Update Patricia Gaffney, February 2016
Key to Pat Gaffney’s work over the last ten years has been addressing the rolling „war on terror“ and its implications for the world we are living in. She has been doing this through the global and national civil society peace groups that make up Pax Christi. This work involves challenges to the underlying injustices that lead to extremism and violence.
Pat’s work has been focused in particular on Palestine and Israel. Pax Christi offers solidarity and raises awareness in the UK of the challenges of peace-making in a context of oppression. Pat has also taken a lead ecumenically in the UK – for example through the Week of Prayer for Peace in Israel and Palestine. In recent years this has focused on the illegal detention of children in Palestine and on the impact of the Separation Wall. Her aim has been to take these issues to the heart of Christian faith communities, sometimes leading groups on visits to Israel and Palestine.
Built upon the centenary of the start of WW1 and as part of the commemorations, Pat has taken a role in asking what we can learn today from the peacemakers of one hundred years ago. She has achieved this working with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF, with a particular emphasis on the role of conscientious objectors and women peace makers. She has found that for the women peacemakers, many of the issues are the same today as in 1915: international militarisation, war and coercion then and now mean that these major challenges are as fresh now as they were one hundred years ago. Based on this, in 2015, Pax Christi held a joint conference with WILPF about women peacemakers. The event highlighted that the peace movement one hundred years ago used the same avenues and channels as today: the family, politics, solidarity.
In addition, and through the resilience of the women who either stay and make peace where they live, or leave to start life anew, Pat’s work addresses the experience of conflict in the world today- in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen in particular. “We hope to match their resilience with our solidarity”, says Pat.
Pat sees a direct connection between the current refugee crisis and the arms trade. As an example, she cites the horrors being enacted in Turkey and Greece, leading to media appeals to take in refugees- all this in the same week that the UK hosted the largest arms fair in the world. She is troubled by the double-speak of sympathy and care for refugees while at the same time being at the heart of the industry creating these problems, and in this she sees a huge challenge.
“The links between poverty, conflict, climate change and militarism need to be addressed and connections made. “
“Creating connections, crossing barriers of time and place and being human with one another are paramount peacemaking elements for me.”
Patricia was raised in a hard-working Irish immigrant community in west London, with strong Catholic roots. After training as a schoolteacher, she taught for six years at a Comprehensive in west London. In 1980 she joined the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD) as Schools and Youth Education Officer. Since 1990 she has been the General Secretary of Pax Christi. Through annual monitoring Patricia has played a key role in calling on church institutions to cease investment in arms industries. As a result, no Catholic dioceses or religious orders now have arms investments.
Patricia Gaffney is a central figure in the Christian peace movement in Britain, working diligently and creatively and leading unobtrusively. Through her work she is involved in lobbying and campaigning within church and political networks on peace and security-related issues, offering support and facilitation for church-related groups on Christian peacemaking, as well as coordinating the day-to-day running of Pax Christi in Britain. She recalls one fascinating experience of advocating peace in the world in the following: Some years back I was involved in a peace exercise, planting a cherry tree outside the Ministry of Defense in London on Hiroshima Day. We wanted a creative enterprise, a lasting memory of the people of Hiroshima. We planted a tree and hung the names of those who had died on its branches. We knelt to pray for the victims of nuclear war. Suddenly a coach pulled up and tourists spilled out. One ran towards us and began crying when she saw what we were doing. She was Japanese, from Hiroshima, and could not believe that people in London were remembering the tragic history of her home. As we tried to calm her I was more worried that she might accidentally be arrested with us. In the end, the tree was the only thing to be arrested on that day. It was excavated brutally from the earth by the police, leaving an ugly hole in its place. We were all a little shaken by the experience, but proud of the effect that our act of solidarity had created. Making connections, crossing barriers of time and place, being human with one another, are to me important elements of peacemaking that cannot really be measured or evaluated. You have to trust others and be open to accept whatever may happen during, and as a consequence of your actions. And this too is what peacemaking is about: finding freedom in doing what is right and creating human security in the process.”
Pax Christi British Section (PCBS) Peace Education Network (PEN) Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
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