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Pacifism

The first in a series of three international academic workshops on the aspects of peace took place from 6–8 December 2017. The topic was pacifism and opened with a conversation between Prof. Meena Sharify- Funk and Prof. Cheyney Ryan. It was introduced by Jorg Kustermans and moderated by Dominiek Lootens.

Is pacifism paradoxically wedded to violence? A closer examination of the history of pacifism, its individual and collective appearances, its ethical foundations and its intertwining with religious and cultural traditions shows that the question is less paradoxical than it seems. The conviction that violence is always present everywhere moves some people to withdraw completely from the world into absolute pacifism – but even Jesus did not avoid anger completely. There are other seemingly paradoxical examples: Martin Buber sees necessary elements of confrontation in dialogue, and Martin Luther King urged people to turn their hatred into political action. Figures like Bertrand Russell are of the opinion that violence is sometimes justified, although on few occasions can wars really be ‘justified’ in the sense of the doctrine of the just war. There is but a thin line between self-defense and political defense … Perhaps it would be better to rely on legislation and institutions that could lead people to dialogue and thereby prevent and combat genocides or terrorism.

In this context, Meena Sharify-Funk, who combines activism and academic research, displayed her mapping of a global network of Muslim women committed to peace. European pacifism would benefit from a pluralistic approach with focus on non-European input. Cheyney Ryan then told about his engagement in the American civil rights movement and against the war in Vietnam, as well as about his collaboration with Dorothy Day in the Catholic workers’ movement. One major take-away point was that the university can spur students towards both academic deepening and concrete social engagement.

CONTRIBUTORS: Tomas Baum (Flemish Peace Institute), Martin Ceadel (University of Oxford),Etienne De Jonghe, Jorg Kustermans (University of Antwerp), Stephan Parmentier(KU Leuven), Heikki Patomäki (University of Helsinki), Cheyney Ryan (University of Oxford |University of Oregon), Tom Sauer (University of Antwerp), Meena Sharify-Funk (Wilfrid Laurier University), Wim Smit (Wereld Missie Hulp vzw), Johan Verstraeten (KU Leuven).