Road to victory is always path of nonviolence, says head of Sant’Egidio

Women embrace during a protest outside Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis May 29, 2020, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man whose neck was pinned to the ground by police for more than eight minutes before he was taken to the hospital. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters)

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When it comes to addressing the problems of racial injustice and hatred, the path of nonviolence is always the road to victory, said the head of the Community of Sant’Egidio.

“The American democracy has always demonstrated, from the time the United States came into existence, that it has the resources for overcoming difficult times” and it has shown those battles can be won democratically, Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Rome-based lay community, told Vatican News June 4.

Just looking at what has happened since World War II to today, “the peaceful mobilization of American citizens has achieved great results” in the fight against racial segregation and securing certain rights, he said.

So many battles, starting with Rosa Parks and leading to Martin Luther King, were fought and won through peaceful methods and nonviolent movements that “I believe these are the only possible ways to find a solution to a situation that I see is deeply stuck right now,” Impagliazzo said.

His comments came the day before a prayer vigil the Catholic association was organizing June 5 to foster “peaceful coexistence” in the United States after the death of George Floyd and ongoing tensions. The lay group is active in social service, social justice, dialogue and peacemaking around the world.

The evening prayer vigil, broadcast online at santegidio.org, was to be held in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and be presided over by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. The 72-year-old cardinal served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 2002 to 2007 and bishop of Dallas from 2007 to 2016.

Pope Francis asked June 3 that people pray for all lives lost as a result of “the sin of racism” and for “the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn.”

Impagliazzo told Vatican News it is time to extinguish all the “many fires” that have been ignited and fueled the past few years by “some extremist fringes of white supremacists and also by a certain (kind of) American politics.”

The fight for equal justice will be a long one, he added, because racism and its scars still run deep and the civil rights movement is still a fairly “recent” event in historical terms — going back just a couple of generations.

It is critical people acknowledge the evil of racism still exists in the United States, he said. Just one example can be seen in the overwhelming majority of death penalty sentences handed down to black men, which indicates the justice system “is not equal for everyone.”

The pope said in his remarks June 3 that “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life” while also recognizing that nothing is gained by violence, which “is self-destructive and self-defeating.”

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