. Anyone else interested?

The next Regional Meeting will take place in Washington, DC on March 3 to 6, 2005.

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Date Last Modified: 8/21/04