Many books, pamphlets and films tell the story of nonviolent resistance. Now a new documentary has just come out, on DVD, which puts to rest the lingering question -- does nonviolence really work? It's a compelling documentary with a compelling title: "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."
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 Sunday, 50 of us stood an hour in the snow, rain and hail for a simple peace vigil at the Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico. There we protested the Obama Administration’s new state-of-the-art plutonium bomb factory (the CMRR) and prayed for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Our gathering was not unlike the scores of peace vigils that occur each week across the country -- on street corners, in front of Federal Buildings, and at military installations.
One of the inspiring Christians of the last century was Ben Salmon, the American Catholic conscientious objector to World War I. Whenever my spirits sag over the apparently dim prospects for peace, I think of Ben, layman, husband, and father, peacemaker and resister. His was a lonely, steadfast stretch of discipleship to the nonviolent Jesus. I’ve thought often of Ben and taken his example to heart.
As the Holy Season of Lent begins, we put on ashes once again and repent of the mortal sins of war, greed, nuclear weapons and empire -- national sins for which each of us is responsible. Yes, we must repent, and we must make repentance and conversion to Jesus’ loving nonviolence a way of life, if we are to remain human during inhuman times. Preserving what is human is our hope, our calling, our political future, our salvation.
New Mexico is abuzz with the news. Soon from our austere landscape will rise a spanking new, state-of-the-art, plutonium bomb factory. Setting pen to paper and thereby blessing the project was President Obama, who had announced a year ago in Prague the goal of a nuclear-free world, but with his recent budget, will actually increase nuclear weapons production more than any other president since Ronald Reagan.
Last week, we lost one of the great original voices in the nation, 87-year-old historian and peace activist Howard Zinn. His was a unique voice -- of truth, clarity, wisdom, sanity, humanity. He was the first of his kind, and his history lessons influenced millions.
A combat veteran of World War II, Howard Zinn taught political science at Spellman College and Boston University and authored dozens of books. A long-time activist, he addressed peace rallies, wrote countless essays against militarism, and repeatedly committed civil disobedience against war and landed in jail.
My spiritual reading during these traumatic months -- what with wars grinding in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failed Copenhagen Climate Change conference, our being turned away from peacefully entering Gaza, and now the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti--has been a new book from Orbis in their "Modern Spiritual Masters" series: Etty Hillesum: Essential Writings. A balm for my wounds. She speaks to our predicament and points a way forward. She teaches me not just how to cope, but how to grow, deepen, love and serve. I highly recommend this book.
With you, I grieve the loss of life from last week’s earthquake in Haiti. And, with you, I grieve the survivors’ suffering and the slow pace of relief. Most of all, I grieve the injustice and poverty that has plagued Haiti -- and much of our world -- from its early colonizers to its U.S.-backed military juntas and dictatorships.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I left New York City for Cairo on Christmas day, with a long wait in Amsterdam, and this morning at four o’clock made my way to the Sun Hotel near Tahrir Square and the Nile River. Others have come, too -- 1,362 people representing 43 nations -- all of us journeying to Gaza to participate in the “Gaza Freedom March.”
Fr. John Dear is traveling, returning from Egypt, so has no column this week, but we thought his readers might be interested in these stories now on our Web site: