New Mexico is abuzz with the news. Soon from our austere landscape will rise a spanking new, state-of-the-art, plutonium bomb factory. Setting pen to paper and thereby blessing the project was President Obama, who had announced a year ago in Prague the goal of a nuclear-free world, but with his recent budget, will actually increase nuclear weapons production more than any other president since Ronald Reagan.
On the Road to Peace
Last week, we lost one of the great original voices in the nation, 87-year-old historian and peace activist Howard Zinn. His was a unique voice -- of truth, clarity, wisdom, sanity, humanity. He was the first of his kind, and his history lessons influenced millions.
A combat veteran of World War II, Howard Zinn taught political science at Spellman College and Boston University and authored dozens of books. A long-time activist, he addressed peace rallies, wrote countless essays against militarism, and repeatedly committed civil disobedience against war and landed in jail.
My spiritual reading during these traumatic months -- what with wars grinding in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failed Copenhagen Climate Change conference, our being turned away from peacefully entering Gaza, and now the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti--has been a new book from Orbis in their "Modern Spiritual Masters" series: Etty Hillesum: Essential Writings. A balm for my wounds. She speaks to our predicament and points a way forward. She teaches me not just how to cope, but how to grow, deepen, love and serve. I highly recommend this book.
With you, I grieve the loss of life from last week’s earthquake in Haiti. And, with you, I grieve the survivors’ suffering and the slow pace of relief. Most of all, I grieve the injustice and poverty that has plagued Haiti -- and much of our world -- from its early colonizers to its U.S.-backed military juntas and dictatorships.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I left New York City for Cairo on Christmas day, with a long wait in Amsterdam, and this morning at four o’clock made my way to the Sun Hotel near Tahrir Square and the Nile River. Others have come, too -- 1,362 people representing 43 nations -- all of us journeying to Gaza to participate in the “Gaza Freedom March.”
Fr. John Dear is traveling, returning from Egypt, so has no column this week, but we thought his readers might be interested in these stories now on our Web site:
Cairo, Egypt -- The Gaza Freedom March is truly an unprecedented, historic event for the global grass-roots peace movement. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, mass international solidarity action ever undertaken. Some 1,362 people from 42 nations have traveled here to Cairo in order to journey through the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza to join 50,000 in a march commemorating the first anniversary of the Israeli attack and siege which left 1,400 Gazans dead and 5,000 wounded. Such a massive outpouring never happened during the Vietnam, Central America or Iraq wars. It is a sign of the world's outrage of the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza, and the continuing strength of the peace movement.
But when we arrived here in Gaza, we learned that the Egyptian government had categorically banned our entry into Gaza, banned any attempt to get to Gaza, banned any public gatherings, and banned our initial orientation evening at the prestigious Jesuit College of the Holy Family.
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present. -- Thomas Merton
In the true spirit of Christmas, on Christmas day I'll leave for Gaza to join some 1,300 people from 40 nations -- as well as an expected 50,000 Palestinians -- and together undertake a nonviolent march to the Erez northern border crossing leading into Israel. We'll arrive on the first anniversary of the diabolical Israeli bombing attack in which 1,400 Palestinians perished, the vast majority civilians.
President Obama’s speech last week in Oslo, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize, undermined the example of all the peacemakers of the ages. Standing before the world, he defended America’s military misadventures, dismissed nonviolence and endorsed the just-war theory as the way to peace.
Last week at West Point, President Obama cited his reasons for sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama spoke eloquently. He insisted our cause is just. It is necessary, it is crucial. Killing Afghanis is the way to peace. The oxymorons rolled off his tongue.
Apparently, it does not matter that wars are bankrupting us. Or sending our young to die. Or leaving them psychologically impaired. Or degrading the environment. Or, bitterest of ironies, breeding a new generation of terrorists.