Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed a half-century ago: “Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world.” It’s a proposition that stirs me whenever I return to it. Because with Gandhi there is no shadow of doubt. His words bear authority, they carry weight.
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.
“The way of Jesus and the way of the Bomb are absolutely, metaphysically incompatible,” Daniel Berrigan wrote 25 years ago in Sorrow Built a Bridge. “That statement might seem, were the world sane and the church Christ-like, impossibly redundant. Because neither is either, the statement, though otiose to some, is a necessary drumbeat.”
They say the peace movement is dead. It's hard to argue against that when so few speak out against our two wars, and when so many peace organizations are cutting back, laying off staff, and struggling to make ends meet. But if you were in New York City this past weekend, you would have seen the movement is alive and well. Some 15,000 converged at the opening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference at the United Nations.
I'm in New York City this week, attending some of the peace events around the opening of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference at the United Nations, and staying with Fr. Daniel Berrigan and the Jesuit Community. This past Good Friday, Dan was arrested at the U.S. Intrepid War Museum; he goes to court in June. May 9 is his 89th birthday.
The best part about the recent movie "The Last Station" -- a film that covers Leo Tolstoy's turbulent last year -- is Christopher Plummer's performance. With subtlety and skill he brings Tolstoy to life as the last days take their toll. Family bliss wasn't in his destiny. His wife, Sophia, failed to appreciate his Gospel values and wrangled with him over his plans to relinquish the copyrights of his works to the public domain.
Here's a scene I'll never forget -- sitting in the Edenton County Jail with my comrade-in-dissent Philip Berrigan, both of us on ice until the trial for our Plowshares disarmament action, looking up at TV suspended in our cell. Unfolding on the screen was the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, the new president of South Africa.
It was Holy Week, and we walked for miles through the desert. We hiked along ribbons of dirt paths, over parched rocky hills near the U.S.-Mexico border. The closest U.S. city was Tucson, Ariz., some 30 miles to the north.
Ours was an uncomplicated mission -- to place some 40 gallons of water where some of the thousands of sisters and brothers who cross the border at this "sector" can find them. It is a great risk for them to make this trek. Especially in the desert heat.
The attempt has killed 86 people since the first of October in the "Tucson sector" alone. In 2005, 216 died. Some froze to death, some died from injuries, others by thirst. And the death rate, according to authorities, has been dramatically rising. Even those who make it endure a harrowing, violent journey -- and face uncertainty thereafter wherever they land.
Read Fr. Dear's full column here: Our Matthew 25 duty on the US-Mexico border
Doubting Thomas, we call him contemptuously. It's a cheap and easy temptation to reprove him, the common-sense disciple who refused to believe that Jesus had risen. He wants to believe, I think, but he can't. The implications are too grand; they bear too heavily on his mind. He's in crisis; psychologically he is tied.
The spring of 1993 was one of my most memorable Good Fridays. A thousand gathered for a rally, and then marched on to Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Labs, near San Jose, Calif. And there several hundred knelt in prayer -- knelt in trespass, said the authorities -- and submitted to arrest. It was a day to remember, but even more so because of our guest of honor and main speaker was the Rev. William Sloan Coffin.
When the demagogue Glenn Beck urged Christians recently to quit any church that used the words “social justice” or “economic justice,” he betrayed the depth of our cultural darkness. But poor Glenn Beck cannot even imagine the church’s true political calling to be a disarmament movement, a revolutionary community of active nonviolence in resistance to war and empire.