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Justice and Peace: the Journey of a Lifetime

Written by Mary Evelyn Jegen, SNDdeN;
April 2008

When I was teaching in the history department at University of Dayton, 1967-1971, I was also counseling aspiring conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War. Unknown to them, these young men were the agents of my seven year struggle to come to terms with my own position on war.On August 8, 1974, at the end of an eight day private retreat, I committed myself to active nonviolence as a way of life. To concretize this commitment, I joined the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, an organization committed to active nonviolence, founded in 1914. Later that year I joined Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, founded in 1945, that was just then becoming organized in the United States.What did these actions mean, since obviously I was not going to be a conscientious objector in the conventional sense? These actions meant that praying, studying, and acting against war, in all its dimensions, became the centerpiece of my struggle with and for justice and peace. Justice and peace are as inseparable as injustice and war.

Since 1974 I have been teaching, writing, and working with others in national and international peace and justice movements, particularly with Pax Christi, at the international, national, and local levels. This also involves working with broader coalitions, and several times has involved actions of nonviolent civil disobedience.

My journey has taken me twice to Hiroshima, to participation in a seminar in the U.S. War College, to army bases and to refugee camps. More often it has taken me to colleges and universities where I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses linking Christian spirituality and social issues. My latest book, Just Peacemakers, (Paulist, 2006), addresses both the “what” and the “how” of the justice and peace journey to which all are called.

My nourishment is in the community of disciples that Jesus founded and that developed into the Church in which I was baptized 80 years ago. I believe that membership in this community of disciples is a response to a personal call to try, day by day, to take on the mind and heart of Jesus. This way of discipleship includes not only contemplative prayer and study, but action in the public arena, as it did for Jesus.

I am guided by the simple mission statement of Pax Christi International, namely, to work for peace for all people through prayer, study, and action, always witnessing to the peace of Christ. It is all held together by love, incarnated in Jesus and shared in community. The energy at our disposal in Christian community is limitless.

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