Posted by Paweł A. Makowski

Pope John Paul II informed United Nations delegates that the end of the Cold War era contained among its implications that Central Eastern Europe could then anticipate “that the promise of peace” should come to pass. For many victims of that period of international tension, peace surfaced with the restoration of the sovereignty of former “People’s Democracies”. But peace is never so facile or automatic. The “risk of peace” is multi-faceted and relentless in its demands to cancel preoccupation with agendas of isolated self interest.

Climate of peace

Attaining “a climate of peace” means, for instance  in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that diverse ethnicities must discover that the benefits of their seeking “harmony” are unsurpassed. The Pope’s 1996 address outlined difficulties which surround prospects for an “enduring peace”. The peace process involves diplomats in a struggle to achieve certain conditions. These include: “the free flow of peoples and ideas; the unhindered return of refugees to their homes; … truly democratic elections; and … sustained material and moral reconstructions”. But one should not be pessimistic about “the work of building and consolidating peace”, either in this region or elsewhere. Because when “indifference or selfishness” is admitted, horrendous “unforeseeable consequences” may be averted. In 1999, diplomats were told, again with regards to normalization in the Balkans, that “the culture of peace” faces “persistent dissension”. Still, the international community should not despair of the value of diplomatic endeavors. It was diplomacy which concluded an agreement (October 26, 1999) between Ecuador and Peru. The guarantor countries consented “to accept a compromise and to resolve their differences in a peaceful way”. Theirs is a “peace brought by … treaties” and according to which violence is explicitly renounced. The preservation of that peace, the Pope stated, is aided by the Catholic faith which is common to many of the countries citizens. Diplomats may see in this religious dimension not a peripheral or incidental corollary to the stable peace but a resource to procure “reconciliation through prayer and action”.

Peace incorporates practical exigencies

African countries, for example, “should all assist one another in the analysis and evaluation of political options”. Said diplomacy may lead to formal agreement “not to take part in arms trafficking” and to reject discriminatory sanctions. Issues pertinent to territorial disputes, economic contentions and human rights may be submitted to peace-making teams and tribunals, through the operation of which “equitable and peaceful solutions” may arise. The Pope added that where armed conflict and disruption prevail, peace-keeping forces may be called upon as a final resort. These forces, however, ought to be “composed of African soldiers”. The “law of retaliation”, the Pope said on January 10, 2002, fails to qualify as a “path … to peace”. This is among the reason why he requested diplomats to forward a series of his several “reflections” to their respective governments. These include: the elimination of poverty (through, for example, a program of debt reduction), disarmament (as through “the reduction of arms sales to poor countries”), and efforts to demonstrate respect for human rights (especially for those most vulnerable – children, women and refugees). Diplomatic engagement for the cause of peace ought to espouse such a range of priorities.

This content comes from: B.J. O’Connor, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and Culture of Peace, South Bend, Indiana 2005.

General information about Papal Diplomacy in post: Diplomacy according to John Paul II”.