What is power? Power lines carry dangerous levels of electricity. Queens use a scepter of power. Between you and me, all human power is finite. Yet most power is infinite. Where can I tap into power to change my rubbery life? To change trash blown onto my street? To change my city so that you, me and the microbes thrive? Starhawk (if you never heard of her, look her up) speaks of power over which is the world’s power, associated with dictators, Popes, head honchos. This is the weakest of the 3 powers. A second type she calls “Power with” is the power of a circle, where all gifts and people are cherished. This could be a cooperative that builds a library or a community garden.Read more
by Minga Claggett-Borne
I’m living these last ten days in Kathmandu, near Baktapur, Nepal. I’m living with a family—Pradip, Barsha and Prabel. The family works hard and sleeps in one bed. One night there were 5 people in a double bed. They are very sociable and close to their parents, often visiting them and arranging their health care. They come from farmers and we visited one set of grandparents yesterday.Read more
“Part of understanding Justice is to recognize the disproportions among which we live..."
it takes an awful lot of living with the powerless to begin to understand what it is like to be powerless, to have your voice, thoughts, ideas and concerns count for very little. We, who have been given much, whose voices can be heard, have a great responsibility to make our voices heard with absolute integrity for those who are powerless.” John O'DonohueRead more
Some proclaim that peace is possible. Really? Where? Does it last? Quakers and Amish and some intentional communities have islands of peace. Some scientists think we can abolish war. I certainly pray for it. I thought our economy depended on war. Certainly our entertainment thrives on blood and feuds. Maybe abolishing war in 2015 is too grandiose.
Let’s begin with something basic for the next 5 years: Can we eliminate aggressive violence? This is not the same as establishing peace, but let’s start somewhere. Elise Boulding, a Quaker professor of Peace Studies, talks about a culture of peace, which seems distant, oh so idealistic. But over the last hundreds of years we have eliminated stocks, public whippings, flogging children in schools, etc. Are we creeping towards a culture of peace—can we edge away from a world of more violence?
I agree, over time, to keep peace one must work for justice. In my mind, structural violence and behavioral violence seem intertwined. Shooting or punching are terrible, and so is grinding poverty. But is the first step stopping the mass killing, or addressing racism? Can we eliminate behavioral violence, even though the absence of war is different from the presence of justice and/or peace. Babies are still hungry and women are illiterate? To put it bluntly, I’d rather have a hungry child than a dead one.
When the Allied Nations stopped the extermination, many Jews were still held for many years in squalid conditions in the Nazi camps. Many countries after 1945 (including the US) refused to accept Jewish refugees. That was structural violence, but we had eliminated the outright murder in the death camps. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I’m sure that stopping nation’s aggression will give space for us to address poverty and oppression.
Quakers have adhered adamantly to the peace testimony meaning a renunciation of all outward weapons. The world in 2015 is so far from that stance, what could be a feasible change to help people to abolish war, or aggressive murder. Let’s explore what must happen, at a minimum, for peace to be possible. But what if we supported the UN using some form of violence in cases of statehood aggression. Personal violence is immoral, but Randy Forsberg believes in “defensive nonviolence”, where armed force is used only in defense. The military would be strictly and narrowly conceived.
After Vietnam, US military kept a force that is not drafted temporarily for one war, but a body drafted as a permanent part of US forces in peace time. The goal was to keep leaders in power who are friendly, or to a cynic, leaders who follow the US’s agenda. We know that Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Philippians are not about to attack the US, yet we want military bases there. We must get a UN agreement for the US to abide by international law. And that law should say that no country can invade another’s’ borders. The UN, not the US, decides when another country needs protection.
We know that families, neighbors, schools, morality of all religion says that murder is wrong. Why would we allow mass murder by our military? Let’s stop fooling ourselves. The military doesn’t protect us: it encourages more violence in the world. Now that, is scary.
I was in Ireland all of 20 days and I've been puzzling "why is the human race so violent and yet so loving?" How can this be? I can't find a kinder warmer people than the ones I met on Dublin streets. The Irish seem more active in their churches than other Europeans. Yet my time here has reverberated with violence: a Malaysian plane shot down; killing willy-nilly in Gaza/ Iraq; plus a local homicide/suicide in the Irish news. It's troubling because the AVPers in Dublin from over 40 countries (including violent places like Iraq, Mexico, Ukraine, Israel, Sudan) are working for peace in these countries. They share powerful stories of peace at work.
So I've been trying to learn from the sea-washed eyes of the Irish. Here I've seen that anger and frustration don’t necessarily lead to violence. Did you know that? The driving force behind war and murder is being disrespected. To feel shame is so degrading, that it's better to eliminate the other than to endure such pain.
Ireland has its rich history of misery and glory.
First, it seems that the Celts who were Christians in the 4th century in Ireland did well including their native rituals/symbols. And there's signs of Ireland's symbols of divinity (or otherworldliness) everywhere. Ireland has 40,000 prehistoric stone circles, of ring forts which are illegal to destroy. Plus belief in fairies seem alive.) The Anglo Normans invaded Ireland in the Eleventh century. Then through trade and intermarriage they became "more Irish than the Irish."
Another prolific sign all over Ireland is the appealing Celtic cross, a cross encircled by the sun. Some see the Celtic cross as a compass used by those planted so close to the sea. The interweave of the Celtic knot is a masterpiece befitting of a sailor. I saw a 10th century church where the baptism font included the Celtic knot and two stags alongside the cross. So when a culture lives with respect, such symbols of pagans and Catholics seem to thrive side by side. How is it that Christians on the mainland had such massacres as the crusades? Notice that the witch burnings for 5 centuries barely grazed Ireland. Religious tolerance was inculcated early.
Brigit the Irish Saint and St. Patrick in the 5th century modeled amazing cooperation. In the Trias Thaumaturga (extensive Irish history). Brigit's founded many churches and was beloved in the Diocese of Elphin. Her friendship with Saint Patrick is acclaimed from the Book of Armagh: "inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit".
Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.
But we have heard of the wars between the Irish and the English. The fight between the dragon and the lion: the green and the orange. I won’t say more of the troubled time in Northern Ireland when Protestant and Catholic fought. “And the tears of the people ran together.” The official peace accord was signed in 1992, but a remarkable turning of the tide happened in 1976. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams organized peace marches in Northern Ireland after 3 children of Corrigan’s sister were killed by a gunman in a car. Tens of thousands turned out: Catholics and Protestants marching together. Corrigan said,
“We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and dedicate ourselves to building a just and peaceful society. We offered love, not condemnation and self-righteousness, we offered forgiveness and reconciliation, and a vision of a Northern Irish society based of equality, fairness, and justice. If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future, we have to sow seeds of nonviolence here, in the present.”
Joan Baez wrote about Mairead Corrigan, "The breath of God ran through her like a fair summer breeze. She was endlessly brave, going into the homes of ‘the enemy’ unarmed. God bless the brave women of Ireland who, for a brief but exceptional moment in time, waged mass nonviolent warfare in one of the most violent times in the world."
Six inmate AVP facilitators shared their personal journeys:
“Though we may be in the gutters some of us still look at the stars”
“In the past the people were afraid to approach me because of my reputation of violence, since I became an AVP facilitator people find it easier to approach me when looking for help with their own problems”
“I came to prison ….. with a life sentence for murder……..a year later I did my first AVP workshop…..it taught me to turn my back on violence…..it gave me the tools to change my life….it taught me a lot about empathy…which makes it less likely to be violent towards somebody. This is probably the most important thing AVP has taught me and if I can teach that to someone else I have done my job”
“it taught me to be creative….I write a lot of poetry now…..I couldn’t live without AVP….thank AVP for making me the man I am today.” Finally one inmate concluded with the words of John O’Donoghue:
“May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.”