Activists able to pray on Pentagon sidewalk on Good Friday with no arrests

photo by Lin Romano

photo by Lin Romano

by Art Laffin

From Wednesday evening to Good Friday, some 30 friends gathered in D.C. for the annual Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreat sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and Jonah House communities. We were especially blessed to have with us students from Loras College from Iowa and members of the New Jerusalem community from Philadelphia. The theme of the retreat was: “Put Away the Sword.”

After community dinner on Wednesday we viewed the powerful riveting film: “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives–The Environmental Footprint of War” produced by Alice and Lincoln Day. This was followed by a time of sharing and song.

On Holy Thursday morning Rosemary Thompson offered a compelling reflection concerning the connections between war, climate change and poverty and what our faith response should be, which was followed by very rich community sharing. At noon we held a public witness outside the Air & Space Museum. As hundreds of tourists looked on the Loras Students sang a beautiful version of “Let me be an instrument of peace.” Having been to the museum the day before, the students made special signs and banners calling people to pray and work for peace. The rest of the witness included reading our leaflet, Brian Barrett speaking about the sin and crime of killer-drones and the community singing “Sacred the Land.”

We then processed several blocks to the Department of Energy where we held a witness similar to the Air & Space Museum. Among the banners and signs we carried and held at the DOE was one that said: “Department of Extinction.” During the vigil Paul Magno addressed the ongoing crime of the DOE’S nuclear weapons program and spoke about the witness of the imprisoned Transform Now Plowshares. In the evening, Sr. Margaret McKenna from the New Jerusalem Community led a moving Holy Thursday Service which focused on the Eucharist in the context of the Seder shel Pesach–the Paschal Meal.

On Good Friday, the community began with a public witness at the Pentagon. At 7:00 a.m. we processed silently with banners and small crosses into the police designated protest zone, located near the Pentagon metro, as hundreds of Pentagon employees passed by and many police were on hand . Rosemary Thompson, Eve Tetaz and I went out onto the Pentagon sidewalk (where we are subject to arrest) and held an adoration of the cross before a small cross with the inscription: “2014–Suffering Humanity.” We prayed: “We Adore You oh Christ and We Bless You, For By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World.” 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 was read and a reflection about militarism and Jesus being nailed to the cross today, written by Leonardo Boff, were read aloud. In between the readings there was silence and singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”

Halfway through the witness the three on the sidewalk were surprisingly informed by police that they could remain there and would not be arrested. This is a rarity indeed. Last year, for a similar Good Friday witness, two people were arrested.

At noon-time, retreatants held a “contemporary crucifixion” on Pennsylvania Ave. directly in front of the White House as many 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. Our leaflet was also read, along with a reading of Jesus being crucified, by Leonardo Boff. The Loras students began and ended the witness with singing “ Let Me Be An Instrument of Peace.” 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. 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.

Script of Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth

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 million Iraqis who have died since 1991–crucified to a cross of bombings, sanctions, invasion and occupation. We repent for destroying an entire society, traumatizing a generation of Iraqis and setting into motion a spiral of violence that continues to claim numerous lives. We pray for the countless millions injured and the over 4 million displaced. We call for all CIA personnel and security contractors to 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 U.S. 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 U.S. military occupation. We pray and work for an immediate end to the immoral and illegal U.S. war in Afghanistan, for the withdrawl of all military and CIA personnel, and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the people of Afghanistan.

crucified person #3–Drone bombing victim
We pray for all victims of U.S. drone strikes and call for an immediate end to the use of these immoral and illegal killer-drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. We call for a halt to the Obama Administration “kill lists” and that an apology and reparations be made to all victims’ families of drone strikes. 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 pray and work for the abolition of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology 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 meeting human needs and serving the common good.

crucified person #5–Victim of economic exploitation
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, which 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 men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo. We remember the 154 detainees in Guantanamo, most of who have been cleared for release, including those who are now on a hunger-strike calling for an end to their brutal, unjust confinement. We pray and work for the abolition of torture worldwide, and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, the SOA/WHINSEC and all military torture and training centers.

crucified person #7–Nonviolent revolutionary victim
We remember all those who have given their lives and who have sacrificed their freedom as they have struggled, without using violence, for justice in their countries. We especially think of those who participated in the Arab Spring 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:
— Private Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, whistle-blower and truth revealer of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, who is serving a 35 year prison sentence;
— Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier who is serving a life sentence;
–Yang Yoon-Mo, serving an 18 month sentence 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;
–Transform Now Plowshares prisoners Sr. Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Mike Walli who are serving 35-52 month prison sentences for their plowshares witness at the nuclear weapons complex at Oak Ridge, TN;
— the thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel;
— the over 2.2 million prisoners in the U.S., all those on death row, and all prisoners worldwide.
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. We remember, too, those who have been driven from their homes and the hundreds who have died crossing the border in search of a better life. Loving God, 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 and expose how our country’s policies of globalization and free trade are driving people to leave their countries and 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 desecrating the 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, 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 continues for the construction of a new naval base that will 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.