Franciscan Nonviolence

Submitted by Marita Flynn, OSF


As Franciscans we are deeply disturbed by the violence in the world and our increasingly deadly potential to destroy life on this planet. The roots of violence are within each of us, as are the solutions to overcome it and build a more just and peaceful world. We are appalled by the wanton and dramatic violence that takes innocent lives, as in the case of what occurred on September 11, 2001 in the United States.1


As Franciscans we need to reclaim our role as peacemakers. We have a strong tradition full of inspirational men and women of peace and reconciliation, inspired by the particular way both St. Francis and St. Clare lived the gospel’s call to build just relationships based on respect, equality and the search for harmony. 2


In our day, as in Francis’s day, the Spirit urges us to experiment with nonviolence. In surprising ways, we—like Francis and his companions—find ourselves influenced by and participating in movements impelled by hunger for spiritual renewal, for justice and peace, for compassion and reverence for all creation. While there are figures of heroic stature like Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi who have demonstrated the power of nonviolence, the transformation of our world today through compassionate, active nonviolence, is being carried out by masses of people on every continent whose situations call forth from them courage, compassion and creativity. 3


Transformative nonviolence often includes:


  • Making contact with the woundedness and sacredness in our lives and the lives of others;

  • Creatively and courageously opening safe space for active listening and for acknowledging that each of us has a piece of the truth;

  • Transforming Us vs. Them thinking and doing;

  • Seeking to recognize and actively transform coercive and dominative differences of power;

  • Mobilizing nonviolent person-power and people-power as creative alternatives to patterns of domination, to passive acceptance of those patterns, or to counter-violence as a way of challenging those patterns;


Taking initiatives to change the dynamics of violence by creating just and compassionate solutions that genuinely address the causes of conflict.


The way of active nonviolence is drawing us into a renewed and ongoing spiritual formation process. In this process we are learning to compassionately challenge our own patterns; to de-center and re-center the self that has been shaped by patterns of violence in our families, in our churches, in our societies. We find ourselves taking action that helps us “act our way” into new thinking, feeling, and believing. Indeed, we are discovering how the source and meaning of our lives—our God who has given us life and sustains us—is a Nonviolent God who longs for this wholeness for us and for all beings, a God who calls us to experiment with and embody this “nonviolent life” in the healing of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. 4


Excerpts for this material are from: “Franciscan Nonviolence” an online resource sponsored by The OFM JPIC International Council and the Interfranciscan JPIC Commission.

1.) “Franciscan Nonviolence,” Forward, p. 7, para.2.,

2.) p. 7, para. 3, lines 1, 2.

3). p.14, last para.,

4.) p.15, para. 2, and 3.

Used with permission:

http://www.paceebene.org/shop/franciscan-nonviolence/