France-Vincent-de-Paul-teaching-priests-2_jpg-113x150Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, Palestine – our eyes glaze over… or shut in horror. We long for peace but it seems to many to be further away than ever in recent years. Our times are not the best of times.

Vincent lived in similar times. “With the exception of some brief periods of time, the seventeenth century in which Saint Vincent lived was a century of wars: sequels to religious war, heart rending civil wars complicated by foreign wars, and continued threats from Islam (threats directed toward Christianity).”

Just because it was over three centuries ago  and society was perhaps less complex does not mean we can not learn from a study of Vincent and Peace.

Those on the margins of society are too often “collateral damage”.

In a thoughtful article Vincent and Peace, David Carmona writes “Saint Vincent, who had dedicated his life to the poor, had to be especially concerned about those persons who were overwhelmed by the war.”

Contents and excerpts 

1 Peace in the Seventeenth Century

“With the exception of some brief periods of time, the seventeenth century in which Saint Vincent lived was a century of wars: sequels to religious war, heart rending civil wars complicated by foreign wars, and continued threats from Islam (threats directed toward Christianity).”

“During a turbulent period characterized by war, Saint Vincent is revealed as an artesian of peace¸ one who is effective and tireless in his search for peace. His way of thinking and certainly his actions were influence by the historical situation in which he found himself. This should not surprise us and therefore we should also not be surprised that Vincent approved plans for a military expedition to combat slavery in Algeria (CCD., VII:93-94). Indeed, Vincent’s thinking and activity is no less significant and provocative for the present time since his thinking was nourished by experience and his actions were courageously directed to the causes of the injustice and suffering that result from war.”
“Vincent was not a theorist or an ideologue but rather an individual who as a result of experience decided upon an action and organized others to take action. With regard to the realities of war and peace, Vincent gave great value to the many first- hand eyewitness accounts that he received from the devastated and impoverished areas”
“Very often those who act with charity are reproached because their actions do not appear to resolve the reality of the situations that cause injustice and misery and therefore, their actions do not further the cause of those people who are poor. We will see that Saint Vincent organized national assistance in an effective and on-going manner. At the same time Vincent did not hesitate to attack the direct causes of these situations which also led him to a commit himself to peace and to speak out on behalf of peace”
“Violence and insecurity form part of our daily life. —the means of communication are proof of the above reality: some express a fear of war, others live in the midst of war and suffer as a result of war while still others seem to desire war or at least create an environment that is favorable toward war.
—what is your knowledge about the causes that create violence and war?
—the means of communication show us war “in living color” and we have become accustomed to seeing and then forgetting. Who today remembers the Kurds, the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Chechens.

—what is your personal reaction when confronted with a situation of violence?Blessed are the peacemakers
—How do I behave toward individuals who are foreigners, immigrants?
—How do I behave toward those who think differently than I do
—Am I tolerant and do I seek to enter into dialogue with such individuals?
—Do I forgive those who have wronged me?
—Do I embrace the future?

Various NGO’s and individuals seek to know and understand the root causes of conflict and thus commit themselves to the transformation of our world.

—Am I sensitive to the reality of violence and do I attempt to sensitize others?
—Do I participate with other groups and/or individuals in trying to know and understand the root causes of violence?—In what ways can I commit myself to the cause of peace?

If you only have time for one section read the one related to the above question that caught your attention.

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