[MN FOR]

Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation

North Country Peace Builder

Vol. 56, No. 3, September-November 2005

In This Issue


Thousands Visit "Eyes Wide Open" at College of St. Catherine

by Don Christensen

Foto by Hayley Komula, 2005

The Minnesota FOR collaborated with a number of organizations and groups to bring the American Friends Service Committee’s widely acclaimed exhibition "Eyes Wide Open" to the Twin Cities, September 29 - October 1, 2005. Demonstrating the human cost of the Iraq war and commemorating all the lives lost, the exhibit includes a pair of boots honoring each U.S. military casualty and a labyrinth of shoes to memorialize the thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the beginning of the war. The three-day event included a concert and conversation with Iraqi oud musician and composer Rahim Al Haj, a candlelight vigil, speakers, music, and the reading of names of U.S. military and Iraqi civilians killed. Visitors to the exhibition included a number of "Gold Star Families" who came to grieve for loved ones lost. Eyes Wide Open has now traveled to more than 60 cities across the country. When it first opened the exhibition included just over 500 pair of boots; the total now numbers more than 1,930. At the conclusion of the exhibition in St. Paul, the MN FOR joined other Minnesota peace groups in a call to action. We recognized that the death of the 2000th service member was rapidly approaching.

We call you to join us and at least 2,000 other people in a candlelight vigil at the Lake Street Bridge at 7:00 p.m., on a date to be announced immediately after this horrific milestone of 2,000 dead U.S. service members is reached. The theme of the candlelight vigil is

"Not One More Death. Not One More Dollar."

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Katrina: Responsibilities,
Reconstruction and Renewal

By Don Irish

Acts of God or Natural Catastrophe?

In their policies, some insurance companies have alluded to ":Acts of God." For events so defined do not hold corporations liable for payment of damages to their clients. You may have lost your home and everything in it, but because it is an Act of God you are not entitled to be compensated for your loss. Home insurance policies may distinguish damages from wind apart from water. Of course, hurricanes entail both high water and strong winds! How could one separate the two events? The insurance companies are thereby protected from the storm.
We can be realistic, rather than theological or evasively legalistic. The forces of nature are not simply natural. The consequences of events such as earthquakes, forest fires, mudslides, tsunamis or hurricanes are intimately linked to soil erosion, deforestation, desertification and global warming. In fact, the effects of Hurricane Katrina, particularly in the city of New Orleans, were made more catastrophic than might otherwise have been due to decisions that humans made both before and after the tragedy.

Betty and I were in Central America following a hurricane. The results were comparable to that of New Orleans. Who had most often died? Whose dwellings were the most often destroyed? Not those of the well-to-do, living on higher ground, with firmer foundations, better home construction and proper drainage! The poor suffered most, living in the lowlands, along river banks or on steep hillsides. We also viewed a scene where an entire village was wiped out in Peru from a mudslide. Why were there no trees to anchor the soil? An international lumber company had harvested them all. The point here is that the economics of housing and geography make "natural" catastrophes more lethal for some than others, as measured along the lines of race and class.

It is also possible for humans to take steps to decrease the destructive power of events such as hurricanes. Cuba, a small and generally poor island in the Caribbean, recently experienced hurricane Ivan with 124 mph winds. Two million citizens were evacuated efficiently to safe areas and facilities, with no loss of life or major injuries!

So what are the human factors that increased the destructive power of Katrina's "natural" forces? For the most part, we have modern American lifestyles and urban planning to blame. All of the chemicals that go into how we live, such as oil, gasoline, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, mixed with burst sewer pipes created a toxic pool of flood waters that has made many hard hit areas from Katrina unsuitable for living things. A dead zone that had come to exist around the Mississippi Delta before the hurricane from river pollutants is testament to the fact that any pollution laws on the books were either ignored or ineffective.

The land itself was not able to absorb any of the water where it had been paved over thanks to low density suburban housing development and the sprawl of agribusiness and factory farms. Before, wetlands and normal water channels wet by natural environments shielded the inland areas from tropical storms. Drained, dredged and pollution for development, natural environments around the Mississippi Delta that before yielded a living to families with abundant shrimp, oysters and fish had been steadily diminishing. Katrina was an environmental disaster in human making for many years.

Reconstruction and renewal

Post-Katrina polls in the U.S. show that our citizens have minimal interest in financing the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq (e.g. the repair of the damage done to the public infrastructure from war and sanctions. As Colin Powell once expressed, "You break it, you own it, you fix it!"), which are our obligations under international law.

 

The poor political will to satisfy those duties to make amends abroad is now further weakened by the massive needs to recover from Katrina.

Strong feelings on behalf of displaced individuals and communities of New Orleans and the Gulf areas, and what that city has meant culturally to our nation, make us feel that we need to rebuild what was there as it was.

We must, however heed what science is telling us. Glaciologists predict that the effects of global warming will raise the world's seas a number of feet in the next 50 years. A longer and broader perspective is required in planning the city's reconstruction, if very unwise decisions are not to be made, at horrific expense.

The Katrina episode presents our nation with a very rare and remarkable opportunity and stimulus to create a new society, and not just in the central Southern seashores. There could be a resolve to reduce poverty! To overcome racial discrimination!

To utilize present knowledge and technology to create a more sustainable, environmentally congenial economy and civic society! We are presented with the chance to redesign an area practically from scratch, avoiding past errors and patterns of organization.

I believe in an integrated scheme and an unrushed process. The last thing we should do is immediately begin the implementation of a city plan that is not part of a nonviolent urban vision. We have many tools, research and knowledge at our disposal to do this. A new and better city is possible! Let us nurture nature rather than inflict further damage upon her! Are the municipal, state, and national commitments there to realize the possible?

Consider these few, interrelated suggestions:

*Save and rebuild he port facilities so New Orleans may continue to generate international outreach and employment

*High density development in the central urban core, where automobile traffic is minimized and walking and bike riding is encouraged

*Create a light-rail system or other personal rapid transit (PRT) system that would encircle Lake Pontchartrain on the north, east and west. All transfer points would join up with the city center, and then be augmented by adequate buses for travel north, south and cross-town

*Insist that displaced families and communities be prioritized in hiring for reconstruction, with livable wages and guaranteed health care

*Stop contractors such as Halliburton from assuming control over debris removal so that it is not dumped in an ocean or put in a valley; instead, process the debris, compact it, and use it for "fill" in areas needing height increase

*Create a "green city" where solar energy panels and other alternative sources provide heat, air conditioning, lighting and electricity

*Invest in the university campuses, rebuilding them with additional student housing and programs for educational, research and civic outreach into the community

*Ensure desegregated housing patterns with mixed neighborhoods, and neighborhood schools that promote greater family involvement

--Don Irish is a featured columnist in the North Country Peace Builder . He shared the following perspectives and suggestions with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in a letter this September. Having lived and taught in the South for a number of years, Don experienced a campus flood at Xavier University while living in New Orleans as a visiting professor in 1973.


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PhotoDon Samuels: Minnesota Peacemaker of the Year

Since taking office in 2003, Don Samuels has been a relentless force for peace in Minneapolis' Ward 5 which he represents on the City Council.

Council Member Samuels has employed a number of nonviolent tactics to bringto Northside as well as to empower the residents to become active peacekeepers.

Come and hear Don describe at his journey and discuss where he finds strength and inspiration to be a nonviolent peacemaker and teacher in our community.

Don Samuels' Inaugural Speech 2003

Today we have the perfect American experiment in our Third Ward. There are second and third generation Europeans living among us. The descendants of chattel slaves are among us. Africans whose ancestors never knew slavery live among us. Southeast Asians who fled war and retaliation live among us. We all live among Bosnians fresh from troubled homelands; Hispanics, moving North for a better life; there are Catholics, Lutherans and Baptists here; there are Buddhists; Jews and Muslims. The whole world is here, and we have an opportunity to deliver freedom and equality in generous, unprecedented, American proportions.

The Third Ward is America. It is all America wants to be. But it suffers from vestiges of all the old America was. Our worst enemy is not a mustachioed Arab. Our enemy is our own internal divisiveness. Our enemy is our loss of hope for the children of our community. Our enemy is the atrophy of surrender to decay. Our enemy is the misconception that all cops are abusive, or that all young black men are criminals. Our enemy is acceptance of mediocre results to our demands for livability.

Don will speak at the Annual MN FOR Meeting, Sunday, November 14, 2005, at 2:00 p.m.


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MN FOR PARTICIPATES IN
2005 HEADWATERS WALK FOR JUSTICE

Justice!The WalkersMolly McDougall was MN FOR's top Walker, raising nearly $250 for the Minnesota FOR in the September 18 Walk for Justice.

More than $200,000 was raised in this year's Walk for 100 Minnesota justice organizations. Mark your calendars now to walk with MN FOR on September 17, 2006!

 

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MN FOR Responds to Demand
for Nonviolence Training

Public interest in nonviolence training continues to grow. October 29-30, MN FOR trainers will do a weekend training with members of the peace and justice community in Albert Lea, MN. November 4-5 we have been invited to do nonviolence training for the annual St. Luke Seminar of St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, MN; in March Don Christensen will travel to Pleasant Hill, TN, to do a training with members of Pleasant Hill Community UCC.

If you are part of a group that is interested in exploring the roots and dynamics of violence and the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence, let us know how we can assist you. MN FOR has skilled and experienced trainers who will work with you to design a workshop that meets the needs of your group.

Also contact us if you are interested in sharpening your facilitation skills for doing nonviolence training. The MN FOR Board is considering doing a weekend "Training for Trainers" workshop early in 2006.


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An Awakening in Germany

by Molly MacDougall

I lived in Trier, Germany for the past year to study the integration of the Turkish minority into the German school system. It was a challenging task. I had gone before, in 2001, to Munich on a Rotary exchange and memories of the wonderful big-city life with diskos and swank bars still reverberated in my mind.

This trip was an awakening. I went to discover why the German minority was not doing well in school, which was essentially seeing the dark side of the wonderfully socialistic society that I had come to know and love. I came to understand that for socialism to work, the government has to strictly define who is and who is not a part of the socialistic system of communal support. In Germany, people who are not Christian or white usually aren't even citizens. This in spite of the fact that new laws have recently been implemented reducing the in-country year requirement for naturalization from fourteen to eight.

Like many countries, Germans couldn't get their own citizens to work in the coal and iron mines -- mines upon which the European Community and later European Union were built. Like the migrant Mexicans in California, the Germans similarly needed to import people to do the dirty work. Three generations later, and the Turkish minority is still functioning in the lowest rungs of society. Places like Kreuzberg, near Berlin are the exception. In the capital city, there are so many Turks that society has had to accommodate them; in other cities they remain peripheral.

As most research goes, I still don't have all the answers as to why this is. I have theories -- one being that Germans are not open to integration. Many who I talked to said that the Turks haven't assimilated themselves into being 'German.' I asked about integration being a two-way street and received incredulous stares. Other indicators were the waves of fear as the ten new EU countries were officially admitted, and rumors about how eastern-Europeans would take all the jobs. The recent German election and the Western European political move toward the right, while their borders are being broken down by the EU, are all trends. And yet, I feel hopeful.

I met some wonderful people working in the non-profit field: Christian and Manni from Netzwerk Friedenskooperative (a National Peace Cooperative), Holger Klee from the German International F.O.R., and Nicole Zillien, who offered a course about societal inequalities at Trier University. That Turkish was being taught and that there was a large enough interest to have a Turkish night-class in a small town like Trier is something to take note of. The sale of Gyros as a late-night snack, while inane, shows how some parts of German society has been influenced by Turkish immigrants.

While in Germany I came to find that no country is perfect. Yes, they have universal health care -- but you can't reach a doctor on the weekends. Nothing is open on Sundays, but that also means that the employees have a day off. Everything is a balance. The balance of minorities in their society is yet to be found, but I believe there are many people trying to find it.


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Minnesotans in D.C. Say NO to War

Photo1We left Minneapolis Friday morning at 9:20 a.m. with 5 other buses. Many were there to wish us well and send us off with encouragement. The bus trip was long, but we got to know others on the bus. There was a great diversity of young and old, new activists and others who had been active since the Vietnam years and before.

We arrived Saturday morning in Washington at 10:15 a.m. Many stayed together to walk with the MN Anti-War Committee as did I. Photo2The others spilt off to hear different speeches and visit or meet others.

We marched with a great diversity of people. It was great. There was people everywhere. They estimated 100,000 would come and between 500,000 and 1 million showed up.

At one point we were marching next to the Friends (Quakers) from Washington, DC. We saw somebody from Alaska, and we talked to people from New Orleans, Colorado and many other places. Cindy S from Texas was there, Joan Baez was there, and I was there too! It was so encouraging to be with so many standing up against injustice!

-- Mary Bjorngjeld

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Contributions of Conscientious Objectors Working in
State Mental Institutions During World War II

By John Sinclair

At the recent regional gathering of the FOR in Villa Maria, I mentioned one of the significant contributions made by conscientious objectors (COs) who were assigned to work in state mental health institutions during World War II. A close college friend and a brother-in-law were among those courageous men. After the war many of these COs returned to civil life to be champions for profound reforms in the treatment of mental health patients. These reforms were also enhanced by the discovery of new medications to improve the mental health of those who suffered from mental diseases. I do not think that enough has been written to lift up these significant contributions -- during the war and in the years after the war.

George Terry, a Methodist from Olathe, Kansas was my roommate at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. He was assigned by the Selective Service to serve under one of the peace churches in the Byberry State Hospital in Philadelphia. I was fortunate to be able to have a draft deferment as a theological student and was studying at nearby Princeton Theological Seminary, I was able to visit George "on duty" in one of the most desperate wards of that infamous state hospital. He was assigned to work with the incontinent male patients among some of the most tragic circumstances imaginable.

Baxter Hurn, my brother-in-law, also a Methodist, from Higgins, Texas, had married my sister in 1942 and was assigned to "The Colony," the State Hospital for the Mentally Retarded, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The wives would accompany their husbands, which my sister did.

 

She found employment there. The men were "paid" $12 a month, plus $5 for clothing and were given room and board. My sister wrote in her autobiography, As Way Opens, the following:

"Baxter and another CO were put on the criminally insane ward for a twelve-hour shift. Certainly this was done intentionally, hoping they would not stay. They managed the shift. Our dwelling was bare except for cots, a stove, refrigerator, a few chairs and a table....

"The Colony", located a few miles from Lynchburg actually housed a large variety of patients. Some were criminally insane, many suffered severe psychosis and others were Downs Syndrome patients... There were two wards of completely helpless idiots. During our stay there were about 1800 patients at 'The Colony.'"

She adds these words: "We are trying desperately to make our experience here our career just now and not to live in hopes that we 'may be free again' immediately. I am sure that there is no greater service anywhere that offers greater challenge to Christian faith and practice than this right now.... The hours are so long that you are void of energy before the day is half gone. We fail miserably in many respects but are learning the way of God by practicing love to these needy ones. We are learning humility by seeking to be their brother, sister, mother, father, wife and husband.... We are learning to live by giving our lives...."

As we reflect on the contributions of the peace movement across the years, let us not forget the significant service preformed by conscientious objectors to war across the many centuries past.

 


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PhotoNew MN FOR Intern

Hello F.O.R. members and Newsletter recipients!

My name is Molly MacDougall and I'm lucky enough to be the current MN F.O.R. intern! I'm a senior at Hamline University and am majoring in Social Justice and German and am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about Non-Profits and how I can best serve them.

As a part of my internship I'll be working on the MN FOR website so if you have any suggestions, please write! I feel very honored to be able to work with such wonderful people and I thank you all for making this possible!

Thanks and peace, Molly (second from left)

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2005 Fellowship of Reconciliation
Regional Gathering:
New Tools for Interfaith Dialogue

By Adriana Dobrzyca

 A few days after the 2005 FOR Regional Gathering in Minnesota at Villa Maria, I was reviewing the materials from the conference and a previously unnoticed detail caught my eye. “We make the road by walking” stated the sheet bearing the names of the gathering participants. That phrase is the perfect reflection of the spirit in which the September 9-11, 2005 took place.

The gathering in scenic Southern Minnesota was an opportunity to meet old and new friends, but above all to reflect and learn. During our stay in Villa Maria we learned about ourselves, about each other, but most importantly we learned FROM each other.

The conference program offered the no just the opportunity to learn about FOR’s past peacebuilding initiatives but also a chance to gain insight into newer strategies the FOR uses to promote ideals of peace and nonviolence. One such project is the Accompaniment Program in Colombia. Gilberto Villaseñor, who journeys to the community of San José de Apartado with the FOR in March 2006, provided the group with a background of the Colombian conflict and also talked about the work FOR is doing in Colombia.

Rabbi Lynn Riggs Gottlieb led us through this weekend-long learning experience with activities that shed new light on everyday situations. She asked us: How do we welcome a person? How should we welcome others? While the details of a welcoming ritual vary across cultures, we all agreed that welcoming is an act through which we acknowledge a person’s presence, through which we demonstrate respect and caring towards a person.  This makes welcoming a powerful act of inclusion and the first fundamental invitation to dialogue. Through the act of welcoming we hold the power to dismantle stereotypes and categorization of people.

Lynn also talked about her experience as a peacemaker with the FOR in Israel and Palestine. This provided opportunity to learn about the situation in the region as well as the challenges that peace and nonviolence encounter there. The images Lynn conveyed were of pain, despair, and destruction that many families experience every day. Nonetheless, people maintain their hope and work for peace though a nonviolence and dialogue. Nonviolence is a tool that can help us in successfully eradicating oppressive institutions in the US as well. We all can and ought to play a role in such processes in our communities to build an inclusive and just society.

In conclusion, the Regional Gathering was a time for reflection, learning, sharing, and encouragement. Gathered on the anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and only weeks after the tragedy brought by Hurricane Katrina, we strengthened our commitment to use the power of inclusion, dialogue and nonviolence to honor, respect and work even harder for a just community and society where oppression has been defeated.


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Who's Who

Meet Board Nominee for 2006: Jonneke Koomen

PhotoMy name is Jonneke, and I have lived in the USA for over five years. I love Minnesota and consider it my home, although the INS may disagree. I'm originally from south Oxfordshire in England.

I grew up in a loving family and an eccentric but lovely Baha'i community that taught me about love, diversity, and consultation.

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota studying international relations. I’m trying to make sense of international hierarchy, global governance in East/Central Africa, and women’s issues.

I have had the enormous privilege to be a teaching assistant to the eager undergraduate students at the U of M.

I don’t think there is any point studying power and politics without being intimately involved and committed to social change. I'm learning much from the disheartening struggles around labour and exploitation in the cities.

Related to those themes, I’m also involved in a group called the General College Truth Movement. While the U of M is trying to become an elitist research institution, we are working for access and equality in higher education. I’m really excited to work with and learn more about MN FOR!

From the Interim NCPB Editor

Dear NCPB Readers,

Thank you for your patience with the fall issue of North Country Peace Builder. Here in the Minnesota FOR, we have been busy organizing non-violence trainings, planning regional gatherings, working with interns, attending board meetings and celebrating annual gatherings.

Rachel Mordeci, the previous editor of the North Country Peace Builder, has moved to Indiana. We thank Rachel for contributing so richly and faithfully to the MN FOR board. We are wishing you the best, Rachel, in your new home.

These are dark days for many people. I must admit to entertaining hopelessness on certain days watching the evening news. There is much terrible violence in every part of the world. But the strength of the human spirit is everywhere as well, and we continue to nurture it as best we can in our daily lives. Let us use the power of nonviolence to confront injustice in our midst.

New Editor

Our next issue is set to appear in December, and we have a new editor. Please welcome Susan Moore, a resident of Albert Lea, Minnesota, and an appreciative new member of the FOR, who has volunteered for the job. We thank you, Susan, for contributing your gifts, and look forward to continuing to build the MN FOR community beyond the Twin Cities!

In Peace,

Alice Kloker


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Save the Date:

Sunday, November 14, 2005
MN FOR Annual Meeting

The Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation invites all members and friends to our Annual Meeting, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2-5 p.m. at Union Congregational UCC, St. Louis Park, MN.

This year we are celebrating the first recorded act of civil disobedience in our young nation with a MN FOR Tea Party! We will also be presenting our second annual Peacemaker of the Year Award to Don Samuels (see above for more on the Minneapolis Council Member award winner and speaker).

Tea was the universal solvent in 17th and 18th century America. It was the drink of the wealthy and the working class. Because the preparation of tea required boiling water, the spread of water borne illnesses decreased rapidly as tea gained popularity. When the British Crown mandated a tax on tea in the Colonies to fund the expanding Empire, a group of hardy Bostonians boarded ships in that city's harbor. In an act of revolt against the Queen (and some might say the environment!) they dumped tons of tea into the ocean. Historians cite what has come to be known as "The Boston Tea Party" as one of the first stirrings of revolt against British colonial rule in North America.

In celebration of this episode in the tradition of active nonviolence, we will be serving a variety of teas, baked accompaniments and tea sandwiches at the annual meeting. Additionally, we invite you to recycle books, movies and music at our media swap and shop table. We encourage you to bring items you would like to set free and take items you might want in exchange. Donations are invited.

Directions to MN FOR Annual Meeting, 2-5 pm

Union Congregational UCC
3700 Alabama Ave.
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Tel: (952) 929-8566

From 394: Take the MN-100 exit 5 to Park Pl-Xenia-go 0.5 mi. Bear right onto the MN-100 S ramp-go 0.4 mi. Take the MN-100 S ramp -- go 2.1 mi. Take the CR-3 exit to W 36th St -- go 0.4 mi. Bear right at Wooddale Ave S -- go 0.2 mi. Turn left at W 36th St -- go 0.1 mi. Turn left at Alabama Ave S -- go 0.1 mi.

From West on Rt. 7: Turn right at Wooddale Ave S -- go 0.1 mi. Bear right and head toward W 36th -- go 0.0 mi. Bear right at W 36th St -- go 0.0 mi. Turn left at Alabama Ave S -- go 0.1 mi.

From South on Rt. 100: Bear right onto the MN-100 N ramp -- go 3.1 mi. Take the W 36th St exit -- go 0.5 mi. Turn left at W 36th St -- go 0.4 mi. Turn left at Alabama Ave S -- go 0.1 mi.

From North on 100: Take the CR-3 exit to W 36th St -- go 0.4 mi. Bear right at Wooddale Ave S -- go 0.2 mi. Turn left at W 36th St -- 0.1 mi. Turn left at Alabama Ave S -- go 0.1 mi.


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