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.
On the Road to Peace
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.
"I have often been threatened with death," Archbishop Oscar Romero told a Guatemalan reporter two weeks before his assassination, 30 years ago on March 24, 1980. "If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality."
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 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.