In the year 295, the 21-year-old son of a Roman veteran publicly refused to be drafted into the Roman army. As a result, the young man was arrested and brought to trial. His testimony was written down in a document called the Passio and later recited during Mass throughout the Church as an example of true Christian discipleship. His life and death became one of the great witnesses in the early Church. We need to reclaim his courage and testimony (which was meticulously recorded) as we try to stand up today against the U.S. war machine.
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.
A few years ago my friend Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine launched the Network of Spiritual Progressives to unite religious activists from across the spectrum to confront the issues dividing the nation and the world. I joined the group and recently we placed an ad in The New York Times titled, An Ethical Way to End the War in Iraq: Generosity Beats Domination as a Strategy for Homeland Security." Already it has sparked debate and serious interest from many politicians about a new way forward.
As I follow the regular, dire reports on global warming, I recall my visit two years ago along the foothills of the Himalayas, near the border of China and Nepal, north of Dehredun in India. There I met Dr. Vandana Shiva, a leading anti-globalization and environmental activist, a brilliant, engaging scientist and Gandhian activist.
She has taken up a formidable challenge -- to resist globalization and protect farmers, not to mention the earth itself. Her strategy -- to harvest every endangered seed and indigenous plant, restore the soil to its original richness, and save the seeds from corporate patent theft by creating “seed banks.” A modern-day Noah, gathering for the future the herbs of the world.
A few years ago when I moved into a handmade house, off the utility grid, powered by solar panels, no potable water in the taps, atop a mesa, in the high desert of New Mexico, I took a deliberate step toward reconnecting with the earth.
This week, my troublemaking friends and I might, after several postponements, be standing trial for our attempt in Santa Fe Sept. 26 to pay a visit to Sen. Pete Domenici and urge him to sign the "Declaration of Peace," a pledge to help end the U.S. war on Iraq. To aid our case we boldly subpoenaed the good senator, who is up to his ears in problems for his role in the firing of prosecutors. His lawyers are wrangling to keep him out of the courtroom, so our trial may well be postponed again.
Years ago Gerry Straub, successful TV producer and settled atheist embraced a spectacular modern -- day conversion, and soon entered upon a journey of downward mobility -- from Hollywood big wheel to son of poor St. Francis. A big change, that's bearing good fruit. Soon, a Franciscan -- based non -- profit was born, the San Damiano Foundation. There Gerry makes groundbreaking films documenting the poorest of the world's poor. Next week, his latest film premieres, touching upon a slightly different topic -- of all things, me. My life in the desert and my faith in Gospel nonviolence.
Voices in the Wilderness founder Kathy Kelly called April 21 with alarming news. Our dear friend, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the 1976 Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner, hailed as one of the world's great voices for nonviolence, was shot the day before by Israeli soldiers. She was in the middle of a Palestinian nonviolent vigil for human rights at the Israeli-built separation wall in the Palestinian village of Bil'in. (See NCR story: Nobel laureate injured in West Bank.)
Last month, some 80 Catholic Workers, Pax Christi folk and other activists from across the West Coast gathered for a weekend of community-building and nonviolent witness at the Nevada Test Site. Father Daniel Berrigan offered reflections under the theme, "Walking With Our Sorrow." A cogent title. I thought of it as news trickled in of the Virginia Tech massacre. It left me horrified and heartbroken. But given our culture of violence, the news failed to surprise me. I marvel that rampages explode as infrequently as they do.
We of the Santa Fe protest group, nine of us, had ourselves braced for trial last Thursday in federal court in Albuquerque. We are embroiled in legal difficulties for our efforts last fall to urge our senator to sign a "declaration of peace." Wary guards blocked our entry. So in the lobby elevator we sat, its controls disabled and its doors wide open. And there we held a liturgy featuring a solemn reading of the names of Iraqi and American dead.
A few years ago, Daniel Berrigan and I celebrated Easter in a New York park with a few Jesuit friends. We held a small liturgy and a picnic. After reading a Gospel account of the resurrection, we sat a few moments in silence. Then I said, "I'm amazed Jesus came back at all. He had been betrayed, denied, abandoned, arrested, jailed, tortured and executed, and yet he came back peaceably, forgiving everyone generously, punishing no one. He didn't get angry at them -- he proceeded to make them breakfast!"