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Susan Francois

Susan Francois is a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace and works for the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle, Washington.
Interview by Bryce Covey.
March 2012

We work in the larger community, not only in the Catholic community, but with community partners, to promote peace through justice and to build community to create change. All of our programs do that; they build community to create systemic change. We work from the grass roots level all the way up to legislative and corporate. We work on whatever issues our members are committed to: women’s issues, nonviolence, immigration, environmental issues, corporate responsibility, etc. I am the editor of our journal, coordinate our young adult programs and do advocacy and education work regarding human trafficking.

The world has become so globalized in the last decade. We created a program called Justice Cafés that allow for young adults to get together and talk about using nonviolence. For example there is a group in Nigeria that reached out to us because they found us on Google, (we are the first to show up with certain keyword searches), and now they use our materials to facilitate an interfaith dialogue between the Christians and the Muslims in their area to try and resolve tensions nonviolently. The internet has given us a new reach in the last ten years. I work on the website and we connect with places all around the world. I am talking with classes in multiple states through webinars this week.

My community was founded to promote peace in family life, church and society in 1884. Peace is not just the absence of war, but to me peace is how we are able to relate to each other to see each other as human beings; to see the dignity in everyone. We (the Sisters) feel called ourselves to live a life of nonviolence inspired by Jesus. We grow to not only live a life absent of physical violence, but also peaceful in every aspect of the way we live; the language used in conversation, the way we interact with the earth, our friendships and more.

To have a contemplative stance, coming from a deep place of prayer and commitment to following the steps of Jesus, I think gives us a different perspective. We’re not going to solve all the problems of the world now, but if we just create more problems by the way that we solve problems, that’s not really going to get us where we want to go. It has to be done in a wholesome manner.

Pope Paul the 6th said, “if you want peace you need to work for justice.” Our faith and belief is that if we act nonviolently, not only will it be more lasting, but it will ultimately lead to a conversion of hearts that contributes to the permanent systemic change.

For example we have another group here that is the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment. It is a movement of faith-based investors that collaborates with other groups of all faiths, to use our power as shareholders together to attend shareholder meetings and ask questions to create change. Years ago a group of sisters went to a GE corporate shareholders meeting to question their carbon footprint, and to make a long story short as a result the Echo Imagination program for responsibility was born. Another aspect of our work is that one of our sisters goes to talk with the executives of Walmart 4 times a year to dialogue about humans rights issues, supply chain issues and more. We have a wide range of programs looking to address issues on all levels.

We believe through nonviolent person-to-person connections systemic change will be created. It’s so easy to demonize people that you don’t have a relationship with or put labels on them, but when you look at them as individuals, if you think of them as a mother and father, it is much harder to condone that. My hope is that we can build peaceful community person-to-person and even through the reach now that we have in the internet.