Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

ON THE LINE: January 2016 edition – Vote for Marie! Bernie Kopera, PRESENTE! 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.

marienomforpeaceprize-bigPAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL CO-PRESIDENT MARIE DENNIS IS FINALIST FOR PUBLIC PEACE PRIZE; VOTE NOW! (from Pax Christi International) We are pleased to tell you that Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, has been nominated for the 2016 Public Peace Prize. This prize is the only one in the world which is based on the public’s choices. The voting is open until 24 January, 2016. To vote for Marie Dennis you have three possibilities: 1) Vote on the Public Peace Prize website: Visit the webpage presenting Marie (each visitor = 1 vote) or leave an appreciative comment on the bottom of the page (each comment = 3 votes). See Marie’s nomination page here. 2) On Public Peace Prize’s Facebook page: Click “Like” below the posting presenting Marie. To increase the number of votes, click on the “share” button. See the posting here. 3) On Public Peace Prize’s Twitter account: “Retweet” the tweets presenting Marie. See the tweet here.

On December 23 PC Houston members helped to distribute Christmas gifts to children who were leaving the Harris County Jail with their parents. The children had been visiting their loved ones in the jail. The event is sponsored by End Mass Incarceration Houston with the support of other organizations.

On December 23 PC Houston members helped to distribute Christmas gifts to children who were leaving the Harris County Jail with their parents. The children had been visiting their loved ones in the jail. The event is sponsored by End Mass Incarceration Houston with the support of other organizations.

PAX CHRISTI INDIANAPOLIS SUPPORTS ARCHBISHOP ON REFUGEE RESPONSE: In a letter to Archbishop Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, PC Indianapolis wrote, “We, the members of Pax Christi of Indianapolis, are supportive of and encouraged by your courageous actions and example in deciding to accept the Syrian refugee family to our Indiana home.  Your words and your decision have sent a strong message of Christianity and the words of Christ to ‘love one another.’ Thank you for your leadership and the message of justice you have sent.” The Archbishop had decided to go through with the refugee relocation over objections from the Governor of Indiana.

Seven people were arrested at a Pentagon peace witness on the Feast of the Holy Innocents following the Faith and Resistance Retreat. See more photos at https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AmZMEAszDHL4CtM&id=D886EDE2FD42F445%21882&cid=D886EDE2FD42F445

Seven people were arrested at a Pentagon peace witness on the Feast of the Holy Innocents following the Faith and Resistance Retreat. See more photos at http://1drv.ms/1PeViuD

PAX CHRISTI ILLINOIS SPONSORS WORLD PEACE DAY INTERFAITH SERVICE: (from Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi Illinois) Pax Christi Illinois was a major sponsor and organizer of the 2016 World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service, celebrated January 3, in Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College in Illinois. Over 300 people attended. The event was co-sponsored by Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Christian Scientist and other faith communities. Click on the following link to read the speech given by Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace Tom Cordaro at the event: https://paxchristiusa.org/2016/01/13/reflection-the-cross-and-the-call-to-reconciliation/

WPD Banner

Participants in the World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service in Illinois.

PAX CHRISTI ILLINOIS ACTIVIST BERNIE KOPERA PASSES: It is with great sadness that we share with you that Bernie Kopera of Pax Christi Illinois, who we featured in last month’s OTL, passed away on Christmas Day from a heart attack. Bernie was 71. You can read a longer article in the Chicago Tribune celebrating and remembering Bernie’s life at http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-bernie-kopera-obit-st-1229-20151228-story.html.

Bernie Kopera, in back with right hand raised, at the SOA march to the detention center in Stewart, with other members of PC Illinois.

Bernie Kopera, in back with right hand raised and sunglasses, at the SOA march to the detention center in Stewart, with other members of PC Illinois, Nov. 2015.

Lent2016bookletcoverPAX CHRISTI REFLECTION BOOKLET FOR LENT AVAILABLE AS AN E-BOOK! The Lent 2016 reflection booklet, “Everything is Grace: Reflections for Lent 2016,” is now available for purchase and download at the Pax Christi USA store as an electronic book. The book is authored by Tonie Malone (PC New Jersey); Nancy Small (PC Massachusetts); Allison Blay (PC Florida); Cathy Crayton (PC Southern California); Eric LeCompte (PC Metro D.C.-Baltimore), Kwame Assenyoh, SVD; and Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN. To purchase and download this excellent resource, go to http://paxchristiusa.3dcartstores.com/Lent-2016–e-BOOK–DAILY-REFLECTIONS–NO-HARD-COPY-WILL-BE-SENT_p_297.html 


Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

Jan. 26: Bishop Gumbleton’s birthday

Jan. 29-31: Pax Christi USA National Council meeting in Bay St. Louis, MS

Jan. 31: Peacemaking thru the Arts with Pax Christi Metro New York, Greenwich Village, NYC

Feb: Black History Month

Feb. 4: Birth of Rosa Parks, 1913

Feb. 5: Christian Peace Witness for Syria and We Refuse To Be Enemies Interfaith group’s day-long planning meeting, the Methodist Building, Washington D.C.; to attend or join by teleconference, contact Bob Cooke of Pax Christi International at cookerh1251@gmail.com.

Feb. 10: Nelson Mandela released, 1990

Feb. 10: Ash Wednesday

Feb. 12: NAACP founded, 1909

Feb. 14: Frederick Douglass, b. 1818

Feb. 20: World Day of Social Justice

March: Women’s History Month

Mar. 1: International Death Penalty Abolition Day

Mar. 2-13: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ “Workers’ Voice Tour”, Eastern U.S.

Mar. 8: International Women’s Day

Mar. 13: Election of Pope Francis, 2013

Mar. 20: Palm Sunday

Mar. 21-27: Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination

Mar. 22: World Water Day

Mar. 24: Holy Thursday, Feast of Blessed Oscar Romero

Mar. 25: Good Friday, International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Mar. 27: Easter

Mar. 31: Cesar Chavez, b. 1927



Pax Christi Michigan and its Lansing chapter celebrated “Pax Christi Lansing’s 9th Annual Interfaith New Year Community Peace Prayer Service” on January 1 … Pax Christi USA joins with the rest of the Pax Christi world community in giving thanks for the contributions of Jose Henriquez who left his position as Pax Christi International Secretary General in December … Read this report-back from PC Metro DC-Baltimore member Sr. Veronica Schweyen who was on a SHARE delegation to El Salvador in December … Fr. Jim Murphy was sentenced to 5 days in jail in Wisconsin for his anti-drone action … Blue Water (MI) Pax Christi had their Christmas billboard featured in this article in a local newspaper …  Srs. Patricia Chappell and Anne-Louise Nadeau, executive director and director of programs, respectively, of Pax Christi USA, led a peace retreat on racism at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham, NY in conjunction with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Justice Committee of the Albany Province … Former PCUSA National Council chair and member of Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore Judy Coode was quoted in an article from CNS on the immigration and refugee crisis … A colleague from Pax Christi Germany was quoted in this article in the NY Times on the refugee crisis … The Winter edition of Kerux from Pax Christi Metro New York is now online … Pax Christi International’s January 2016 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall-Winter 2015-16 edition of The Peace Current

REFLECTION: On Robben Island (South Africa journey, part five)

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by John Dear

(This is the fifth of six journal entries from my January pilgrimage to South Africa.)

We left Port Elizabeth and drove all day along the magnificent Southern coast of South Africa, along the famous “Garden Route” to Cape Town. It was a glorious ride, through Tsitsikamma, Knysna and George, passed Mossel Bay to Riversdale toward Cape Town. But it was surprising to see no one swimming in the ocean along the beautiful beaches. The waters are infested with sharks. One can only swim in designated places where underwater fences have been installed. Just last month, a surfer was eaten by a Great White Shark.

John Dear standing under the open window of Mandela's prison cell, Robben Island, Jan. 23, 2014

John Dear standing under the open window of Mandela’s prison cell, Robben Island, Jan. 23, 2014

On the outskirts of Cape Town, we saw the ravages of poverty—tin shacks for miles and miles where a million people scrap to get by. The divide between the very poor and the very rich has grown over the years, and South Africa may now have the greatest economic extreme of any nation.

We made our way north around Cape Town toward our hotel near Milnerton. Once there, we walked down to the white beach. Because of the peninsula shape, we looked out across the ocean directly at the city of Cape Town with the flat top Table Mountain standing majestically behind it. The sun began to set, and we were overwhelmed by the beautiful sight.

It is easy to see why so many people consider Cape Town the most beautiful city on the planet. Located on a small peninsula at the southern tip of Africa, it stands on the Atlantic Ocean, though on the other side of its mountains, one can swim in the Indian Ocean. The city is full of historic buildings, modern shopping malls, a thriving port, and endless beaches, parks and hiking trails, all spread out below Table Mountain and the oceans.

We spent our first day on top of Table Mountain. We took the cable car up, walked the paths and stood speechless looking out at the amazing vistas—one hundred miles in every direction over both oceans and distant mountains, and below us, the city of Cape Town. It was thrilling.

Afterwards, late in the afternoon, my friend Fr. Ray East and I took a taxi to the home of Fr. Michael Lapsley, the famous Anglican priest and ANC leader who had been exiled during the 1980s for his leadership against apartheid. In 1990, three months after Mandela’s release from prison, he received an envelope in the mail from the security forces. When he opened it, a massive bomb exploded. He lost both hands and one eye, and suffered many other major injuries and burns. By some miracle, he survived, and now he lectures around the world on healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. He told us of his work, his travels, the current political crises in South Africa, and his passion to expand the personal healing work of Christ to cities and nations as well, that we could begin to experience what he called “social healing.”

“Michael’s life is part of the tapestry of the many long journeys and struggles of our people,” Nelson Mandela once said. His latest book, “Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer,” is just out.

Michael’s a living saint, and a sign of hope for the world. It was a great blessing to spend time with him in his home.

Then we spent a full day on Robben Island, the notorious prison where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid freedom fighters were imprisoned for decades. First, we drove downtown to the Waterfront shopping center, to the Robben Island Ferry. It was another hot, sunny day, and my friends and I boarded a small boat and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean toward the island, with Cape Town and Table Mountain behind us. Along the way, we saw seals, and possibly one shark.

Once there, we boarded a bus and embarked on a long driving tour around the entire island. Our young guide was a brilliant, eloquent anti-apartheid activist who told us the details of the struggle, the horrors of the prison, and the complete history of the island.

The great irony: it was spectacularly beautiful. We saw the houses where the guards lived, their church, and their bar. We learned about the leper colony in the 1800s, and saw their graves. Whenever we stopped, we watched the penguins standing on the rocky shores. Somewhere in the middle of the island, we were brought to the notorious lime quarry where Mandela and the others were forced to hammer at the rock for over six hours a day. They nearly went blind because of the constant dust and the glare of sunlight on the white lime cliffs. We stood there and said a prayer.

Finally, we came to the prison. We were led through the entire prison by a former prisoner, a man who spent some seven years behind bars for his work against apartheid.

It was hard to take it all in. So much suffering, injustice, grief and loss. And yet, it was so inspiring because this is where Mandela and the others studied and prepared for the liberation to come. I was profoundly moved by the whole experience. It certainly brought back memories of my own time behind bars.

Standing at Mandela’s cell was particularly heart-wrenching and inspiring. To think how he inspired the others, the nation, and the world from this cell, and how he emerged with a new spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation to lead the nation! One could only pray and give thanks and feel renewed to carry on the struggle for justice and peace.

Back at the dock to catch the ferry to Cape Town, I studied the massive murals along the wall. It showed Mandela and others in three stages of their lives and their nation’s recent history. Below their faces were the large words (the size of billboards)—“Repression,” “Release,” and “Resurrection.”

It was the first time I’ve ever seen the word “Resurrection” used to describe a moment in the history of a nation. Despite South Africa’s violence, crime, poverty, and corruption, I could almost taste that spirit of resurrection. With Robben Island and Cape Town, my pilgrimage has come full circle. I could see how the nonviolent struggle for justice leads to new life, new victories, and new openings for peace.

I sat on the top deck of the boat for the ride back, taking in the sunlight, the refreshing wind, and the approaching view of Table Mountain and Cape Town. As we road the ocean waters, I felt energized to carry on the struggle for justice and peace, as Mandela and his comrades did, and determined anew to play my part in working for a new world without war, poverty, racism or violence.

Resurrection indeed! The journey of social healing continues.

ON THE LINE: February 2014 edition includes campaign against gun violence, NCR interview, Vow of Nonviolence, 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 LONG ISLAND (NY) INITIATES CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: (by Sr. Rosalie Carven) After the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, some members of Pax Christi Long Island met to consider how to respond to the prevalence of gun deaths, not only recurring mass shootings but also the 30 gun deaths that happen each day in our nation—homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. The nonviolent ethic of Pax Christi conditioned us to embrace a particular perspective on this tragedy: not to react in the belief that individuals and communities find personal and public security at the end of gun barrel. So a small committee of the Pax Christi Long Island council began a campaign to educate and encourage communities on Long Island to seek sensible gun regulations. The InSight Campaign to End Gun Violence was born… Read more at https://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/12/regional-news-pax-christi-long-island-initiates-insight-campaign-to-end-gun-violence/

PC-LI's December 8 interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. It was arranged  to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a lone gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 children and six staff members. The speaker is Det. Steven McDonald of the New York Police Department. While McDonald was on patrol in New York’s Central Park in 1986, a 15-year-old boy shot him and left him paralyzed. He has since become an eloquent advocate of forgiveness.

Det. Steven McDonald of the NY Police Department, shot in Central Park in 1986 by a 15-year-old boy, speaks on forgiveness at PC-LI’s interfaith service at St. Martha’s Parish in Uniondale. The service commemorated the 20th anniversary of a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road, in which six people died, and the first anniversary of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.

PC SEATTLE MEMBERS TAKE VOW OF NONVIOLENCE WITH ARCHBISHOP: (from Louise McDonald, CSJ) On Friday, January 17, 2014, twelve members of Pax Christi USA from the Seattle area made a Vow of Nonviolence at the 5:30 PM Liturgy at St. James Cathedral. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who presided, welcomed the group to commit themselves to the journey of peacemaking through the nonviolence of Jesus. The group made their vow while holding lighted candles symbolizing Christ as the Light of the World. Pax Christi Central Seattle members had prepared for this step by making a day-long retreat last fall led by Sr. Kathleen Pruitt, CSJP, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. Deacon Dennis Duffell stated “it was fitting that we members of Pax Christi were able to profess a Vow of Nonviolence on the weekend honoring the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of nonviolence.”  Eugene Underwood, the Coordinator of the Pax Christi Pacific Northwest Region remarked that “we were pleased that Archbishop Sartain was able to preside and Fr. Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral, to concelebrate. That made the event very meaningful.” And Emily E.B. Meyer, co-coordinator of Pax Christi Central Seattle reflected that “it was a peace-filled evening standing together in the candlelight, strengthening each other for a year of active peacemaking.” Read more at http://www.stjames-cathedral.org/Events/2014/album-paxchristi.aspx

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Members of Pax Christi in Seattle take the Vow of Nonviolence with Archbishop Sartain on MLK Day. (Photo by Maria Laughlin)

Mary and Nick Eoloff

Mary and Nick Eoloff

PC MINNESOTA MEMBER FEATURED IN NCR FOR HER WORK FOR PEACE: (from National Catholic Reporter) The interview below was conducted by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo for her “Conversations with Sr. Camille” feature on the National Catholic Reporter’s website. This interview is with Mary Eoloff, a long-time member of Pax Christi USA living in St. Paul, MN. Q: Can you recall an event or situation that gave direction to your life? A: I believe three events were life-changing for me. My senior English teacher, Sister Marion, insisted I go to college (a first in my family), and I graduated from the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University). The second event was the Second Vatican Council, which changed me forever. It gave me permission to think for myself. Before the council, I had been a very obedient member of a rules-oriented church. The third event was President Jimmy Carter’s reinstatement of the draft in 1980… Read the entire interview at https://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/05/interview-advocate-for-peace-feels-the-spirit-in-every-breath/

PC METRO NEW YORK PARTICIPATES IN PANEL ON THE LEGACY OF MANDELA: (by Rosemarie Pace) I never know what I’m going to hear when I pick up the phone or check messages at Pax Christi Metro New York. This time it was a man named Gordon Tapper from the United Nations asking to have someone from Pax Christi speak at an Interfaith Harmony Forum at the UN on Friday, February 7th. He wanted a representative of Pax Christi to address the Christian perspective on the theme of “Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation in recognition of Nelson Mandela”. Immediately, I thought this is something someone from the Pax Christi International NGO Team should do. Surely one of them would be more appropriate and articulate than I on the topic and in that setting. At first, one of the members of the NGO Team agreed to take on the challenge, though she admitted she wasn’t comfortable with public speaking and thought I was the more appropriate person to present. I still hesitated until I learned more about the request. Ultimately, I agreed to accept the invitation. I thought it would be a good experience for me and a good opportunity for Pax Christi… Read more at http://www.nypaxchristi.org/KeruxLive.html

PCUSA NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING NOTES: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, PCUSA Executive Director, and Sr. Josie Chrosniak, HM, PCUSA National Council Chair) On the weekend of January 23rd-26th, the Pax Christi USA National Council met for its bi-annual gathering at the PCUSA National Office in Washington, D.C. Ten members of the Council, along with the staff, were present. The following includes glimpses of actions taken by the National Council… To read more, go to https://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/10/news-report-to-membership-from-the-january-2014-national-council-meeting/

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

Members of the council and staff, with two regional representatives and two members of PCART, at the planning day with Crossroads.

PAX CHRISTI USA ENDORSES THE CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE: (from Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN) Pax Christi USA has endorsed Campaign Nonviolence that is being circulated through Pace e Bene. This campaign is certainly in keeping with PCUSA’s spirituality of nonviolence and peacemaking along with our other initiatives. The more our organizations can assist in connecting the dots between poverty, militarism, racism and the environment, the better off our world will be. I call your attention to the Pace e Bene website where you will find a wealth of information along with concrete actions to support the Campaign… Read more and consider becoming a promoter with the Campaign: https://paxchristiusa.org/2014/02/03/nonviolence-pax-christi-usa-endorses-the-campaign-nonviolence/

PC MEMPHIS PARTICIPATES IN DAY OF DISCERNMENT: (from PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Janice Vanderhaar) In order for Pax Christi Memphis to remain relevant and effective in our work for a nonviolent and just world, we engaged in a daylong process entitled “Honoring the Past, Welcoming the Future,” led by Mary Jo Greil, President of the Carson Greil Group and organizational change consultant.  Our purpose was to revitalize our mission and create a path for our future. The day was exhilarating, energizing, spirit-filled and enlightening.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Pax Christi Memphis participates in a day of discernment for their group.

Upcoming or Ongoing Events:

February 28-March 2 – PC Metro New York’s Annual Retreat with Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND at the St. Joseph’s Renewal Center in Brentwood, Long Island; http://www.nypaxchristi.org/events.html

March 1 – PCUSA National Council election nominations due, https://paxchristiusa.org/2014/01/14/national-council-nominations-now-being-sought-for-pax-christi-usa-national-council-elections-4/

March 5 – Ash Wednesday

March 5 – Ash Wednesday leafleting with PC Metro New York from 12-1pm at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; http://www.nypaxchristi.org/events.html

March 5-15 – Coalition of Immokalee Workers “Now is the Time” tour, http://ciw-online.org/blog/2014/01/time-is-now-schedule/

March 9 – PC New Jersey will be cosponsoring an event with author and educator Paul K. Chappell, in Stirling, NJ; email cbush@stshrine.org for more info

March 14-16 – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space conference in Santa Barbara, CA, http://www.space4peace.org/actions/gnconf_2014.htm

March 21-24 – Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. Theme is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace” with John Dear, http://advocacydays.org/

March 22 – PC Southern California regional assembly, “A Call to Nonviolence: One Year with Pope Francis,” with keynote speaker Ted Smolich, S.J., at Loyola Marymount University, http://www3.paxchristisocal.org/

March 24 – Archbishop Romero assassinated, 1980

March 28-29 – Friends of Sabeel North America Conference in Philadelphia, http://www.fosna.org/content/philadelphia-conference-march-28-29-2014

March 29 – PC Michigan State Conference, “Christian Nonviolence: The Great Failure, the Only Hope,” with Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy; at Cristo Rey Parish, Lansing, MI, http://www.paxchristimi.org/#!pcm-2014-annual-conference/c6oh

March 29-30 – PC Florida Annual Retreat, “Nonviolent Resistance” with Jim Douglass, at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center in Ellenton, FL; http://paxchristiflorida.org/events/

March 31 – Cesar Chavez Birthday

April 5-6 – Pax Christi Texas State Conference, “Christian Peacemaker Teams: Peacemaking in Palestine,” followed on the 6th by the regional dialogue at the Dominican Center for Spirituality in Houston, https://paxchristiusa.org/programs/regional-dialogues-2012-13/

April 14-18 – Holy Week Pilgrimage with the Norfolk Catholic Worker and Hampton Roads Pax Christi that will stop at 14 area military bases in the Hampton Roads, VA area, the most militarized place on the planet; contact Steve at williamsbaggarly@gmail.com for more info

May 3 – Regional Dialogue with Pax Christi Metro D.C.-Baltimore, https://paxchristiusa.org/programs/regional-dialogues-2012-13/


Dr. Arland Jacobson spoke recently on the topic of “Humiliation as a Source of Conflict” to the Fargo-Moorhead (ND) Pax Christi group and guests. His presentation was based on his article “The Role of Humiliation in International Conflict,” published in the fall issue of the Northern Plains Ethics Journal … Pax Christi USA will be moving to a new location in Washington, D.C. beginning March 1 … PC Indianapolis member Fran Quigley wrote this excellent article on efforts regarding immigration reform in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and other local congregations … PC members in Amarillo (TX) recently hosted “The Soldier and the Refusenik: Two Israelis. Two Choices. One Conclusion”. They highly recommend other PC groups consider hosting this extraordinary presentation …  PC Richmond (VA) hosted a special World Day of Peace Mass on New Year’s Eve which included a special remembrance of Bishop Walter Sullivan … PC El Paso (TX) recently hosted the film “Brother Outsider” on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin … A new e-booklet for small group discussion on Pacem in Terris’ 50th anniversary is available as a free download from the PCUSA website … PC Minnesota member Steve Clemens contributed this article to the Twin Cities Daily Planet on the frac sand trial in which he was a defendant … PC St. Jude (GA) participated in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Justice and Peace Expo earlier this month … Pax Christi Metro New York wrote a moving reflection on Pete Seeger following his death last month … There will be a “gathering of hope” on Feb. 17 in Knoxville for the Transform Now Plowshares. The sentencing phase of their trial is set for Feb. 18 … Pax Christi International’s February 2014 newsletter is online … See more local and regional updates in the Fall 2013 edition of The Peace Current

REFLECTION: In King William’s Town and Buchanan (South Africa journey, part three)

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by John Dear

We drove all day from Durban to King William’s Town, a ten hour drive through an astonishing landscape of rolling green hills, distant mountains, wild animals and ever changing skies. Along the way, we passed through a series of marvelous little towns that gave us the flavor of real South Africa, places like Ixopo, Umzimkulu, Kolstad, Frere, and Mthatha.

In the afternoon, we drove through the countryside of Qunu where Nelson Mandela was born and raised. We knew that later he built a house on his ancestral land, and that he is now buried there, and that it is closed to the public. As we drove along the country road, we noticed a large brown house surrounded by trees with police cars right by the road, so we pulled in to driveway, road onto the property and asked directions for the Mandela sites.

O blessed naivete! We had driven right into Mandela’s home. The police were quite friendly, told us where to go, and politely asked us to leave. So we drove over to one of two museums, which is also a conference center, dedicated to Mandela. This one is built on the site of his old school. It gave us a taste of Mandela’s rural roots, and reminded me of rural New Mexico.

Steven Biko

Steven Biko

Later that afternoon, we arrived in King William’s Town, and drove to the township of Ginsberg, to the brand new Steve Biko Heritage Center. There we were shown through the museum and the stunning exhibits about Biko’s life, teachings and death. Then our guide took us to visit Biko’s home, church, office and grave.

Steve Biko was a young anti-apartheid activist who was born in 1946, educated in Durban, and founded the “Black Consciousness” movement which inspired urban youth throughout South Africa during the 1970s to rise up against apartheid. He worked to empower blacks, told them that “black is beautiful,” and encouraged them to reclaim their personal dignity. In this way, unlike Mandela or other freedom fighters, Biko offered a new vision for young blacks—that they were significant, beautiful, even loved by God. On reflection, one can see that as his idea of “black consciousness” spread, the days of apartheid were doomed.

As Nelson Mandela later said, “They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid.”

It’s hard to grasp how bright and intelligent young Biko was, and the horrors that he was subjected to. In 1973, he was banned to King William’s Town, not allowed to speak to the media or publish, not allowed to travel, not allowed to meet with more than one person at a time. Even though he was a charismatic, intelligent leader, white South African police and government officials did everything they could to shut him up. But Biko befriended newspaper editor Donald Woods, who publicized Biko’s ideas which only made Biko more famous and his vision more widespread.

In August, 1977, Biko was arrested and taken to Port Elizabeth where he was brutally tortured like so many thousands of other black South Africans. Near death, he was thrown naked and unconscious into the back of a police van and driven seven hundred miles to Pretoria where he was pronounced dead on September 12, 1977. He was only thirty years old.

(Later, when we stayed in Port Elizabeth, we drove by the abandoned tall office building where white government police officers tortured Biko and thousands of others. It looks like any anonymous office building in any city in the world, and yet its sole purpose was torture and death. There’s talk of turning it into a museum.)

Not long after Biko’s death, Donald Woods was also banned. He and his family fled to England where he published his book, “Biko,” which Richard Attenborough turned into the celebrated movie, “Cry Freedom.” In 1986, I met Donald Woods during his U.S. speaking tour. He talked eloquently about Steve Biko and decried the evils of apartheid. I was so impressed by his thoughtful, rational presentation and his dedicated commitment to ending apartheid. He said that he had met many world leaders, but that Steve Biko was the brightest, most charismatic person he ever knew. I was so moved by his talk that I have kept my handwritten notes from that evening to this day.

We drove through the township of Ginsberg, turned a corner and came upon a little white house where Steve Biko lived for many years under the banning order with his mother, siblings, wife and children. On the little front lawn stands a large stone memorial unveiled a few years ago by Nelson Mandela. We walked through the simple house and came to a small room which we were told was Steve’s office. It had an enormous desk, some chairs and book shelves.

I was deeply moved to stand at Steve’s desk. Imagine young Steve stuck in this house, in this room, watched by white police officers 24 hours a day, yet doing what he could to inspire others through his “black consciousness” movement! What a beautiful conscious life!

Steve inspired a generation of young blacks to resist the racist claims of apartheid and to reclaim their basic humanity as sons and daughters of God. “Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time,” Biko wrote. “The basic tenet of black consciousness is that black people must reject all value systems that seek to make them foreigners in the country of their birth and reduce their basic human dignity… Whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior…You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.”

The word “consciousness” is important. Steve invited people to become more aware, to be conscious of themselves. This, to me, is at the heart of everything. All of us, black and white, of every race, gender, creed and nationality, need to grow in consciousness of our basic humanity. As we become more and more aware of being human, we become more nonviolent, more loving, more compassionate and more peaceful, and we don’t mind giving our lives for the service of others. Growth in awareness and consciousness is one way to understand the spiritual life, and the work of peacemaking. In light of Biko, we can speak also of “human consciousness,” “God consciousness,” “Jesus consciousness,” “peace consciousness,” and “nonviolence consciousness.” All of us are challenged to become more conscious of life, humanity, and the God who loves us so much.

Across town, we visited the church where Steve set up a community center and held an office. Then, we traced the little road used by tens of thousands during his funeral march to the town cemetery, where we found his grave. Fr. Ray and I knelt and prayed. Ray gave thanks for Steve’s life; I prayed that we might carry on his work of consciousness-raising, and inspire new generations to make peace. It was an overwhelming moment, the heart of our South African pilgrimage.

The next day we reached another key goal of our pilgrimage–the rural Baptist mission founded by Fr. Ray East’s grandfather in 1909. For Ray, his sister Cecilia and Gertrude and their cousin Bobbye, visiting the ancestral church was a lifelong dream. Ray’s father had been born here in South Africa.

Ray’s amazing grandparents traveled from Philadelphia to South Africa, a week after their wedding to serve as missionaries. Not only did they start the church, but they taught the locals the latest improvements in agriculture, which greatly improved their farming and harvests. Because they made such an impact throughout the region, the white government kicked them out in 1920.

On Sunday morning, we drove an hour into the countryside, to a rural community of small houses and tin huts with little water and electricity, to the Buchanan Mission. Several hundred people packed the building and were singing up a storm as we entered. For the next two hours, we sang and danced and celebrated life in Christ. On the back wall of the simple church hung a picture of Ray’s grandparents. The churchgoers welcomed the East family as the long lost relatives they were. It was a great homecoming.

I don’t think I have ever heard such singing in my life. We were asked to sit on the altar with the young pastor, with the large choir to our right. But there was no difference between the choir and the congregation, for everyone sang their hearts out. We were overwhelmed with joy and consolation. Afterwards, a feast was produced and we visited with everyone. Later, at a family friend’s home, we continued the singing. Ray and I led a few Civil Rights anthems, such as “We Shall Overcome,” but their African hymns and protest songs were the best I’ve ever heard.

In their music, prayer, community and loving kindness, we tasted the spirit of resurrection that’s stirs in South Africa. People there are conscious and alive, as Steve Biko taught, and they call the rest of us to rise into the new life of “resurrection consciousness.” What a blessing!

REFLECTION: In Pietermaritzburg and Durban (South Africa journey, part two)

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by John Dear
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

On Jan. 22, we drove eight hours south from Johannesburg and Soweto, close to Lesotho, then into KwaZulu-Natal to Pietermaritzburg. Along the way, we passed a side road near Howick where Nelson Mandela was arrested long ago, the arrest that led to his 27 years in prison. A tall, powerful memorial that outlines his face marks the spot. Our drive was magical, through lush, rolling hills, magnificent distant mountains on all sides, and occasional wild animals.

Pietermaritzburg felt like a stepping back into old Victorian South Africa. In the city center, we marveled at the tall orange-brick City Hall with its magnificent clock tower. But we had a specific goal — a little pilgrimage to the train station where Gandhi was once thrown off a train, an act that led to his lifelong determined fight against injustice and violence. I had come to see the place for myself, and my friends — Fr. Ray East, his sisters and cousin — were happy to join me.

Gandhi told the story in his autobiography and in many subsequent interviews. It was June 7, 1893. He had just arrived from India as a young barrister and was on his way to Pretoria for his first case. He had ordered a first-class train ticket by mail and did not know that nonwhites were not allowed to ride in the first-class section.

At 9 p.m., the train pulled into Pietermaritzburg. Train officials received complaints about him sitting in first class. They ordered him to leave, and he refused. So they threw his luggage, which kept his overcoat, off the train. When that didn’t deter him, they threw Gandhi himself off the train. He landed on the platform, and the train sped off. It was a bitter cold night. He was freezing. Train officials took his luggage, and he did not dare ask for it back to get his overcoat for fear of further mistreatment.

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FILM REVIEW: Mandela’s long, inspiring walk to freedom

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by John Dear
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or background or religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

That quote concludes the new movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” It’s a fitting summation to a powerful film that I urge everyone to see.

mandela_long_walk_to_freedom_xlgOf course, it’s an enormous undertaking to boil Nelson Mandela’s epic life down to a two-hour film. That’s why there’s never been a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. Many have tried and failed. “Gandhi” succeeded because Richard Attenborough worked on the script for 20 years. Then he found the best actors and shot every scene with meticulous detail, even getting a million people to recreate Gandhi’s funeral march. It’s still the best movie ever made, in my opinion. Go and watch that, too.

I know some reviewers found the script for the Mandela film a bit plodding. Some dismissed it as a typical TV biopic. I think “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is excellent and inspiring. Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela are extraordinary. And in my book, time spent meditating on the lives of great peacemakers and justice-seekers is always time well spent.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” takes us through his long life — the opening scenes of his tribal boyhood in Qunu, where he was buried last month; his first marriage, law practice and early home life in Soweto; his growing involvement with the African National Congress (ANC); his rejection of nonviolence; his leadership with the ANC military wing; his eventual arrest and trial, and the threat of the death penalty…

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REFLECTION: In Johannesburg and Soweto (South Africa journey, part one)

Rev. John Dear, S.J.

by John Dear
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

We landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Jan. 13, after a 15-hour flight from Atlanta. For me, it was a dream come true. After endless discussion, study, plans and preparations, we arrived on a hot, sunny summer afternoon and found ourselves in a beautiful, lush neighborhood just outside the city. It felt like Northern California — cool, breezy, sunny and refreshing, with a thousand birds singing all around us.

South Africa, a nation of approximately 49 million people, ended its reign of racial terror and state-sanctioned violence against blacks, known infamously as apartheid, in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela and the creation of a new democracy. It has, hands down, the best, most progressive constitution on the planet. The whole world turned toward it last month with Mandela’s death, and it continues to inspire nonviolent resisters everywhere with its amazing leaps toward justice, peace and reconciliation. It still has terrible problems — staggering unemployment, poverty, violent crime — but for a new democracy, only 20 years old, it has made enormous strides.

Twenty years after apartheid, I’ve come to listen, learn, and see for myself the beauty of the land and the spirit of the struggling people. I’ve traveled with my friend Fr. Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., and a longtime speaker and activist; his sisters Gertrude and Cecilia; and their cousin Bobbye…

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