Activism

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On October 24, 2019, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 were all found guilty of all four counts. They await sentencing, date to be announced.

The Kings Bay Plowshares continue to get attention in the media. Below are links to two articles about the Kings Bay Plowshares, and a Baltimore radio interview with Jonah House co-founder Liz McAlister, about her participation in the action.

On November 25, 2019, Tom Hall, of the Midday program on Baltimore’s WYPR, broadcast an interview with Liz McAlister:
https://www.wypr.org/post/update-baltimore-peace-activist-elizabeth-mcalister

On November 26, 2019, Sam Husseini published this article in Counterpunch:
http://unac.notowar.net/2019/11/26/can-the-religious-left-take-down-nuclear-weapons/

On November 19, Paul Elie published an article in The New Yorker:
https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-pope-and-catholic-radicals-come-together-against-nuclear-weapons?fbclid=IwAR1o1jUnNneAQNfKZBlFAQXmjH3OjCEcb56jJ5WlnUBDpUH8GhPjv3TBirA

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Story in The Guardian
Video of Pope Francis’s Remarks
Full text of the Pope Francis’s Remarks:

The following is the official translation of the full text of a message Pope Francis delivered November 23, 2019, in an address in Nagasaki.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another. The damaged cross and statue of Our Lady recently discovered in the Cathedral of Nagasaki remind us once more of the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families.

One of the deepest longings of the human heart is for security, peace and stability. The possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is not the answer to this desire; indeed they seem always to thwart it. Our world is marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.

Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation. They can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow.

Here in this city which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough. The arms race wastes precious resources that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and to protect the natural environment. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.

A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere. To make this ideal a reality calls for involvement on the part of all: individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations. Our response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted, inspired by the arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust and thus surmount the current climate of distrust. In 1963, Saint John XXIII, writing in his Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, in addition to urging the prohibition of atomic weapons (cf. No. 112), stated that authentic and lasting international peace cannot rest on a balance of military power, but only upon mutual trust (cf. No. 113).

There is a need to break down the climate of distrust that risks leading to a dismantling of the international arms control framework. We are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism which is all the more serious in light of the growth of new forms of military technology. Such an approach seems highly incongruous in today’s context of interconnectedness; it represents a situation that urgently calls for the attention and commitment of all leaders.

For her part, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to promoting peace between peoples and nations. This is a duty to which the Church feels bound before God and every man and woman in our world. We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Last July, the bishops of Japan launched an appeal for the abolition of nuclear arms, and each August the Church in Japan holds a 10-day prayer meeting for peace. May prayer, tireless work in support of agreements and insistence on dialogue be the most powerful “weapons” in which we put our trust and the inspiration of our efforts to build a world of justice and solidarity that can offer an authentic assurance of peace.

Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint, and reject heightening a climate of fear, mistrust and hostility fomented by nuclear doctrines. The current state of our planet requires a serious reflection on how its resources can be employed in light of the complex and difficult implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in order to achieve the goal of an integrated human development. Saint Paul VI suggested as much in 1964, when he proposed the establishment of a Global Fund to assist those most impoverished peoples, drawn partially from military expenditures (cf. Declaration to Journalists, 4 December 1964; Populorum Progressio, 51).

All of this necessarily calls for the creation of tools for ensuring trust and reciprocal development, and counts on leaders capable of rising to these occasions. It is a task that concerns and challenges every one of us. No one can be indifferent to the pain of millions of men and women whose sufferings trouble our consciences today. No one can turn a deaf ear to the plea of our brothers and sisters in need. No one can turn a blind eye to the ruin caused by a culture incapable of dialogue.

I ask you to join in praying each day for the conversion of hearts and for the triumph of a culture of life, reconciliation and fraternity. A fraternity that can recognize and respect diversity in the quest for a common destiny.

I know that some here are not Catholics, but I am certain that we can all make our own the prayer for peace attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

In this striking place of remembrance that stirs us from our indifference, it is all the more meaningful that we turn to God with trust, asking him to teach us to be effective instruments of peace and to make every effort not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

May you and your families, and this entire nation, know the blessings of prosperity and social harmony!

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As most of you know, our dear sister Liz, co-founder and member of Jonah House community, is currently in jail for her role in the King’s Bay Plowshares. On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed on Liz. Here is the link:

https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0608-elizabeth-mcalister-20190906-f5wipjxaebgxlabqumv3o3sbf4-story.html

Liz McAlister with her husband Phil Berrigan.

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Phil Berrigan’s grave in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

Remembering Phil Berrigan on Memorial Day. Phil experienced the horror and futility of war, and spent the rest of his life working for peace, and attempting to end war.

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Today is the one year anniversary of the Kings Bay Plowshares action. Liz McAlister, a member of Jonah House, along with Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ and Mark Colville, remain incarcerated. The other four members of the group are at large but wearing ankle monitors. After one year, the trial date has yet to be set.

Please sign the petition for the Kingsbay Plowshares 7. It asks that charges be dropped against our seven friends, so that they can return to doing good works in the world.

https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/global-petition?link_id=2&can_id=a9df644640c4c1c9b09fb9bcd0cb2d59&source=email-press-release-tutu-nobel-winners-support-protesters-in-jail-one-year&email_referrer=email_522630___subject_674228&email_subject=press-release-tutu-supports-new-petition-for-anti-nuclear-protesters

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Mark Colville is one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, along with Jonah House member Liz McAlister and five others. He’s been in jail exactly one year today. The following is a prison epistle that powerfully shows the injustice of the so-called justice system.

March 2019

Dear Friends,

Greetings and hugs all around! With a grateful heart I commend all who continue to make the sacrifices necessary to keep our doors at the Amistad Catholic Worker open, the kitchen warm, and the table set, especially during these harsh months and under the added strain of my extended absence. For some time now, I’ve hesitated to check in from here in Georgia before being able to offer a bit of clarity with regard to the legal situation of the Kings Bay Plowshares in Brunswick Federal Court. But with delays encroaching now into Spring, and still no action being taken by the magistrate judge on our pretrial motions, a brief update has become increasingly overdue.

Actually, what has been most on my heart these past three months is a deep sense of responsibility to speak about this jail where I’ve been warehoused now for the better part of a year. It is labeled a “detention center,” so-called because the people being kept here have been arrested but have not yet had their cases adjudicated. Considered a temporary holding facility, its conditions and amenities are suited to accommodate the accused for a a few weeks or a month at most, irrespective of the reality that – for reasons I’ll explain in a moment – half a year or more is closer to the average length of stay. This means that all the detained, most of whom are suspected of low-level or nonviolent offenses, are held in maximum security conditions for months, and in some cases years, on end. We are locked down on crowded cellblocks, essentially for 24 hours a day. The diet is heavy on starch, sugar and sodium, which rapidly foster obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease when combined with a sedentary lifestyle.(I’ve witnessed three people having strokes, and one man I knew died of heart failure in his cell late last summer). There is no access to the outdoors nor to physical recreation of any kind; no exercise permitted outside of one’s cell; no visits with loved ones except by video monitor; no use of a library, computer or internet. It also seems to be common knowledge that we are sitting on top of a toxic waste dump, but I have neither the means nor the fortitude to investigate that particular report.

As for the 400 to 500 detainees here, most are in the same predicament as Liz, Steve and I, being held indefinitely with their cases pending. Several systemic factors conspire to make this so.Bail is generally set extremely high, unaffordably so for many, although this can sometimes be remedied at a bail reduction hearing after at least six weeks have passed. The bigger issue, though, is what’s referred to as the “probation hold.” In Glynn County, persons arrested for any reason while on probation can be jailed for renewable terms of up to 60 days, and simply forced to wait until a probation violation hearing is scheduled. As anyone who’s had the experience knows, virtually any encounter with a police officer on probation can result in an arrest, regardless of probable cause or the likelihood of an infraction being provable in court . Merely being on probation is reason enough.

Practically speaking, lengthy probation terms usually have little to do with supervision, rehabilitation or public safety. They have plenty to do with funneling people back through the criminal justice industrial complex, which seems to be a significant source of revenue and employment in municipalities like this one. Convictions in the Brunswick court, 90 percent of which are obtained by plea bargain, commonly bring sentences which include probation terms of between 3 and 20 years! The prisoners here call it being “on paper.” Once they are on a probation hold, an investigation of the newly-alleged crime can proceed, or not, at the leisure of the D.A.’s office. Of course, whether or not they find evidence, the living conditions at the detention center will usually provide ample coercive power to secure another conviction. Obviously, after 60 or 120 or 180 days of 24-hour lockdown, almost anyone is well-disposed to accept whatever plea will result in an immediate release, even if it means being on paper for another decade. Thus, there is ensured an endless supply of indefinite detainees at the Glynn County Detention Center, and their demographic won’t surprise anyone; at present, I am one of three white people in a cell block of thirty-four.

From the inside, I find the real horror of all this in its utter normalcy. Sometimes it takes a rigorous act of the will to maintain a personal relationship with reality. I’m living in a place where hundreds of people accused of low-level and/or nonviolent crimes are being held indefinitely, under maximum security conditions, having neither been granted due process, nor convicted nor sentenced. The presumption of innocence is, quite literally, a punchline. The totalitarian culture of coercion that dictates every aspect of life in a maximum security jail has essentially chewed up and swallowed the “justice system” here, such that it is not honestly possible to even use that term without the disclaimer of quotation marks. Broken families bear a terrible burden, some driven from poverty into destitution. The racial bias could hardly be more obvious. Yet it all seems to function beyond significant public notice, and has nothing to do with questions of morality, necessity, or service to the public good.

Of late, I’ve grown convinced that it couldn’t be more fitting for the Kings Bay Plowshares to have been swept up and tossed into a human dumpster such as this. The racket they run here gives real substance, on the neighborhood level, to what U.S. nuclear policy – our national religion – has been preaching to every child born on the planet for the last seventy-five years: No Lives Matter. However long it might draw out, I hope that my incarceration here will in some way speak this truth. The idols we named at Kings Bay are not sleeping. They demand sacrifice. The god of the national security state feasts on the blood of the poor.

“The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., March, 1968. Yes, indeed.

– Mark Colville

[As of this writing, the Kings Bay Plowshares have been waiting many months for a ruling from magistrate judge Benjamin Cheesbro on a pre-trial argument they have placed before the court. The essence of their position is that a jury should be allowed to hear and consider the principles of faith and conscience that informed their action at Kings Bay, and that the government has acted improperly by filing criminal charges against them. The seven were arrested on April 5, 2018.]

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Former members and dear friends of Jonah House Sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert have won another award (ICANN, an organization they have done much work with this past year, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018). This time it was the Pax Christi Peacemaker Awards. The text from Pax Christi follows.

– – – – –

On Monday, June 4, 2018, Ardeth Platte, OP and Carol Gilbert, OP accepted an award on behalf of peacemakers around the world. Mary T. Yelenick from the Pax Christi International UN-NGO Delegation presented the award.

“We were privileged to be present for the Pax Christi New York Metro Awards Banquet and Fundraiser. Young and older people received awards for charity and justice work. We received the award for all of you who have surrounded us over many years. All connected with us receive a pause in the peacemaking labor for a gathering of this nature to say “thank you” to and for each other. War makers are lifted in memorials all over the world, so this memorial belongs once again to Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters who challenged war and the nuclear arms race for years and continue to do so.” — Peace, Ardeth and Carol
___________________

The message on the award read:

Pax Christi Metro New York Gratefully presents the Sister Christine Mulready Peacemaker Award For 2018 to Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte OP

Carol and Ardeth, your life-long commitment to peace is grounded in the love that both Thea Bowman and Dorothy Day proclaim. From the classroom to the public square, from government facilities to military bases, from places of worship to diplomatic centers, you have allowed love to conquer fear. Like Thea, you embrace a simple life that is open to people and filled with laughter and music. Like Dorothy, you know the link between poverty and militarism and you stand up and speak out against both.

Thank you for your great courage to live, love, and laugh, to believe that peace is possible, and to help to bring it into being. We are privileged to honor you.
___________________________

DSGR Corporate Stance on Nuclear Disarmament

The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids call upon the United States government to lead the way for the global abolition of nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction by adopting a plan to lock down, dismantle, reduce, and eliminate nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction.

We call for immediate development, adoption and implementation of a plan that will ensure that there will be no new nuclear weapons, no new materials for nuclear weapons, and no testing of nuclear weapons.

We will work with all people of goodwill until there is no chance that a nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction can come into the hands of anyone wishing to do harm.

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As in years past, we began our Lenten journey at the White House, on Ash Wednesday. Joe Byrne and Liz McAlister were there to represent Jonah House.

Liz McAlister, emeritus member of Jonah House, with Michael Walli of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, in Washington, DC.

Participants marked the street in front of the White House with crosses made of ashes.

Follow this link for a full account of the prayer service at the White House, written by Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:

Report of Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance Outside White House-February 14, 2018

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Wonder article about the wonderful work being done by Sisters Ardeth and Carol, with ICANW (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). Ardeth and Carol left Jonah House to dedicate themselves full-time to this peacemaking work.

 

http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/nunsnucleardisarm.aspx

http://www.icanw.org/

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Our dear friends Ardeth and Carol are in Germany protesting at a German airbase where American nuclear weapons are deployed. Here’s a report from Germany:

On Monday, July 17, 2017, Ralph Hutchison <orep@earthlink.net> wrote:

US citizens take action against US nuclear bombs in Europe

Remove US flag; Blockade main gate; Meet with Base Commander

Among the American delegation were CWers:
Steve Baggarly, Virginia;  Susan Crane, California ; Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.

Others we all know well ….
Srs Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Jonah House, Maryland; Ralph Hutchison, OREP Tennessee; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Nukewatch, Wisconsin

A delegation of eleven US citizens joined with activists from China, Russia, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, Belgium and Britain at a peace encampment at the German airbase in Büchel, Germany, where US B61 bombs are deployed.

On Sunday, July 16, following the celebration of a Christian liturgy, Dutch and US citizens removed the fence blocking the main entrance to the airbase and proceeded on site, the Dutch delegation carrying bread for a “Bread Not Bombs” action and the US delegation carrying the text of the Nuclear Ban Treaty passed on July 7 at the United Nations in New York City.

More than thirty activists entered the site without incident, passing through the security gate that was accidentally left unlocked and unstaffed. The Dutch delegation placed loaves of bread on the wings of jet fighters; the US delegation lowered the US flag from the flagpole, requested a meeting with the base commander, and read the text of the UN Treaty to soldiers at the base.

After forty-five minutes, guards ran to seal the gates and police were summoned. Eventually, all activists were expelled from the facility without being charged.

On Monday, July 17, activists woke to find themselves prisoners in the peace camp as those attempting to approach the base with banners were rebuffed by police. More than a dozen police vans ringed the roundabout at the gate.

Undeterred, activists traveled through the woods and sat down to block the road leading into the airbase. They were joined by two other teams who traveled to blockade other entrance gates. The US delegation asked again to meet with the Base commander and were told that he would arrive shortly to meet with them.

When the commander arrived, they delivered the Treaty to him and then left the blockade to greet workers arriving at the main gate with banners requesting the removal of US B61 bombs from German soil. The Dutch activists remained in the road for another forty-five minutes before being removed by police. There were no arrests.

The US delegation arrived at the invitation of German activists to participate in a twenty week encampment at Büchel.

In the US delegation: Steve Baggarly, Virginia; Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Maryland; Susan Crane, California; Carmella Cole and Ralph Hutchison, Tennessee; Leona Morgan, New Mexico; Zara Brown, Minnesota; John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer, Wisconsin, and Kathy Boylan, Washington, DC.

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