Seven activists arrested during Good Friday witness at the Pentagon

photo by Ted Majdosz

photo by Ted Majdosz

by Art Laffin

From Holy Thursday morning to Good Friday, some 25 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.” Holy Thursday was a day of reflection, sharing, action planning and Liturgy. Good Friday was a day of public witness.

The retreat began with a communal Gospel sharing of Matthew 26: 36-56, led by Ted Walker. After lunch, Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, peacemaker and founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, gave a powerful presentation about his journey from being in the CIA for 27 years to becoming a Gospel peacemaker and truth-teller. His talk, interspersed with song, prayer, stories, video footage, and Irish wit and humor, included a powerful expose about how government lies are consistently used to justify its horrific warmaking ventures—from Vietnam to now. He addressed how the corporate controlled media manipulates and distorts the news. He also spoke of the government’s ruthless and vindictive attempts to stifle dissent and persecute whistleblowers, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, whom he has personally met with. His insights and stories regarding state criminality and whistleblowing friends were truly illuminating!

In the evening, Bill Frankel-Streit from the Little Flower Catholic Worker led a Holy Thursday Liturgy which included spirit-filled singing led by Loras students, a moving foot-washing ritual and inspiring reflections on the Gospel and its meaning for us today.

On Good Friday, a nonviolent public witness was held at the Pentagon. At 7:00 a.m. the community processed from Army-Navy Dr. to the police designated protest zone with signs and small crosses with the names of different victims in our society and world written on them, and singing “Let Me Be An Instrument Of Your Peace.” As hundreds of Pentagon employees streamed into work and numerous police were on hand, seven of our community remained on the Pentagon sidewalk (where we are subject to arrest) and held an “adoration of the cross” before a small cross with the inscription: “2015– Suffering Humanity.” We prayed: “We Adore You O Christ and We Bless You, Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World.” Simultaneously, the rest of the community proceeded into the designated “protest zone.” A huge banner that said “U.S. Empire Crucifies Humanity” was displayed on the grassy slope overlooking the metro entrance. A retreatant, dressed in a black robe and standing on a crate with arms outstretched on a large cross, wore a sign that read “Victim of Militarism.” 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.”

After about ten minutes, those who were praying on the sidewalk were arrested, taken to the Pentagon Police processing center, and released after several hours. They were charged with “failure to comply with a lawful order” and have a court date for June 4, 2015.

At noon-time, as a light rain fell, 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 eleven crucified victims as they, wearing black robes, took turns standing on a crate with arms outstretched on the cross. After each victim came off the cross we sang: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Our leaflet was also read to begin the witness, and a reading about how Jesus is being crucified today, by Leonardo Boff, was offered to conclude it. 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 this Holy Season, 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.

Those Arrested:
Nancy Gowen
Bill Frankel-Streit
Eve Tetaz
Sr. Margaret McKenna
Joe Byrne
David Eberhardt
Art Laffin

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, racism, 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 24 years the U.S. waged an unrelenting war against Iraq. We pray, O God, for the nearly 2 million Iraqis who have died since 1991–crucified to a cross of bombings, invasion, occupation and U.S.-UN led sanctions. We pray for the countless millions injured and the over 4 million displaced. We repent for the U.S. destroying an entire society, traumatizing a generation of Iraqis and setting into motion a spiral of violence and political upheaval which, in part, created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. We call for all CIA and U.S. military 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, O God, in repentance 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 pray in gratitude for all who have resisted and who have been imprisoned for decrying this diabolical robotic warfare. 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 those who have died from warmaking, acts of terror, and from the devastating radiation effects of nuclear technology. On March 20, the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War issued a joint report— “Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the ‘War on Terror’,” which concluded that at least 1.3 million lives were lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone since the onset of the war following September 11, 2001. However, the report notes, this is a conservative estimate, and the total number killed in the three countries “could also be in excess of 2 million.” We call on our nation to repent for these crimes against humanity and to make reparations to all the victims who have died as a direct result of U.S. warmaking.

We commit ourselves to pray and work for the abolition of war, for the complete eradication of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology and all weapons–from depleted uranium weapons to killer drones, for an end to the militarization of space and 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 Racial Violence

We pray for all those–past and present–who have been and continue to be crucified to a cross of racial hatred. We remember and pray for all those American Indians and African Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, lynched and murdered simply because of their skin color. Today racial hatred and violence is pervasive throughout the land. A disproportionate number of Blacks are imprisoned and executed. Blacks are constantly profiled and are being killed in record numbers by white police officers. We remember Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, to name but a few. Mindful of the three young Muslims who were recently murdered in their home in Chapel Hill, N.C., we pray for an end to Islamophobia and violence against Muslims. We repent for the sin of racism. Free us, O God, from fear and racial hatred. Liberate us from the unclean spirit that seeks superiority and domination of others. Instill in us, O God, a spirit of love that truly embraces everyone as equal, everyone as a sister and brother, everyone as a child of God. Deepen our commitment to tirelessly work for justice and equality for all people of color as we strive to make the Beloved Community a reality here and now.

Crucified person #6–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 #7–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 men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo. We remember the 122 detainees in Guantanamo, most of whom have been cleared for release, including those who have been on hunger strikes and endured excruciating force-feedings to call for an end to their brutal, unjust confinement. Let us continue to 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 #8–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 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, and 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 #9– 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:

— Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier who is serving a life sentence;
— All those who been arrested and jailed for their nonviolent resistance to a new naval base being constructed on Jeju Island, S. Korea which will serve as a U.S. military outpost to contain China;
–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;
–Kathy Kelly, who is serving a three month prison sentence for her nonviolent resistance to killer drones at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri;
–Private Chelsea Manning, whistle-blower and truth revealer of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, who is serving a 35 year prison sentence;
–All whistle-blowers, truth-tellers and political prisoners who have been, and continue to be, persecuted, including Julian Assange and Edward Snowden;
–Unknown numbers of Palestinian prisoners being held by the Israel government;
–All immigrants held in deportation centers;
— 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 #10–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.

11th 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. We repent for the way 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.” Creator God, help us to stop destroying your creation. Today, on Jeju Island in S. Korea, a global biosphere reserve and world natural heritage site is being destroyed, and the ancient Gureombi lava-rock formation has been decimated, all because of the construction of a new naval base that will serve as a U.S. military outpost in the Asia-Pacific region. Empower and sustain all those who are nonviolently resisting this new war base and all other threats to land, water, air and sky. Empower us to safeguard all creation and choose life for all that is at risk.