North Country Peace Builder
Vol. 54, No. 2, June 2003
21-24 August 2003
This summer's peacemaker training has a new focus, thanks to the talents of its organizer, Junauda Petrus. It is centered around art as a tool and sustaining force within activism.
How can we involve poetry, music, movement, and drama in our vision to create a peaceful society? The 2003 MPP will look at the relationship of art, creativity, and nonviolence in activism as well as provide participants with tools and experience to become more effective agents of social change.
These tools include:
- nonviolent strategies to deal with violence, poverty, racism, and other social injustices
- experiences with activists/artists working for peace, equality, and community empowerment
- networking with other active youth in the region to share ideas and inspiration, and as a resource for ongoing projects.
The training is open to folks ages 14 to 100+, regardless of experience with nonviolence, art, activism, and organizing. Participants will be selected to ensure a range of ethnic, religious, generational, and class backgrounds, and the group will be limited to no more than 17 people.
The program will be based at Macalester Plymouth United Church, on the Macalester College campus in Saint Paul. Expenses for the four days (including food and lodging) are $190. Costs will be based on a sliding scale, and no one will be turned away based on financial barriers. Contact Junauda Petrus at 612-822-7887 or juji81@ hotmail.com, or Katy Gray Brown (612-721-3884 or kgbrown@ umn.edu) for information about available scholarships and ideas for finding sponsors.
Junauda Petrus is a student at Hamline University, majoring in Social Justice and African Diasporatic Studies. The MN FOR sponsored her participation in a National FOR nonviolence training in February of this year. Junauda is interested in being both a creative activist and an artist for social change. She works to integrate the philosophy of living nonviolently in all facets of her life. A first-generation Afro-Caribbean American, she lives in Minneapolis.
Patricia Atieno-Otianga Dawa -- see article below.
Learning about Nonviolence
by Junauda Petrus
It was so beautiful. It was a day in February and the air was clean and light, and snow was everywhere. New York had just experienced a rather big snowstorm, which I knew about before I arrived, but I was still surprised to see the snow rise above my knees. The bus ride from New York City brought me from the urban chaos of mid-town Manhattan to a more pristine part of the state of New York, Nyack. At Nyack I was picked up by Kavitha, a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation who transported me to the
mansion where I would be spending my next few days. I was grateful to be there and that individuals of my local peace community, the Minnesota FOR, believed in me. They believed in me enough to make an investment in giving me the opportunity to learn about nonviolence and come back and share with my community.
I was greeted by the other participants of this weekend, and was surprised and a little disappointed that I was the only person of color there for the training. Although it was positive to see other young people working to spread the seed of nonviolent action, I was hesitant to be in another circumstance where certain communities were not involved. I was saddened because of my growing awareness of how significant the issue of nonviolence is to communities of color and low-income communities.
One reason is that poverty stimulates violence for economic survival in neighborhoods with few avenues paved toward academia and/or living wage work. Another reason is that often the military is a "way out" for economically disadvantaged youth and youth of color. Numerous media campaigns have been launched by U.S. armed forces geared at Black and Latino youth. They will be fighting wars on behalf of a nation that considers them second-class citizens, they will be dying in battle, or returning disillusioned and psychologically and/or physically damaged.
The first sight of the other participants made me realize that I wanted to consciously and aggressively recruit within communities of color for the Peace-maker Training Institute (PTI) that I would be planning at home. I decided I wanted to be part of a force that would integrate and connect all people to their place and importance in the struggle.
I had been looking forward to the training since I had first heard about it weeks prior. I had been going through various revisions and explorations of my ethics and philosophy of activism, in light of the possibility that my country would declare war. I was asking questions such as, would it be possible to solve worldwide conflict with nonviolent means? Is it ever okay to engage in armed struggle? How does a person live day-to-day in a way that is mindful of the philosophy of nonviolence? The atmosphere of Nyack and all of the other participants, who were all impressive and committed, was ideal for this personal synthesis.
The training was also taking place in a time of national and international turmoil. I had just participated in the biggest protest I had ever seen in my hometown of Minneapolis. People were standing up in resistance to a war that would further destroy a country that was already impoverished and miserable, a country whose people had already known the wrath of the US government. This protest was in sisterhood/ brotherhood with protests worldwide. I raised my fist that day with fists all over the world; my heartbeat was in harmony with those who believed that peace and nonviolence were a logical answer to the world's ills. There was hope and optimism within the masses.
There were those who questioned and ridiculed me. In response, I decided to do some personal research. Instead of letting people discourage me, I decided to converse with people of various life experiences to get some answers and fuel for my fire and passion. Young people who were refugees from war-torn nations, elders from this country who had fought in previous wars, academics and historians who have analyzed the impact of war psychologically, financially, and socially on individuals and society as a whole, were whom I looked to for answers. All of these voices were in agreement and in favor of life. They were all in favor of humanity and hope, of peaceful alternatives. Many of these people knew firsthand the breathing, crying reality of war. None of them romanticized it, or offered the recycled pro-war rhetoric from the media. All of them had stories of lost loved ones, of regret and remorse, of hope for life and more sophisticated ways to handle conflict. These are the hearts, memories, and ideas I brought with me to Nyack.
Through the training I connected with the other participants. Through discussion, activities, meals, and cleaning together, we became a community that collectively searched for answers to the issues that imperiled our local communities, and our shared world community. We were educated in the methods and philosophies on what it is to live and work toward change nonviolently. We learned that the FOR is opposed to war and seeks healing ways to deal with conflict. The FOR seeks to identify with all victims of injustice and through methods of active nonviolence works to eradicate their oppression.
There was also a training on anti-racist education and living. During our time there we were to formulate a vision for the PTIs we were all responsible to plan when we returned. It came to me what I wanted the training to look and feel like. I wanted it to feel safe, stimulating and creative. I wanted to explore art and creativity as spiritual and mental support through personal activism. I also wanted to look at art and creativity as a means to express political and social problems and solutions. I wanted the space to feel safe and welcoming to all age groups, racial and cultural identities, economic backgrounds, and all other diverse walks of life. I wanted to hear the wisdom of the elders and the shameless optimism of children at the PTI. Through all of us coming together, I hoped that we could all contribute to this experience and walk away with life-long connections.
I hope to be successful in this and gain more tools and jewels for myself as an activist. I am appreciative to the Minnesota FOR who made this opportunity a possibility for me through financial and personal support.
Memorial Day, 2003 -- the Need for Deeper Wider Grief
Ceremonies were widespread across the nation. Small towns, big cities. Visits to statues, walls, sites. Military bands and parades. Gun salutes. Acres of white crosses (and Stars of David). Flags waving. Officials and veterans offering patriotic speeches. Communities gathered in parks and around bandstands. Tributes to the youth (mostly) who died "to defend freedom, democracy, and our way of life." Not unlike many previous Memorial Days, though more so, following a "successful war."Yes, lives lost in war should be keenly felt -- thousands of individual tragedies for families and communities. But are questions ever asked? Is it "necessary" that lives be taken in war? Are our own soldiers the only casualties to be mourned? Do mothers give their children, or do military recruitment and societal group pressures take them? Do our children willfully, intentionally give their lives? Or are their lives taken by youthful counterparts on the other side, who are equally persuaded that their cause is just? How satisfying is it to believe that whatever happens in an individual case is predetermined, is God's will?
Why is it that America so readily resorts to violence rather than using reason and lawful, reconciling measures?
Each American -- adult and child -- should walk among those rows of crosses/stars and contemplate the human significance of each war death. One can probably not perform that exercise thoughtfully, reverently, without asking WHY? Weigh the enormity of each lost life, the multitude of lives and dreams unfulfilled! Is there no other way, no other future for our youth and society, for humankind? For each American war grave there are a multitude abroad, abbreviated lives, crushed dreams. "They are just foreigners!" Colin Powell said once. "Those numbers don't interest me much!"
Worse for our youth is that many of them assume there are no alternatives. They are left un-informed and so become uniformed. In America, as in some other countries, there are legal alternatives for those who question the merit of war as the presumed "solution" to an international problem.
There are also more creative, redeeming ways to resolve conflicts, with almost no waste of natural resources, minimal damage to environments, with much less financial investment possible, and little loss of life. Nonviolence relates means to ends, whereby granting justice can bring peace.
Adequate reasons were advanced and supported widely to indicate that the recent Iraq "war" was unnecessary. However, an obsessed president determined upon war anyway, without congressional specific action and in defiance of the UN Security Council. Remarkably, millions of citizens around the globe manifested their opposition and coerced this president to pursue a UN process. For the first time in history enough "super people" brought almost enough pressure to prevent a war!
While grieving for the youth (mostly) sacrificed on both sides of war, I also mourn those left behind, orphaned, widowed, physically disabled, mentally broken, or conscience stricken. As William Safire has contended, modern "high-tech" weaponry enables a military to kill more people at a greater distance, with less feeling of guilt!
American citizens do not seem to be asking, "Was this war Œnecessary,' and what will be the consequences for ourselves and others?" Advancing freedom for whom? Establishing democracy by imposition, regardless of cultures, installing "puppet" regimes? Our American way of life is comfortable for most citizens, luxurious for a few, mere survival for many. It is a wasteful way of life, exploitative of third-world peoples, and not sustainable. And our democracy is bit by bit being undermined. Didn't the Germans know? Aren't we Americans aware?
Now, Memorial Day 2003, our president turns to focus on Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba, nations to be issued ultimatums. The "neocons" have baldly stated that America should dominate the world economically and militarily, tolerating no rivals. There is great risk that American power can overwhelm every other nation. Making war, thus, may become easier because few body bags will return home. The US may be able to secure what it sees as national advantages just through threats against weaker adversaries. Will that represent a democratic nation? Or an empire?
If Jesus had been content to remain a village carpenter, Gandhi satisfied to provide legal aid for the privileged, and King willing to restrict himself to giving "safe sermons," it is unlikely that any of the three would have been imprisoned and killed. We citizens also need to risk for Peace, to avoid the frequent national risking of war, to act with hope instead of fear.
If we were to redirect the resources of war to the basic human needs in the world, the deep despair among youth in oppressed, poor societies, would be overcome. Instead, our American foreign policy is directed at eliminating "terrorists."
In sum, the concept of "collateral damage" (according to the Geneva Convention's narrow definition, the unintended killing of civilians during war) needs to be defined much more broadly. All those situations mentioned -- deaths, damaged bodies and minds, destruction of personal relationships, degradation of the UN, curtailment of functioning NGOs, waste of resources, damage to environment, diminution of democratic traditions -- all need to be mourned on days of commemoration. The churches are too silent, though there is a movement to encourage "Every Church a Peace Church." The media are too timid, and do not well inform. Congress currently allocates over 50% of the US discretionary budget to military-related endeavors, handicapping every other governmental function.
Chris Hedges (former New York Times war correspondent) has recently written War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. This is a book with cogent analysis. about why we go to war, and needs to be understood. But we need a contrasting challenge: PEACE IS A FORCE THAT GIVES LIFE MEANING. Living in peace with all others is our highest calling and our noblest endeavor. Let us teach our youth the power of peacemaking!
Local Branch News
MN FOR Members Arrested
(All Had Signed the FOR's Pledge of Resistance)
(1) Several members of the FOR participated in an April 2 demonstration at Alliant Technosystems (AT) in Edina. Over 200 people gathered to protest the company's production of weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
AT produces cluster bombs and continues to design landmines. AT is also one of the world's leading producers of depleted uranium munitions. Depleted uranium weapons are ostensibly used to pierce heavy armor, but scatter radioactive dust on impact that contaminates land for generations. It has been linked with a myriad of health problems, ranging from leukemia to birth defects, affecting not only soldiers on both sides of the conflict but civilians as well. The Uranium Medical Research Centre estimates that 300-800 metric tons were dropped in Iraq and Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War, and these weapons again have been a major component in the current attack on Iraq.
Michael Brown and board member Katy Gray Brown were among 28 people who entered AT property in an act of civil disobedience. These 28 were arrested and charged with trespass, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and up to a $700 fine. A trial date has been set for October. We will claim that we were right to enter Alliant Tech's property, just as one has a moral imperative to trespass and enter a burning building in order to save the lives of those inside. To stand by in silence as AT produces and profits from these weapons of indiscriminate destruction would make us complicit in their use: a crime against humanity.
Vigils are held every Wednesday morning at Alliant Tech (5050 Lincoln Drive, Edina), from 7-8 am. More information is available at www.circlevision.org/alliantaction.
(2) Don Irish and board member Leslie Reindl were among 28 people arrested at Sen. Norm Coleman's office on March 29 for refusing to leave the office. They were trying to engage in dialogue with Mr. Coleman about his support for the Iraq war. Their case was scheduled for trial on June 3, but a few days before Mr. Coleman asked the county attorney to dismiss charges on the basis that the protestors "were simply wrong," as was apparent, he said, from the number of mass graves found in Iraq, reason enough to have gone to war (forget about all the false reasons now being shown to have been false). The group had decided to act as their own attorneys and had spent a good deal of time preparing for trial. Not all were happy to have the case dismissed, and several wrote letters to the editor explaining their position.
Kathy Lundgren, long-time MN FOR member, passed away this spring.
Richard Wildberger, a member of St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Wayzata, recently received a national certificate for his 50 years as a member of the FOR.
Duane Cady, and his band the Jumpin' Jehoshaphats, raised $1350 at a benefit concert they gave at the end of April. The band donated $450 to Hamline Students for Peace, $450 to Iraqi Humanitarian aid, and $450 to the Minnesota FOR. And, Duane writes, they "had a good time too!" Thank you, JJs!
Long-time member Arthur Sternberg turned over $3,215 from two 1940s-era bail fund accounts to the Minnesota FOR. The donors to these accounts are no longer known, and the accounts have not been used for bail funds since the 1950s. The board has decided to earmark them for Support of Public Witness, in support of people who take a couorageous stand to resist the culture of violence. Don Christensen is the first recipient of funds from this portion of our budget; he will receive $500 to help with expenses connected with his trip of accompaniment to Israel/Palestine in August.
Charles Johnson again refused to pay the 40% of his income tax that goes for war, and again urged the government to establish a Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund.
Donations and Funding
The board is developing a form to be used by persons seeking grants from the Minnesota FOR. It will be posted on our web site at www.mnfor.org. Please refer any acquaintances who hope to receive funds from the MN FOR to that web site.
The MN FOR donated $500 to the FOR Task Force on Latin America and $500 to support Don Christensen on his trip to Palestine with Churches (see following article). We gave $50 as one of many peace groups to participate in an ad in The Pulse, a Minneapolis newspaper, protesting a possible "war" in Iraq, We gave $200 to help members of Hamline Students for Peace travel to the February 15 Iraq war protest in Washington, DC. We gave $100 to the Welfare Rights Committee to help them buy air time for a commercial about the budget deficit while the Minnesota legislature was trying to balance the budget. We provided scholarships for three young people to attend peacemaker training events in January and June 2003 (see following).
MN FOR Sponsors Three Youth PTI Participants
By the time this newsletter reaches readers, the MN FOR will have sent three local young people to nonviolence trainings organized by the national FOR. In February, the MN FOR sponsored Junauda Petrus, and now Junauda will be a primary facilitator for a local nonviolence training this August. (See the page 1 article on the MPP training for a brief biographical sketch of Junauda.)
In addition, the MN FOR will sponsor two local young people as they attend a national FOR Peacemaker Training Institute in Austin, TX, in early July.
Alex Leonard, from St. Paul, is a graduate of Hamline University. Since graduating, he has been an AmeriCorps volunteer working at the Southside Family School in Minneapolis. "My passion is working with youth around social justice issues," writes Alex in his scholarship application. "I want to learn effective methods and look forward to sharing time with other active youth and discussing the issues that affect our lives and communities nationally and globally."
Patricia Atieno-Otianga Dawa immigrated to the United States from Kenya as a young girl. This experience convinced her of the importance of collective action: "[The] pattern that remained in my life was the need of collectivity in the community. In Africa in our community, the people would support each other's dreams and aspirationsŠ . While going through the process of adaptation in America, I saw the importance of a collective effort in the community." A graduate of Hampton University with a degree in sociology, Patricia now lives in Minneapolis, and is developing her own business specializing in African jewelry, art, and clothing.
Both Patricia and Alex will participate in the facilitation of the MPP training to be held in late August.
Again this year, we will be pleased to accept contributions from our members for underwriting the costs of the MN FOR Peacemakers Training Institute.
Thank you for all your past generosity as well!
Nonviolence Training for Facilitators at Kirkridge
From Don Christensen
Minnesota FOR members Bob and Kathy Dolezal of Cambridge and Don Christensen of St. Paul attended the FOR training for facilitators, "From Violence to Wholeness," June 5-8, 2003, at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania.
The stated goal of the training was "to empower facilitators to train local groups in active nonviolence, as a way of transforming ourselves, our relationships and our culture."
The training was conducted by Janet Chisholm, FORís Coordinator for Nonviolence Training, and Veronica Pelacaric, a psychosynthesis therapist who works for both the FOR and Pace e Bene, a Franciscan Nonviolence Center.
Drawing heavily upon a resource entitled "From Violence to Wholeness," a ten part process in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence developed by Ken Butigan of Pace e Bene, the training equipped participants with insights and tools for doing nonviolence training with church groups, peace and justice organizations -- anyone who desires to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the theory and practice of active nonviolence.
The core of the training was the opportunity for participants to receive feedback and supervision in the process of training others. The 24 participants were divided into four sub-groups, each responsible for designing and conducting a 90-minute session for the entire group on one of the four basic themes of the seminar: exploring violence; exploring nonviolence; community building; and nonviolent movements.
In addition to excellent written materials on nonviolence, the seminar was very creative in the use of experiential pedagogies for developing exciting learning communities, regardless of the content to be studied. Recognizing that different people have different learning styles, leaders utilized large and small groups, music, poetry, games, art, drama, story telling, role-plays, problem solving and guided imagery to engage participants in learning and integrating the theory and practice of nonviolence. All of these activities combined to create a powerful and transforming learning experience for everyone.
Kathy, Bob and Don are eager and ready to share this training in our region. Let us know how we can work with you and your group to strengthen your skills and understanding of active nonviolence.
Headwaters Fund Walk for Justice
Sept. 21, 2003
MN FOR hopes to get a group together to "walk for justice" and fundraise for the branch. The walk begins at Boom Island Park, Minneapolis, at 12 noon; it is 3.5 miles and takes about an hour and a half. Refreshments are available afterward. Walkers collect pledges for their walk, and the organizsation retains 75% of the amount raised.
Please let us know if you are interested in walking -- 651-633-4410.
August 6, Hiroshima Day: A traditional crane ceremony from 7:30 to 8:15 am (the time when the first atomic bomb was dropped in 1945), then a day-long vigil punctuated by acts of remembrance presented each hour by a different artist/speaker.
August 9, Nagasaki Day: Rally with energetic speakers and Japanese drums at 11:00 am (to coincide with the time the city was bombed) followed by a march around Lake Harriet with people, puppets, signs, and music. The central message is No More Nuclear Weapons. (e.g. We've found the nuclear weapons -- they're here! Disarm U.S. now.)
Sept. 21, noon to 3 pm: Headwaters Fund Walk for Justice. Meet at Boom Island Park, Mpls., and walk 3.5 miles in good company. Refreshments provided. Call 651-633-4410 if you are interested in walking for the MN FOR.
FOR USA National Council Report
By Michael Brown (Midwest Rep.)
The National Council of the FOR just finished its June meeting, convening with staff and supporters in Nyack, NY. Seventeen new Council members participated, forming a diverse group focused on continuing and expanding the programmatic work of the FOR, strengthening its relationship with local groups, and an ongoing process of organizational development. As might be guessed, it has been a particularly active year. Beyond immediate challenges presented by the war waged on Iraq and the continuing violence in Israel and Palestine, the FOR continues its work in nonviolence education and youth training while sustaining programs for racial and economic justice, disarmament, and humanizing criminal justice, among others.
On the heels of a victory (the Navy's withdrawal from Vieques), the Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean celebrated its 20th anniversary by introducing three new volunteers to accompany the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Colombia, caught between the national army, paramilitaries and revolutionary armed forces.
A three day workshop called, "Asking the Right Questions: Gender and Nonviolence," was convened after the Council meeting by Shelley Anderson from the IFOR and Netsai Mushonga, co-founder of FOR/Zimbabwe Women Peacemakers Program.
I look forward to the next meeting in October, and would love to hear your thoughts in the meantime! Reach me by email ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or by post (2700 16th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407).
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The Fellowship of Reconciliation seeks to replace violence, war, racism, and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace, and justice. We are an interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence as a transforming way of life and as a means of radical change. We educate, train, build coalitions, and engage in nonviolent and compassionate actions locally, nationally, and globally.
www.mnfor.org, www.nonviolence.org, North Country Peace Builder on-line: www.osb.org/for/
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National FOR | MN FOR
Minnesota Peacemaker Project
Peace and Justice Websites (nonviolence.org)
Benedictines' Website | Justice and Peace Links
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North Country Peace Builder
Produced quarterly (September, December, March and June) by the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation. Send submissions, letters and comments to Leslie Reindl <email@example.com>, editor, in care of
1233 Ingerson Road
St. Paul, MN 55112
Or use the online form to send comments or contributions.
© 2003 by MN FOR / www.osb.org/for/2003/index02.html