These were some of the conclusions at the Italian episcopal conference's convention last month on "For a World of Peace: the Dream of Isaiah and the Proclamation of Christ."
Caritas-Italy and Pax Christi co-sponsored the event.
An official from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Tommaso Di Ruzza, told the conference participants that disarmament is an ethical question that involves everyone, not just governments. Though each person must cooperate according to his role and responsibilities, the Vatican aide encouraged the faithful to work for peace, in a world where arms expenditures in 2008 were almost $1.5 billion, and there are some 16 to 20 medium to high intensity conflicts ongoing around the globe.
Bishop Giovanni Giudici of Pavia, president of Pax Christi-Italy, cited Pope John XXIII in affirming the basic tenet of the situation: "War goes against reason and against humanity."
And, as the Holy See constantly encourages, disarmament is fundamental, he recalled. The Holy See, in fact, will take up its exhortation again at the conference for the revision of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be held in New York next May.
This effort, Bishop Giudici observed, goes beyond a fight to eliminate nuclear and chemical weapons.
"There must be another strong 'no' to conventional and light arms," he contended, due to the large number of people killed with these weapons.
What the Italian episcopal conference, Caritas-Italy and Pax Christi proposed, ultimately, is a serious reflection on Christian non-violence: not a giving in to evil -- according to a false interpretation of 'turning the other cheek' -- but rather responding to evil with good.
Conference contributors called for rejecting the logic of armament, and choosing non-violence as a social and political project. A spirit of reconciliation can have concrete consequences in, for example, investing or banking only with institutions that do not benefit from the arms trade.
Pastors, too, must become involved in a spirit of peace, the conference contributors asserted. They suggested dedicating resources and time to the elaboration of precise educational itineraries that give space to the witness of prophets of non-violence, and invigorating Justice and Peace Commissions at the national, diocesan and local levels.
"Peace is the new martyrdom to which the Church is called today," Bishop Giudici reflected. "The arena of the trial is the scene of the global village that runs the risk of burning in a holocaust without precedents.
"And as in the early times of Christianity the martyrs astounded the world with their courage, so today the Church should silence the powerful of the earth with the pride with which, despite persecution, she proclaims -- without toning down gradually as in Gregorian chant -- the Gospel of peace and the practice of non-violence. It is clear that, if instead of silencing the powerful, she is silent, she would be a resigned accomplice to an atrocious 'war crime.'"
[Mariaelena Finessi contributed to this report]