Stopping Violence

Patan Square, Nepal

In Nepal, Listening for Peace

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


Sanctuary from Persecution

Guido and child

“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


Quaking for Peace

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.Friends with gay pride

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. WipalaBYM 1That 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.Vertieres_big

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.


Peace with a Pint of Irish

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.

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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."

celtcrossAnother 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,

Maired Corrigan

  “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."

 


AVP, Ireland, Rhythm of Universe

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.”

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Suffragettes, Chicks and Gitmo

Why would 100 prisoners organize a hunger strike in Guantanamo? Did our Congress answer that question adequately before an army of doctors coerced force feeding? Force feeding is not the opposite of hungering for food. Feeding tubes down the mouth are dangerously painful. Force-feeding is rape of the stomach.

Guantanamo Bay
Guantanamo Bay

It’s mutilation of the esophagus. And violation of one’s dignity.

Human life begins with eggs, seeds and then food. Food has a double oo. Food is one letter away from good. Good is one letter away from God. I’ve watched a scrawny, pinion-peppered baby robin get fed. I see that tiny dinosaur head  with saucer eyes and huge mouth gaping wildly towards the mother. That robin chick clamors for food. It chirps vigorously before, during and after being fed. From mom’s beak, down mom’s throat and then regurgitation into chick’s mouth. Gulp, yum. Food.

But food is something we decide we want. Birds would never feed chicks against their will. Even a severe parent can’t force their child to eat those smelly foods, moving the jaw up and down.

Hunger strikes are often related to prisoners struggling for human rights. In England and the US women fighting the right to vote decided to stop eating about 1910. Pankhurst described the suffragettes’ ordeal, “[the prison Holloway] became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office.” When the prison guards opened her cell door, Pankhurst raised a clay jug over her head, to avoid the force-feeding proclaiming, “If any of you dares so much as

Alice-Paul
Alice-Paul

to take one step inside this cell, I shall defend myself.”

Why does the US think that force-feeding is helping humans on the path of sanity and justice? Morally, only the very sick or wounded should be force-fed. Can we learn from the past, or will we veer towards extinction? Alice Paul, who more than Lucretia Mott or Susan B. Anthony, ushered into the White House the right to vote, was force-fed along with other women. Remember by 1913, the campaign for females sufferage (started in 1848), was floating like a dead fish in oily Potomac. In March of 1913 Paul had organized a march of 8,000 women which upstaged Wilson’s inauguration. Later, they organized a sustained picket (first group to wage civil disobedience) in front of the White House, called the Silent Sentinels. In 1916 hundreds of women were arrested for obstructing sidewalk traffic. In jail our foremothers, Lucy Burns, Dora Lewis, and others were beaten, hurled against walls, choked, and kicked. But the worst punishment was being force-fed.

At Guantanamo approximately 100 of the 166 detained prisoners are refusing food. Of those, 29 were being force-fed, shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask with tubes inserted through their nose for up to two hours at a time. Over 130 have joined the hunger strike that began February 2013. Force-feeding is considered torture by the United Nations and condemned by the American Medical Association. One prisoner described force-feeding by saying it felt like, a "razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.

Is the treatment in Gitmo racist? The US treats immigrants as guilty, inhumanely, without evidence. A recent letter from a prisoner says, “I do not wish to die, but I am prepared to run the risk that I may end up doing so, because I am protesting the fact that I have been locked up for more than a decade, without a trial, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and denied access to justice. I have no other way to get my message across…”

Why would so many men and women go on a hunger strike, knowing they will receive the extra torture of force-feeding? They must be fighting for their lives. In 1917 finally Woodrow Wilson persuaded Congress to put the 23rd Amendment to vote. He had promised 5 years earlier in 1911 when first elected that he would defend women’s rights. Only after hundreds of women had suffered in prison was Wilson persuaded to act. Aleluja. Now for 93 years women have reaped the benefit. Suffragists risked their Lives, willing to die, so that we their grandchildren can Live.

What will we say in 90 years about the 30 Guantanamo prisoners asking Obama & Congress for their civil rights? These people, most are innocent, are choosing the torture of force-feeding instead of the long languishing torture of prison without cause.

Jewish scriptures proclaim, “Choose Life so that you and your children can live.” The baby birds that flap and tumble and chirp outside my window eat ravenously. They have their answer. The summer winds blow hot this year. Cuba is far away, and Guantanamo is a nightmare that I choose to ignore. “What does our God require of me?”

Gitmo in Severe Weather
Gitmo in Severe Weather