Preventing the disease of violence Print
Thursday, Sep. 18, 2008 -- 12:26 AM

Nowadays we think of violence almost as an everyday occurrence. We see violence in the news, in movies, and on television shows. Sadly, an increasing number of people experience violence in their own lives, in their homes and neighborhoods.

Editor's View
Mary C. Uhler

Violence is like a disease. It spreads from person to person. It is contagious; the use of violence often begets more violence. And, of course, like a disease, violence leads to sickness and death.

Overcoming the disease of violence

If violence is like a disease, perhaps it can also be treated or even prevented. A Web site for the World Council of Churches ( says there are two reasons to engage in overcoming the disease of violence:

  • Violence prevention has become a public health priority world-wide. Violence is preventable, not unavoidable. This is a practical issue and in the end a matter of survival.
  • No less important for Christians is their faith in the alternative to violence. Jesus' example of nonviolence is not only salvation and hope for humanity, it is also the way in which Christians are to live.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) believes that overcoming violence and building peace are important issues today more than ever before. Violence has always been part of the human experience, but the WCC points out that several things happened at the end of the 20th century to influence the spread of violence:

  • The legitimacy to use violence is no longer clearly attributed to the state, its instruments, or persons with authority over others.
  • War as an institution between nation states no longer exists. War has proliferated and while going on in many places, it is not legal under current international law.
  • In the past, the ecumenical discourse on violence was usually centered around war and peace. Today, we know that the majority of casualties to physical violence are victims of individual or interpersonal violence.
  • Violence is a most widespread means of entertainment and also a tremendous business, both in terms of weapons sales and entertainment industries.
  • Unless humanity learns to prevent violence and use non-violent approaches, we are going to destroy ourselves.
How to stop the spread of violence

What can we do to stop the spread of the disease of violence throughout the world? As one solution I remember the words of the song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." Being peaceful persons within our own families, workplaces, churches, schools, and neighborhoods is where peacemaking starts. Just as violence is contagious, so, too, peacemaking can be contagious.

Another way to prevent the spread of violence is through prayer. Although we can pray every day for peace, one day especially set aside for this purpose is the International Day of Prayer for Peace on September 21. This is a yearly opportunity for church communities and individuals to pray and act together to nurture lasting peace in the hearts of people, their families, communities, and societies.

The idea for this Day of Prayer for Peace was proposed in 2004 during a meeting between WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The day coincides with the UN International Day of Peace and is one of the initiatives of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence (2001 to 2010).

Catholics pray for peace

Popes and bishops in the Catholic Church have always followed in the footsteps of Jesus in praying for peace. In his message for the World Day of Peace observed on January 1, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said:

"I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother."

In the Diocese of Madison area, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters invite all interested persons to join them in praying for peace on Monday, Sept. 22, at 12:30 p.m. at Sinsinawa Mound located in southwest Wisconsin.

I encourage everyone to be peacemakers in their own spheres of influence, to prevent the spread of the disease of violence, and to pray on September 21 and every day for peace in the world:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

(from the "Prayer of St. Francis")