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Our commitment to nonviolence

Nonviolence is a phenomenal witness to a world that is hungry for a new way to relate to each other. It’s a spirituality, it’s a way of life, it’s a global ethic. Our choice of nonviolence puts us in harmony with a world shift and joins us to many other groups and individuals that are embracing nonviolence and working to build a more peaceful world.

—Marie Dennis
(Former co-president and now senior advisor to the secretary general of Pax Christi International, member of the executive committee of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, longtime director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and facilitator of Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ 2021-22 Mission Assembly process)



Recent incidents across the world — international conflict and war, mass shootings, increased rates of domestic abuse, environmental devastation, to name a few — are grim reminders that no one is truly secure from the threat of violence. The human community faces a spiritual, ecological and social crisis inflamed daily by a global culture of violence, which has only deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We also see an increasing inability to enter into dialogue with those who think differently from us — and the polarization that this is causing in societies. The increase in hate speech and actions, spurred on by the media, contributes to the division in our communities. As missioners, we have daily opportunities to stem this tide.

Violence is difficult, complex and pervasive. At times, it feels like our primary link to others is our shared suffering as the result of violence, for “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26). Certainly, across our lay missioner communities around the world, the ubiquitous nature of violence is often at the root of the personal and communal sufferings and ills experienced by those we accompany.



And yet, as people of faith, we profess something different. We believe that love is the fundamental force that links us together. Jesus made visible the nonviolence of God, who created this universe not out of violence but out of love. For this reason, we must respond to violence. If we are to grasp fully the depth and breadth of Christ’s love, our thorough rejection of violence must place us on a journey to nonviolence and unconditional love in action.



In 2022, Maryknoll Lay Missioners adopted nonviolence as a guiding focus to how we approach mission in the 21st century. During the next year, both individually and as a community, all of us in Maryknoll Lay Missioners commit to:

  • Study and reflect on the biblical and theological basis for nonviolence.
  • Explore and reflect on various perspectives of nonviolence as understood across different cultures and faith traditions.
  • Discern interpersonal paths to nonviolence as well as methods of responding to interpersonal and structural violence through our ministries.
  • With members of our communities, analyze the structures that are at the root of violence.
  • Identify potential partners in our communities or on a national/international level with whom to work so as to begin to change these structures.
  • Seek training for missioners in forgiveness and reconciliation, nonviolent communication and restorative justice so as to form replicators and multipliers of these processes in the communities where we work.
  • Strengthen our commitment to antiracism, in which we seek reflection, conversion, dialogue and action that transforms structural violence and social exclusion.
  • Explore how our ministries can integrate prevention strategies (active listening and assertive communication, dealing with anger and strong emotions, circles of dialogue and understanding, nonviolent communication, etc.) as well as intervention strategies (accompanying people, healing strategies, advocacy, de-escalation, mediation, circles of conflict resolution, working with groups to break cycles of violence by proactive community building, etc.).


A journey in progress

In his 2017 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis reminded us that “Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility.”

We are committed to this journey of articulating and living into active nonviolence, open to how it will shape our understanding of mission, and move us anew in the world. So, the list above is most likely incomplete and evolving. Hence, “a journey in progress!”

We invite you to journey with us. Listed below are some of the resources we are considering. We encourage you to reach out to us (either by posting a comment on this page or emailing us) with your thoughts and reflections:

  • What does nonviolence look like for you?
  • Who are the role models, movers, shakers and activists who demonstrate the path of nonviolence for you?
  • What interpersonal and communal responses of nonviolence have you seen work well?

Each one of us – individually and collectively – can be an artisan of peace. To borrow again from Pope Francis, “May we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home.”


Here are two examples of Maryknoll lay missioners’ active nonviolence in action: