REFLECTION: The way to peace is not through violence, but through love

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, January 26, is Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s birthday. How fitting that the most recent reflection from his Peace Pulpit series in NCR is entitled, “The way to peace is not through violence, but through love”! Happy birthday Bishop Gumbleton from all of us at Pax Christi USA! Feel free, readers, to post comments wishing him a happy birthday below or on our Facebook page.]

As I was reflecting on the readings for this Sunday, I thought that because they — at least, the first reading and the Gospel reading — emphasized being called, that maybe this is a vocation Sunday, a Sunday when we think about our own call to follow Jesus. There was a time, I’m sure, and many of you may remember this, when if you happened to go to a Catholic school especially, or another religious ed program, the parents sponsored a vocation day. But it was always focused on being a priest, brother, or religious nun, and so those were the vocations in the church.

verso04But the call that we’re talking about, the real vocation, is the one that is happening in the Scriptures today. It’s the call to every one of us to be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus: one who is intent on listening to Jesus, hearing what he says, watching how he acts, and following him. And sometimes we might think that that’s not so difficult, to follow Jesus. But if we explore a little bit of what it really means to follow Jesus, it’s truly a challenge, but it’s so important that every one of us try to deepen our awareness of our call and what it means.

In the Gospel today, the first ones called by Jesus — Philip and Andrew, and then Simon the next day — all of them immediately follow Jesus, even though at the time they didn’t know exactly where he was going to lead them, what would be expected of them. In the Gospel of Luke, there’s a passage where a young person, a young man, comes up to Jesus enthusiastically because he wants to follow Jesus, he thinks….

To read this entire article, click here.

IMMIGRATION: PCUSA signs onto letter for child welfare professionals at the border

childrenattheborderbutton-smallPax Christi USA has joined with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and other social justice organizations in signing onto a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security to consider having child welfare professionals at the Customs Border Protection (CBP) stations at the southwest border.

The child welfare professionals would assist unaccompanied children and accompanied children migrating to the U.S. These professionals would advocate in a humanitarian way for the safety and protection of these children.

Click here to read the entire letter.

REFLECTION: My future in prison

by Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address:  for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men.  Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.

In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base.  Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone.

Photo by Shane Franklin

Photo by Shane Franklin

When I was imprisoned at Lexington prison in 1988, after a federal magistrate in Missouri sentenced me to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites, other women prisoners playfully nicknamed me “Missiles.”  One of my sisters reliably made me laugh today, texting me to ask if I thought the women this time would call me “Drones.”

It’s good to laugh and feel camaraderie before heading into prison.  For someone like me, very nearly saturated in “white privilege” through much of this arrest, trial, and sentencing process, 90% (or more) of my experience  will likely depend on attitude.

But, for many of the people I’ll meet in prison, an initial arrest very likely began with something like a “night raid” staged in Iraq or Afghanistan, complete with armed police surrounding and bursting into their home to remove them from children and families, often with helicopters overhead, sequestering them in a county jail, often with very little oversight to assure that guards and wardens treat them fairly.  Some prisoners will not have had a chance to see their children before being shipped clear across the country.  Some will not have been given adequate medical care as they adjust to life in prison, possibly going without prescribed medicines and often traumatized by the sudden dissolution of ties with family and community.  Some will not have had the means to hire a lawyer and may not have learned much about their case from an overworked public defender.

In the U.S., the criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates people of color for petty offences. Many take plea bargains under threat of excessive, punitive sentences. If I were a young black male, the U.S. penal system quite likely would not have allowed me to turn myself in to a federal prison camp.

I’ll be incarcerated in a satellite camp outside a medical facility where I expect the wards are crowded with geriatric patients. How bleak and unnecessary it is to confine people for decades. My friend Brian Terrell, who was incarcerated in Yankton, South Dakota for six months after crossing the line at Whiteman AFB, told me that while in prison he saw signs on the walls recruiting prisoners to train for medically assisting geriatric male prisoners. I shudder to think of our culture’s pervading callousness, pointlessly consigning so many aged people to languish in prison.

I will be free in three months, but our collective future is most assuredly shackled to a wrongheaded criminal justice system.  I hope this compulsively vengeful and diseased criminal justice system will change during my lifetime.  And I hope that my short sojourn inside Lexington’s prison walls will help me better understand and perhaps help shed some small light on the systems that affect other people trapped there.

During recent visits with concerned communities focused on drone warfare, many have helped me see a connection between the drone killings across Central Asia and the Middle East and the casual executions and incarceration of young black males in our own country.

In Afghanistan, where the noise of air strikes and civil war have faded to the buzz of drones and the silence of empty promises, our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) continue their peace building efforts.  Last week, eighty street children walked from the APV center to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission office to assert their right to education.  Their signs expressed their determination to help create a school for street children.  One sign said, “We don’t want your charity.  We want dignity.”

Our young friends wish to provide a better life for the very children whose only other ways off the streets may well include joining the Taliban, criminal gangs, or some other militia.  Meanwhile, the United States’ vengeful stance as a nation, concerned with protecting its wealth and status at all costs and its safety above all considerations of equity or reason, destroys the lives of the impoverished at home as it destroys those abroad.

The “Black Lives Matter” protests need our support, as do the March 4-6 protests to “Shut Down Creech” Air Force Base.  Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers will continue to do vital work for peace and solidarity, in Kabul, that needs our support. It’s encouraging to know that thousands upon thousands of committed people seek and find work to make our world less like a prison for our neighbors and ourselves.

My address for the next three months is

Kathy Kelly 04971-045
FMC LEXINGTON
FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER
SATELLITE CAMP
P.O. BOX 14525
LEXINGTON, KY  40512

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  For more information, please contact VCNV atinfo@vcnv.org.

NEWS: New book on nonviolence from PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Nancy Small

CASCADE_TemplatePax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace Nancy Small has just published a new book, Seizing the Nonviolent Moments: Reflections on the Spirituality of Nonviolence Through the Lens of Scripture, available from Wipf and Stock.

Nancy is a hospice chaplain, spiritual director, writer, retreat leader, and a seeker of peace. She is known for her work in the areas of spirituality, scripture, pastoral ministry, prayer, and ritual. Her peace work is deeply rooted in the spirituality of nonviolence and focuses on the areas of reconciliation and right relationship. She is a former national coordinator and a current Ambassador of Peace with Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. She served as a regional Pax Christi coordinator with Pax Christi Metro New York and was a member of the Pax Christi USA national council prior to being named national coordinator. Nancy is an Oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie who holds a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a spiritual direction certificate from the Center for Spirituality and Justice. Her commitment to social justice began during her years as a Jesuit Volunteer, when she witnessed poverty first-hand as a pastoral minister and as a legal advocate for people in need. She lives in Worcester, MA with her husband, Carl.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Life is filled with opportunities to practice nonviolence. If we kept track, we’d be surprised at how often we get to choose a violent or nonviolent response to a given situation. Seizing these moments is a spiritual practice that shapes a nonviolent heart. Many people doing this together shapes the heart of a nonviolent world.

This book is a humble and accessible approach to nonviolence based on the belief that no one is perfectly nonviolent. We are all works in progress. Each chapter presents an imaginative interpretation of a scripture story about seizing a nonviolent moment that sheds new light on nonviolence and its spirituality.

Stories of contemporary peacemakers woven throughout offer lessons for living a spirituality of nonviolence for our times. Prophetic words from the US Catholic bishops emphasize the essential role of peacemaking in renewing the earth. Questions following each chapter inspire personal reflection and make the book a welcome resource for classrooms, parishes, and small groups.

The more we seize the nonviolent moments in our lives, the more we are transformed by them. And the more we experience the power of nonviolence within ourselves, the more we believe in its potential to transform our troubled world.

Click here to read endorsements and reviews and order online.

INTERVIEW: Deacon Denny Duffell, called to a life of nonviolence

Denny Duffell is a deacon living in NE Seattle and a Pax Christi USA local group leader. A Matter of Spirit (AMOS), the journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, asked him a few questions about his commitment to nonviolence.

AMOS: What encounters have led you to a nonviolent lifestyle?

dennyDENNY DUFFELL: I was short and scrappy as a kid, but a fight on asphalt, when I threw another kid to the ground and knocked him out, instantly replaced my anger with a dread that I had hurt someone seriously—and it changed my life. I still remember that day.

I matured as a student in the late ’60s, influenced by the civil rights struggle and the anti-war movement. I was raised Catholic, and my reflections on Jesus’ life and teachings led me to reject war, war-making and preparing for war. I sought and received Conscientious Objector status. Instead of serving as a soldier in Vietnam, I spent four years as a Jesuit Volunteer, embracing practical poverty, living in community and working to make a difference in the lives of the poor.

Soon afterwards I met and was deeply moved by Cesar Chavez and his nonviolent struggle for justice, with its strong spiritual roots. I began to read seriously the writings of King, Merton and Dorothy Day.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s my wife and I lived with the Seattle Catholic Worker community and helped campaign against the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor. My “day job” was at an inner city parish, first staffing a food bank and eventually learning neighborhood organizing. Of course, Archbishop Hunthausen was a terrific inspiration; his picture is still on my wall.

Circumstances moved us from our parish and community, but the changes led to my current ministries at St. Bridget Church and Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where I minister as a chaplain. This is a precious gift to my life, and the families have taught me much. One cannot work there without being moved to compassion. This work has taught me that building peace and holding the broken heart are very similar…

Read the entire interview by clicking here. It begins on page 9.

REFLECTION: State of the Union 2015

Jim Hugby Jim Hug, S.J.

“And Jesus looked around the room,
angry and grieved at their hardness of heart.”  [Mk. 3:5]

After listening to the State of the Union address and several Republican responses, I also find myself depressed, angry, grieving at the hardness of heart our politics spews at us.

Through a full hour of claiming some successes and promoting “middle class economics,” President Obama could not [dared not?] once mention the poor of the nation or the world.

Just 2 hours before, PBS posted a news Bulletin:

“The 85 wealthiest people in the world
have more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion”
[which is half the world’s population].

Not one mention from the president.

And the Republicans who spoke kept insisting that it’s tax breaks for the wealthy that will eventually be what helps the middle class.

“And Jesus looked around the room,
angry and grieved at their hardness of heart.”  [Mk. 3:5]