On the Road to Peace: We are the beloved sons and daughters of the God of peace, so we go into the world of war and make peace.
On the Road to Peace
On the Road to Peace is a column on nonviolence from Jesuit Fr. John Dear, a peace activist and the author of more than 20 books.
On the Road to Peace: The Easter story announces that the risen Jesus comes back in the fullness of life not with anger, resentment or revenge, but bearing the gift of peace.
Author's note: My friend Shane Claiborne, one of the most popular progressive evangelicals in the world, asked me to write about civil disobedience for his website, redletterchristians.org, which I recommend as a great source of inspiration. I share this essay as we enter Holy Week to encourage everyone on journeys with the nonviolent Jesus.
Like many, I'm hopeful about the new Jesuit pope from Latin America who takes the name Francis, but I'm concerned about reports of his silence during Argentina's "Dirty War." I grieve, too, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the evil U.S. war on Iraq, to recall that few U.S. priests and bishops spoke out against our wasteful war. I think we need church leaders who speak out prophetically against war, poverty, nuclear weapons and the destruction of the environment and point us to God's reign of justice, disarmament and nonviolence. We all need to do that.
As we process through Lent toward Holy Week, it may be helpful to recall Jesus' testimony in court before Pontius Pilate, the representative of the Roman Empire. For me, these words sum up the Christian life of peace and nonviolence:
My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Judeans.
It's cold and snowy here in Oslo, Norway, but it's thrilling to be here. My friend Martin Sheen and I flew from Los Angeles to Oslo last week to speak at the conference of The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, where we appeared together Saturday night on stage before an energized crowd of 900 people in downtown Oslo. This civic forum on nuclear weapons preceded the global gathering of representatives from more than 130 nations invited here by the government of Norway to discuss the abolition of nuclear weapons. (The U.S.
Going to prison for nonviolent civil disobedience against American war-making does wonders to clarify one’s relationship with the U.S. government. I highly recommend it. When I reflect back on my life, it seems I have been preparing for civil disobedience, facing jail or trial, or undergoing probation regularly for 30 years. I’m mainly engaged in writing, speaking and teaching peace to build up the anti-war/global peace movement, but periodic civil disobedience and nonviolent protest have become for me a way of life. Along the way, one meets the best people.
Seventy-five of us gathered over the weekend at the beautiful Upaya Zen Center for a powerful retreat on the themes of nonviolence and peace from Christian and Buddhist perspectives. It was inspiring to lead the retreat with my friend Roshi Joan Halifax, one of the greatest Buddhist leaders in the world. We sat in perfect Buddhist stillness for several one-hour periods of silence each day. Roshi and I presented our teachings, then we had small and large group discussions. I think everyone came away energized, if not changed.
This week, I'm in Mexico, spending time each day at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, trying to enter her story and presence and begging for the grace of peace and wisdom. My friend Jim Reale proposed this retreat. He has just finished two years of daily two-hour meditation every morning in front of her famous image. He wanted to conclude this part of his spiritual journey with a pilgrimage to her and invited me along.
Long ago, Daniel Berrigan told me a tragic story about being invited to speak to a packed church of cloistered nuns somewhere on the East Coast in 1965. They wanted him to read from his latest book of poetry. He did, but then began to quietly denounce the growing U.S. war in Vietnam. The congregation exploded. "How dare you attack our country?" they shouted. "If we don't kill those communists, they'll invade and take over," they said.