IRAQ-SYRIA: Alternatives to bombing ISIS

by Rick Cohen, Win Without War

Whether it is called ISIS, ISIL, or simply IS, the Islamic State is clearly one of the more barbaric terrorist groups ever to appear on the international scene. Its grisly murder of two American journalists in a videotaped beheading prompted President Obama to elevate ISIL from his characterization of the terrorists as a “J.V. team” to a “cancer” that must be “degraded and destroyed.” Not long ago, Obama dismissed as a “fantasy” that providing military aid to the Free Syrian Army, an army of “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth” would render them ableto fight both ISIS and the Assad regime; now the president has reversed his position and is calling to arm the remnants of the moderate opposition.

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Dancing past his recent proclamations, President Obama gave a primetime speech to the nation calling for going after ISIL and other terrorist organizations wherever they might be, including the possibility of bombing ISIL in Syria. Citing the collaboration of other nations, including Albania and the Maldives (sounding like a revival of President Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”), President Obama promised no U.S. combat troops would be engaged in fighting on the ground in Iraq or Syria, just in the air. Essentially, the antiwar president announced—vaguely, to be sure—the commencement of an open-ended war against ISIL that most observers suggest would be one heck of a very long campaign.

Why did the president reverse ground so quickly? He has been pretty steadfast in his reluctance to take military action until the recent 150 or so bombing sorties that U.S. forces have carried out against ISIL in Iraq. With the bravado of pronouncing the one-day-old new Iraq administration of Haider al-Abadi (which skeptics don’t think merits the president’s confidence) a major improvement over that of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and implying that Saudi Arabia (which always talks and never acts) and Turkey would be putting “boots on the ground” against ISIL, President Obama responded to the increasing war fervor in the U.S. and promised action…

Read the entire article by clicking here.

REFLECTION: Bombing Islamic State is fueling the violence

Tony Maglianoby Tony Magliano

We need to do something!

With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be stopped.

So yes, we need to do something. But that “something” is not more violence and war. Answering violence and war, with more violence and war, is always part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Shortly after the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, St. Pope John Paul II wrote: “No, never again, war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution to the very problems which provoked the war.”

There is a collective amnesia that continues to block government and society’s memory that we have been there, and done that, many times before. Therefore, the war machine keeps rolling on with the encouragement of hawkish politicians, pundits and the military-industrial-complex.

During a “Democracy Now” interview with Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, Khouri said the major problems that lead to the formation and growth of militant Islamic groups like the Islamic State, are brutal dictators – often backed by the United States – who rule much of the Arab-Islamic world, and a foreign military presence like the U.S. in Muslim majority countries.

Khouri said American led military action in the Islamic world is the best recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

And it stands to reason. Imagine how most people would react – including many Christians – to a foreign power bombing and killing their loved ones.

So, what would be a Gospel-based way of responding to this violent crisis?

The Gospel calls us to mount an active response to suffering based on love and nonviolence.

This means no bombs, no drones, no missiles.

The U.S. and other arms supplying nations need to stop flooding the Middle East (and world) with weapons. A total multilateral arms embargo is needed.

And the diplomatic tool must be vigorously pursued.

Yes, negotiations with the Islamic State are highly unlikely. But negotiating just settlements to the grievances of hurting populations in Iraq and Syria will dry up support for the Islamic State and other militant groups.

The U.S. and other wealthy nations need to provide adequate resources for the quick evacuation of Christians and other minorities who are in harm’s way.

And funds and supplies need to be massively increased to assist nations – like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – that are being overwhelmed by Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Finally, the U.S. and other industrial nations need to do their fair share in offering emergency asylum to these poor, frightened refugees.

Please email and call (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) your two U.S. senators and representative, and President Obama (202-456-1111) urging them to stop the bombing and start the nonviolent actions mentioned above.

It would do us all well to seriously reflect on the words of Pope Francis: “War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE: Remarks at the National Press Club launch of Campaign Nonviolence

Rev. John Dear, S.J.by John Dear

The following remarks were delivered on September 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as part of the launch of Campaign Nonviolence’s week of actions. 

Today we are pleased to announce the launch of Campaign Nonviolence, a growing grassroots movement that begins this Sunday, September 21st, International Peace Day, with a week of over 225 protests, marches and rallies across the country in every state against war, military spending, poverty, the epidemic of violence and catastrophic climate change.

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I want to welcome my friends here, Ken Butigan, director of Campaign Nonviolence, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, of the HipHop Caucus who is on our board and who also works with 350.org, my friend Marie Dennis a long time peace activist with Pax Christi, and chair of Pax Christi International, and my friend Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a long time advocate for peace and justice. I thank Aric Caplan and Caplan Communications for helping us spread the word about Campaign Nonviolence.

What we are doing this week is historic. As you know, change only happens from the bottom up, from grassroots movement building, from movements that grow and won’t go away. That’s what we learn from the Abolitionists, the Suffragists, the Labor movement, the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

This week, with Campaign Nonviolence, people across the country are coming together and, for the first time in decades, connecting the dots, making the links between the pressing issues of our time, taking to the streets in a groundswell of coalitions, demanding change on all fronts.

With these 225 marches, rallies, and public events, thousands of ordinary Americans are speaking out in over 150 cities against war, and poverty and environmental destruction, and also calling for the visionary nonviolence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a way forward for our country and the world, saying that we want a new culture of peace with justice, a new culture of nonviolence.

As part of the Campaign Nonviolence, we published my book, “The Nonviolent Life,” and earlier this year, I toured the country for four months, and visited 35 cities where events will take place. I met with thousands of people who will be taking to the streets, and I heard for myself that people are fed up. They are sick and tired of this epidemic of violence, of our permanent war economy, of our ignoring catastrophic climate change, of poverty, and racism and killing, and serving the one percent and their oil companies and weapons manufacturers.

So in Salt Lake City, they’re gathering to rally for nuclear disarmament and the use of those funds for environmental cleanup. In Sarasota, they’re marching for immigrants, low-wage workers, and an end to U.S. war-making. In Chicago and Wilmington, they’re marching against gun violence in our inner cities. In Bangor, Maine, they’re hosting an “End the Violence” rally.

In Santa Fe, a thousand people will march against climate change and for new just environmental policies. In Wisconsin, they’ll be vigiling against U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. Peace vigils will be held from Honolulu to Boise to Buffalo to Little Rock to Washington, D.C. demanding an end to our war-making and the waste of billions of dollars for weapons instead of human needs. I urge every to visit our website: www.campaignnonviolence.org, to see the lists of actions and events.

With these marches, thousands of Americans are saying our government is broken, our leaders are failing us, and it’s time for a change. What do we want? Drastic cuts in the bloated U.S. military budget; the abolition of nuclear weapons and drones; the reallocation of those enormous funds–trillions of dollars–for food, housing, jobs, healthcare, schools and environmental cleanup.  We want fair wages, new immigration policies, the reform of our criminal justice and prison system. We want an aggressive fight against catastrophic climate change, massive funding for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, such as solar and wind, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ending the keystone pipeline and fracking and cleaning up our water, land and air, and signing an international treaty for rapid, verifiable action to reverse climate change.

But we want more than that! We want Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of nonviolence, and we want it to be implemented. We want a new culture of peace, justice and nonviolence.  As we move closer to the brink of global catastrophe through ongoing war, extreme poverty and catastrophic climate change, we see that Dr. King was right: creative nonviolence is the only sane, rational, intelligent choice. Nonviolence is our future, and it’s time we become people of nonviolence.

That means, too, that we do not support the bombing of Iraq and Syria as the way forward to peace. We have been bombing Iraq for 23 years and this warmaking has not brought peace to Iraq, the Middle East or us. War cannot stop terrorism because war is terrorism. War always sows the seeds for future wars. Peaceful means are the only way to a peaceful future.

Americans are sick and tired of war. They know that the world is becoming smaller, that we need to find nonviolent ways to resolve international conflict, and dig out the roots of war and terrorism which are poverty and global systemic injustice.

This Sunday I will speak at the peace rally at the Climate March in New York City, then I will come back here on Tuesday morning to join the local Campaign nonviolence action. We will gather at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Lafayette Park in front of the White House to speak out against this culture of violence and injustice, and call for a new culture of peace and nonviolence, and engage in nonviolent direct action.

All across the country, thousands of people will be speaking out. It’s time our leaders listened to the people and worked to make peace with justice a reality.

REFLECTION: Lessons learned in the Bucca Camp

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

In January of 2004 I visited “Bucca Camp,” a U.S.-run POW camp named for a firefighter lost in the 2001 collapse of  New York’s World Trade Center. Located near the isolated port city of Umm Qasr,  in southern Iraq, the network of tent prisons had been constructed by U.S. Coalition authorities. Friends of five young men thought to be imprisoned there had begged our three-person Voices delegation to try and visit the camp and find out what had happened to their loved ones.

This was a year before the capture of Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, who, starting in 2005, would spend four years in the camp under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, on his way to becoming the head of the recently founded Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Our friends with the Christian Peacemaker Teams had developed a database of people thought to be held by the U.S. military. They assembled their list of 6,000 prisoners as much through contact with terrified loved ones as through tireless and persistent correspondence with U.S. authorities.

They were able to find the “Capture Tag” numbers for two of the prisoners. These two people, at least, were still alive and at the camp.

Camp Bucca in Iraq.

Camp Bucca in Iraq.

With a translator, our small Voices delegation headed from Baghdad to Basra and then on to Umm Qasr, assuredly one of the bleakest spots on the planet. It was Saturday afternoon. At the outskirts of the prison, a U.S. soldier politely told us that we were too late. Saturday visiting hours were over, and the next visiting day would be the following Thursday. Reluctant to leave, we explained that we’d come a long way, along a dangerous road, and that we wouldn’t be able to come back a second time. An hour later, jostling on the benches of an army jeep, we were taken over bumpy desert terrain to the prison visitor’s tent.

There we met with four of the five young men, all in their early twenties, and listened as they shared stories of humiliation, discomfort, monotony, loneliness and great fear born of the uncertainty prisoners face held on zero credible evidence by a hostile power with no evident plans to release them. They seemed immeasurably relieved that we could at least tell their relatives they were still alive.

Upon leaving, we asked to speak with an officer in charge of the Bucca Camp. She said that the outlook for the young men being released wasn’t very positive, but she thought it would be worthwhile to try approaching the International Commission of the Red Cross. “Be glad they’re here with us and not in Baghdad,” she said, giving us a knowing look. “We give them food, clothes, and shelter here. Be glad that they’re not in Baghdad.” I was surprised. At least in Baghdad it wouldn’t be so difficult to visit them. She repeated herself, “I’m just telling you, be glad they’re not in Baghdad.”

Later, in May of 2004, I began to understand what she meant. On May 1, CNN released pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison: The hooded man. The man on a leash. The pyramid. These pictures are now burned into people’s minds. Suddenly there were very few places that seemed as horrible as that prison. Yes, we were very glad the young men we visited were not in Baghdad.

To be very clear, these men at Bucca had been marched naked in front of women soldiers. They’d been told to say “I love George Bush” before they could receive their food rations. They’d slept on the open ground in punishingly cold weather with no mat beneath them and only one blanket. The guards had taunted them and they had had no way of telling their friends they were still alive. But worse humiliation and torture were inflicted on detainees in other U.S. prison centers throughout Iraq.

The November 3, 2005 issue of the New York Review of Books quoted three officers, two of them non-commissioned, stationed with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Mercury in Iraq.

“Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003-2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief… Detainees in Iraq were consistently referred to as PUCs. The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief, where soldiers would go to the PUC tent on their off-hours to “fuck a PUC” or “smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

“Smoking” was not limited to stress relief but was central to the interrogation system employed by the 82nd Airborne Division at FOB Mercury. Officers and NCOs from the Military Intelligence unit would direct guards to “smoke” the detainees prior to an interrogation, and would direct that certain detainees were not to receive sleep, water, or food beyond crackers. Directed “smoking” would last for the twelve to twenty-four hours prior to an interrogation. As one soldier put it: “[The military intelligence officer] said he wanted the PUCs so fatigued, so smoked, so demoralized that they want to cooperate.

Maybe half of the detainees at Camp Mercury, released because they were clearly uninvolved in the insurgency, were nonetheless bearing memories and scars of torture. As one sergeant told Human Rights Watch, “If he’s a good guy, you know, now he’s a bad guy because of the way we treated him.”

When U.S. politicians want to sell a war, their marketing is top notch: they can count on the U.S. public to buy that war at least long enough to become irretrievably committed to it, as long as the advertising for that war leaves them feeling threatened. And no brand, in quite a long time, has been as frightening as the Islamic State.

The violence that brought the Islamic State into being, and which now promises to extend its legacy into ever wider regional violence and polarization, has a long history.

In between the first two Iraq wars, in numerous trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, our Voices delegation members grew to understand the unbearable weariness and suffering of Iraqi families eking out an uncertain existence under punishing economic sanctions.

Between the wars, the death toll in children’s lives alone, from externally imposed economic collapse and from the blockade of food, medicine, water purification supplies and other essentials of survival, was estimated by the U.N. at 5,000 children a month, an estimate accepted without question by U.S. officials.

The most shocking death figures from our 2003 invasion, estimating the eventual toll from war and social breakdown at credibly more than one million, were underestimates as they inevitably took as baseline the inhuman conditions under our years of economic warfare in Iraq.

On September 16, 2014, the New York Times reported on a newly released UN report which notes that in Iraq, “the share of hungry people has soared: Nearly one in four Iraqis are undernourished, according to the report, up from 7.9 percent of the population in the 1990-92 period.”

And now, the U.S. government says that U.S. intervention is once again needed to improve and civilize the nation of Iraq.

It’s widely acknowledged that the 2003 invasion of Iraq radicalized Al-Baghdadi, with his humiliation at Camp Bucca further hardening him. Then the haphazard flood of weapons and easy cash into both Iraq and Syria fueled potential for further war.

This will not be our third Iraq invasion. U.S. assaults, achieved through munitions, through children’s forced starvation, through white phosphorous, through bullet fire, through blockaded medicines, emptied reservoirs and downed power lines, through disbanded police forces and abandoned state industries and cities left to dissolve in paroxysms of ethnic cleansing – it is all one continuous war, beginning long before we finally turned on our former client Saddam in 1991, the longest war in U.S. history, continued now, extending into the future until it has no end that we can plausibly foresee.

One year to the day before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King urged a turn away from the war in Vietnam and a desperately needed rebirth, a “revolution of values” that was all that could free America from future such commitments. It would be so much better for the world if, instead of hearing President Obama’s September 10 speech justifying renewed U.S. military offensives in the region, we could have heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In it, he begs us to see ourselves as we are seen by our so-called enemies. It’s not easy to look in that mirror, but understanding the history of previous U.S. wars and policies, against Iraq, would help us look for alternatives.

We need not choose blindness, or the hatred that lets us be herded in fear. We can reach out with truth, with compassion, with the activist courage that leaps from heart to heart, rebuilding sanity, civility, community, humanity, resistance. We can find hope in our own active work to prove that humanity persists, that history can yearn toward justice and that a love which is in no way comfortable, sentimental bosh remains vigorously at work in a world with such need of it.

* This article first appeared on Telesur English.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence http://www.vcnv.org.

REFLECTION: Ferguson – Reflections on race and racism in America

Scott WrightBy Scott Wright, Former PCUSA National Council member & member of Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore

On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by six bullets fired at close range by a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

His death sparked outrage in this black suburb of St. Louis, and led to weeks of nightly protests in the streets where black residents faced off with a militarized white police force ready to turn on U.S. citizens as though they were enemy combatants.

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It was a familiar story, but something seemed different this time. The police response to the protests looked like they were prepared to invade a village in Iraq or Afghanistan. Black protesters, hands in the air, carried signs with the message: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” What happened?

I remembered last summer, when thousands of people – black and white – returned to the site of the 1963 March of Washington on the 50th anniversary to remember and recommit themselves to work for racial justice in our nation. Then, the mood was festive, though Martin Luther King III reminded the crowd: “Our task is still not done, the journey is not over,” and Congressman John Lewis issued a challenge: “We cannot go back. We cannot wait. We want jobs and freedom.”

This summer, on the eve of the anniversary of the March on Washington, we were reminded by the events in Ferguson of all that has not changed in our country these past fifty years.

Some Are Guilty, All Are Responsible

A few weeks ago, I participated in “A National Service of Mourning in remembrance of those who have died in Palestine and Israel.” Again, a familiar story, but something – the overwhelming use of violence and the media coverage of it – seemed different this time. The BBC reported that 2,104 Palestinians, of whom 1,451 were civilians, were killed in the Israeli airstrikes over Gaza; by contrast, 66 Israeli soldiers and 7 Israeli citizens were killed in the conflict.

The interfaith service began on a note of lamentation and confession, and included voices of Palestinians who had lost family members in Gaza, and an Israeli conscientious objector who refused to fight. I was intensely aware that it mattered whether we came to the service as Christians, Jews or Muslims, because in real life it matters, and we must acknowledge the violence for which each of us is responsible. It mattered and it didn’t matter, because we were joined by our common humanity and mourning for the loss of innocent life, as well as by a common dream for peace. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Some are guilty, all are responsible.”

Prior to and after the service, my thoughts returned to the events in Ferguson, Missouri. I thought, too, that it matters whether we approach Ferguson as whites or as blacks, because, in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “Racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.” It mattered and it didn’t matter, because, again in Dr. King’s words: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Two Societies: One Black, One White – Separate and Unequal

I came of age in the 1960s, and still remember the vivid media images of riots in the streets of major cities across the United States. I remember the night in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, and joined my first protest with blacks and whites on a southern university campus. My roommate was African American, from a poor family in Richmond, Virginia. We watched with horror the scenes on TV of U.S. soldiers with machine-guns on the steps of the U. S. Capitol, and then joined hundreds of fellow protesters, locking arms and singing together, “We Shall Overcome.” I was 18 years old, and became aware for the first time that I had a new identity. I was “white,” and I had just received notice to register for the draft.

These were turbulent times. Even “official” voices declared we were living in “a system of apartheid” in our major cities, and “Our nation was moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” That was the conclusion of the Kerner Report, which was commissioned by President Johnson in 1967 after three years and 24 racial riots in 23 cities between 1964 and 1967.

The commission asked: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?” And it put the blame squarely on white racism: “What white Americans have never fully understood – but what blacks can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

Why did it happen? The report concluded: “Race prejudice has shaped our history decisively; it now threatens to affect our future. White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.” Specifically, “pervasive discrimination and segregation in employment, education and housing have resulted in the continuing exclusion of great numbers of blacks from the benefits of economic progress.” And for many blacks, the police “have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression.”

Powerful words, and a powerful indictment from fifty years ago. How much has changed? The roots of white racism are deep, and go beyond laws that discriminate. White racism is still institutionalized in employment, education and health care, housing and criminal justice practices that exclude great numbers of blacks from the benefits and opportunities of a dignified life with hope for the future.

What Happened in Ferguson?

Two recent articles from The Washington Post, one optimistic and one pessimistic, both by African American professors, are instructive.

The first article (by Fredrick Harris, August 24) asks, “Will Michael Brown Become Emmett Till?” Emmett Till was the black teenager from Chicago who was viciously lynched in Mississippi in 1955 and whose family spoke at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, standing next to the parents of Trayvon Martin, the black youth killed in 2012 by a white man “standing his ground” in Florida. The article’s optimistic conclusion is “no,” things are different now: The cumulative effect of police misconduct against black people has exposed the reality of police brutality; there has been a backlash against rhetoric that blames poor black youth; innovative protest tactics like the ones used in Ferguson have been effective in attracting media attention; and the support of allies demanding justice and reforms in policing is important.

The second article (by Carol Anderson, August 31) says: “Ferguson Isn’t about Black Rage,” it’s about white rage and fear, particularly in light of the changing demographics and predictions that whites will be a minority by the year 2050. Today, the picture is not as hopeful as that painted by the previous article: There is a rash of voter-suppression legislation, a rise in stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality, a foreclosure crisis that stripped blacks of half of their wealth, and the mass incarceration of black youth that is depriving an entire generation of hope.

The Problem Not Talked About

Recently, a friend of mine shared an observation she learned as a social worker: “The only problems that can’t be solved are those that aren’t talked about.” That’s seems to fit the current situation of white racism in America.

Why is it so difficult to engage with one another in a national conversation about racism, or to strategize together – black and white – about how to combat institutional racism? Especially when our friends and our children’s friends, our co-workers and fellow parishioners, are often of another race?

Rev. Bryan Massingale, a priest of the Milwaukee diocese, moral theologian at Marquette University and convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, has addressed many of these concerns in his book, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. His words, I believe, speak to the reality we face, as Americans, as people of faith, and as Catholics:

“Today the continuing resistance to racial equality, despite undeniable progress, can be largely explained by a fundamental ambivalence on the part of the majority of white Americans: their desire to denounce blatant racial injustices, and yet preserve a situation of white social dominance and privilege. To say it plainly, most Americans are committed to both interpersonal decency and systemic inequality.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said something similar in 1967, in words which still ring true: “White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap [of inequality] – essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it. . . . The great majority of Americans are suspended between . . . opposing attitudes. They are uneasy with [racial] injustice but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.”

Only One Third of the Dream?

What would Dr. King say today to his white brothers and sisters regarding our response to the events in Ferguson, and beyond Ferguson to the plight of our African American sisters and brothers in America today? What the Kerner Commission characterized as “a system of apartheid” is still true if we look at the levels of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, access to education and health care along racial lines today.

Perhaps Dr. King would say what he did in his letter fifty years ago from Birmingham Jail:

“I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. . . I  came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.”

Yet he would, perhaps, also express his disappointment with love and with hope: “In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. . . . Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty.”

The recent events in Ferguson challenge us – black and white – to a conversation about race and effective action to end the violence of institutionalized racism. Dr. Martin Luther King’s challenge to eliminate the “giant triplets” of poverty, racism and war inspires us to work for such a magnificent dream. With a little imagination and re-engagement we – and here I express a hope for all of us, black and white – can see the wisdom of Dr. King’s vision to include all three: “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth and with righteous indignation say: ‘This is not just.’” . . . A true revolution of values will strive “to eradicate the last vestiges of racial injustice from our nation. . . Racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.” . . . A true revolution of values “will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’”

It was the struggle of African Americans for racial justice and Dr. King’s Vietnam address at Riverside Church in 1967 that helped turn the tide against the war in Vietnam; and it was the Poor People’s March in 1968 that brought the national disgrace of poverty in the U.S. to the gates of the White House and demanded a reordering of our national priorities to promote justice at home, not war in some distant land. It will take all of us – black and white, immigrant and native-born, Muslim, Christian and Jew – to build an effective movement for justice and peace that can challenge the violence of racism, poverty, and war.

Today we are, in Dr. King’s words, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. . . .” “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

A Word of Caution from the Past

A few months ago – before Ferguson – I visited the American History museum in Washington D.C. and the exhibit on the March on Washington. In its film recollection, you can hear the voices of A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, and many others, as well as the dramatic address of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years later, the words are inspiring – and challenging. The one speech that challenged me the most, however, was given by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who offered a word of caution to the nation on that day in 1963. He said:

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”

All life is precious, and the destruction of any life – black or white, Muslim, Christian, or Jew – is a grave violation of the common humanity and Abrahamic heritage we share. May we not be silent in the face of any violence – be that the institutional violence of poverty, racism or war – but instead work for that day when Dr. King’s Gospel dream of a beloved community may become a reality.

PRAYER: Lamentation for Ferguson, MO

Sr. Anne Louise headshotby Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN
Program Director, Pax Christi USA

Laments are cries of anguish and outrage, groans of deep pain and grief, utterances of profound protest and righteous indignation over injustice, wails of mourning and sorrow in the face of unbearable suffering. Laments name the present pain, and forthrightly acknowledge that life and relationships have gone terribly wrong. Lamentations transcend the logic of reason, rational analysis, study and planning. They pierce the crusty calluses of numbness, cynicism, indifference and denial.  (Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, Bryan N. Massingale, 2010, Orbis Press)

LAMENTATION FOR FERGUSON, MO
(and all other communities living with mistrust and fear)

Our response to each lament is “HOW MUCH LONGER, O HOLY ONE, HOW MUCH LONGER?”

How much longer will terror grip families, neighborhoods and cities … terror caused by unjust systems that prey on the vulnerability of people, especially communities of color?

How much longer will the expectation of heartbreak, suffering and death be a way of life for too many?

How much longer will it take for war zones to become zones of safety and well being?

How much longer will the stench of death, misery, tear gas and bullets eclipse the beauty of creation in neighborhoods?

How much longer will the collective memory of a people no longer remember a quiet night during which to sleep?

How much longer do parents have to wail primal cries of anguish at the inhuman conditions heaped upon their families?

How much longer do parents have to live under bone-crushing suspicion that their children will be accused of wrong-doing when out on the street?

How much longer do parents have to continue burying their children while being unable to fully grieve since there are more deaths and more children to lay to rest?

How much longer will neighborhoods who have a basic human right for safety have to confront the growing militarization of their police forces who were once committed to serving its people?

How much longer do children have to endure the ravages of terror, trauma and confusion wondering what they did to deserve such fear, dread and insecurity?

How much longer will neighborhoods all over this country, who are at the tipping point from continuing racial oppression and systemic misuse of power, hold on?

How much longer will we stand by shaking our heads at the sadness of it all … before we join in solidarity with one another and work towards “liberty and justice for all?”

Our faith tradition tells us that we are to “love the enemies and pray for those who persecute.” (Mat. 5:43)

Where do we find it within us to pray for those who inflict such acts of atrocity upon the community of nations, the beloved community of the Holy One?

As a simple beginning, we match our Litany of Lamentation with a Litany of Hope, praying from the core of our beings that violence and hatred cease, especially in Israel and Palestine…

Side One:                                                                Side Two:

When hatred dominates…                                          …may we announce by our lives                                                                                           the primacy of love.

When we are seriously offended…                            …may we offer forgiveness.

When conflict is rampant…                                        …may we offer to build peace.

When error is entrenched…                                       …may we proclaim truth

When doubt paralyzes…                                              …may we awaken faith.

When distress weighs heavily…                                  …may we re-vitalize hope.

When heaviness and despair overwhelm…              …may we bring an air of                                                                                                        healing.

When sadness reigns…                                                …may we liberate the joy                                                                                                       within us.

When betrayed by love…                                            …may we be open to healing.

When confronted by evil…                                          …may we proclaim that                                                                                                         ‘goodness’ is stronger.

When our hearts are wrenched by injustice…         …may we be steadfast in                                                                                                        working to promote and                                                                                                        proclaim ‘peace with justice.’

Amen.

CLIMATE CHANGE: No more war! No more warming! Give us peace on earth!

Rev. John Dear, S.J.by John Dear

The following remarks were delivered yesterday in New York City at the Peace Rally at the People’s Climate March. 

Dear friends, on this historic day, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, we call for an end to the destruction of the environment. We say, Stop the suicidal pursuit of fossil fuels, stop greenhouse gas emissions, stop the keystone pipeline project and fracking and offshore drilling. Fund alternatives such as wind and solar power, pursue 100% clean energy by every nation; enact a new national policy and way of life that serves creation. Let’s protect the earth, the air, the sea, the sky and all our creatures and all humanity!

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But today we also say, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, if we want to stop the war on earth, we need to stop our wars and pursue the coming of peace on earth. So we say: stop all wars and stop the warming! The U.S. military is the single greatest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world. We say, cut the U.S. military budget; redirect those trillions of dollars to fund human needs and cleaning up the earth. Stop our bombings and drone strikes and occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine and Yemen; bring the troops home. War is not the answer. War only benefits the one percent and their oil companies and weapons manufacturers. War is not the will of God. War is immoral, unjust and illegal. War never brings peace; it always sows the seeds for future wars and more terrorist attacks and catastrophic climate change. We want a new world without war, we want peace on earth!

Today in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Congress just approved $1 trillion dollars to upgrade our nuclear arsenal over the next three decades. This is criminal, immoral, and insane. We need to dismantle our nuclear arsenal and use those trillions to feed the hungry at home and abroad, to house the homeless, build better schools, create green jobs and healthcare for all and a more just immigration program, to clean up the earth and fund nonviolent conflict resolution. Nuclear weapons don’t protect us. They poison the earth, they’re bad for our health, they bankrupt our economy, they threaten the whole planet, they destroy our souls, and they mock the Creator. After 70 years, we say, fulfill the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, retire the bomb, abolish nuclear weapons, give us a nuclear free world!

Today in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, as people of faith, conscience and goodwill, in the spirit of Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr., we say we are sick and tired of violence and war, racism and sexism, corporate greed and neglect of the poor, of all the killings, extinctions and destruction of the earth. Martin Luther King was right: nonviolence is our only hope, our only way forward, our only future. As Dr. King said, we are not powerless. We have a power, the power of active nonviolence to change the world. So we pledge to become people of nonviolence, to practice nonviolence in our personal lives, non-cooperate with the culture of violence, and work for a new nonviolent world.

Today, in the name of the God of peace, the Creator, like the Abolitionists of old who announced the abolition of slavery and the vision of a new world of equality, we announce the abolition of war itself, and poverty, and corporate greed, and hunger and nuclear weapons and systemic injustice and environmental destruction. We announce the coming of a new world of nonviolence, a new culture of peace with justice for every human being, for every creature, and for the planet. This week, www.CampaignNonviolence.org has organized over 235 marches, rallies and actions across the U.S., in every state, against war, poverty and environmental destruction, for a new culture of peace. With Campaign Nonviolence, we dedicate the rest of our lives to the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace. We pledge to keep building a global grassroots movement of nonviolence for all creation and all humanity.

Dear friends, keep on speaking out for peace and for the earth. Keep on praying for the gift of peace on earth. Keep on organizing and acting and standing up for humanity and creation. Keep on practicing nonviolence and keep on marching for a new future of peace and justice.

Thank you and God bless you!