Understanding the Inextricable Link Between Peace and Justice

By Noël Marie Cyprien Médard, S.J.

In recent months, the international stage has been fraught with conflicts, both internal and international, of varying intensities. The strife in Ukraine and Russia, the confrontations involving Hamas and Israel, and the unrest in Chad, Sudan, and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, underscore the global volatility. Furthermore, the resurgence of coup d’états in French-speaking African nations such as Mali, Guinea, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Gabon, with Madagascar currently under alert, is alarming.

Tragically, the primary victims of these conflicts are the most vulnerable: children, women, and the elderly. A stark paradox presents itself when impoverished nations allocate funds for advanced weaponry while their people suffer from basic needs. This arms proliferation does not originate within Africa, implying a disturbing involvement by some developed countries. Such involvement points to a grave injustice, where economic interests and selfishness are prioritized over human lives.

Pope Francis, in “Fratelli Tutti,” refers to these scattered skirmishes as fragments of a “third world war.” Our world suffers, and given our shared home, we are all affected, either directly or indirectly. Urgent solutions are needed to avert our collective descent into ruin. History may suggest that conflict is easily resolved through violence, but this is a fallacy. True resolution arises from dialogue around the round table.

As Jesuits, we are called to confront these challenges actively. Inspired by our tagline, “Faith doing justice,” initiated since the 32nd General Congregation of the Jesuits in 1974, our commitment extends especially to our social and ecological apostolates. The 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) took place in 1974-1975. It was an important meeting for the order, as it was during this congregation that the Jesuits reaffirmed their commitment to social justice as a key component of their mission, encapsulated in the decree “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice.” Justice, which is the foundation of peace, is unattainable without it. The justice we seek is the justice of our Lord Jesus, not as the world defines it: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Jesus’ mission was centered on peace—a peace that cannot exist without justice, and indeed, his resurrection was the ultimate triumph over injustice and death.

Life itself is a struggle against the forces of death. For Christians, Christ’s victory over death offers a path to eternal life, but it does not remove the struggle inherent in the human condition. Every crisis reveals our vulnerabilities and shakes the foundations of our security. Yet, they also offer a chance for growth, prompting us to distinguish between what nurtures life and what heralds death.

True peace, the peace of Jesus, is a peace that passes through justice. It recognizes the human being as the beginning and end of all righteous acts. Echoing Pope Francis’s words in “Fratelli Tutti,” justice is manifested in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where help is given irrespective of religion or origin. The Lord’s justice aligns with his love, exemplified by self-giving—a notion underscored in the Spiritual Exercises, reflecting Jesus’s incarnational mission to fulfill God’s will.

Our call to justice extends to serving our fellow humans, particularly the impoverished and those suffering from the ravages of war and injustice. As Pope Francis often asserts, “War is always a defeat for humanity.” It is in understanding and enacting justice that we can aspire to build a world where peace is not a mere possibility but a reality embraced by all.

In “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis reminds us that social tranquility is unattainable amid inequality and underdevelopment. Lasting peace cannot be secured through political programs or surveillance alone but through a genuine commitment to equality and the welfare of all, starting with the least among us (Fratelli Tutti n°235).

Saint Francis of Assisi found true peace by embracing poverty and living in harmony with all—this is the spirit that animates “Fratelli Tutti” and should animate us as well.

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