Thomas Merton once told Daniel Berrigan that he was “sick up to the teeth…[with] explanations about where we are all going because where we are all going is…over the falls. We are in a new river and we don’t know it.” (Quoted from Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest: Merton, Berrigan, Yoder and Mustie at the Gethsemani Abbey Peacemakers Retreat by Gordon Oyer.) Where we are all going is “over the falls.”
That was in August, 1964 and it’s still a reality and a pretty scary thought in 2014. If you are like me you’re wringing your hands and wondering what are we going to do. And then, along came Campaign Nonviolence!!! Ah, some direction, some plans, something we could do.
In January John Dear asked David and I to be the Southern California promoters and, we then asked Pax Christi Southern California, and they agreed, to sign on and endorse the campaign. The momentum for Campaign Nonviolence is growing here in Southern California. When we first thought about hosting a nonviolence training we were concerned that we would only have 10 or 15 people who would show up. Because of the hard work of the Pax Christi Southern California Leadership Team who sent the word out to many, many people we had 50 people who attended the two day training at Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena on June 8 & 9. Ken Butigan encouraged, inspired, and sent us forth to make plans for nonviolent public actions to take place the week of Sept. 21 to Sept 27.
Having recently had a planning meeting, we now have skeleton plans for an entire week of spiritual and nonviolent public actions and in the next few weeks we will put the flesh on these plans.
Underlying, providing the foundation for this time of proclaiming that nonviolence is the way to Just Peace, Father Chris Ponnet, Pastor of St. Camillus Spiritual Care Center in Los Angeles, will be leading a time of fasting. The details have not yet been confirmed. It will either be a one week water only or a longer fast of liquids only. We will invite people across the country to join in this fast in whatever ways they are able. At St. Camillus every day at 12:00pm a Mass is celebrated. During that week we will invite people from around the Los Angeles area to join us for that liturgy and we will include petitions and other ways of bringing the message of nonviolence into the Mass.
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence will start off “A Week of Proclaiming Nonviolence as the Path to Just Peace in Southern California.” On September 21 we are coordinating with “Muslim and Catholic Women in Conversation” who meet at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino, California for a conference titled, “ Paths to Just Faith: An Interfaith Celebration of International Day of Peace.” During the rest of the week Kathy will also be speaking in Ventura, Orange, at the LA Catholic Worker and in San Diego.
During this week of spiritual and nonviolent public actions there will be delegations visiting Congressional offices, Federal and State in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
Nonviolent Public Actions are being planned to take place throughout the week in outlying Los Angeles and Orange County areas and in San Diego. These public actions will be addressing issues that are of key interest in these communities, such as, gangs and gun violence; drones; death penalty; climate change; and poverty. On Saturday, Sept. 27 we will pull it all together with a “Connect the Dots for Just Peace” march in the Los Angeles metropolitan area where we will address the issues of War, Poverty, and Climate Change. During this march people will be encouraged to ride public transportation to Union Station where we will begin the march. We will end the march in Grand Park knowing that some people are not able to march so they can go the park and meet us there. We will march to three public facilities, not yet chosen, where we will address the issues of war, poverty, and climate change. We will invite organizations that focus on these issues to coordinate the prayer, ritual, and reflection that will take place at each of these stops.
We are still discussing the possibility of including opportunities for civil disobedience. If we decide to go with this option then we will also plan a time of civil disobedience nonviolent training.
Because we want very much for this to be an area wide event we will be inviting many other interfaith peace and justice groups to participate with us. However, we will ask each organization that agrees to come along side us for this week to make a commitment to nonviolence. This is of utmost importance to us because we want this week to be a prayerful, reflective, call to conversion from relying on violence to practicing nonviolence.
From July 6 through July 16 David and I spread the message of Campaign Nonviolence as we performed our plays: “St. Francis: Face to Face” in Oklahoma City; “Pilgrims and Prophets of Peace, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day” in Memphis, TN and Albuquerque, NM; and, “Once Upon A time, Stories to Awaken the Mysteries of the Heart” in Springfield, MO. Our primary message whenever we were invited was to bring one of our offerings to a group is to proclaim the prophetic vision of peace and justice through nonviolence. We had Campaign Nonviolence brochures available at each performance!