North Country Peace Builder
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2002
FOR and 9/11
By Duane Cody
I recently returned from a National Council meeting in New York. Many FOR members and others are asking, "What is FOR doing in response to the September 11 attacks?" I am proud to say that FOR has been doing exactly the right work even before September 11.
* The Task Force on Latin America and the Carrib-bean has a nonviolent peace presence in Colombia in conjunction with Peace Brigades International, and it continues working in Vieques, Puerto Rico, sup-porting the local struggle to get the US Navy to quit using the island for bombing practice.
* The Campaign of Conscience continues to expand its nonviolent direct action campaign, working with AFSC and Pax Christi, gathering support for shipping water purification equipment to Iraqi civilians in vio-lation of the US/UN economic sanctions; the C of C is also promoting the Peace Pledge (see enclosure) to limit expansion of the US war on Iraq.
* Nonviolence trainings continue in greater number for youth and adults across the country; our own Maryrose Dolezal now coordinates the youth trainings for the national FOR.
* Interfaith Peace Builders continues to send mixed delegations of Christians, Muslims, and Jews to Israel and Palestine as witnesses against violence and to observe, learn, and return to share information with the public and influence US policy (for infor-mation on participation, call 202-244-0951 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Membership and Local Groups staff have been flooded with calls and e-mail asking for FOR's help in starting a local group or contacting like-minded others in the caller's area to have fellowship and con-versations with folks NOT in the alleged 80% of the public supporting the war. New staff and interns are excited to work with so many people expressing interest in the work of the FOR.
The world needs the mission and vision of FOR now more than ever. It is heartening to know that so many good people are working so hard to project and develop nonviolent alternatives to the violent madness of both the terrorist attackers and the military responders.
The Compassionate Rebel: Energized by Anger, Motivated by Love
by Burt Berlowe, Rebecca Janke and Julie Penshorn of Growing Communities for Peace, contains 50 stories of peace and justice activists, most of whom have Minnesota connections. Among the rebels featured in the book is longtime FOR member Arthur Sternberg, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. This is his story.
Long Distance Runner (Excerpted)
It's a chilly January evening in 1947. Inside the St. Paul hotel, a well-dressed black activist has just approached the front desk to check into the room reserved for him.
The fair-skinned desk clerk in charge for the evening nervously waits on the approaching customer. "May I - I help you?" he stammers, surprised that an African-American would be in the whites-only hotel.
" I'm Doctor Bayard Rustin," the black man responds. "Some friends from Hamline University reserved a room for me here for tonight."
The clerk furtively scans his guest register, then, without looking at Bayard, quickly says: "I'm sorry. But all of our rooms are taken."
"But mine was reserved," Bayard pleads.
The clerk repeats his statement.
Bayard places a call to some of his Hamline friends, who, in turn, call others they know. One of those on the phone tree is the 35-year-old executive secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) named Arthur Sternberg. In what seems like minutes, Arthur and his Hamline cohorts have joined Bayard in the hotel lobby. ...
"We're here to support Bayard. He 's in town to speak at our college and we had reserved a room for him. He tells us you won't let him have the room. We know your policy here. But we're going to sit in your lobby until you change your mind."
Receiving no response, they carry out their threat. They quietly, steadfastly sit in the lobby through the night and into the next day. Finally, after some 24 agonizing hours, the hotel breaks its rule and gives Bayard his room. He would spend the next two nights at Arthur's house. But a major victory for civil rights had been won.
As Arthur drives Bayard to the train station following his visit, the famous guest and a friend, Wally Nelson, hatch a plan for a Journey of Reconciliation--a trip through southern border states to further promote equality for African-Americans, a risky venture given the climate of the times. For young Arthur, the Bayard Rustin adventure is one of his first official acts of social justice. It would be far from his last. - - -
Arthur Sternberg is now 90 years old. He has spent three-quarters of that time resisting war and injustice here and abroad, and helping others to do the same. ... As he verbally traces the steps of his marathon run through the 20th century, his recollection is a bit labored at times, but is remarkably clear in detail.
"My involvement with the peace and justice movement started in 1935 when I came to St. Paul. I discovered the Worker's Defense League (WDL) that was assisting small unions in getting started. A primary example was the Southern Tenant Farmers Union ser-ving African-Americans in cotton growing areas. There were very few unions in the South. An organization of that type had a real struggle to exist. ...
"I became interested in labor unions through my work with WDL and the Socialist Workers Party. I particularly recall an incident involving prisoners affected by the Smith Act that prohibited conspiracy to overthrow the government. They were involved in the violent 1934 Minneapolis truck driver's strike. Some from the Socialist Workers Party were convicted under the Smith Act even though they never had any thought of overthrowing the government. I provided part of the funding to take the case to the court of appeals. The WDL led the effort to exonerate the prisoners. They were the first people prosecuted under the Smith Act. Some 18 were convicted. I played a role in assisting their appeals to federal court. Their appeal was turned down and they went to prison and did their time."
In 1938, Arthur's involvement with the WDL brought him into contact with a fledgling co-op movement. He was one of the early supporters and board members of Co-ops Inc. of St. Paul, which began with one grocery store initially but expanded to four in the Twin Cities. ... A few years later, Arthur joined the brand new World Federalist Organization (WFO). They campaigned for military disarmament, world government, and United Nations reform. ...
Arthur's biggest footprint is left in the doorway of FOR, founded at the onset of World War I when he was 3 years old, and now the oldest and largest interfaith peace and justice organization in the world. "Members of FOR (the Twin Cities chapter) came to Co-op Inc. wondering what they could do to help," he recalls. "That was my introduction to the peace movement in St. Paul. In the spring of 1942, I attended my first meeting in St. Paul of FOR and became a member. I have been involved since"
During World War II, Arthur was a conscientious objector (CO). ... After the 1940 draft acts provided for camps to be set up for COs, the Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren churches developed camp programs that were supported by FOR. COs were assigned to one of the camps, through a cooperative framework of churches. They participated in various projects, mostly environmental ... .
"I thought I would be in a public service camp as a CO," Arthur says. "But when I went to get my ticket to the camp, I was given a deferment from service."
"Between World War II and the Vietnam war, there were ... demonstrations and annual Easter marches in opposition to the draft," he recollects. "The first one we had where most of FOR participated was in down-town Minneapolis. ... I was later in another demon-stration against the war where there were 150,000 people in New York City in the spring of 1967. Martin Luther King addressed that assembly. It was one of the big marches. Some Macalester College students attended and others from my family. It was a couple or 3 miles long. I was at the end of the march and by the time I got there the program was over. I heard a portion of King's speech. Also in '67, I went to Chicago for an antiwar conference. It was an attempt to bring together war opponents to develop a constructive program in opposition to the war. There was a plan drafted, most of which was never carried out.
"In the summer of '67, many organizations were involved in big marches as part of the national mobilization for survival. The organization I was in-volved in ... was called SANE/FREEZE. ... Its focus was on nuclear disarmament. People were making bomb shelters. FOR built shelters for the shelterless. That had been an earlier focus of FOR when there was the potential for trouble with China. FOR sent President Nixon bags of rice to induce him to provide assistance to starving people in China when a river overflowed there.
..."The peace movement as a whole does not have the antiwar activism that it had in earlier years. That's because of the end of the Cold War. We no longer have Russia (or anyone else) as an enemy. That's had an effect on the peace movement. It now has to work on local issues."***
Now that his long peacemaking journey is winding down, Arthur is helping a younger generation begin theirs. He was a founder of World Citizen, Inc., which began in North Minneapolis in the early 1980s primarily to provide activity for African-American youth and has become the developer of peace sites in schools and elsewhere throughout the country.
Arthur is humble in assessing his impact on the most violent of our centuries:
"I hesitate to list anything as accomplishments. I have continued to be an antiwar person because it is the right thing to do. The things I've done were things that needed to be done. I cannot say categorically that certain things I was involved in averted a more disastrous result--but they may have. For instance, the sending of rice bags to the White House. That may have caused the president to refrain from doing what he might have done. We undoubtedly had an effect on the Vietnam War by solidifying the opposition, although that didn't put an end to war as such.
"I have never been one to have great goals or objectives. I have tried to participate in activities that were important. I have had hopes, but not expecta-tions of great results. I also haven't felt great disappointment. It's that kind of disposition that has enabled me to stay involved as long as I have. I'm different from other people. I don't feel entitled to any great credit for longevity in the movement. ... I have tended to influence people to be peaceful byexample rather than word. I just get along with people. To be a peacemaker, I say be at peace with all people and follow wherever that leads."
The Compassionate Rebel is available from Growing Communities for Peace at www.peacemaker.org, from Amazon.com, or from your favorite bookstore. (Ask them to order it if they don't have it.) Many of the rebels in the book, as well as the authors, are available for personal appearances. For more information, contact GCFP at 651-257-2478 or email@example.com.
Peace, Patriotism, and Nonviolence
From Sisters Kay and Michelle at Presentation Sisters, Le Sueur, Minnesota
Dear Friends and Makers of Peace: We were blessed to participate in a 1-day retreat on "Peace, Patriotism and Nonviolence: Another Way to Confront Terrorism" given by Bishop Thomas Gumble-ton, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. The retreat, attended by 300 people, was held at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis on February 7 and followed an evening's presentation shared by over 1,300 people.
Doug Grow, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune (2/3/02) had written: "A Voice for Peace Amid Cries of War: Bishop's Message of Nonviolence Hard to Hear over Pro-Bush War." Grow encouraged us to "think about it: The President is seeking $48 billion in new Defense Department spending. According to ... Council for a Livable World, that increase alone is greater than the annual military budget of any other country in the world....Combined, the 10 nations after the U.S. spend $185 billion on their militaries. With the increase, the U.S. military budget will soar to $379 billion, or as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, nine times Russia's national budget. Given those numbers, given the President's military aims, I naively thought there might be a few of the 100 U.S. senators or a handful of the 435 representatives who would at least whisper, 'Hmm, isn't there a better way?' But I've heard nothing from Washington but echoes of the ovations for the President. Need to hear a different voice? Need to hear that it's possible to be a flag waving American and question the effectiveness of war and increased defense spending?" Grow quotes Bishop Gumbleton: "The thing I note is that the leadership keeps calling for national security and homeland security.. That's different from working for peace. And without peace, we'll never have security. September 11th proved that."
- Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 pm:
"An Urgent Call for Media Reform," speaker Matthew Rothschild, Editor, The Progressive. Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland at Lyndale, Minneapolis; $5 at door. This is a fund raiser for a video camera for Altera Vista, the cable TV show that gives the peace and justice community a broader voice.
- April 19, 20:
"Every Church a Peace Church" conference, St. Joan of Arc, 4537 Third Ave. So., Minneapolis; $25 for both days. FFI John Braun 612-522-1861 (see article page 5).
- April 26-28:
"ReVisioning: Building Community for a Sustainable Future," with speakers David Korten, Marjorie Kelly, Michael Albert, and Ronnie Dugger. Macalester College. 3 days $62 ($30 student, low-income) ; each day $25 ($12). To register www. JustView.org/ ReVisioning.html, or ReVisioning@ yahoo.com.
- June 15-20:
"The Power of Nonviolence--Exploring Alternatives," FOR national conference, Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York. FFI 845-358-4601 or firstname.lastname@example.org (see page 6).
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Join Us for the MN FOR Spring Fellowship with Janet Chisholm
Janet Chisholm is the national FOR Nonviolence Training Coordinator, and FOR's key organizer for the Decade of Nonviolence. For the past year, Janet has also served as co-executive director of the national FOR with Richard Deats. Janet will discuss her work and ways that we might strengthen the connections between local FOR members and the work that national FOR is doing.
Our meeting will include a vegetarian dinner served by St. Martin's Table. A sliding donation of $5 to $15 is suggested for the dinner. If possible, RSVP by March 29th to Katy Gray Brown (612-721-3884), but by all means, please join us even if you haven't called! Also, if you would like a ride, or need directions, call Katy.
Sunday, April 7
Dinner at 6:00 pm
Program at 7:00
St. Martin's Table
2001 Riverside Avenue, near
the University of Minnesota's
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Every Church a Peace Church Conference
April 19 & 20, St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 Third Ave. So., Minneapolis
Every Church a Peace Church is a national movement whose goal is to help faith communities respond to the global problem of violence. It is "a call to action based on this simple proposition: the church could turn the world toward peace if every congregation lived as Jesus lived and taught" (John Stoner, a founder).
In the wake of the events of September 11 and the prospects of a prolonged war, many faith communities and individual Christians are asking, "How do we as Christians respond to the tragedy of September 11? What can we do? Is war the only alternative? Can we stop the cycle of violence?"
People at the Every Church a Peace Church conference will struggle with questions like these, in addition to issues relative to Jesus' message of nonviolence.
Jack Nelson Pallmeyer is the keynoter (Friday eve. "The Nature of Nonviolence," Sat. morn. "The Power of Nonviolence"). Workshops include "Conscientious Objection," "Justice versus Charity," "Creative Ways to Bring About Justice," "Challenges and Opportunities for Nonviolent Youth," and "The Roots of Violence."
For more information or a registration form call Marie Braun (612-522-1861) or Julie Madden (612-823-8205).
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June 15-20, 2002
The FOR National Conference "The Power of Nonviolence"--Exploring Alternatives At Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York Spacious and attractive campus in NYC
Speakers, so far, include:
Mairead McGuire, Founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement and recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. Mairead is also the founder of Community of the Peace People.
Amber Amundson, whose husband, Craig, died in the September 11th terrorist acts. Amber is forming a new organization called "Peaceful Tomorrows." The Rev. James Lawson, Co-worker with Martin Luther King, Jr. Former National Chairperson, US FOR.
Dr. Hildegard Goss-Mayr, Honorary President, International Fellowship of Reconciliation
Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Evening concerts with Pete Seeger, Dana Gillespie and other artists, tours of Ground Zero, workshops, nonviolence trainings, and MORE.
Volunteers Needed! Make a real difference by lending a hand during or before the conference. Register Online: www.forusa.org For more information about registering or volunteering contact: Fellowship of Reconciliation, Box 271, Nyack NY 10960, 845-358-4601, email@example.com
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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 article, letters, and comments to Leslie Reindl <mord001 @ umn.edu>, editor, in care of
Leslie Reindl, editor
1233 Ingerson Road
St. Paul, MN 55
Or use the online form to send comments or contributions.
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