The event last week -- an uncommon apology -- did not attract much notice in the U.S. media. And that is not hard to understand why. Our news agencies make their livings dishing up vengeance, retaliation, gossip and violence. They stir up fear and division, peddle half-truths and ruin reputations, and stir the fires of war. And it makes them millions.
On the Road to Peace
Like many of you, I long for peace but feel stuck in our warlike culture, like a Gulf pelican mired in BP’s oil spill. A timely image that touched a nerve when I said it last weekend in Washington, D.C. It was at the conference for the Network for Spiritual Progressives sponsored by my friend Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine. We are all of us pelicans gummed up and weighed down in the oil, I said, all of us victims of our culture of violence, greed and war.
On June 1, Fr. Louie Vitale celebrated his 78th birthday in Lompoc Federal Prison, near Vandenberg Air Force base, north of Los Angeles. A Franciscan priest and one of our great voices for peace and disarmament, he is currently serving six months for crossing the line last November at the gates of Fort Benning, Ga., to call for the closing of the notorious “School of Americas.” Louie has spent many years in prison for peace. His life has become one long prayer for peace, like his teacher St. Francis. Last year, he visited Iran, Hiroshima and Egypt with me, in the hopes of getting into Gaza. He expects to be freed July 24.
When my mind turns to Israel and Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza, the hatred and the bullets, the dead children -- and now the assault on the Peace Flottilla -- I can't quite keep down the question: Where is God?
I was in Toronto this past weekend, speaking at a church conference with my friend Fr. Roy Bourgeois, leader of the campaign to close the “School of Americas,” where the U.S. army trains soldiers of oligarchies in southern hemisphere to repress the indigenous people. And also Bishop Alvero Ramazzini of San Marcos, Guatemala, a bold champion for social justice who is under constant death threat. Two rare species.
Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed a half-century ago: “Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world.” It’s a proposition that stirs me whenever I return to it. Because with Gandhi there is no shadow of doubt. His words bear authority, they carry weight.
“The way of Jesus and the way of the Bomb are absolutely, metaphysically incompatible,” Daniel Berrigan wrote 25 years ago in Sorrow Built a Bridge. “That statement might seem, were the world sane and the church Christ-like, impossibly redundant. Because neither is either, the statement, though otiose to some, is a necessary drumbeat.”
They say the peace movement is dead. It's hard to argue against that when so few speak out against our two wars, and when so many peace organizations are cutting back, laying off staff, and struggling to make ends meet. But if you were in New York City this past weekend, you would have seen the movement is alive and well. Some 15,000 converged at the opening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference at the United Nations.
I'm in New York City this week, attending some of the peace events around the opening of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference at the United Nations, and staying with Fr. Daniel Berrigan and the Jesuit Community. This past Good Friday, Dan was arrested at the U.S. Intrepid War Museum; he goes to court in June. May 9 is his 89th birthday.
The best part about the recent movie "The Last Station" -- a film that covers Leo Tolstoy's turbulent last year -- is Christopher Plummer's performance. With subtlety and skill he brings Tolstoy to life as the last days take their toll. Family bliss wasn't in his destiny. His wife, Sophia, failed to appreciate his Gospel values and wrangled with him over his plans to relinquish the copyrights of his works to the public domain.