This fall has been a whirlwind. For starters, there hangs over my head, my sentencing for last year's visit to Sen. Domenici's office. Punishment postponed again -- this time so the judge can peruse the FBI's dossier of my anti-war history (and thereby formulate a stiffer sentence, sometime next month.)
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 were many consoling, inspiring and uplifting moments last Friday, Oct. 26, in Linz, Austria, at the beatification of the anti-war hero Franz Jägerstätter. The resounding applause for his 94 year-old widow Franziska. The reading of the declaration. The unfurling of the 30 foot banner with Franz's photo and the sight of dozens of bishops and cardinals standing up, looking up -- at last! -- to Franz. But the most moving was the presentation of his relics. Franziska kissed them, gave them to a cardinal for the cathedral in Linz, then wept. She knows it now. Franz no longer belongs to Austria. Now he belongs to the world. And his work is just beginning.
“Women are the peacemakers. The world will not achieve peace without the energy and the work of women.” So writes Dolores Huerta of the United Farmworkers. Gandhi said the same thing in 1947: “Women are the natural messengers of the gospel of nonviolence, if only they will realize their high estate…. It is for American women to show what power women can be in the world. You can become a power for peace by refusing to be carried away by the flood-tide of the pseudo-science glorifying self-indulgence that is engulfing the West today and apply your minds instead to the science of nonviolence…. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women.”
Editor's Note: Frs. Vitale and Kelly appeared in court Oct. 17, changed their plea to no contest and were immediately taken into custoy. For details see: Priests imprisoned for five months in torture protest.
Imagine this: thousands of priests, nuns, monks, deacons, bishops and cardinals dropping everything and taking to the streets. Around the White House they march, week after week, and then off they head to the Capitol and the Pentagon. They walk with a sharp demand. Stop the war on Iraq. End the occupation of Palestine. Abolish all electric chairs and nuclear weapons. And turn over the vast sums, earmarked for death, to the world's poor and hungry.
On Feb. 12, 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang walked along a dirt road deep in the heart of Brazil's Amazon, on her way to meet a handful of poor farmers bearing up under harassment from illegal loggers and ranchers. She trudged along, until two hired assassins blocked her way. In response to their challenge, she produced maps and documents proving that the government had designated the land as a reserve for the landless poor. "Do you have a weapon?" they asked. Yes, she answered, showing them the Bible she carried for decades. She opened it and began to read aloud: "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. Blessed are the peacemakers ..." Then, she said, "God bless you, my sons."
In 1990, I spent a memorable day in Santa Cruz with Zoughbi Zoughbi, a long-time Palestinian teacher of nonviolence from Bethlehem. Some nine years later I met up with him in Bethlehem, and this summer we both spoke at a London peace conference.
On Aug. 22, 1971, a large group of anti-war activists, including four priests and a Lutheran minister, were arrested and indicted for trying to destroy files from the draft board, FBI offices and the Army Intelligence office in the Federal Building in Camden, N.J. As they made their first moves, police and FBI officers materialized from nowhere and surrounded them. Turns out, one among them was an FBI informant.
On Sept. 6, a federal judge in Albuquerque, N.M. found six of us guilty for trying to visit the office of our senator. We will be sentenced in a few weeks. The message? It is a federal crime to attempt to speak to an elected representative about the U.S. war on Iraq. Don't visit your senator. Don't get involved. Don't speak out. Don't take a stand for peace -- or you too may end up in jail.
John Dominic Crossan, New Testament scholar and bestselling author, has just published an illuminating book about the nonviolence of Jesus, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (Harper San Francisco, New York, 2007).