Brisbane-area Catholic Workers and friends visited the Australian city’s historic Toowong Cemetery on Ash Wednesday afternoon, March 1. At the gate stands a large stone crucifix, adorned by a metal sword that marks it as a war memorial.
“From the moment I saw that sword on the cross… I knew I could not not remove it,” said Jim Dowling. From a ladder leaned on the crosspiece, he used a crowbar to remove the sword. He handed it down to Tim Webb, who placed the sword on an anvil and reshaped it into a garden hoe, echoing the Biblical prophecies of Micah and Isaiah that, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
A statement from the men explained their action.
Lent for Christians is a time for reflection and repentance. Lent culminates in Good Friday, the remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus, and Easter Sunday when He rose again. Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he was taken away were those quoted above “Put away your sword.” For the first 300 years of Christianity, his followers largely obeyed these words and refused to kill their enemies. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine all this changed, and ever since Christians have blessed countless wars, and even lead their own…
We come here today to repent all wars blessed by the Christian churches. We come to remove the sword from the cross on which our savior was crucified. We come to beat it into a “ploughshare”, in this case a garden hoe. The ploughshare is a symbol of life. The sword is a symbol of death. We choose life.
We willingly accept any consequences of this call to repentance, as we remove and convert the blasphemous sword from the cross. We pray that other Christians will join us in recognizing our past and present sin in bearing the sword while worshipping the nonviolent Jesus.
We pray for a time to come when all Christians will refuse to kill their brothers and sisters in war.
Following the conversion of the sword, a priest celebrated mass with the men and their supporters gathered around the memorial.
Dowling and Webb were arrested and charged with willful damage, as was witness Andy Paine. They were released with a March 16 court date.
from the Brisbane Times
Religious fanatics charged over damage to Toowong war memorial
by Cameron Atfield
Charges have been laid against religious fanatics who confessed to vandalising an Australian war memorial at Toowong, over what they said were its “blasphemous” overtones.
The attack on the Cross of Sacrifice, which has stood since 1924, has outraged Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and led to the Catholic Worker movement member Jim Dowling being charged by police on Thursday afternoon.
The RSL, meanwhile, described the perpetrators as the “lowest of the low”.
Mr Dowling’s wife, Anne Rampa, defended the actions of her husband, who removed the sword, and 22-year-old Greenslopes man Tim Webb, who placed the sword in an anvil to reshape it into a garden hoe.
When asked what the difference between their actions and the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed, and Islamic State’s more recent destruction of “blasphemous” artefacts in Palmyra, Syria, Ms Rampa said: “We’re Christian.”
“We’re not attacking another religion,” she said.
“We’re trying to bring our own religion back to its proper and rightful position in terms of the violence of war.”
Ms Rampa, who said she was present as the vandalism took place, said they chose Ash Wednesday to carry out the attack on the monument because it was the beginning of Lent, a time for Catholic reflection.
“We are very shocked by the presence of the sword on the cross, which is completely antithetical to what Jesus said,” she said.
“It’s really blasphemous to put it there, even though it’s been there a long time.
“The guy who designed it was apparently trying not to glorify war, but he obviously hadn’t read the gospels and didn’t understand that putting a sword in the place of Jesus was an insult to Jesus.”
The memorial honoured fallen Australian soldiers and the man credited as being the founder of Anzac Day, Canon David Garland.
Cr Quirk said council officers attended the scene on Wednesday night after his office was alerted to the act by Fairfax Media and confirmed the damage.
Police were then called.
“I am appalled at the vandalism that has occurred at the Toowong War Memorial in the lead-up to Anzac Day,” Cr Quirk said.
“Canon Garland is the architect of Anzac Day and this destruction is disrespectful to him and to all fallen soldiers and returned service men and women.”
Cr Quirk said Canon Garland Place had great historical significance, as it served as the focus of Queensland’s Anzac Day commemorations until the completion of the Anzac Square in the CBD in 1930.
“Council’s stonemason will inspect the damage today but we are hopeful it can be repaired in time for this year’s Anzac Day ceremonies,” he said.
Cr Quirk said the council would also seek reimbursement of costs from the alleged offenders through the courts.
RSL Queensland state president Stewart Cameron was similarly outraged.
“The RSL Queensland is appalled by the vandalism of one of Brisbane’s most sacred war memorials and sites,” he said.
“Anyone who would defile a monument that pays respect to the brave men and women who have served their country for a cheap publicity stunt is the lowest of the low.
“We find their conduct abhorrent and trust these vandals will feel the full weight of the law.”
In an emailed statement, sent to Fairfax Media along with photographs of the desecration on Wednesday night, Mr Dowling said he would “willingly accept any consequences of this call to repentance”.
“Jesus’s last words to his disciples before he was taken away were ‘put away your sword’,” he said.
“For the first three centuries, his followers largely obeyed these words and refused to kill their enemies.
“With the conversion of Emperor Constantine all this changed, and ever since Christians have blessed countless wars, and even lead their own.
“We come here today to repent all wars blessed by the Christian churches. We come to remove the sword from the cross on which our saviour was crucified.
“We come to beat it into a ‘ploughshare’, in this case a garden hoe. The ploughshare is a symbol of life. The sword is a symbol of death. We choose life.”
Police charged Mr Dowling and a Greenslopes man, 30, with one count each of wilful damage on Thursday afternoon. They were due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on March 16.
A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane said the Catholic Workers were a “group of lay people” with no ties to the Archdiocese.
“The Archdiocese supports any police investigation into this matter,” he said.
“The cemeteries of Brisbane mean a lot to the families and friends of the deceased. These sites should be treated with the utmost respect.”