With many others, the news last week that President Obama had received the Nobel Peace Prize left me dismayed. Out he stepped from the Oval Office to accept the prize, then back in he went to continue his preparations to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan. There, under his orders, they’ll drop bombs, follow their drones, make sweeps through villages and terrorize children. Not my idea of a peacemaker.
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.
There are many facets of nonviolence. We’re just beginning to plumb the mystery, the possibility, the hope of becoming a nonviolent people. But there is, I think, one basic straightforward and practical measure of our nonviolence -- how we drive.
[Editor's note: Fr. Dear posted this column Tuesday, days before President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.]
When President Obama presided over the United Nations Security Council recently to endorse a resolution to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, we saw a rare sight -- a sign of global leadership pointing humanity toward a new future of peace. But while his words inspired, and hope springs from his symbolic stand, nothing has changed.
"When I sit in jail thinking of war and peace and the problem of human freedom," Dorothy Day once wrote, "of jails, drug addiction, prostitution and the apathy of great masses of people who believe that nothing can be done--when I thought of these things I was all the more confirmed in my faith in the little way of St. Thérèse. We do the things that come to hand, we pray our prayers and beg also for an increase of faith--and God will do the rest."
Ched Myers and Elaine Enns have just published a two volume work, Ambassadors of Reconciliation (Orbis Books), a great new resource for peacemakers and justice-workers interested in the latest insights for our struggle. Volume One provides an excellent overview of restorative justice and its connection to Gospel peacemaking. Volume Two profiles nine extraordinary, contemporary Christians from across the spectrum who practice restorative justice and peacemaking full-time, and make a huge difference in the lives of many. Together, these scholarly and readable books offer a new, ground-breaking theology and practice for Christians seeking to understand and live Jesus’ way of nonviolence and its application for today.
I've known and admired Edwina Gateley for years, and even had the privilege of speaking at various church events with her, most memorably, a week-long teach-in together in Olympia, Washington, seven years ago. She's a spell-binding speaker, heroic church woman, devoted mother, great writer, amazing story teller, brilliant organizer and good friend. I cherish her wit and wisdom; most of all, she cheers me up and gives me new energy to carry on our work of peace and justice.
In the last few weeks, three laudable men died -- Senator Ted Kennedy, Fr. Coman Brady, and Jim McGinnis -- and the rash of deaths has me pondering not only their praiseworthy lives but the ineffable mystery of life itself.
The rich press coverage of Kennedy's funeral impressed me. So did the vehemence of those who assailed his record. I for one give thanks for his fight for civil rights, social justice, and universal healthcare. And I rejoice in his public stand against Bush's war on Iraq, "the best vote of my career," he said. I was moved to see footage of him reflecting on a politics of hope, on redemption and resurrection, on persevering in the good fight.
The United Nations has designated Oct. 2, Gandhi’s birthday, as International Nonviolence Day. To help people of faith promote and mark the day, the Commission on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation for the Union of Superiors General in Rome commissioned the following prayer service. It is being translated and distributed to religious orders around the world. I want to offer it to everyone who would like to host a prayer service for nonviolence. Anyone who wishes can copy it and distribute it -- and pray with it.
It astonishes me to read in the Gospel of Luke how Jesus instructs his disciples to love their enemies, be compassionate, welcome children, serve the poor, feed the hungry, and take up the cross -- and how the disciples just don’t get it. Instead, they ask if they can take up the sword. Two thousand years later, we still don’t get it.
This week Pax Christi New Mexico friends and I will mark the anniversary of the United States’ obscene bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And to commemorate the victims, as we’ve done for years now, hundreds of us, plus two Nobel Peace prize winners, will converge on Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was made. There we’ll sit in sackcloth and ashes and pray to see nuclear weapons banished from the earth.