|JustPeace: The Journal of Pax Christi|
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The Way of Peace
Pax Christi member Eileen Richardson from Malvern, shares her experiences of a Conference held in Belfast in October 2001.
The Way of Peace is an initiative formed between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the World Community for Christian Meditation, to promote and strengthen inter-religious understanding and dialogue in the interest of a more peaceful and just world. The Belfast seminar was the third step of this initiative, following two others, at Bodhgaya, the most sacred of Buddhist sites in India in 1998, and Florence 1999The John Main Seminar, held in different countries each year, took place in Belfast in October 2000. Its aim, to explore and highlight the collaborative role of religions as forces of peace and reconciliation in the new millennium, 600 delegates from 26 countries descended on Belfast for what proved to be a truly memorable three days. It was the first time the Dalai Lama had visited Ireland and his presence as a world teacher of nonviolence in the setting of Belfast served to both highlight the violence in Northern Ireland and give hope to the peacemaking process. Amnesty International held their annual Lecture at the Ulster hall in the city centre on the first evening and the Dalai Lama was their star attraction to a packed house, speaking on 'What is Justice'.
Over the three days he went out and about, meeting with victims of violence, community workers and civic leaders with his entourage of monks and Fr Laurence Freeman, head of the World Community of Christian meditation. The seminar was arranged around dialogues with the Dalai Lama; plenary sessions with Professor Charles Taylor on, "Overcoming hatred" and "Mysticism and peace" with William Johnstone, who spoke at length on nuclear disarmament. There were also testimonies victims of violence and group sessions on the nature of forgiveness and reconciliation.
President Mary MacAleese arrived for the last session and was hustled off the rostrum at City Hall after delivering an impassioned plea for an end to the bigotry, hatred and sectarianism. She called for peacemakers with imagination and fresh vision. Surrounded by security, afraid she might be a target for a gunman she was not allowed to dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the rostrum. This brought home to all of us the ever-present climate of violence. This was the first time an Irish president had entered City Hall. In Belfast 50% of people have had their lives touched personally by the violence.
The most memorable of the plenary sessions was with the victims of violence. One young man in his 30’s, who had imbibed a hatred of Catholics from his youth, joined the Ulster Paramilitary at 17. At 21 he was imprisoned for 13 years for terrorism. "God was a Protestant", he said, "I would have killed any Catholic who stood in my way". Gradually, during his imprisonment, he began to have remorse for those had hurt and he recognised his demonising attitude. For him began the realisation " of the lies he had been exposed to from his youth". He wept as he told his story. Now a counsellor for reconciliation between communities, he admitted that he still had a way to go before he could find personal peace. Mary, a paraplegic, shot at 16, for being out with a Catholic boyfriend. There were a variety of workshops with excellent people such as Satish Kumar and Mairead Corrigan Maguire spoke at the dinner given in City hall.
The presence of the Dalai Lama created the opportunity for the first Interfaith Celebration held in Northern Ireland at St Anne's Cathedral. Buddhist monks led the service with their chanting and with contributions from Hindu, Sufi, Muslim, Catholics and Protestants; it was a pre-taste of heaven!
If I came home with anything, it is the conviction that we must realise the common ground of our humanity and not have it manipulated by religious divides. To recognise and explore the seeds of violence and nonviolence in us all if we are to create a more peaceful world.
Challenging Trident: Jubilee Ploughshares 2000
Pax Christi member, Fr Martin Newall and Amsterdam Catholic Worker, Susan van der Hijden, have been held on remand in prison since 4th November following their peace action at Wittering air force base in Cambridgeshire. Wittering is home of the Nuclear Weapons Convoy, which transports nuclear warheads to and from British Trident submarines. Following months of reflection and preparation Martin and Susan decided that they would enact the biblical prophecy to turn swords into ploughshares by symbolically disabling one of the convoy vehicles, hammering the dashboard and other equipment in the cab and writing the words “The Kingdom of God is Among You” and “Drop the debt, not the bombs” on the vehicle shed. Following the action they went in search of the security people to own up and take responsibility for their action.
Martin and Susan have made three court appearances in Peterborough and have been charged with Criminal Damage amounting to £31,000. Their next court appearance is 19th January. Martin has sent the following message to Pax Christi members : " People ask' how can we help? What do you need? What we need is hope. Prison creates a sense of powerlessness. Hope and purpose are postponed, everything, existence itself, seems pointless while material needs are provide for.
Practical solidarity is what inspires me to hope. That is, we need you to take part in anti-nuclear actions like the Trident Ploughshares 2000 blockade in Faslane or Ash Wednesday at the Ministry of Defence and other sites. We need you to raise these issues in vigils, leafleting, writing letters, organising talks. We need you to speak, discuss and listen with friends, family, colleagues, with priests and politicians. Many of these things are obvious. We are only the instruments. It is God's work, so we believe and pray. Please, use this opportunity God is giving us". Contact the office for copies of Martin and Susans' statements. You may like to write to them in prison.
Martin Newall, HMPrison Bedford, St Loyes Street, Bedford MK40 1HG and Susan van der Hijden at HM Prison Holloway, Parkhurst Road, London N7
An interfaith service took place in Bethlehem on 22nd December, organised by the Pax Christi Affiliated group, the Arab Educational Institute. They received 150 prayers and messages from Pax Christi members around the world. Here is an extract of the Christmas Message of the Patriarch, and International Pax Christi President, Michel Sabbah
“ Before God, we reflect on our sufferings. We look upon every human being in our land, whatever his or her religion, for God the Creator equally loves every human being. Therefore, he is the object of our love and solicitude. We look to the Palestinians, and we wish them to recover their freedom and to have the military occupation imposed upon them come to an end. We look to the Israelis, since the Palestinian freedom means their own security and tranquillity. We look to the political prisoners; passing their days in deprivation, torture and hunger strikes. We look on those who receive orders to kill and who execute the orders. To the soldiers we say, let your priority be human dignity and what is right, more than orders received; because there should be no more orders to kill. And wars should no more exist. This means the recognition and restitution of the rights of the peoples. So there will be no more reasons for wars. Leaders too must prefer righteousness and dignity to their political considerations and their desire to govern. Then the oppressor and the oppressed will meet in peace, and enjoy together and equally, human dignity.”
While violence may have ended in East Timor, the latest issue of Indonesian Human Rights journal TAPOL tells of the use of Hawk 100 and 200 ground-attack aircraft in over towns in West Papua. The arms embargo to East Timor was Indonesia was lifted last year. The Indonesian military continue to receive spare parts for Hawk aircraft from Britain Pax Christi members may be interested in a special fund which has been set up to support Timorese undertaking academic and vocational training in the UK which will enable them to contribute to the strengthening of East Timorese society. Donations can be sent to The Ai-Kameli Trust, c/o Unit 3, Canonbury Yard, 190a New North Road, London N1 7BJ
Moving from darkness to light, we began with the theme of repentance, both personally and as a nation, for our part in the global arms trade. We listened to very moving personal testimonies from those affected by war and conflict, fuelled by the trade in ever more lethal weapons. Crosses were then laid at the gates of the factory, in remembrance of all who suffer because of the arms trade. BAE Systems is one of the major arms manufacturers in this country and exports arms and military equipment to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.
Our liturgy concluded with a re-commitment to working for an end to the arms trade, embracing the Gospel message to love one another, and to replace fear and mistrust with letting go of our own insecurities, on which the arms trade feeds. After the liturgy, an Advent message of hope was marked across the road leading to the factory – there were no arrests. Regular monthly vigils are held at BAE Systems Warton. For information telephone 0151 220 0745 Jan Harper, Liverpool
Julia McLaughlin Cook
I first encountered Mary at a National Justice and Peace Conference in 1980 where I felt in awe of her breadth of knowledge of issues and her creativity in responding to them. I don’t think Mary missed a Conference over the next twenty years. I have a strong personal memory of fasting with Mary outside the Ministry of Defence in London during Low Week. While the rest of us flagged and looked haggard Mary stood erect, not a hair out of place, greeting MOD workers with a gentle smile and a friendly word. Mary, and her sister Trudie, also offered wonderful hospitality to national and international visitors invited to meetings and projects with which they were involved in organising in Middlesborough. We remember Mary with great fondness and admiration and send our love and sympathy to her sister Trudie.
March/April 2000: No 218
Jan/Feb 2000: No 217
Nov/Dec 1999: No 216