by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
In her diary on Oct. 19, 1923, 48-year-old New York City educator Jessie Wallace Hughan wrote, “Took Tracy to dinner — had hair done — organized the War Resisters League.” That day, she launched a new independent, secular network of peace activists that has continued to resist every war since.
On Friday night, hundreds of us gathered in New York City to celebrate the 90th birthday of the War Resisters League. To mark the occasion, WRL presented awards to three living legends of peace and justice — folk singer Joan Baez, whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and recording star and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. It was a magical, memorable evening that encouraged all of us to continue in the struggle to resist war.
A beautiful program told the WRL story. One photo showed an early flier from the 1920s that read: “Do not enlist! Think for yourselves! True courage is to stand for the right and refuse to kill! Peace is our duty — not war! Might is not right. Use your light. Do not fight!” Other photos showed the WRL motto: “Wars will cease when men refuse to fight!”
In 1930, Albert Einstein agreed to serve as honorary chair of WRL and told one gathering, “If only 2 percent of those assigned to perform military service should announce their refusal to fight, governments would be powerless.”…