Activism

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By Joe Byrne

We were recently graced with the visit of a contingent of seven folks from Loyola University Chicago, as part of their Alternative Break Immersion (ABI) experience.

The group participated in all the usual Jonah House activities, as well as a couple public witness demonstrations that occurred during their visit. On the first day, a Sunday, they participated in the Sunday liturgy with other members of the liturgy circle. Their orientation happened Sunday evening, and included a presentation by Joe on the Jonah House core value of nonviolence, the “ground” in which our four roots delve deep, and from which all the work of Jonah House grows.

The next day, while some were on house crew, cleaning the big house and preparing meals, others were working outside. Here is the “kindling crew,” namely Curtis, Kelsey, and Adimilola, who collected sticks from off the ground in the cemetery, broke them up into kindling sticks, and stored them in boxes.

In addition to our daily community tasks, Tucker, Emily, and Joe gave presentations on the Four Roots of Jonah House. Tucker presented on resistance (activism), Emily on community, Joe on resilience (stewardship). Here the students gaze out the glass doors during one of the presentations. They were otherwise very attentive!

On Wednesday, March 8, the whole community, including the Loyola student group, participated in a Women’s Strike march, to commemorate International Women’s Day. The march in Baltimore was one of many throughout the United States.

Here are Emily and Evie, along with our dear friend Lin Romano, chatting, while listening to speakers, waiting for the march to begin:

 Here the march heads downtown:

Here is Kelsey, with Tucker and Auggie right behind:

Here is Tucker and Auggie again, next to Sidney, with Emily and Matt in front:

One of the stopping points was the Women’s Prison in Baltimore. Some of the Loyola students were struck by the tragic irony of having a women’s prison across the street from a school. It’s quite possible that some of the mothers of the children who attend that school may be in that prison.

Here Adimilola, Sidney, and Emily do their best to support–with their fierce, gentle energy–the women in the prison:

Here is a shot of Tucker and Auggie in front of the woman’s prison:

On Thursday, the Loyola students were at Harriet Tubman House, helping with one of their new garden areas. Joe was in charge of the crew that put sheets over the raised beds (to keep the cats from pooping in them!):

Here is a shot of many of the raised beds covered. In the background are students helping dig holes for poles that are needed to create a grape arbor:

Eddie Conway (center), one of the founders of Tubman House, confers with Tucker and Azar, who is the chief “farmer” at Tubman House:

Here Curtis chats with one of the members of the Tubman House collective:

Here is the group at the end of our time at Tubman House:

You can see more about Tubman House at their Facebook page (Coalition of Friends). All the photos of the Loyola visit to Tubman House are courtesy of Tubman House.

On Friday, on their last full day, the Loyola group participated in two public witness demonstrations. The first was in Washington DC. It was a march on the White House by Sioux water protectors from Standing Rock, and their allies. The water protectors are nonviolently resisting the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), which is being built on their sacred lands and endangers their water supply.

Here Matt holds a sign that says “You Can’t Drink Oil”:

Here Tucker, in his Zen Buddhist priest robes, walks with Eric Martin, editor of a new book collection of the letters of Dan and Phil Berrigan:

Emily and the kids made the hour-long trip to Washington, DC, and part of the march, but Auggie and Evie reached their demonstration limit before the end of the march, and Emily took them back to Baltimore.

Here Ardeth and Carol march with Kathy Boylan of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker (sorry Carol for posting this pic):

We reach the White House:

This is one of the many sign/banners that caught my eye:

The students, who met up with another Loyola Chicago ABI group staying at Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, stayed for the rally that followed. But Tucker and Joe headed back to Baltimore.

Later in the day, some of the Loyola students participated in their second public witness of the day. This was our regular public sit at City Hall Park in Baltimore. Here are the sitters with a special DAPL-themed poster:

Here the bundled-up Tucker, Emily, and Kelsey beam peace from the park towards the war memorial across the street.

These pics show only part of the experience of the Loyola Chicago ABI, and don’t capture all the gifts the students brought to Jonah House (for instance, there are no pictures of “Fishbowl,” the game the group played five nights in a row during their stay). We miss them terribly and hope some or all of them will visit again soon (or perhaps stay for a couple months as interns).

 

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By Joe Byrne

Lent 2017 is underway. On Ash Wednesday, Joe, along with Sisters Ardeth and Carol, traveled to the White House in Washington, DC, to participate in an Ash Wednesday service organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and other Catholic social justice organizations. The message was repentance for the various social evils for which we of the United States are responsible–the sins of genocide towards First Nations peoples, slavery, ongoing racism, xenophobia, and sexism–including the election of the racist, xenophobic, and sexist Donald Trump as president.

Here is Colleen McCarthy, of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, offering a reflection in front of the White House.

Here Ardeth offers a prayer, with Art Laffin, of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:

Ardeth and Carol as part of the circle:

The oft-seen and ever-pertinent “Wage Peace, Practice Nonviolence” banner from Dorothy Day House:

Here a child makes hew own contribution to the ash crosses on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

Here Pete Perry stands with Ardeth, who is holding up a poster that memorializes Connie, who spent nearly forty years vigiling for peace in Peace Park (Lafayette Park) across from the White House. This is our second Ash Wednesday without Connie. Last Ash Wednesday, Ardeth and Carol distributed some of Connie’s ashes on the White House lawn. Connie presente!

Here I am holding up some of the art work of the beloved and recently-deceased Sally Hanlon. Her message, in the form of her posters and her very distinctive lettering, as well as the memory of her gentle spirit, survives. Sally Hanlon presente!

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We continue our Friday sits for justice and peace at various locations in Baltimore.

Two weeks ago we were at the intersection of Roland Avenue and Cold Spring Road. Andy Holter joined Tucker and Joe.

In the picture below, the placard to the right reads: “Suffering has no boundaries, compassion has no borders.”

One of the messages we feel most impassioned about is welcoming, and toleration of, refugees.

Last week we were at Baltimore’s City Hall Park. Joining Joe and Tucker were Melissa Brady, Michael McEwan, and Amy Pucino (who joined us for our first sit, at the North Avenue, Route 83 intersection, three weeks ago.) City Hall is in the background.

Here are the sitters from behind. We were facing the Baltimore War Memorial, meditating for peace!

Our messaging remains the same: compassion and toleration.

We will return to sit at City Hall this evening (Friday February 24) from 4:30pm to 5:50pm. Join us!

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By Tucker Brown

This past Friday (2/3/17), from 4 to 6 pm on the grassy knoll at the intersection of North and Mount Royal, we practiced sitting meditation with posters expressing our support for refugees and Muslims and our opposition to Trump’s travel ban.

I have no clue how drivers experienced our witness. But we did speak with someone who approached us after spotting our signs. He mentioned that he’s currently unemployed and lives in a tent with his dog, somewhere in the city. He talked about his struggles and framed them with the same kind of anti-immigrant anger and fear that’s been a core part of Trump’s agenda and worldview.

The man had a lot to say and, to be honest, I really didn’t know how to respond to him. He was convinced that immigrants and refugees steal jobs from U.S. citizens, take away opportunities otherwise entitled to hard-working “Americans,” and breed violence. He also suggested, as Trump does routinely, that the mainstream media are dishonest.

A part of me wanted a debate, but then I concluded that wouldn’t be a skillful response — I don’t consider myself adept at debating anyway. So I just listened, tried to relax my visceral reaction and resistance to his views, and a few things happened. First, I stopped focusing only on the man’s judgments and started paying attention instead to his suffering. By connecting with his emotional experience, I was able to see the desperation beneath his views — as well as how thoroughly Trump and his team have reframed the causes of national wealth and resource disparity (i.e., five years ago we might have joined each other in the occupy movement).

Finding an “other” to blame is of course Trump’s strategy to form group cohesion in the service of his fascistic ends.  While I could have argued this point, by recognizing the man’s pain (i.e., communicating that I’d heard the fear and anger underlying his political positions) there was a momentary shift in the conversation. He stopped blaming immigrants and started talking instead about the culture of greed and materialism that necessitates global poverty, structural deprivation, and war.

Of course this line of inquiry is threatening, because to put our economic, political and social systems into question implies a re-evaluation of the values, motivations and myths underlying them. It’s easier to blame others, and the man eventually came back to this strategy and ultimately called upon “National Security” — in this administration, a euphemism for White Nationalism — as a reason to justify the travel ban.

The conversation taught me that, while I might want to argue with the people who support Trump, it’s vitally important for a new kind of intentional engagement with his promoters: hearing and re-framing the fear and anger that often motivates their allegiance so that, at the very least, they’re invited to consider an alternate view of what’s driving their dis-ease.

While the “America First” platform is delusional — and violent, racist, bigoted, etc. — I don’t think it helps to simply argue the points and dismiss the strong emotions fueling them. I wholeheartedly believe and participate in the movement to resist Trumpism AND I think it’s also necessary to make every effort to dialogue with even his fiercest supporters.  The way forward, in my view, is through encounter, not just opposition.

There are too many echo chambers, on both sides, and to realize a world without sides we need, I think, to practice dialogue as much as dissent.

I’m also realizing the importance of renewal in these turbulent times: returning to images, stories, symbols and words that inspire the fortitude to persist, to resist.

Amid all the Islamophobia, xenophobia and hate espoused by the Trump administration, and tolerated if not promoted by so many republican politicians, I find it inspiring to read and re-read and reflect on Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus.

Mother of Exiles. What a vision!  And what an indictment of the current administration!

Also, as I suffer and see other people suffering and struggle with my own anger and inclination to act out of it, I take refuge in these words, a prayer of Shantideva’s, a great practitioner of the Bodhisattva vows:

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

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Jonah House core community was happy to spend time with 2000 other good folks at Thurgood Marshall/BWI airport outside Baltimore, on Sunday January 29, 2017, protesting President Trump’s ban on Muslims, and in support of those who had been detained and finally released.

We think Thurgood Marshall, watching the scene from that great cloud of witnesses, heartily approved this outpouring for tolerance and compassion.

Thanks to Franny Lerner for taking the pic and sending it to us.

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By Joe Byrne

On January 20, I was one of thousands who came to Washington DC to inaugurate the resistance to Donald Trump!

I started off at the metro stop in Takoma Park. I got off the metro at Columbia Heights, strapped on my marching drum, donned my signs, and walked down to Malcolm X Park where the ANSWER rally was already in progress.

As I was walking towards the rally, I saw the statue of Joan of Arc and thought wouldn’t it be nice if her sword were replaced with a flower. As I got closer I saw that that’s exactly what someone had done (I believe Joan lost her sword some time ago). There was Joan clutching a red carnation. She was also wearing a revolutionary red sash.

 

The crowd was sparse but spirited. There were some inspired speakers, including folks from the Equality Coalition, a radical LGBTQIA group.

There were a lot of good signs. I like the one above: “Make a stranger smile. Be the change.” And this one: “If you aren’t terrified, you’re not paying attention.” I guess this is a variant of the more common “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Actually, with Trump at the helm, you don’t have to pay much attention to be outraged. Everything he does, every word he speaks, is outrageous.

My friend Pete Perry took this picture of me and the sign I made for the day, which reads: “Unified Resistance Trumps Trump.”

I didn’t stay for the whole rally. I wanted to get to Columbus Circle (in front of Union Station) for the DisruptJ20 march (the ANSWER folks would be marching from Malcolm X Park to join the DisruptJ20 march at McPherson Square).

Walking with my signs (but not drumming yet), I headed to the U St. Cardozo metro stop. On the way, I saw this bit of graffiti:

I’m not sure who Professor (Something)bridge is. Is this supposed to be Dame Edna Everage (the hair style is similar, but Dame Edna’s hair is usually purple)? It also looks a bit like the Iron Maiden, Maggie Thatcher.

I took the metro to Gallery Place and walked to Union Station, wearing my signs (the sign I had on my back said “Swords into Plowshares”). This is what I saw when I got to the march at Columbus Circle: the water protectors from Standing Rock leading the march.

The march was just getting underway. I joined in.

I climbed a barrier and took this picture along the way:

And this one a little further along:

We marched for quite a while, walking parallel to the inaugural parade route. I found some other drummers and drummed along on my darbuka (metal drum from Turkey). The march ended at McPherson Square, a few blocks from Peace Park (Lafayette Park) and the White House.

I waited for the Bread and Puppet figures to arrive at the park. It’s not a march if they’re not there!

There was a festival atmosphere at McPherson Square (where a few hours earlier the police had been shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters). I found a ragtag drummer group and joined in with my drum.

Then the drummers were joined by a ragtag marching band. I pulled out my kazoo and played that, along with my drum.

I really loved this banner of a tree (and a Trump-faced Magritte pipe? – “The Treachery of Images”):

I thought this punning poster, based on Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama “Hope” poster, was clever. The “Dump Trump” banner was less clever, but certainly colorful!

Speaking of Shepard Fairey, there were quite a few of his new creations being carried in the march. Here’s one “We the People are greater than fear”):

Here are two:

There was at least one more. You can see all three here.

There were graffiti artists hard at work when we arrived at McPherson Square. I didn’t stay to watch them finish.

I did stay long enough to here a speech by one of the native American leaders at Standing Rock:

His message was basically this: We’re all in this together. It’s time to resist because Trump and his minions will try to take it all, and trample everything we’re worked for. Stand up and resist!

I left the rally soon after. I walked with my signs towards Dupont Circle. I passed a ritzy hotel and a lady in pearls and furs said “We’re going to make America great for you, too, sir.” She may actually believe that. But it won’t be too long before it’s clear that Trump and the rest of the one percent mean to keep everything for themselves. When I got to Dupont Circle, I saw that resisters had preceded me:

I ended my march at one of my favorite haunts at Dupont Circle: Teaism. The place was crowded so I drank my tea outside. You can see my darbuka, and the backside of my “Unified Resistance Trumps Trump” sign, which reads “PEACE between people of all colors and creeds”.

The tea I drank was called “World Peace.” When I ordered it the guy behind the counter said: “That’s what we need. World Peace.” I replied, “Yes, we certainly do.” And I hope to do my part in the next four years, at least.

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MLK Day Quotes

9 MLK Quotes the Mainstream Media Won’t Cite

Kali Holloway [1] / AlterNet [2]

April 29, 2015

The Martin Luther King Jr. who is cynically trotted out every time racial unrest erupts in our cities is the MLK who can be conveniently used to prop up the status quo. He is MLK reduced to “I Have A Dream,” used in conservative political ads [3] to scare-monger about invading, job-stealing Mexican immigrants. He is the almost wholly fabricated MLK whom the modern GOP claims would today be one of their own [4], presumably standing alongside them as they vote against the poor, people of color and women of every race at every opportunity.

In reality, those examples rely on half-truths and half-reveals of who MLK truly was. In real, big-picture life, MLK was far more radical than the cherry-picked lines from his speeches and books would suggest, a man who moved further left over the course of his long and weary fight for African-American civil rights. By 1966, MLK had become an outspoken opponent of “liberal” white complicity in white supremacy, of American imperialism and warmongering, of the capitalist system itself. Modern right-wingers’ use of quotes from MLK (here are a few examples [5]) to twist and misuse his words in ways that belie much of what he ultimately came to stand for.

The next time you see MLK corrupted and misused as a tool of capitalism, racism, unchecked white supremacy, and war, recall that MLK said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Here are several more examples of MLK’s most radical statements.

1. “Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains? The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”

—  Where Do We Go From Here1967 [6]

2. “I contend that the cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

—  60 Minutes Interview, 1966 [7]

3. “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

—  “The Other America,” 1968 [8]

4. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

—  “Revolution of Values,” 1967 [9]

5. “Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad.”

—  “The Three Evils of Society,” 1967 [10]

6. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

—“Beyond Vietnam,” 1967 [11]

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

— Where Do We Go From Here1967 [6]

7. “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”

— “The Three Evils of Society,” 1967 [10]

8. “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.”

— Southern Christian Leadership Conference speech, 1967 [12]

9. “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

— Letter From a Birmingham Jail1963 [13]

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/riot-language-unheard-9-mlk-quotes-mainstream-media-wont-cite

Links:

[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/kali-holloway
[2] http://alternet.org
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26QvdmrfnCE
[4] http://www.newsmax.com/US/martin-luther-king-republican/2013/09/01/id/523296/
[5] http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/the-right-has-a-dream/
[6] https://books.google.com/books?id=ka4TcURYXy4C&pg=PT24&lpg=PT24&dq=The+majority+of+white+Americans+consider+themselves+sincerely+committed+to+justice+for+the+Negro.&source=bl&ots=2gq-sz45O9&sig=7Q4p5qhAzPvUqNyRzJRvFDdxIJE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jvBAVdSlO7eBsQTpg4F4&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=The%20majority%20of%20white%20Americans%20consider%20themselves%20sincerely%20committed%20to%20justice%20for%20the%20Negro.&f=false
[7] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mlk-a-riot-is-the-language-of-the-unheard/
[8] http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/
[9] http://zinnedproject.org/2013/04/martin-luther-king-jr-delivers-revolution-of-values-speech-1967/
[10] http://www.scribd.com/doc/134362247/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-The-Three-Evils-of-Society-1967#scribd
[11] http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/MLKapr67.html
[12] https://books.google.com/books?id=HWqjxBEPPlEC&pg=PA209&lpg=PA209&dq=The+evils+of+capitalism+are+as+real+as+the+evils+of+militarism+and+evils+of+racism&source=bl&ots=HR3bZGU4EY&sig=GnvYDrnaLkIor5WkZQsTpY-1akM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jPxAVey9MsbdsATJ54CgAQ&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=The%20evils%20of%20capitalism%20are%20as%20real%20as%20the%20evils%20of%20militarism%20and%20evils%20of%20racism&f=false
[13] http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

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Joe, Ardeth and Carol were able to participate in the recent Holy Innocents witness at the Pentagon. Joe helped out with the singing, while Ardeth and Carol got themselves arrested for the sake of peace, and for the children who are so often the victims of war. This year’s witness was a special commemoration of Fr. Dan Berrigan, SJ, who died this past April 30. There were many bigger-than-life-size Dan Berrigan cut-outs carried to the Pentagon. Quite of few of them got arrested!

Photos care of Lin Romano.

Here Ardeth and Carol, and others, have taken the hill overlooking the Metro entrance to the Pentagon. It’s 7am – dawn on December 28.

 

The sisterhood of protesters are cuffed and wait to be taken away.

From behind you can see Ardeth and Carol waiting to be loaded onto the police van.

Here are folks in the supposed free speech pen, including some friends visiting from South Korea.

Madonna and child (and “Uncle” Dan) at the Pentagon.

Here is a poster showing the famous picture from the witness of Dan and Phil Berrigan as part of the Catonsville 9 in 1968.


Those not arrested leave the Pentagon. Joe holds the speaker and helps lead song.

 

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Note: This message on nonviolence by Pope Francis was issued on New Year’s Day, the World Day of Peace. Sr. Carol shared it with us at our Sunday liturgy on New Year’s Day. Now we share it with you.

 

Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace

1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,[1] and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. [2] In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world

2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News

3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.[3]

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’comes from God”.[4] He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.[5] The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.[6]

More powerful than violence

4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.[7] For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.[8] Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.[9] In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.

The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.[10] This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.[11]
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.[12] I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.[13] Violence profanes the name of God.[14] Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”[15]

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence

5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.[16] From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.[17] An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.[18] I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.[19]

My invitation

6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.

This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.[20] To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected.[21] Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.[22]

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.[23] Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion

7. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.[24] In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.[25]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

Franciscus

Citations

[1] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[2] PAUL VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
[3] “The Legend of the Three Companions”, Fonti Francescane, No. 1469.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Angelus, 18 February 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] MOTHER TERESA, Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1979.
[8] Meditation, “The Road of Peace”, Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 19 November 2015.
[9] Homily for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016.
[10] No. 23.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Address to Representatives of Different Religions, 3 November 2016.
[13] Address to the Third World Meeting of Popular Movements, 5 November 2016.
[14] Cf. Address at the Interreligious Meeting with the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and Representatives of Different Religious Communities, Baku, 2 October 2016.
[15]Address in Assisi, 20 October 2016.
[16] Cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 90-130.
[17] Cf. ibid., 133, 194, 234.
[18] Cf. Message for the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 7 December 2014.
[19] Encyclical Laudato Si’, 230.
[20] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 227.
[21] Cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 16, 117, 138.
[22] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 228.
[23] Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio instituting the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, 17 August 2016.
[24] Regina Coeli, Bethlehem, 25 May 2014.
[25]Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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The Danger

On January 20, the military officer carrying the nuclear codes who follows the President everywhere, will follow Barack Obama to the inaugural platform. When he leaves, the officer will start following President Donald J. Trump. From that moment on, Trump will have the unfettered ability to launch one or one thousand nuclear warheads whenever he pleases. Four minutes after he gives the order, the missiles will fly. No one can stop him, short of a full-scale mutiny. Once launched, the missiles cannot be recalled.

Almost 1,000 nuclear warheads, each many times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, are kept on missiles ready to launch in minutes. This is called high alert, or launch-on-warning, or, more commonly, hair-trigger alert.

It is a relic of the Cold War. Nuclear commanders wanted the ability to launch their land-based missiles before an enemy attack could destroy them. For years, experts have warned that this was a dangerous practice, subject to false alarms, mistakes, misunderstanding and human error. And it is not necessary. The weapons in our alert subs and bombers are not vulnerable to surprise attack. We have more than enough weapons to deter an attack or respond to one.

While running for the presidency in 2008, Obama said:

“Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation. I believe that we must address this dangerous situation — something that President Bush promised to do when he campaigned for president back in 2000, but did not do once in office.”

Obama didn’t do it, either. Many of the very people he appointed to implement his reforms sided with the nuclear bureaucracy to stop him. The State Department posted a condescending explanation about why we need to be able to destroy the world within 4 minutes, assuring us that this was safe and reasonable. Rereading the post now, one can see the how much of the argument rests on supreme confidence in the judgment of the president of the United States.

Few people have that confidence now. Obama has thirty days to fix his mistake. Thirty days to prevent the worst disaster imaginable.

The Solution

Yes, this will be hard. Yes, much of the defense bureaucracy will argue against him. Yes, Obama has said he doesn’t want to “box in” his successor.

Yet, the press reports that in the last few days:

“Obama has used his final weeks in office to press for new rules on coal mining pollution, offshore drilling and the venting of planet-warming methane — all of which are likely to be challenged or repealed by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.”

If the president can do this for parts of the environment, he can take this one simple step to safeguard the entire planet.

Scores of leading nuclear scientists wrote to the President asking him to take nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert. You can now add your voice.

Ploughshares Fund has started a public petition to President Obama. Join us.

Tell the president to end this obsolete policy. President Trump could still launch nuclear weapons in an emergency, but it would take hours or days. This gives time for consultations, consideration, time to check mistakes and blunt the impulses of the moment. More time doesn’t weaken our national security; it strengthens it.

Please sign the petition now. It says:

“Now more than ever, we call on you to ensure calmer heads prevail. Taking this critical step would bring profound security benefits for all Americans by reducing the risk of nuclear disaster.”

Urge the President to lock the nuclear door before he leaves.

https://www.change.org/p/president-obama-keep-trump-s-finger-off-the-button-nucleartrump

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