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  • Dr David Tutty

Seeking a holistic Peace

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

By David Tutty

All of us have some sense of what is peaceful and what is not. This sense has been born from hard experience of conflicts among ourselves, within our nation and on the international stage. Most of us do not like conflict. We want to live with as little conflict as possible and to have the opportunity to get on with our own lives.

Whatever is our sense of peace, Pope Francis hopes that we all grow and deepen our understanding of what true peace is about and how we can become more peaceful. In his annual papal message for the World Day of Peace on January 1st, the pope calls us to a more holistic vision of peace. He does this in the knowledge of our limitations and of our human desires that lead to conflict. In his 2020 message for peace, he talks about the quest for true peace as a journey of hope. This journey requires that we be open to dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.

In his analysis, Pope Francis sees that peace is not possible when we fail to accept and respect others. He says peace will not occur when we attempt to dominate others, where inequality exists and where the earth is abused and exploited. For Pope Francis, true peace is not possible until we establish a more just economic system and learn to care for the earth and share its resources justly.

What Pope Francis offers is a more holistic sense of peace and he calls us to work towards this peace. Drawing upon centuries of Catholic insights, Pope Francis offers us a holistic understanding of our interconnections with each other and with the rest of creation. He uses the term ‘integral ecology’ to describe our interconnected existence.

It is significant that he names that this holistic peace requires ecological conversion. Drawing from his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis understands that unless we are open to ecological conversion, conflict will continue and grow. Not only will areas of the planet become less and less inhabitable and more people will become refugees, but we humans will compete more and more for the resources that remain.

Part of this ecological conversion, is learning to see the wisdom and beauty of the creator in all of creation. Our pope sees this conversion as leading us to seek a new way of living in our common home. This new way will be one that favours the flourishing of life where resources are shared for the common good.

These are fine words. Yet what do they mean for living peacefully in Toowoomba, in Queensland or in the rest of Australia? How does Pope Francis’ insight into true peace sit alongside our experiences and our cultures?

One of the hardest tasks for us is to sit and reflect on our own ways of thinking and believing but this is what is needed. We often want a peace that protects and privileges ourselves. We are happy to be comfortable without a great concern for the costs of that comfort, be it ecological, historical or international.

We are called to ask ourselves questions like: How can there ever be peace when we exploit the earth and continue to put so much carbon dioxide into the air? How can there ever be peace while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have effective choice over their own lives? How can there ever be peace while we live comfortably and billions live in huge poverty? How can there ever be true peace while we support and enjoy an economic system that creates great inequality? And how can there ever be peace while resources are being put into weapons production and not into those activities that build true peace?

To address these big questions, we need to work together. Pope Francis affirms that true peace requires an enduring commitment grounded in seeking justice. Climate change, ongoing colonisation, comfortable lifestyles, economic systems and weapons production are all equally peace issues that we are called to work on together.

Learning to listen to others and especially to those weak and marginalised is a significant first step. Pope Francis calls us to be compassionate, to learn to be creative in the ways we listen and to be in solidarity with those who most experience injustice. He asks us to let go of fear and to seek a holistic peace.

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