NEW YORK – Amid a tense political climate both on Capitol Hill and among voters nationwide the American Bishops are encouraging people to prioritize unity, justice, and peace through dialogue instead of resorting to physical and verbal violent behaviors.

In a new letter, Archbishop Borys Gudziak states that “America can do so much better” than the present reality –  political speech rife with insults, the rise of racism, religious discrimination, and xenophobia, and those in public office receiving more death threats than ever.

“There is no good reason to resort to violence to resolve political issues,” states Gudziak, who leads the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia and leads the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Dialogue and voting better serve our human dignity, as do peaceful protests, petitions, lawsuits, and civil disobedience in the face of injustice.

“By contrast, violence harms innocent victims. Violence harms the rule of law,” Gudziak continues. “Practically speaking, political violence does not ensure positive or lasting change.”

The letter, “Pursue What Leads to Peace: A Christian Response to Rising Threats of Political and Ideological Violence” was published by the USCCB earlier this month. Last week, Gudziak sent the letter to members of Congress, specifically encouraging them to change their tune.

“As each of you knows all too well, more and more Americans are accepting violence as a means to settle political disputes. That includes the rising number of threats, and tragically, some violent attacks, that public office holders such as yourselves have suffered,” Gudziak wrote to Congress members on June 18.

“I therefore wish to pass along to you the attached statement that calls on all Christians and people of good will to abstain from political violence of any kind, and instead, ‘pursue what leads to peace,’ seeking justice through dialogue,” Gudziak continued.

In the general letter to all people, Gudziak notes that throughout history the best moments of American politics are those in which people with diverse viewpoints find a way to “unity, justice, peace, and ultimately, the common good.” In the present climate, he encouraged people to pursue peace, embrace dialogue, and seek justice through their advocacy.

Gudziak argues that political dialogue should mirror Christian dialogue from the standpoint that the God-given human dignity of each person is prioritized. He said dialogue can’t be about winning arguments because it’s not a debate.

“Yes, real dialogue will be hard, but it is essential for finding common ground upon which a solution might be built,” Gudziak said. “It requires openness and vulnerability. Between violence and indifference, persistent and humble dialogue is the necessary path to peace.”

Gudziak adds that dialogue around justice focuses on creating social change for the common good.

“God’s justice renders to each person his or her dignity,” Gudziak said. “Education and respectful dialogue around these proposals is necessary for cooperation and agreement, but will often be a struggle. We need not be troubled when these obstacles arise.”
To close his letter to members of Congress, Gudziak said that the American bishops stand ready to help in any way possible the nation’s political culture firmly reject violence, and instead turn towards dialogue, justice and peace. In the letter to all people, he again emphasizes working for peace through dialogue and justice.

“Let us pray, then, that by turning away from violence, away from anger, away from demeaning others who are made in the image and likeness of God, we may work for peace through dialogue and justice,” Gudziak said. “We pray with trust and thanksgiving that the Lord will bless our country, including our own political process, and that ‘the tender mercy of our God’ will ‘guide our feet into the path of peace.’”

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