“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.”
On the Road to Peace
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).
"When we have peace, then we have a chance to save the planet," Nhat Hanh told us last week. "But if we are not united in peace, if we do not practice mindful consumption, we cannot save our planet. We need enlightenment, not just individually but collectively, to save the planet. We need to awaken ourselves. We need to practice mindfulness if we want to have a future, if we want to save ourselves and the planet."
As I ready myself for trial Sept. 6 for trying a year ago to persuade my senator to oppose the Iraq War, I'm happy that a new organization of Catholics opposed to the war has formed. On July 12, Catholics United, a nonpartisan organization, launched "Catholics for an End to the War in Iraq" to encourage U.S. Catholics to advocate for diplomacy, redevelopment and a "responsible withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Iraq.