by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
On Dec. 7, 1993, my friends Philip Berrigan, Lynn Fredriksson, Bruce Friedrich and I walked onto the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., at 4 in the morning, passed through thousands of soldiers in the middle of full-scale national war games, came upon an F-15E nuclear capable fighter bomber and hammered upon it to fulfill Isaiah’s Advent prophecy that someday, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and study war no more.”
The 20th anniversary of our Plowshares disarmament got me thinking and reflecting because we were charged with two felony convictions: destruction of government property and conspiracy to commit a felony crime. Each conviction carries the possibility of 10 years in prison. There have been nearly 100 plowshares disarmament actions since 1980, and hundreds of people have faced a variety of prison time. Several people did serve as long as 18 years in prison.
During those many long days and nights in North Carolina jails, I often pondered our eventual sentencing. What if the judge, a devout Catholic who hated us — especially me, a newly ordained priest — gave us the maximum, I used to ask myself, and I had to serve 20 years behind bars? What would it be like to be released in 2013? What would the world be like in 2013?
He surprised us by releasing Phil and me after nearly nine months in jail and sentenced me to nearly another year under house arrest, but Bruce and Lynn were sent on for another year in prison.…