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."
On the Road to Peace
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.
Last weekend, 125 of us made the annual pilgrimage of repentance up into the mountains of Los Alamos, N.M., birthplace of the bomb, to remember Hiroshima. For the third year in a row, we put on sackcloth and sat in ashes to repent of the sin of war and nuclear weapons in a spirit of prayer and creative nonviolence. A monsoon downpour soaked the mountaintop, but just as we began, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Afterwards, our featured speaker, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the campaign to close the "School of the Americas," urged us to carry on our witness for peace -- that one day Los Alamos will be disarmed.
“War is not inevitable I don’t think we can believe in God and be pessimistic about the future. The world is in God’s hands. So we have to keep going, keep on working for the abolition of war.” So said Bruce Kent, Britain’s long-time peace advocate and leader of the “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”
"We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age. Not since the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has the world faced such perilous choices. North Korea's recent test of a nuclear weapon, Iran's nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are symptomatic of a larger failure to solve the problems posed by the most destructive technology on earth."