We live in a world in which violent conflict and war rob the human community of precious lives, most of them civilian, in numbers too tragic to absorb. In the last decade alone, over two million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict. (UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 2002). That the world avoid war is imperative, particularly given the many extremely volatile situations with tremendous potential for destruction; the more and more frequent use of terrorist strategies; the involvement of non-state actors; and the exacerbating impact of extreme poverty and hopelessness.
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns,with Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA and others, has been discerning ways to move beyond the paradigm in which we find ourselves – a paradigm that justifies enormous loss of human life and widespread destruction of the integrity of creation in pursuit of an elusive peace and a false security. The consequences of the present framework have been front and center in the lives of millions of people around the world for too many decades. For the last half a century or so 90 percent of the fatalities in war have been civilians; millions and millions of people have been displaced from their homes and communities because of war and violent conflict.
For a short while after the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was an intense rethinking of our priorities as a people – of what we really value. The scenes in the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were painful but spectacular illustrations of what was important in life – not economic or military power or rank or job description or income level or color of skin or nationality, but life itself and the relationships that nurture life. That has to be the basis of a new paradigm for peace and security.