Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation

North Country Peace Builder

Vol. 55, No. 3, Septemb 2004

In This Issue

"From Violence to Wholeness"
MN FOR Offers Training in Active Nonviolence

Don Christensen

Based upon "From Violence to Wholeness," a curriculum in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence developed by Pace e Bene, the MN FOR launched a program in transformative nonviolence training for adults. Twenty-two persons attended the first training, which was held June 18 - 20, 2004, at Hospitality Place in Circle Pines, Minnesota.

 Participants in the training included educators, church leaders, community activists, students and persons wanting simply to learn more about nonviolence. Most of the participants were Minnesotans; others journeyed from Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, California and Idaho. Various churches and spiritual traditions were represented.

The training utilizes a learning process rooted in popular education and liberation theology. It is based upon the assumption that all of us have experienced violence and nonviolence in our lives, and thus we have a lot to share and learn from each other. The process is experiential and multi-sensory and employs a variety of learning styles and methods, including presentations and discussion of nonviolence theory, role plays, problem solving in small groups, music, art, poetry, story-telling, guided meditation, journaling and prayer.

 The curriculum is rich in readings and illustrations from spiritual guides in nonviolence such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, César Chávez, Walter Wink, Kathy Kelly and many others. The fundamental premise of the training is that nonviolence is more than political strategy and tactics; it is a spirituality, a way of life.

The final module in the training involves developing "action plans" for putting nonviolence into practice and integrating it more holistically into our lives. At the conclusion of this session the group did a collective action: We made a banner containing a message of peace, friendship and reconciliation for the people of Iraq. A photo was taken of the group holding the banner, and the photo was forwarded to the FOR Iraq Photo Project, a people-to-people peace initiative communicated directly to Iraqis and citizens of the Arab and Muslim world via Arab media.

 The following are a few comments about the training by participants:

The Minnesota FOR will offer this training again November 5 - 7, 2004.

For information or to register contact Don Christensen, (651) 690-2609, chris385@umn.edu.


Some Current Myth-perceptions
of Many Americans*

Don Irish

* "America"/"Americans" herein represents citizens/residents of the USA, but those in Canada are "North Americans" also, and Central, South Americans, and Latin Americans also can and do claim the term.

Individuals, as well as nations, tend to live with myths about themselves, to hold perceptions that do not correspond to their behaviors or to "objective facts." Traditional myths can serve, as do Aesop's fables, to present insights into the human condition. But what about myth-perceptions? Are all of us "slightly above average" in Garrison Keillor's terms? Is our nation "peace-loving," "law-abiding," and "generous," more so than other nations? Here are some examples of myth-perception in America:

"Terrorism" can be eliminated by capturing or killing all those labeled terrorists. Former General Colin Powell, as well as a former Israeli Defense Minister, contended that we must deal with the despair shown by those who feel severely oppressed, making recruitment of violent opposition possible. People who are reasonably satisfied with their lives are unlikely "terrorists." To eliminate malaria we don't attempt to swat every mosquito. Rather we alter the nature of the swamp which breeds them! Our present policies do not address or reduce despair.

A "free market" and "democracy" are the same thing. The former is an economic system, whereas the latter is a political system. They are not necessarily compatible, may contend, and are certainly not identical. Scandinavian countries are both socialist and democratic. In the US, the democracy seems now to serve the economic system, rather than the economic system being adapted to enhance democracy.

Pearl Harbor was a surprise and an unwarranted attack on the US by Japan. Cablegrams among Ambassador Grew in Tokyo, Generals Kimmel and Short in Pearl Harbor and Washington, beginning in early 1940, indicated to our senior officials that a possible, later probable, attack might come at Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, our Navy escorted our and Allies' ships to Europe with supplies and weaponry before Pearl Harbor. That is, we were already in the war, without public perception or a Congressional declaration.

 The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings were necessary to end World War II. Japan had been devastated by the fire-bombing of Tokyo and many other cities. US leaders knew that Japan was facing defeat and had been initiating peace overtures with the Soviet Union before August 6th and 9th, 1945. [America chose to disregard those endeavors, wanted to "use the bombs."]

Our recent "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq (unilateral, without UN okay) was the first time our nation had committed such an act. Check the nature of our attacks on Cuba (1961), the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989), among others.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is actually primarily engaged in defense. No longer is our military principally involved in defending "our shores." As an empire with several hundred military bases in more than 100 countries (how many foreign bases are there in the US?), attacks almost anywhere in the world threaten "our interests" -- principally economic. Thus, we've changed, in practice, to a Department of Offense, almost totally. The "neo-cons" wish America "to dominate the world economically and militarily and tolerate no rivals," and now to militarize space as well! Our military-related budget exceeds all other rivals' combined, and dwarfs domestic needs. Can we be an empire and remain a democracy?

With all the sources of information available, Americans are well informed. Major vertical corporate controls over the principal TV-radio-print media impose considerable invisible censorship re: what news is "fit to print/broadcast," fostering a sameness. Diversity needs to accompany accessibility.

Our country has the best medical/health system in the world. Often said, but more than 43 million Americans are without health insurance coverage. Some lack what only wealth will secure. Others, with ailments untreated, require more expensive emergency care. The US has higher maternal and infant death rates than Cuba!

"We don't have the money" for meeting domestic needs. We are the wealthiest nation in the world. We have the resources! The problem, friends, is priorities! Currently, 45-50% of the congressional discretionary budget is allotted to war-related endeavors. This "elephant in the room" uses its tusks to root out domestic needs and trumpets whatever the military-industrial complex wants.

Our administrations are genuinely committed, by their actions, to advancing democracy around the world. We thus far have arranged a pseudo-democracy in Iraq, installing four military bases, choosing former US agents for important positions, "privatizing" their economic resources. Consider our support for many years of dictators such as the Somozas, Marcos, the Shah, Suharto, Duvalier, Batista, Pinochet, the junta in Uruguay, the current leaders of Uzbekistan and Pakistan, among others.

The WTO, IMF, NAFTA and other such "First World" economic/political entities are genuinely committed to enhancing the lives of Third World people. First, the practices of the former are not in the latter's short-run economic interests. GNPs may rise in the host countries, but the profits return to First World corporate investors and banks. Allowing workers to organize unions to improve their wages and conditions, following regulations that protect their environments, encouraging their self-sufficiency -- all would increase corporate costs and/or reduce markets. The First World is getting wealthier; the Two-Thirds World majority is becoming poorer and more landless, and losing control of their resources.

Christianity is the world's major religion that stresses peace. Consider history: the Crusades, slavery, colonialism, warfare, other aspects of Western history. Then recognize that Islam stresses hospitality to strangers, Judaism focuses on justice, and Buddhism believes traditionally in nonviolence. All suggest peace.

After the November elections, peace and justice activists can relax, having "made their mark" during the conventions. During the primaries, many did vote for "peace-committed" candidates. Regrettably, many others voted for those they thought could win, not for those closest to their own views. So the "peace camp" leverage was minimized in the conventions, even suppressed. We now have two major candidates who seemingly support pre-emptive strikes, who likely will support retaining a monstrous military budget, who will not challenge the elephant in the room of our imperial foreign policies. Can we remain a democracy and be an empire?

Jacob Needleman, philosopher, in his book The American Soul (2003), contends: "America has lost its heart and its will in the contradictions it now embodies. There is no authentic unity in the so-called United States.... America imagines that it is free, imagines that it is one, imagines that it prizes independence, liberty, and justice -- but, in fact, America swarms with contradictions held together physically rather than morally -- economically and geographically, rather than through intention and purpose.... It is precisely because America was only yesterday conceived as an expression of humanity's greatest moral ideals that its contradictions and failure will call out most clearly and most sadly.... It is America's greatness that make its evil so clear and so shocking" (p. 248).

Interpreting Frederick Douglass, Needleman is "calling for that rarest of movements a human being can make -- a fusion of inner opening and decisive outer action. Feel the truth of what you are, America, and at the same moment DO, ACT! Risk yourself for what you know is right and true" (p. 250). If we can change Minnesota, we can change the nation! We need to risk for peace instead of war! Relax? NO! It's a long haul! On your mark, get set, go!


Join us for these
Minnesota FOR fall events!

Film and discussion night:
"Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election"
October 7
"From Violence to Wholeness"
nonviolence training
November 5-7

Annual Meeting
featuring Richard Deats (pictured left), editor of Fellowship magazine, FOR USA.

November 14
details in calendar below

Occupation Sickness

by Abigail Ozanne

This May I took my second trip to Israel and Palestine to learn about the occupation and seek peace.  I participated in a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation from May 25th to June 6th. During that time, I learned about the many ways in which the occupation harms both Palestinians and Israelis. One of the results is that both groups fear each other. I also discovered that the many so-called security measures the Israeli army enforces are really a form of collective punishment. My experiences on one very memorable day in my trip highlight these two sad realities.

On Sunday May 30, after hearing and talking about the occupation for four days, I understood the existence of the settlements as a form of violence against the Palestinians. I anticipated our meeting with a settler that day to be with someone who really didn't approve of our work, and therefore expected the meeting to be awkward. I had not been well all day, and, as I arrived at Rivka's house in the Efrat settlement, I was violently sick. She welcomed us to her home in a beautiful, soft and gentle voice, offering me a washcloth and water to clean myself up and a bed to lie down on. In a place where I expected a tense and rigid welcome, instead I found a gracious, caring woman helping me as I was ill.

Later that day, we made the long journey to Hebron. We took three taxis and walked the last kilometer to the apartment. As I forced my aching body in and out of taxis, around roadblocks, and down the dusty streets past soldiers, I understood in a very personal way just what this occupation does to the young, the sick and the old. Dehydrated, weak, and so sick that I could not even keep water down, I was forced to walk nearly a kilometer, because the Israeli army does not allow Palestinian vehicles to drive on certain streets in their own land. As I walked into the old city of Hebron, I thought about how the only way I could get back out, even if I was very ill, was on my own two feet or perhaps pushed in a cart; the roadblocks and checkpoints block and stop ambulances as well.

The network of checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank is not about security, as the army claims, but about collective punishment. An able-bodied teenager bent on destruction could easily evade these by walking a longer route and perhaps doing a bit of hiking over rough terrain. These measures do not stop would-be bombers. Instead, they make life painfully difficult for average Palestinians, especially the very young, the old, or the sick.

A few days later as I looked over the rooftops of Hebron, camouflage mesh on several buildings indicating their occupation by the army, tears rolled down my face. I grieved for this aching land where the very hills cry out for peace. I questioned how the occupation could possibly make Israel more secure. I wondered, "Where is justice?"

Editor's note: Abigail Ozanne is an FOR member and the daughter of Minnesota FOR board member Linda Gesling. We are proud of Abigail's witness for peace, and keep her in our thoughts and prayers.


Many thanks to those
who have contributed to the
Minnesota FOR this summer!

Faye Lefever, Madeleine Beaumont, Nancy McDarby, Charles & Ava Johnson, John & Eleanor Yackel, the community of St. Luke Presbyterian Church, Adolph & Rose Burckhardt, John & Mary Phillips, Nahid Khan, Richard & Alice Harrington, Walter Nyberg, Don Irish, Joseph & Mary Palen, the community of St. John's Abbey, Richard & Shirley Harper, Janet McGrath.

FOR Celebrates 90th Anniversary at
National Conference in Los Angeles

Don Christensen

Focused on the theme, "Organizing the Real Superpower -- People of the World Choose Peace," over 400 FOR members gathered at Occidental College in Los Angeles, August 5 to 9, 2004, to participate in the FOR National Conference and celebrate the FOR's 90th birthday. Minnesota FOR members in attendance included Michael Brown, FOR National Council member; Maryrose Dolezal and Maritza Valanzuela, staff of the National FOR Youth and Nonviolence Program; and Don Christensen, MN FOR Regional Coordinator.

<<< Mike Farrell and
Rev. James Lawson


A spirit of gratitude and hope pervaded the conference as activists, educators, musicians, artists and citizens from a number of nations, cultures and communities of faith shared stories of how the FOR continues to empower people struggling for peace and justice with the transforming energy of active nonviolence.

A group of citizens from Tulia, Texas told how the Tulia Friends of Justice, the ACLU, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund teamed up to secure justice for 46 black males from the community who had been wrongly arrested and incarcerated in a "set up" drug sting coordinated by a federally funded narcotics task force.

At the Sunday morning plenary session, titled "Peace and Our Children," delegates were uplifted by Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Cindy and Craig Corrie (parents of Rachel Corrie), youth activist and educator Leah Wells, and youth activist Dan Clark (son of FOR Executive Director Pat Clark). These youth and youth accompaniers inspired us with stories of how the flame of nonviolent resistance is being carried by the "next generation."

Several films were screened, including "Maangamizi: The Ancient One," a mystical film from Tanzania about healing and reconciliation; "The Friendship Village," an award-winning documentary about an international group of veterans, led by American George Mizo, who are building a village in Vietnam for children with Agent Orange-related disabilities; and "In This House -- The Story of Mount Hollywood Congregational Church," about one church that never wavered from its belief in peace and fellowship among all people.

 "The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement" - Dorothy Cotton, Donsaleigh Abernathy and John Lawson lead a song. >>>


There were many other outstanding speakers, workshops, exhibits and musical events woven together in such a way as to engage the "whole person" -- body, mind and spirit -- in reflection, action and celebration. Each morning began with a short period of meditation, and most evenings ended with group singing. On Monday, the final day of the conference, citizens of Los Angeles joined conference delegates in a Muslim-Jewish Peace Walk, an interfaith action that MN FOR would like to organize in Minnesota.

So much happened during these few days -- a very special time for renewing old friendships, making new ones, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and strengthening our spirits for the challenging work that lies before us.

For more details and photos of the FOR National Conference go to <www.forusa.org>.


from our mailbox:

July 2004

Dear Don Christensen,

You want to transcend anger?
(See Don Christensen's "Ruminations on Anger"
in our last issue, Ed.)

I have used these ways to transcend anger:

1. meditate
2. hatha yoga
3. prana yoga
4. tai chi chuan
5. buddhist prayer wheel
6. hear good music
7. singing positive songs
8. headstand yoga
9. yin yang
10. reading about the above
11. get massage

- Alex Stach

the last word

As a college student, I am constantly asked what I've been doing this summer. I rattle off jobs, internships, and then I get to my volunteer work at the FOR and people always ask what that is. It's hard to find a standardized answer to that question because being a part of the FOR means so many things to me. After participating in a nonviolence retreat it means my personal peace of mind during a time when, in the minds of our administration, violence seems to be the answer.

I think the answer people are looking for, though, can be much more standardized, so for this article I will focus on where the FOR came from, its roots, and how those relate to a better answer to the question "What is the FOR?"

"In 1914, convinced that war was near, some 150 Christians came together at an international conference in Germany seeking desperately to find a way to prevent the impending war. The conference ended in failure as the war broke out while the meeting was being held. At the Cologne railway station two of the participants -- Henry Hodgkin, a British Quaker, and Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, a German pacifist chaplain -- vowed that they would refuse to sanction war or violence and that they would work to further peace and love in order to resolve conflicts no matter what the future might bring. Out of this vow the Fellowship Of Reconciliation (FOR) was born.

The formal beginning came four months later at Trinity College in Cambridge where 128 English members elected Henry Hodgkin as their first chairperson. In 1915 Hodgkin traveled to the USA to meet with sixty-eight men and women at Garden City, New York, where FOR USA was founded on November 11, 1915 (Hodgkin met Gilbert Beaver, Edward Evans, Rufus Jones, Norman Thomas and others).

FOR USA is the largest, oldest, interfaith peace organization in the USA. In 1919 representatives from a dozen countries met in Holland and established the International FOR (IFOR)."

Based on this information I tell people that the FOR is a non-governmental organization that comes out of the Quaker tradition and seeks to promote nonviolence across religions. It seems to be a pretty good answer, since knowing where we are going is dependent on knowing where we came from.

I hope this brief history lesson was able to help you see your place in the greater scheme of things as a member of the FOR.

Molly MacDougall


MN FOR member Don Irish received the Hawkinson Peace and Justice Award at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, 19 September 2004, in the Bush Student Center ballroom at Hamline University (one block east of Snelling on Hewitt Avenue) in St Paul.

Editor's note: In addition to all his other work for peace, Don Irish is a longstanding and faithful commentator in this newsletter. Congratulations, Don!



Calendar of Events - Fall 2004

There are still a few spaces left
in the upcoming
nonviolence training,
"From Violence to Wholeness."

The nonviolence training weekend, November 5 to 6, will be organized by the Minnesota FOR and will use the National FOR's "From Violence to Wholeness" model.  See above for details!

Other Events

September 16 - An Interfaith Dialogue on Social Change, sponsored by the Metro Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA). First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Ave S., Mpls. 7:00 - 9:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

September 18 - Pax Christi Minnesota State Assembly - "Beyond Classical Nonviolence: How Race, Gender, and Colonialism Reshape the Paradigm," featuring Dr Mary Hunt. College of St Catherine, St Paul. Registration begins at 8:30 am.

September 21 - Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) explores "An Issue of Democracy: United States Intervention in Haiti, Cuba and Beyond." Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland, Mpls. Doors open at 6 pm, music program begins at 6:30, speakers follow at 7:30.

October 2 - Every Church A Peace Church Fall Conference: "Is It For Freedom? Challenging Church Complicity with Empire." University of St Thomas, St Paul. 9:00 am - 3:00 pm.

October 7 - MN FOR film and discussion night: "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election." Hennepin Avenue UMC, 511 Groveland, Mpls. 6:30 - 9:00 pm.

October 22-23 - Conference: "Hope for the Holy Land-Toward a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel." Univ. of St Thomas. For info: Mary & Nick Eoloff, 651-698-1493, eolof001 @ tc.umn.edu.

November 5-7 - "From Violence to Wholeness," MN FOR nonviolence training retreat. Circle Pines, MN. Contact Don Christensen for information, (651) 690-2609, chris385 @ umn.edu.

November 14 - MN FOR Annual Meeting. Macalester Plymouth United Church, St Paul. 5:00 - 8:30 pm.

November 20-21 - Annual Vigil to Close the School of the Americas. Fort Benning, Columbus, GA. Contact Minnesota Veterans for Peace.

Ongoing Vigils for Peace:


* * *   * * *  L I N K S  * * *   * * *

National FOR | MN FOR
Minnesota Peacemaker Project
Peace and Justice Websites (nonviolence.org)
Benedictines' Website | Justice and Peace Links

* *  * * *  *  * * *  * * 

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 Rachel Mordeai <rachel.mordecai @ gmail.com>, editor.

Or use the online form to send comments or contributions. 


© 2004 by MN FOR / www.osb.org/for/2004/index03.html