by Art Laffin
“Put Away the Sword” was the theme as 40 people from the Atlantic Life Community, the New Jerusalem Community in Philadelphia, Loras College in Iowa and DePaul University in Chicago gathered in Washington, D.C. from March 27-29 for the annual Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreat sponsored by Jonah House and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Remembering the Last Supper, arrest, torture, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, the retreat included time for prayer, reflection, community building and nonviolent public witness.
To begin the retreat, the film “Romero” was shown in remembrance of the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador who was shot while he celebrated the Eucharist on March 24, 1980. As someone who prophetically lived out the passion and cross of Jesus, we beckoned the spirit of Archbishop Romero and the other martyrs of El Salvador into our presence throughout the retreat.
On Holy Thursday morning, in preparation for a nonviolent witness at the Israeli Embassy, there was a presentation and discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the major role that the U.S. plays in the conflict, how some Jews and Palestinians are working together to end the occupation and the responsibility U.S. citizens have to help end the occupation and establish peace in the Holy Land for both Palestinians and Jews. Also discussed was the issue of Israel’s own nuclear weapons capability and the constant Israeli and U.S. threats against Iran because of its alleged nuclear weapons program. Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, was able to shed important light on this subject later during the community reflection at the evening liturgy. He shared that, with respect to the government and media conjecture that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, we should not be deceived by the same misinformation and lies that led to the justification of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. Ray made the crucial point that, according to the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees 16 different government intelligence agencies, Iran is not building a nuclear weapon.
In the early afternoon, the retreat community held a silent solemn procession to the Israeli Embassy. Retreatants held signs and banners that had biblical quotes from Leviticus: “Do Not Stand Idle While a Neighbor’s Life is at Stake;” “Treat Aliens in Your Land No Different From Your Own;” and “Love Your Neighbor As You Love Yourself.” Other signs included: “The God of Israel Weeps Over the Crimes of the State of Israel;” Put Away the Sword;” and “Jews Must Shine the Light of God in the World. It’s Their Destiny” (Rabbi Abraham Heschel). The witness concluded with a reading of our leaflet, which was accepted by an embassy security guard, and the singing of “Sacred the Land.”
In the evening, the retreatants held a liturgical celebration of Maundy Thursday. Rosemary Thompson led a moving ritual centered on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. This was followed by Scott Wright offering a powerful reflection about torture survivors held in detention on the border and sharing a statement of apology that was recently offered in El Salvador at the Memorial Wall by representatives of SOA Watch. This apology was made to the people of El Salvador in repentance for the role the U.S. played in contributing to the deaths of over 75,000 Salvadorans. (Go to www.soaw.org to see the entire statement of apology). The liturgy ended with a celebration of the Eucharist.
On Good Friday, the community began with a public witness at the Pentagon. At 7:00 a.m. the community processed silently into the protest zone. Sr. Margaret McKenna (Medical Mission sister and member of the New Jerusalem Community in Philadelphia) and Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, DC) went out onto the Pentagon sidewalk and held an adoration of the Cross. Before a cross with the inscription: 2013–Suffering Humanity, they prayed: “We Adore You oh Christ and We Bless Thee, For By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World.” As Sr. Margaret laid prostate on the ground while Art knelt holding the Cross, they were arrested by Pentagon police as the community sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” The community witness continued with a huge banner that said: “U.S. Empire Crucifies Humanity” displayed on the grassy slope and a retreatant, dressed in a black robe representing a victim of militarism, standing on a crate with arms outstretched on a large cross. Our leaflet (see below) and a reflection about Jesus being nailed to the cross today, written by Leonardo Boff, were read aloud. Throughout the witness the community sang: “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” Sr. Margaret and Art were charged with “failure to comply with a lawful order,” processed and released. They were given a May 17th court date.
At noon-time retreatants held a “contemporary crucifixion” on the street directly in front of the White House as hundreds of tourists looked on. See below the reflections that were read for each of the ten crucified victims as they, wearing black robes, took turns with arms outstretched on the cross. We ended our witness and retreat by sharing a sign of peace.
Let us pray for each other during these holy days, and for all those in our world who are experiencing at this very moment the passion and death of Jesus. Let us especially remember the imprisoned Guantanamo prisoners who are on the 51st day of a hunger strike to demand an end to their brutal and inhumane confinement. (For more info on how you can support the hunger-strikers and close Guantanamo seewww.witnesstorture.org.) And let us be transformed by the cross and resurrection of Jesus as we seek to practice resurrection and be living signs of hope for our world.
PHOTOS BY TED MAJDOSZ
Israel EmbassyWitness– Photo Link:
Good Friday White House Witness–Photo link:
A Good Friday Plea for 2013: PUT Away the Sword & Stop Crucifixion Today! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today, vast numbers of God’s global family experience a modern form of crucifixion as they are crucified to a cross of war, militarism, and economic exploitation. In the crucified people of our world we see the crucified face of Jesus. Today, we remember the victims who have been and continue to be crucified and deemed expendable, and call for an immediate end to their crucifixion. We also pray for an end to the desecration of our sacred earth. We, members of the Atlantic Life Community and students from the Midwest, witness in the streets of Washington this week to follow Jesus in nonviolent revolution as he made his way to Jerusalem. We say loudly and clearly with Him, “Put away the sword,” the weapons and stop all violence! We call out to the consciences of those who lead the nations, including our own–War No More! Put away your swords, drones, bombs, carriers of bombs and oppression and become part of the nonviolent revolution. We can no longer afford guns and bombs when billions of people worldwide do not have sufficient food, health care, shelter and educational opportunities. Our consciences are formed to love enemies, to feed the hungry, to become One world of sisters and brothers under One God, One Spirit, One family with disarmed hearts and in a disarmed world. Please join us!
For further information contact: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-882-9649 Jonah House: 410-233-6238
Script of Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth Offered at the White House
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today, vast numbers of God’s global family experience a modern form of crucifixion as they are crucified to a cross of war, militarism, and economic exploitation. In the crucified people of our world we see the crucified face of Jesus. Today, we remember the victims who have been and continue to be crucified and deemed expendable, and call for an immediate end to their crucifixion. We also pray for an end to the desecration of our sacred earth.
crucified person #1–Iraq war victim
For over twenty years the U.S. waged an unrelenting war against Iraq. We pray for the over 2 millions Iraqis who have died since 1991–crucified to a cross of bombings, sanctions, invasion and occupation. We repent for destroying an entire society and traumatizing a generation of Iraqis. We pray for the countless millions injured and the over 4 million displaced. Although most U.S. military personnel have left Iraq, the effects of a brutal U.S. military intervention will never be over for the Iraqi people. And the U.S. continues to be a dominant presence in Iraq as CIA personnel and private security contractors remain and drones continue to patrol Iraqi skies. We call for all CIA personnel and security contractors leave Iraq immediately and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the Iraqi people.
crucified person #2–Afghanistan war victim
Since the US began its criminal military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, thousands of Afghan civilians have suffered and died. We pray for all those Afghans who have been, and continue to be, crucified to a cross of ruthless US military occupation. This occupation has included the use of secret US military “kill teams.” Over the last three years it is estimated that at least 6,100 civilians have died and thousands have been injured. On February 12, 2013, 10 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed by US air strikes in the Kunar province of Afghanistan.If this war is to end, we have to see the Afghan people as our brothers and sisters –as if they were literally members of our own. We repent for the sin of US warmaking. We pray and work for an immediate end to the immoral and illegal U.S. war in Afghanistan and that reparations be made to the people of Afghanistan.
crucified person #3–Drone bombing victim
The newest warplane of choice being used by the US military in its war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), commonly known as Drones. These pilotless warplanes, which are controlled from thousands of miles away, are now being used extensively in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. The US has recently deployed 100 troops to Niger to build a new drone base. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been 364 drone strikes in Pakistan over the last nine years. 312 have been carrried out by the Obama Administration. It is estimated that up to 3,500 people have been killed by drone strikes, including up to 196 children, and over 1,400 people have been injured. We pray for all victims of U.S. Drone strikes and call for an immediate end to the use of Drones in pakistan, yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. and we commit ourselves to abolishing these murderous Drones, our American death squads of the skies.
crucified person #4–Victim of Militarism and Nuclearism
We pray for all people–past and present–who have been, and continue to be, crucified to the cross of militarism and nuclearism. We remember all victims who have died and continue to suffer from the U.S. use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We remember all victims of nuclear testing and those who have suffered and died from exposure to highly radioactive depleted uranium weapons in Iraq and elsewhere. We remember all victims of U.S. military intervention–from Vietnam to Central America, to Afghanistan. We pray for the people of Japan and everyone and everything that has been effected by radiation exposures from damaged nuclear reactors. As the FY 2013 military budget and related national security, intelligence and space militarization appropriations approach $1 trillion, and as the administration and congress expand AFRICOM, and propose spending some $85 billion to upgrade the U.S.nuclear arsenal over the next ten years, we remember all peoples who are deprived the basic necessities of life due to exhorbitant military expenditures. We pray and work for the abolition of nuclear weapons and all weapons, for an end to all forms of militarism and military intervention worldwide, and for the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on serving the common good.
crucified person #5–Victim of economic exploitation
The US is only about 5 percent of the world’s population and yet it consumes over 25 percent of the world’s energy and 30 percent of the world’s material resources. We remember all people who have been, and continue to be, sacrificed at the altar of greed, oppression and economic exploitation. We remember all people who have died early deaths in the U.S. and worldwide from dire poverty and malnutrition. We pray and work for an end to structures and policies which dominate, exploit and crucify people to a cross of dehumanizing poverty, debt and neglect. We commit to working for an end to corporate domination, the eradication of poverty, a fair redistribution of wealth and a just economic order.
crucified person #6–Torture Victim (dressed as a GITMO prisoner)
Jesus was a torture victim who was condemned by religious authorities and executed by the Roman empire. We remember all torture victims, past and present, who have suffered and died from the effects of torture. We remember the over 100 prisoners who, since 2001, died at secret U.S. military black sites, as well as the nine prisoners who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo. We remember the 166 prisoners in Guantanamo, most of whom have been cleared for release, including those who are now on a hunger-strike calling for an end to their brutal, unjust confinement. Today is day 50 of their hunger strike. We pray and work for the abolition of torture worldwide, and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, Bagram, the SOA/WHINSEC and all military torture and training centers.
crucified person #7–Nonviolent revolutionary victim
We turn our sights this Holy Week to North Africa and the Middle East. We remember young Mohamed Bouazzi from Tunisia who set himself on fire, unable to face the rejection of his license for his vending employment. This death sparked a domino effect of revolutions in surrounding countries to break their shackles of oppression. We hold in prayer the dead and wounded people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. These nonviolent resisters marched, demonstrated, occupied the streets and squares in order to free themselves from police repression, censorship, unemployment, and violence and were met with violent attacks. We remember all of the people of these nations and repent for U.S. funding of any of the guns, bombs, and materials used to prop up their abusive dictators. May all that has been stolen from these sisters and brothers be restored.
crucified person #8–Imprisoned victim
We picture before us the imprisoned Jesus –arrested, tortured, stripped, crowned with thorns, mocked and crucified. We remember today imprisoned political prisoners and all who are held in gulags and prisons throughout the world. We remember and pray for:
— Brian Terrell, serving a six month sentence at FCI, Yankton, SD for protesting the murderous drones at Whiteman AFB in Missouri;
— Private Bradley Manning, whistle-blower and truth revealer of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, who has spent over 1,000 days in prison and is facing vindictive prosecution;
— Yang Yoon-Mo, serving an 18 month sentence and who is on a hunger strike for protesting the construction of a new naval base on Jeju Island in Korea. We remember, too, many others who have been imprisoned trying to nonviolently stop the construction of this U.S. -backed base;
–the over 3,000 prisoners in Bagram, and all those held in indefinite detention;
–the thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel;
— the over 2.2 million prisoners in the U.S., and all prisoners worldwide.
We pray, too, that all people of faith and conscience will reject and call for a repeal of the National Defense Authorization Act which codified into law the indefinite detention for suspected foreign and domestic terrorists. In the words of Jesus, let us “proclaim liberty to all captives,” and work to create a justice system that is rooted in the biblical mandate of love and restorative justice.
crucified person #9–Immigration Victim
Mindful that Jesus was born as a migrant and exiled as a refugee, we remember today those immigrants who have been crucified to a cross of exploitation and oppression, and who have been driven from their homes and the hundreds who have died crossing the border in search of a better life. Loving God, you who are the same God of each member of the human family, including the undocumented, help us to learn to love and welcome the immigrants in this land. Give us the courage to stand for justice for all immigrants instead of imprisoning them in dehumanizing detention facilities. Give us the courage to speak out when there is scapegoating of immigrants and expose how our country’s policies of globalization and free trade are driving people to leave their countries, tearing families apart. Help us to take down the walls of division and fear that create physical walls of separation on our border. Teach us the words of love you would have us speak as we call for comprehensive immigration reform in this land.
10th Victim–Our Desecrated Earth
Creator God, we confess that the way we live today is deseccrating our earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. Our environment and earth continues to be endangered by industrial pollution, toxic deadly chemicals, wasteful oil consumption, the Keystone XL pipeline, nuclear radiation and the effects of preparing for and waging war. According to Joseph Nevins, in an article published on June 14, 2010 by CommonDreams.org, GREENWASHING THE PENTAGON, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.” Today, on Jeju Island in Korea, a global biosphere reserve and world natural heritage site, explosive blasting of the unique Gureombi lava-rock formation has begun for the construction of a new naval base that will eventually serve as U.S. military outpost in the Asian Pacific region. Creator God, help us to stop destroying your creation. Empower us to safeguard all creation and choose life for all that is at risk.