A unique faith community gathered recently in Washington, D.C., to celebrate its Silver Jubilee. Twenty-five years ago several notable peace activists, including the legendary Dorothy Day, came together in the nation's capital to launch an American version of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi. In August the inheritors of what those pioneers began chose the same city to mark the anniversary.
As a concept and a movement, Pax Christi goes back to the days immediately following World War II, when French and German Catholics, aware that too much blood had been shed between their countries in this century, decided to extend the hand of peace across their borders. The idea flourished, and today Pax Christi exists in 24 countries.
In symbol, word, and action, Pax Christi USA celebrated its short history, acknowledged present strengths and challenges, and set a course for the future. The theme of pilgrimage served as a unifying thread for the three-day assembly. Sandals, a walking stick, and a haversack served as symbolic reminders that the journey toward peace is both biblical and lengthy. A complete menu of workshops—based on the dictum, If you want peace, work for justice—pointed to the multifaceted issues that must be faced if peace is to come. And two concrete actions reminded assembly participants that work for peace has horizontal and vertical dimensions.
The action pointing to the horizontal aspect of peacemaking took the Pax Christi folks through the "two Washingtons." Some 500 people crowded onto 13 buses for a close look at the Washington of poverty, exclusion, and hopelessness. On each bus an activist from the city's inner-city neighborhoods explained what the pilgrims were looking at—a parable of underprivilege in the midst of a city that wields the most power in the world.