Tag Archives: Nick Mele

OBITUARY: Farewell to Bix – Fr. Bill Bichsel, SJ, d. February 28, 2015

Nick Meleby Nick Mele, Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

[NOTE: Many in Pax Christi USA have been inspired by Fr. Bill Bichsel’s witness. We invite you to share stories or memories of Bix in the comments section of this story.]

A few months ago,  Fr. Bill “Bix” Bichsel, SJ, traveled to a village on the island of Jeju in South Korea to stand in solidarity with villagers who have been resisting construction of a naval base there; base construction has already destroyed a unique ecological and geological area and has disrupted relationships throughout the village.  This past weekend, he died, several years later than a doctor had predicted. Bix never let his health stand in the way of his call to accompany oppressed people, minister to marginalized people and discomfort comfortable people.

Pax Christi Pacific Northwest icon Fr. Bill Bichsel protests at Jeju Island.

Fr. Bill Bichsel, SJ, center, protests at Jeju Island.

He is being eulogized across the Pacific Northwest and in the U.S. peace and justice community as a prophet, and he was a strong and powerful voice for peace and justice. Bix was also a sociable, funny, gentle soul and a friend to many. He led retreats for young people and ministered to homeless people on the streets of Tacoma in addition to his peace activism.  Bix encountered many people during his long, active life. He took part in protests, retreats, workshops and actions in many places and with various groups, including the the Catholic Worker Movement, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and Pax Christi.

Bix’s last journey to Korea was one of many. Some were short, perhaps over to Bangor, WA, to take part in civil resistance to nuclear weapons or to Joint Base Lewis-McChord just south of Tacoma for peace vigils. Others were long, to Japan, Korea, Fort Benning, Georgia. I first worked with Bix when he was planning a peace walk from Tacoma to the 2006 World Peace Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia. The walkers needed a place to spend the night in, a our town, the last stop before the US-Canadian border, and my wife was able to arrange for the walkers to spend the night on the grounds of our parish church. Bix was funny, energetic and altogether amazing in his commitment to nonviolence and to those suffering from injustice of any kind. He seemed indestructible.

 

BixA few years later, partly with Bix’s example in mind, a group of Pax Christi and JustFaith members organized a walk to Tacoma, a pilgrimage of about 140 miles to pray for justice for immigrants. Bix met us at the conclusion of our walk, at a Mass and dinner at St. Leo’s Church in Tacoma. Again, he was funny, supportive and knowledgeable—we talked, among other things, about nuclear abolition and his recent trip to Japan to apologize to the Japanese people for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before his trip to Korea last fall, Bix and I corresponded about what he would find there; in the course of our correspondence, I disagreed with him at one point. We could have both been unyielding, but instead we agreed our difference was insignificant beside the human tragedy that has been unfolding on Jeju and noted we were both working toward the same goal, the end of base construction and some justice for the villagers. It was my last encounter with Bix, and it was typical. He never lost sight of his goal, and he never used any tools but humor, humanity and nonviolence to achieve his goals.

To read Bix’s obituary in NCR, click here.

REFLECTION: We are beloved

Nick Meleby Nick Mele

As I write, the United States is angry, anxious, saddened and split over the shooting of a young, unarmed black man by a white policeman several months ago. At the same time, another, younger black child has just been shot because he was at a playground with a toy gun which closely resembled a real weapon. We live in the midst of a stew of fear and violence. News outlets headline stories about scary epidemics, war, mass executions. Social media memes—cleverly chosen images and sayings propagated over the internet—cater to stereotypes, polarization and fear. Popular culture promotes the myth that violence can solve almost any problem and protect individuals as well as nations from any threat. As theologian Walter Wink wrote in Engaging the Powers, “Violence is the ethos of our time. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience unto death.” Violence and threat breeds fear, fear of others, fear for our safety, fear that we will not be able to stand against the threats screaming from headlines and television news and talk shows.

stop violenceTo climb out of the morass of violence in which we live requires courage, creativity, effort, persistence, personal integrity and a sense of humor. We must start by honestly examining and healing the violence within ourselves. The first step is cultivating awareness of how we have internalized the violence we experience daily and inflict it on ourselves and others.

The violence we experience is not confined to news headlines or fiery talk show panelists. We also hear threats and violence daily from our families, our friends, our teachers, our supervisors and from our co-workers. The myth that violence solves problems, that a kind of purification or even redemption comes through violent behavior dominates our attitudes and behavior. Over time, we internalize the messages of threat and violence and speak harshly to ourselves. To be sure, often the violent words we hear are not intended to threaten or induce fear, they are simply the consequence of the “ethos of our time” described by Wink. For example, an exasperated parent seeking some support for housecleaning might say to his child, “Pick up your toys!” in a tone of voice that the child hears as an implicit threat to withdraw love or impose punishment. Over time, we impose limits on ourselves in anticipation of others’ disappointment, disapproval or withdrawal. As we do so, we also strive to earn approval and love and to exceed what we think others expect of us….

Read the entire article here, beginning on page 6.

REFLECTION: Ambassador Kennedy and the dolphins

Nick Meleby Nick Mele
Pax Christi USA National Council member

When the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, tweeted her concern about Japan’s drive hunting of dolphins, that was a good thing. Sure, she upset the Japanese government and the fisher folk who earn money from the trade in dolphin meat but most Americans, particularly those who have seen the documentary film about this annual hunt, sympathize more with the dolphins. Her concern for the humane treatment of animals is praiseworthy, but it is only a first step.

It would be better for Ambassador Kennedy to expand her concern for marine life to the waters of Henoko, Okinawa, where the U.S. military plans to destroy several square kilometers of precious marine habitat important to soft corals and dugong, an endangered mammal similar to our manatees, in order to construct a Marine Air Base to replace the controversial Futenma Base, which the Clinton Administration committed to moving or closing in 1996. Eighteen years later, the best the U.S. can do to honor that pledge is to destroy sea life in another part of Okinawa and disrupt an existing community that has already lived next to a U.S. Munitions Depot since 1959. The new base will be larger than the Futenma air field it will replace, and much larger than the munitions depot, so it is hard to see the change as anything other than part of the U.S. military “pivot” to Asia, a move that the present government of Japan wholeheartedly supports…

Click here to read the rest of this article.

ON THE LINE: December 2013 edition features actions on the death penalty, immigration reform, SOA and more

Compiled by Johnny Zokovitch

Each month, “On The Line” features news items and announcements from around the nation featuring Pax Christi members, local groups, regions and partners. These are gleaned from articles in local newspapers, websites, magazines, and elsewhere.

PC AUSTIN (TX) CO-SPONSORS ANTI-DEATH PENALTY OBSERVANCE: (by Bob Rankin) “This year, Pax Christi Austin joined with the Friends Meeting of Austin (Quaker) and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship to plan and sponsor our annual Sant’Egidio ‘Cities For Life’ Vigil on Nov. 30th. We gathered at the Plaza in front of Austin City Hall where we prayed, reflected on the death penalty in Texas, the United States, and sang. We had approached a City Council Member asking for a proclamation and received one. Finally we processed through a few city blocks of restaurants and business with ‘No More Executions!’ signs and ‘sandwich boards’ with the names of the 507 executed in Texas since 1976.”

Pax Christi Austin (TX) members march against the death penalty as part of "Cities for Life" in November. Photo by Bob Kinney

Pax Christi Austin (TX) members march against the death penalty as part of “Cities for Life” in November. Photo by Bob Kinney

PCUSA TEACHER OF PEACE BISHOP GUMBLETON SHARES ADVENT HOMILY WITH NEW PC GROUP IN MISSISSIPPI: (in NCR) “During this day, when we are spending time as a Pax Christi group (at St. Richard’s Parish), trying to determine how we can best live out the commitment we make when we join Pax Christi, it is very clear that our Scripture lessons provide us with very important ideas and important things for us to reflect on, think about, to become truly peacemakers, making Pax Christi the peace of Christ come about in our world. We’re celebrating the season of Advent, of course, and I’m sure all of us remember that and realize and experience that this is a season of hope — hope for the coming of Jesus. But we also have to remember that Jesus came historically almost 2,000 years ago, and we can hardly hope for something that has already happened. So what are we hoping for?”… Read more at http://ncronline.org/blogs/peace-pulpit/give-violence-prepare-final-coming-god

MICHAEL WALLI NAMED PEACEMAKER OF THE YEAR: (by Joshua McElwee in NCR) “It was the kind of celebration that, six months ago, Michael Walli might have enjoyed: Simple plates of spaghetti and salad, gathered friends, and an award for a noted local peacemaker. Except that award went to Walli himself, who could not accept because he is imprisoned some 700 miles away in a private detention facility in Georgia. Members of the DC/Baltimore chapter of the international Catholic peace group Pax Christi awarded their annual peacemaker of the year award to Walli Sunday anyway, honoring him in absentia and organizing their members to write to the judge urging leniency for the activist and the two others in his group…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/30/regional-event-pax-christi-metro-dc-baltimore-honors-peacemaker-of-the-year/

Seven plowshares activists seen together at the Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Peacemaker of the Year event. They are holding a sign created by the late Philip Berrigan, who participated in the first action in 1980. Photo by Ted Majdosz

Seven plowshares activists seen together at the Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Peacemaker of the Year event. They are holding a sign created by the late Philip Berrigan, who participated in the first action in 1980. Photo by Ted Majdosz

PAX CHRISTI MEMBERS FROM ACROSS THE NATION CONVERGE ON THE SOA: “On Friday night, 200 Pax Christi USA members and friends gathered at the Columbus Convention Center for Pax Christi USA’s annual gathering at the SOA. This year’s presentation was entitled, ‘Gun Violence Has No Room in the Spirituality of Peacemaking,’ with presentations from Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Kathy Kelly and Pax Christi USA Executive Director Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN. The evening started with a welcome from Cathy Crosby, former member of the Pax Christi USA National Council, and Carole Lacour of Pax Christi Atlanta, with both serving as the emcees for the evening…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/26/soa-report-back-from-the-annual-vigil-and-action-at-the-soa/

PC New Mexico members Ellie Voutselas and Bud Ryan at the SOA. Photo by Johnny Zokovitch

PC New Mexico members Ellie Voutselas and Bud Ryan at the SOA during Sunday’s funeral procession. Photo by Johnny Zokovitch

PC METRO NY ISSUES ADVENT REFLECTION: “Hurry up and wait!  Sadly, this could be the theme for many each Advent. We hurry to shop. We hurry to write Christmas cards. We hurry to cook and bake. We hurry to decorate. We hurry, hurry, hurry. Then we wait. We wait on lines in stores or on the web. We wait for deliveries. We wait in traffic. We wait and wait and wait. Actually, Advent is about preparing, which we’re doing when we do all that scurrying about, and it’s about waiting, but the preparation and the waiting are a bit different…” Read more at http://www.nypaxchristi.org/reflection.html

PC METRO DC-BALTIMORE MEMBERS JOIN FAST4FAMILIES: (by Scott Wright) “On November 12, faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders announced the launch of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,” taking place on the National Mall, steps away from the Capitol. On that day, Eliseo Medina, DJ Yoon, Christian Avila, and Lisa Sharon Harper began a fast to move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. In their statement the four fasters asked: “What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption?” … Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/12/13/reflection-a-light-shines-in-the-darkness-immigrant-fast-for-justice/

PC ILLINOIS MEMBERS ACT FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: (by Tom Cordaro) “For years immigrant communities and their supporters have been marching, canvasing, writing letters, lobbying politicians, holding educational events, telling their stories and praying for an end to the pain, suffering and fear caused by our broken immigration system.  In spite of all this effort nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants have been forcibly deported leaving nearly 3 million children without a parent. In the face of so much preventable human suffering there comes a time when good order must be interrupted so the cries of children can be heard. This is why I joined 141 immigrant activists in blocking a major intersection in downtown Chicago on November 6th…” Read more at http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/11/19/immigration-this-is-what-america-looks-like/

Pax Christi Illinois members (including Tom Cordaro, PCUSA Ambassador of Peace, bottom right corner) join the immigration reform action in Chicago.

Pax Christi Illinois members (including Tom Cordaro, PCUSA Ambassador of Peace, bottom right corner) join the immigration reform action in Chicago.

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

Dec. 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents actions and observances

Jan. 1-31 – January is Poverty Awareness Month, http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/povertyusa/upload/poverty-awareness-month-calendar.pdf

Jan. 6-13, Jan. 11 – Witness Against Torture’s Fast for Justice from the 6th through the 13th and Jan. 11th actions to Close Guantanamo. Visit  http://witnesstorture.org/blog/2013/12/05/december-wat-trial-january-action-dates-announced/ for more information.

Jan. 26 – Peacemaking through the Arts: “Luke Live!” with PC-Metro New York Board member,  Fr. James DiLuzio, CSP. “Luke Live!” is a dramatic proclamation of the Gospel of Luke interspersed with Song Meditations, highlighting the peace and justice components in Luke’s Gospel. At St. Joseph’s Greenwich Village Church from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Quicklinks:

PC Metro DC-Baltimore member Donna Grimes’ son was featured in an article in The Washington Post following the Trayvon Martin verdict earlier this year … For Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, Pax Christi El Paso (TX) collaborated with El Pasoans Against the Death Penalty and the El Paso chapter of CURE to protest the death penalty, mass incarceration, and abuse of solitary confinement, demonstrating in front of the county courthouse … PCUSA Program Director Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN presented at the Ignatian Family Teach-in in November in DC … PC Massachusetts member David O’Brien reflects on the legacy of JFKFormer Pax Christi USA Policy Director Jean Stokan had a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post regarding the ongoing situation in Honduras … PC Pacific NW member Nick Mele writes on the negotiations with IranPC Metro DC-Baltimore member Judy Coode has co-edited a book of reflections for next year’s liturgical readings for Orbis Press … PC Illinois members protested outside Rep. Roskam’s office after he repeatedly refused to meet with them … Former PCUSA interns Amy Watts and Manuel Padilla are now working in Chad with Jesuit Refugee Services and writing a blog about their experiences … PCUSA Teacher of Peace and PC Birmingham (AL) member Jim Douglass was featured on the Peace Talks radio programPax Christi USA gives thanks for the life of Nelson MandelaPax Christi International’s December 2013 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

IRAN: Talking about the agreement with Iran

Nick Meleby Nicke Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

For the last few days, the news and commentary has featured a good deal of back and forth about the utility and viability of the recently-announced short-term agreement with Iran on its nuclear development program. Several key factors do not get discussed by either critics or defenders.

First of all, there is very little historical or geopolitical context mentioned. One reason Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are critical of the agreement is that most of these Islamic nations are ruled by a Sunni majority or plurality; the population of Iran is Farsi and overwhelmingly Shi’a. It is not necessary to know the historic and theological roots of the split in Islam but it is germane to Arab reactions to the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran to know that in many of the most powerful Arab nations, Sunni majorities have treated their Shi’ite as second-class Muslims. Fear of an ascendant , non-Arab Shi’a nation influences attitudes toward Iran.

In the West, the history is not as long but Iran was a place where Britain and Russia (and later Germany) sought access and influence at first because of its geographic location and later its petroleum reserves. Iran fell well within the Czarist Russian sphere of influence throughout most of the nineteenth century, a fact which does much to explain Russia’s contemporary role there and in Syria. The history of Iran relayed via our media is superficial but not trivial, focused more on the last 30 or so years but not on the U.S.-engineered 1953 coup that installed the Pahlavi family as monarchs or the dark side of the Shah’s rule, which led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran…

Click here to read more.

SYRIA: Thoughts on Syria

Nick Meleby Nicke Mele
Pax Christi Pacific Northwest

Two essays on Syria drew my attention on the same day. The first, by Nicholas Kristof, is a heartfelt argument in favor of military intervention, and specifically airstrikes. The second, equally heartfelt, from Jim Wallis, argues for immediate massive humanitarian aid to the millions of refugees from this conflict and against the use of military force in response to Syria’s passion.

A few days earlier, a friend who is a leader in the peace and justice community where I live asked why there are no mass demonstrations against military intervention. Reading the Kristof and Wallis essays, I saw why: most of us cannot imagine an effective non-military solution. Kristof writes, for example:

I received a mass e-mail from a women’s group I admire, V-Day, calling on people to oppose military intervention because ‘such an action would simply bring about more violence and suffering. … Experience shows us that military interventions harm innocent women, men and children.’

Really? Sure, sometimes they do, as in Iraq. But in both Bosnia and Kosovo, military intervention saved lives. The same was true in Mali and Sierra Leone. The truth is that there’s no glib or simple lesson from the past. We need to struggle, case by case, for an approach that fits each situation…

Click here to read more.