Category Archives: War

REFLECTION: Hammering for peace

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Last winter, at the Voices home/office in Chicago, we welcomed two friends who were in town for a Mennonite church gathering focused on the symbol of beating swords into plowshares. Their project embraces a vision from the biblical “Book of Isaiah” which longs for the day when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they study war anymore.”  Our friends quite literally enact this vision. They use saws to cut guns and rifles in half and then hammer on the broken weapons, turning them into useful tools for gardening and light construction.

Throughout the service, one of the men could be seen, on a screen, standing outside the Mennonite church hall, fashioning, with hammer and anvil, a rifle into a garden tool. Sparks flew with his hammer, but no-one was inflamed into anger. The fire our friends wanted to ignite was inside us. With what work can we replace war? If we are no longer training for war, what else could we be doing?” 

That winter night, at the Mennonite church, I couldn’t help but think of another activist who had swung a tool last December, in this case, a sledgehammer, because she was inspired to confront weapon makers and encourage alternatives to war. Jessica Reznicek, age 34, didn’t own the weapon system she wanted to transform.  But she felt responsible to help the general public own up to its complicity with weapon systems funded by U.S. taxpayers. She took a sledgehammer to the doors of a major weapon producing company, Northrop Grumman, outside Offut Air Force base. In a written statement explaining why she swung her tool at the plate glass, Jessica asks people to understand that Northrop Grumman’s weapon systems shatter and destroy the lives of people the world over.

As one of the manufacturers with the largest share of the global Unmanned Aerial Systems market, (18.9%), Northrop Grumman profits immensely from peddling complex weapon systems often designed to be eyes in the skies monitoring targets for assassination. This kind of surveillance and extrajudicial execution generates intense anger and backlashes in other lands. It also promotes proliferation of robotic weapons. But the U.S. military and acquiescent institutions encourage us to feel that we’ve been made safer by complex weapons of destruction, and we should instead be frightened of a young woman wielding a sledgehammer to break a plate glass window.

Jessica Reznicek arrested outside of Northrop Grumman Corporation in Nebraska

Jessica Reznicek arrested outside of Northrop Grumman Corporation in Nebraska

On May 24, Jessica Reznicek went to a trial in Nebraska, expected to last two days, for her action. She has chosen to go “pro se,” – to defend herself. Courts in the U.S. seldom allow the necessity defense. If the judge in Jessica’s case does so, Jessica could try to defend herself saying she acted to prevent a greater harm.  She could establish that the U.S. government consistently provides Northrop Grumman with lavish funding, devoting immense resources of materials and scientific ingenuity to the study of war, all desperately needed elsewhere. Northrop Grumman steadily experiments in perfecting the high-tech advantage of an empire bent on endlessly dominating the world through endless war.

I wish that the testimony of my friends who literally beat guns into garden tools could be part of the courtroom proceeding.  They urge us to make guns and other weapons unnecessary, using raw tools of compassion and service to heal the conflicts in which weapons are used. I wish my young Afghan friends here in Kabul, who live under constant surveillance of Unmanned Aerial Systems, could testify about their desire to refine tools of peace making and constructive service.

They could assure the court that it’s far more worthwhile to develop raw tools for producing needed goods and services than to develop weapon systems of mass destruction.

Jessica’s action makes me wonder if the “norm” in our society is the opposite of the biblical plowshares exhortation.  Our major institutions study the ways of war comprehensively and our “top crop” in the U.S. has become weapons.     Jessica encourages, one might even say provokes, discussion of the role militarism plays in our world.

I hope the words of a legendary barrister in Ireland, Mr. Nix, who defended “The Pitstop Plowshares,” can be recalled as Jessica’s trial nears conclusion. Shortly before the U.S. led coalition began bombing Iraq in 2003, five activists invoked the swords to plowhsares saying from the Book of Isaiah and hammered on a U.S. warplane parked on the tarmac of Shannon airport.  Ireland is a neutral country, and they believed that the U.S. Navy warplanes making “pitstops” en route to a war zone violated that neutrality. They undertook the action shortly after attending a retreat during which the Sisters of St. Brigid, in Kildare, Ireland had asked me to speak about Iraqis who suffered under 13 years of U.S. led UN economic sanctions.   Before returning to Baghdad, I gave  them enlarged, laminated photos of  Iraqi children who were among the half million who died, according to the U.N., as a direct result of economic sanctions along with photos of children killed  by an earlier U.S. aerial attack on the city of Basra. They used these photos to set up a memorial shrine next to the warplane they had damaged. Mr. Nix, preparing for trial, asked that I come to Dublin as a witness to help establish the defendants’ motivations. I will never forget  his closing statement in which he delivered a fiery indictment of war makers and described the hideous punishment wars inflict on innocent people, especially children. He ended his remarks by addressing  everyone assembled in Dublin’s Four Courts, saying:  “The question isn’t ‘Did these five have a lawful excuse to do what they did?’ The question is ‘What’s your excuse not to do more? What will rise ye?!’ The Irish jury acquitted the defendants on all charges.

No matter what the outcome of Jessica’s trial, Mr. Nix’s question, “What will rise ye?” abides. How can we, each of us, help lift the hammer of justice, cultivating a world at peace.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (

Disarm the World

Disarming the world

By Tony Magliano

In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was prayerfully agonizing over his impending violent death, a large crowd with swords and clubs sent by the chief priests moved in to arrest him.

Seeing this, one of Jesus’ disciples “put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’”

Tragically, throughout the centuries much of humanity has failed to heed the Lord’s wisdom.

And worse, today’s swords are far more lethal. Bullets, bombs, missiles, tanks, land minds, aircraft carriers, fighter jets inflict far more carnage than ancient swords could ever do. And modern nuclear weapons could obliterate life on earth.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, ( world military expenditure was estimated at more than $1.7 trillion in 2014.

President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2017 Department of Defense basic budget comes in at a whopping $582.7 billion. More than the next seven largest military budgets combined – including China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

As reported by the New York Times (, American foreign arms sales rose to $36.2 billion in 2014, continuing to ensure the U.S.’s position as the world’s single largest arms merchant – controlling more than 50 percent of the weapon’s market.

Many of these weapons continue to be sold to poor nations like Chad, diverting precious money that should instead be going to meet people’s basic needs.

Speaking to a group of young people in Turin, Italy in 2015 Pope Francis said, “There is the hypocrisy of speaking about peace and producing arms, and even selling weapons to this one, who is at war with that one.”

Seeking fresh insights to counter the worn-out, death-dealing argument that powerful militaries and lethal weapons are needed to defend one’s nation, I turned to Eli McCarthy, PhD, director of justice and peace for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

“It’s unrealistic and unwise to keep arming groups in conflict situations. The ‘war on terror’ for the last 15 years has exacerbated the problems and overall failed to get at the root causes of conflict,” said McCarthy.

Instead, the U.S. government and international community need to invest much more in training and research on nonviolent resistance strategies like unarmed civilian protection, he noted.

“There are many courageous persons in regions of conflict risking their lives engaging in trauma-healing, restorative justice, inter-religious dialogue, mediation, early warning systems and nonviolent resistance.”

McCarthy said creative diplomatic efforts including all key stakeholders, and genuinely addressing the basic needs of people are essential to easing tensions and conflict.

He also emphasized the importance of investing in industry transition in U.S. communities that rely on the arms industry for jobs.

We need to use humanizing language towards all, and work to reduce cultural marginalization, added McCarthy.

“Justice, right reason, and the recognition of man’s dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race,” wrote St. John XXIII in his prophetic 1963 encyclical Pacem In Terris (“Peace on Earth”).

Let each of us pray and work for the day that justice, right reason, and the recognition of the dignity of every person prevails over the evil of the arms race, the arms trade and military arms in general.

May the Spirit of the nonviolent Jesus lead us to disarm our hearts. For only people with nonviolent hearts are capable of building a nonviolent world.


Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.


EVENT: World Beyond War event in Washington D.C. in September

From World Beyond War

NOTE:  Pax Christi USA has signed on to this effort.

World Beyond War is planning a big event in Washington, D.C., in September 2016, just after the International Day of Peace, including a conference beginning Friday afternoon September 23, running all day Saturday September 24, and with activist workshops on Sunday morning the 25th. We’re also working with Campaign Nonviolence and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance to plan a nonviolent activism training and a nonviolent action in D.C. on Monday September 26th.

Join us to learn about and engage in working on viable alternatives to war and militarism.

Learn more at:

REFLECTION: The Journey of Easter – A Season of Compassion, an End to War

Scott Wrightby Scott Wright, Director
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

One of the most dramatic signs of our time is the presence of people on the move. There are more internally displaced people or refugees in the world now than since the end of the Second World War. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the plight of the Syrian refugees, and the war which has displaced 12 million people – half the Syrian population – and killed between a quarter million and a half million people in five years of a fratricidal war.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us of “the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (GS, §4). Signs of the time are those signs that characterize a particular time of history, and we need only to open our eyes to see them: poverty and inequality, violence and war, global warming and droughts, racism and religious intolerance, migrants and refugees.

Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees

These are the signs of the time, the root causes of the pain and suffering in the world, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Ignacio Ellacuria, the martyred Jesuit from El Salvador, identified the sign of our time as “the crucified peoples” of the world. Those who unmask the dominant violence of the world, those who bear the sins for which others are responsible: systemic injustice, institutional violence, global inequality, racism and xenophobia.

Nor can we ignore the U.S. role in wars, military interventions, sanctions, and trillions of dollars that have devastated the people of Iraq for decades, and laid the foundation for a fratricidal war in Syria. The great Jewish prophet, Abraham Joshua Heschel, reminded us: “Some are guilty, all are responsible.” If guilty, then we must confess our guilt and refrain from doing further harm.

At the recent gathering of Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome, participants from around the world – many of them who bore in their flesh the wounds of war, and all who bore in their hearts the passion for peace – rejected just war and endorsed instead “a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence.” The final statement of the participants read:

“Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation and discrimination.”

Some are guilty, but all are responsible, all of us can do something to minimize the violence and to lay the foundation for a more just and sustainable peace. Signs of the time are not only the grave evils that characterize our age, they are also signs of God’s presence and compassion in the world, an invitation to mercy, a call to justice, and the urgent demand to forge an enduring peace and sustainable future: for the poor, for the planet and for generations to come.

From the very beginning of his ministry, Pope Francis has reminded us in word and deed that the heart of the Gospel is mercy, a mercy rooted in compassion but also in justice. For every sign of the time that characterizes our age, there is also a sign of God’s mercy, compassion, and justice.

Most recently, Pope Francis offered that sign at the U.S. – Mexico border to Central American and Mexican immigrants fleeing violence in the hemisphere, and at the Greek Island of Lesbos to Syrian refugees fleeing a fratricidal war in the Middle East. His message is simple: “Open your hearts, open your borders, open your churches and homes to those who are fleeing violence.” He reminded all of us, but particularly the leaders of Western nations, that Christians are called not to build walls but to build bridges.

This week we celebrate the fifth week of Easter, and we are reminded that Easter is more than a day, it is a season. Traditionally, it was a time in which the newly baptized were introduced into the mysteries of the faith, a journey of discipleship and an invitation to bear witness to the risen Christ: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Is this not the message to which the Gospel invites us today?

There is, however, always a “cost” to discipleship, as the twentieth century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hung by the Nazis, reminds us: Gospel discipleship is costly “because it costs a person their life,” but it is grace “because it gives a person the only true life.” Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker, was fond of quoting Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” John of the Cross proclaimed: “Where there is no love, put love, and there you will find love.” But, as Pope Francis reminds us, to bear witness to love – often at great sacrifice to one’s own interests and sometimes one’s well-being – is to experience the joy of the Gospel.

So we are on an Easter journey, in a season of compassion. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb; then to the disciples and to Thomas, standing before them with open wounds in his hands and in his side; then to the crowds in Galilee; then to the disciples by the lake; and today to us. In every migrant or refugee, in every hungry or thirsty child, in every prisoner or victim of war, in every girl or woman exploited or abused, the risen Christ appears to us, his wounds visible in his hands and side with a simple message: “Believe.” “Follow me.” “Feed my sheep.” “Love one another.”

Throughout this Easter season we are invited to offer signs of resurrection in a world filled with crosses. We are invited to continue this Easter journey with eyes wide open, to see the risen Christ in our midst. We renew our commitment to bear witness to the peace of Christ. We know that we are always on the road, on a Gospel journey, but we know, too, that we are not alone. We are surrounded by that cloud of witnesses who journey with us – those holy women and men, the martyrs and the saints – and we are strengthened by their presence. We are no longer afraid, we have bread for the journey, and we carry the joy of the Gospel in our hearts.

The risen Christ appeared to the disciples – and to us today – with his wounds: the risen Christ is the crucified Jesus. Like the risen Christ, we, too, bear our wounds in our hands and feet and in our hearts. But now these wounds have become life-giving wounds, wounds that bind us more deeply to Christ’s suffering in the world and to the power of Christ’s resurrection to break even the bonds of death, to heal the wounds of violence, to abolish forever the scourge of war.