Caesar D’Mello, Pax Christi Australia
'Why are we violent?' needs to be asked repeatedly to make sense of our times marked as they are by ubiquitous human violence. On the weekend of 16 – 18 August, 2019, Pax Christi organised a conference at Kildara Centre in Malvern that explored this concern with the assistance of Josephite Sister Susan Connelly, whose doctorate at the ACU probed the relationship between Australia and Timor Leste between 1941 – 1999 in light of Rene Girards Mimetic Theory.
Above: Josephite Sr Susan Connelly addressing the Pax Christi group at the conference
Her keynote presentation on 'Exposing Violence: Steps on the Road to Peace' set the tone for our discussions.
Girard’s “Christian Anthropology” became so much more accessible to us as Sr Susan explained the role of mimetic behaviour (imitating the other and desiring what the other has) in eventual violence. As seen in so many situations, as a crisis emerges that involves a crime, scapegoating of someone or a group, is often the result. The way we treat refugees and asylum seekers, for instance, is a good example of such a pattern. Scapegoating becomes dangerous when its victim is free of guilt. The most striking example of this is Jesus, an innocent victim in a troubled society seeking to ”explain it all” by pointing to a “culprit”.
Above: Sr Susan and Brigidine Sister Sr Catriona Devlin
'Identifying features of scapegoating in current world situations assists in interpreting events as they happen', said Sr Susan. This was very appropriate for Pax Christi, an international peace movement, one of whose focal areas is the Pope Francis-inspired 'Catholic Nonviolence Initiative'. Faced with militarism and ecological destruction, our unjust response to Indigenous Australians and 'the stranger at the gate', family violence and inequality, for instance, Sr Susan convinced us that 'Girard provides a valuable tool to challenge us to deeper reflection on how to respond as Christians'.