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Vol. XVII, No.1 Fall, 2002




Dialoguing

 

Letter From Eva Blenesi on
Dangers of Our Time

Dear Stephen,

I am extremely grateful for sending me over the Spring Issue of the Nonviolent Change. Indeed, it is vital nowadays to deal with all sensitive issues that journal tackles very rightfully.

Also as a former fellow of the Global Security Fellows Initiative Program from Cambridge, also a participant of the André Salama international Workshop from Haifa, or as a scholar dealing with ethno-political conflicts and more important as civic human rights activist who has been long time engaged in promotion of the culture of peace, of accommodation of differences and mutual understanding I can fully associate myself with the spirit of your publication and I consider very worth while and necessary, both as a forum of theoretical debates and a means to let a wider public know about action oriented plans.

I must tell you that I have first hand experience growing up in a dictatorship (Romania), then emigrating to Hungary in early 1989 I had the chance to experience a different system, also because of travelling a lot in different countries in the West. However, my experience in the last 12 years taught me that democracy can be as dangerous as dictatorship in terms of its threat to basic values. The trap is that the dichotomy of black and white is being replaced by a more nuanced, thus more sophisticated and hypocritical surface thus the dangers are not recognizable so easily. My first hand experiences and my research findings also reinforced my conviction of how anti-democratic forces can use democratic institutions, individuals for unlawful, un-democratic purposes. In sum, basic values as well as meta values are constantly challenged, scholars and people who have deep concern about these problem are not listened to and valued almost at all, or in such an extent as they should. The rise of the right is a real danger worldwide, likewise and the authoritarian, non-cooperative leadership type who is engaged in defending the country's interest against the alien, the alterity, the terrorist. I think there is a big crises on all levels, and many self-appointed defenders know how to benefit of the uncertainties on the cost of thousands and thousands. It is time that people realize all these dangers and seriously engage themselves in developing techniques both for rescuing and preserving vital and spiritual values.

Thank you again for sending me the copy.
Lots of regards,

Eva Blenesi

 

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Letter Peace Action Education Fund, of April 4, on
The Israeli Palestinian Conflict

The Peace Action Education Fund welcomes President Bush's call for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian cities it has overtaken in recent days, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's agreement that U.S. envoy General Anthony Zinni will be allowed to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. We also welcome President Bush's plan to send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region. The Administration's involvement in resolving this terrible conflict is both needed and long overdue, particularly as the United States is the major foreign and military aid donor to Israel.

"The President must also turn his attention to the role that U.S.-supplied weaponry has played in the conflict. The Peace Action Education Fund has long advocated a curb on arms transfers, such as the implementation of an arms trade code of conduct. Arming a party to a conflict raises the level of lethality, taking lives instead of addressing root causes of the problems. We renew our call for a halt to arms sales to the Middle East.

According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, U.S.-supplied attack helicopters have been used to carry out extrajudicial executions, disperse demonstrators and target residential areas. All these actions are in violation of international laws and norms. There are reports of U.S. helicopters and F-16 fighter jets being used to attack Palestinian radio stations, President Arafat's headquarters, and Palestinian Authority police and security buildings. U.S. laser guided missiles have been used against civilians. Other equipment includes many thousands of rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition. U.S. weapons and military aid have only added fuel to the fire of this terrible situation.

Violence has also been used by the Israeli Defense Forces against international human rights and peace activists. Attacking unarmed civilians is never acceptable. The courageous work of these monitors, as well as that of the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, need support. They represent the best chance for a brighter future.

While the President's announcement gives some hope that the current level of bloodshed will be stopped, the situation remains grave. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international human rights community have called for human rights monitoring, cooperation with humanitarian agencies, an end to detentions of medical personnel and attacks on their facilities, and free access of the media. We call on the President to make respect of human rights ­ for all Palestinians and Israelis ­ a top priority.

We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will send action alerts as appropriate.

For immediate action, see the Friends Committee on National Legislation's web site: http://www.fcnl.org/

Tracy Moavero
Policy Director, Peace Action Education Fund, 1819 H St. NW #425, Washington DC 20006 (202)862 9740 x3004, tmoavero@peace-action.org, http://www.peace-action.org/.

 

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Letter from Wade Davis on
We Need A Global Declaration of Interdependence
(Reprinted from the The Globe & Mail , July 6, 2002 and provided by June Zaccone, National Jobs for All Coalition, ecojmz@earthlink.net).

On Sept. 11, in the most successful act of asymmetrical warfare since the Trojan horse, the world came home to America. "Why do they hate us?" asked George W. Bush. This was not a rhetorical question. Americans really wanted to know -- and still do, for their innocence had been shattered. The President suggested that the reason was the very greatness of America, as if the liberal institutions of government had somehow provoked homicidal rage in fanatics incapable of embracing freedom. Other, dissenting voices claimed that, to the contrary, the problem lay in the tendency of the United States to support, notably in the Middle East, repressive regimes whose values are antithetical to the ideals of American democracy. Both sides were partly right, but both overlooked the deeper issue, in part because they persisted in examining the world through American eyes.

The United States has always looked inward. A nation born in isolation cannot be expected to be troubled by the election of a President who has rarely been abroad, or a Congress in which 25 per cent of members do not hold passports.

Wealth too can be blinding. Each year, Americans spend as much on lawn maintenance as the government of India collects in federal tax revenue. The 30 million African-Americans collectively control more wealth than the 30 million Canadians. A country that effortlessly supports a defense budget larger than the entire economy of Australia does not easily grasp the reality of a world in which 1.3 billion people get by on less than $1 a day. A new and original culture that celebrates the individual at the expense of family and community -- a stunning innovation in human affairs, the sociological equivalent of the splitting of the atom -- has difficulty understanding that in most of the world the community still prevails, for the destiny of the individual remains inextricably linked to the fate of the collective.

Since 1945, even as the United States came to dominate the geopolitical scene, the American people resisted engagement with the world, maintaining an almost willful ignorance of what lay beyond their borders. Such cultural myopia, never flattering, was rendered obsolete in an instant on the morning Sept. 11. In the immediate wake of the tragedy, I was often asked as an anthropologist for explanations. Condemning the attacks in the strongest possible terms, I nevertheless encouraged people to consider the forces that gave rise to Osama bin Laden's movement. While it would be reassuring to view al-Qaeda as an isolated phenomenon, I feared that the organization was a manifestation of a deeper and broader conflict, a clash between those who have and those who have nothing. Mr. bin Laden himself may be wealthy, but the resentment upon which al-Qaeda feeds springs most certainly from the condition of the dispossessed.

I also encouraged my American friends to turn the anthropological lens upon our own culture, if only to catch a glimpse of how we might appear to people born in other lands. I shared a colleague's story from her time living among the Bedouin in Tunisia in the 1980s, just as television reached their remote villages. Entranced and shocked by episodes of the soap opera Dallas,the astonished farm women asked her, "Is everyone in your country as mean as J.R.?"

For much of the Middle East, in particular, the West is synonymous not only with questionable values and a flood of commercial products, but also with failure. Gamel Abdul Nasser's notion of a Pan-Arabic state was based on a thoroughly Western and secular model of socialist development, an economic and political dream that collapsed in corruption and despotism. The shah of Iran provoked the Iranian revolution by thrusting not the Koran but modernity (as he saw it) down the throats of his people.

The Western model of development has failed in the Middle East and elsewhere in good measure because it has been based on the false promise that people who follow its prescriptive dictates will in time achieve the material prosperity enjoyed by a handful of nations of the West. Even were this possible, it is not at all clear that it would be desirable. To raise consumption of energy and materials throughout the world to Western levels, given current population projections, would require the resources of four planet Earths by the year 2100. To do so with the one world we have would imply so severely compromising the biosphere that the Earth would be unrecognizable. In reality, development for the vast majority of the peoples of the world has been a process in which the individual is torn from his past and propelled into an uncertain future only to secure a place on the bottom rung of an economic ladder that goes nowhere.

Consider the key indices of development. An increase in life expectancy suggests a drop in infant mortality, but reveals nothing of the quality of the lives led by those who survive childhood. Globalization is celebrated with iconic intensity. But what does it really mean? The Washington Post reports that in Lahore, one Muhammad Saeed earns $88 (U.S.) a month stitching shirts and jeans for a factory that supplies Gap and Eddie Bauer. He and five family members share a single bed in one room off a warren of alleys strewn with human waste and refuse. Yet, earning three times as much as at his last job, he is the poster child of globalization.

Even as fundamental a skill as literacy does not necessarily realize its promise. In northern Kenya, for example, tribal youths placed by their families into parochial schools do acquire a modicum of literacy, but in the process also learn to have contempt for their ancestral way of life. They enter school as nomads; they leave as clerks, only to join an economy with a 50-per-cent unemployment rate for high-school graduates. Unable to find work, incapable of going home, they drift to the slums of Nairobi to scratch a living from the edges of a cash economy.

Without doubt, images of comfort and wealth, of technological sophistication, have a magnetic allure. Any job in the city may seem better than backbreaking labor in sun-scorched fields. Entranced by the promise of the new, people throughout the world have in many instances voluntarily turned their backs on the old. The consequences can be profoundly disappointing. The fate of the vast majority of those who sever their ties with their traditions will not be to attain the prosperity of the West, but to join the legions of urban poor, trapped in squalor, struggling to survive. As cultures wither away, individuals remain, often shadows of their former selves, caught in time, unable to return to the past, yet denied any real possibility of securing a place in the world whose values they seek to emulate and whose wealth they long to acquire.

Anthropology suggests that when peoples and cultures are squeezed, extreme ideologies sometimes emerge, inspired by strange and unexpected beliefs. These revitalization movements may be benign, but more typically prove deadly both to their adherents and to those they engage. China's Boxer Rebellion of 1900 sought not only to end the opium trade and expel foreign legations. The Boxers arose in response to the humiliation of an ancient nation, long the center of the known world, reduced within a generation to servitude by unknown barbarians. It was not enough to murder the missionaries. In a raw, atavistic gesture, the Boxers dismembered them and displayed their heads on pikes.

However unique its foundation, al-Qaeda is nevertheless reminiscent of such revitalization movements. Torn between worlds, Mr. bin Laden and his followers invoke a feudal past that never was in order to rationalize their own humiliation and hatred. They are a cancer within the culture of Islam, neither fully of the faith nor totally apart from it. Like any malignant growth they must be severed from the body and destroyed. We must also strive to understand the movement's roots, for the chaotic conditions of disintegration and disenfranchisement that led to al-Qaeda are found among disaffected populations throughout the world.

In Nepal, rural farmers spout rhetoric not heard since the death of Stalin. In Peru, the Shining Path turned to Mao. Had they invoked instead Tupac Amaru, the 18th-century indigenous rebel, scion of the Inca, and had they been able to curb their reflexive disdain for the very indigenous people they claimed to represent, they might well have set the nation aflame, as was their intent.

Lima, a city of 400,000 in 1940 is today home to 9 million, and for the majority it is a sea of misery in a sun scorched desert. We live in an age of disintegration. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 60 nation states. Today there are 190, many poor and unstable. The real story lies in the cities. Throughout the world, urbanization, with all its fickle and forlorn promises, has drawn people by the millions into squalor. The populations of Mexico City and Sao Paulo are unknown, probably immeasurable. In Asia there are cities of 10 million people that most of us in the West cannot name.

The nation state, as Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell wrote, has become too small for the big problems of the world and too big for the little problems of the world. Outside the major industrial nations, globalization has not brought integration and harmony, but rather a firestorm of change that has swept away languages and cultures, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. Of the 6,000 languages spoken today, fully half are not being taught to children. Within a single generation, we are witnessing the loss of half humanity's social, spiritual and intellectual legacy. This is the essential backdrop of our era.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I was asked at a lecture in Los Angeles to name the seminal event of the 20th century. Without hesitation I suggested the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914. Two bullets sparked a war that destroyed all faith in progress and optimism, the hallmarks of the Victorian age, and left in its wake the nihilism and alienation of a century that birthed Hitler, Mao, Stalin and another devastating global conflict that did not fully end until the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989.

The question then turned to 9/11, and it struck me that 100 years from now that fateful date may well loom as the defining moment of this new century, the day when two worlds, long kept apart by geography and circumstance, came together in violent conflict. If there is one lesson to be learned from 9/11, it is that power does not translate into security. With an investment of $500,000, far less than the price of one of the baggage scanners now deployed in airports across the United States, a small band of fanatics killed some 2,800 innocent people. The economic cost may well be incalculable. Generally, nations declare wars on nations; Mr. Bush has declared war on a technique and there is no exit strategy.

Global media have woven the world into a single sphere. Evidence of the disproportionate affluence of the West is beamed into villages and urban slums in every nation, in every province, 24 hours a day. Baywatch is the most popular television show in New Guinea. Tribesmen from the mountainous heartland of an island that embraces 2,000 distinct languages walk for days to catch the latest episode.

The voices of the poor, who deal each moment with the consequences of environmental degradation, political corruption, overpopulation, the gross distortion in the distribution of wealth and the consumption of resources, who share few of the material benefits of modernity, will no longer be silent.

True peace and security for the 21st century will only come about when we find a way to address the underlying issues of disparity, dislocation and dispossession that have provoked the madness of our age. What we desperately need is a global acknowledgment of the fact that no people and no nation can truly prosper unless the bounty of our collective ingenuity and opportunities are available and accessible to all.

We must aspire to create a new international spirit of pluralism, a true global democracy in which unique cultures, large and small, are allowed the right to exist, even as we learn and live together, enriched by the deepest reaches of our imaginings. We need a global declaration of interdependence. In the wake of Sept. 11 this is not idle or naïve rhetoric, but rather a matter of survival.

 

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Namaste from Deepak Chopra

Date: Fri, Sep 6, 2002, 12:54 PM

Dear Friends,

I recently attended a conference on peace and human progress hosted by Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias and the Senate of Puerto Rico. The conference was attended by several other Nobel Laureates and also representatives from various governments. I had the privilege of giving a keynote speech at this conference and in the final meeting agreed to play the pivotal role in the creation of a global strategic alliance for peace and human progress.

I think it is very important and urgent that we address the moral issues of our time. The moral issues of our time are not the extramarital sexual adventures of our politicians nor the eating disorders and eccentricities of Hollywood celebrities. The important moral issues of our time are war, weapons, violence in all its forms, economic disparities, extreme and abject poverty, ecological devastation, prejudice, racism, and sexism. Every 2
seconds somewhere in the world a child dies from hunger or other preventable diseases. Less than 4% of the world's annual military expenditures would cure this situation. Since the end of World War II, more than 32 million civilians, mostly women, old men and children have perished as a result of hatred and ignorance and the sale of weapons sold by merchants of death and destruction. By the year 2000, the military expenditures of the world were equivalent to 35% of total yearly income of nearly two billion people. Our hearts seem to be immune to the procession of televised imagery that continuously portrays a strange mixture of fiction, news and advertisement that constantly feed our addictions to adrenaline.

Organized religion has failed to achieve its highest purpose because it has so often fostered divisiveness and xenophobia, at times manipulating people through fear and violence. Unfortunately, our religions are the legacies of our tribal ancestors whose ideologies and conceptual frameworks have generally failed to progress with our understanding of modern cosmology or evolution. Similarly, our current state of evolution demands that we re examine our notions of nationalism. Tribalism has taken on the garb of nationalism so that mass murder during wartime is rewarded with medals of honor. Einstein called "nationalism an infantile disease, the measles of humanity." Erich Fromm said, "Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. Patriotism is its cult." [Flag waving patriotism is devisive.] These are harsh words but unless we are prepared to honestly look at our outmoded beliefs, our unquestioned ideologies and ourselves, there may be no hope for us.

In regards to the Chopra Foundation, the new strategic plan is rapidly taking place. A number of notable goals and objectives are being considered. For example, the Chopra Foundation is going to take a leading role in the creation of the Global Strategic Alliance for Peace and Human Progress so that we can influence public opinion and ultimately public policy. We need a critical mass of people that will no longer participate or tolerate a culture of violence that is based on profound indifference to the pain of our fellow beings and lack of respect for life. It took a critical mass of awareness to ban cigarette smoking in public places. Today the relatives of people who have died from cigarettes are suing tobacco companies. It is quite conceivable that the day may come when the manufacturers of weapons will be held accountable when an innocent child dies at the hands of a gun. Today governments label the deaths of thousands of innocent people as "collateral damage" so that we can numb ourselves to the anguish and images of horror through the use of words. The only way to create the critical mass of awareness is to create a strategic global alliance of people and organizations that are contributing to spiritual growth as well as the betterment of humanity and the environment. Many Nobel Laureates, representatives of international humanitarian agencies, and influential people from governments around the world have greeted this idea with great enthusiasm. The critical mass would be created through a very concrete engagement of educational institutions, the entertainment industry, news media, and information networks, including the Internet. Some of the best-known representatives in the entertainment industry and international news media have already agreed to participate.

To restate our goal --- we want to create a critical mass of awareness that influences public opinion and policy so that we can take remedial measures and create a new culture where violence, weapons, poverty, ecological and
environmental degradation and devastation can be addressed as the major epidemics of our time that need to be addressed with great urgency. In this process it will be important not to think in terms of an us versus them psychology. There is only one of us - we are one body in one world. In the tangled hierarchy sinner and saint, divine and diabolical, sacred and profane are different faces of our collective Being. Therefore angry activism driven by rage, however justified it seems, is really not going to work. I believe that the tangled hierarchy wants us to move to the next state of evolution and very strongly desires us to take that quantum leap of creativity.

There are many other exciting things on the horizon. I hope you will participate in some way by becoming a voice in our Foundation. If you wish to participate in any way in this endeavor, please send an email to foundation@chopra.com <mailto:foundation@chopra.com> with your ideas and how you would like to participate. The world's consciousness is demanding an authentic spirituality that is based on a scientific understanding of the domain of awareness where we experience our universality. This is none other than our inner self. It has been waiting patiently, inviting us to enter the luminous mystery in which all things are created, nurtured, and renewed. When we enter this luminous mystery of existence, we experience great wonder, humility and love. Where there is wonder humility and love, there is the opportunity for healing.

Namaste,
Deepak Chopra

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"Not In Our Name Statement" From Prominent Americans On The War On Terror
Reprinted from The Guardian, Friday June 14, 2002 and provided by the PJSA list serve

Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression. The signers of this statement call on the people of the U.S. to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11 and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.

We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers. We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the US government should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.

We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.

We too watched with shock the horrific events of September 11. We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our heads at the terrible scenes of carnage - even as we recalled similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City and, a generation ago, Vietnam. We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.

But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic script of "good v evil" that was taken up by a pliant and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate. There were by definition no valid political or moral questions. The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at home.

In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity from Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and anytime. The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine. The government now openly prepares to wage all-out war on Iraq - a country which has no connection to the horror of September 11. What kind of world will this become if the US government has a blank cheque to drop commandos, assassins, and bombs wherever it wants?

In our name the government has created two classes of people within the US: those to whom the basic rights of the US legal system are at least promised, and those who now seem to have no rights at all. The government rounded up more than 1,000 immigrants and detained them in secret and indefinitely. Hundreds have been deported and hundreds of others still languish today in prison. For the first time in decades, immigration procedures single out certain nationalities for unequal treatment.

In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society. The president's spokesperson warns people to "watch what they say". Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed. The so-called Patriot Act - along with a host of similar measures on the state level - gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure, supervised, if at all, by secret proceedings before secret courts.

In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles and functions of the other branches of government. Military tribunals with lax rules of evidence and no right to appeal to the regular courts are put in place by executive order. Groups are declared "terrorist" at the stroke of a presidential pen.

We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of a new domestic order. We are confronting a new openly imperial policy towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures and manipulates fear to curtail rights.

There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times in history people have waited until it was too late to resist. President Bush has declared: "You're either with us or against us." Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety. We say not in our name. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare. We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.

We who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together to rise to this challenge. We applaud and support the questioning and protest now going on, even as we recognise the need for much, much more to actually stop this juggernaut. We draw inspiration from the Israeli reservists who, at great personal risk, declare "there is a limit" and refuse to serve in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

We draw on the many examples of resistance and conscience from the past of the US: from those who fought slavery with rebellions and the underground railroad, to those who defied the Vietnam war by refusing orders, resisting the draft, and standing in solidarity with resisters. Let us not allow the watching world to despair of our silence and our failure to act. Instead, let the world hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and rally others to do everything possible to stop it.

From: Michael Albert, Laurie Anderson, Edward Asner, actor, Russell Banks, writer, Rosalyn Baxandall, historian, Jessica Blank, actor/playwright, Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange, William Blum, author, Theresa Bonpane, executive director, Office of the Americas, Blase Bonpane, director, Office of the Americas, Fr Bob Bossie, SCJ, Leslie Cagan, Henry Chalfant,author/filmmaker, Bell Chevigny, writer, Paul Chevigny, professor of law, NYU, Noam Chomsky, Stephanie Coontz, historian, Evergreen State College, Kia Corthron, playwright, Kevin Danaher, Global Exchange, Ossie Davis, Mos Def, Carol Downer, board of directors, Chico (CA) Feminist Women's Health Centre, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, professor, California State University, Hayward, Eve Ensler, Leo Estrada, UCLA professor, Urban Planning, John Gillis, writer, professor of history, Rutgers, Jeremy Matthew Glick, editor of Another World Is Possible, Suheir Hammad, writer, David Harvey, distinguished professor of anthropology, CUNY Graduate Centre, Rakaa Iriscience, hip hop artist, Erik Jensen, actor/playwright, Casey Kasem, Robin DG Kelly, Martin Luther King III, president, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Barbara Kingsolver, C Clark Kissinger, Refuse & Resist!, Jodie Kliman, psychologist, Yuri Kochiyama, activist, Annisette & Thomas Koppel, singers/composers, Tony Kushner, James Lafferty, executive director, National Lawyers Guild/LA, Ray Laforest, Haiti Support Network, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun magazine, Barbara Lubin, Middle East Childrens Alliance, Staughton Lynd, Anuradha Mittal, co director, Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First, Malaquias Montoya, visual artist, Robert Nichols, writer, Rev E Randall Osburn, executive vice president, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Grace Paley, Jeremy Pikser, screenwriter, Jerry Quickley, poet, Juan Gumez Quiones, historian, UCLA, Michael Ratner, president, Centre for Constitutional Rights, David Riker, filmmaker, Boots Riley, hip hop artist, The Coup, Edward Said, John J Simon, writer, editor, Starhawk, Michael Steven Smith, National Lawyers Guild/NY, Bob Stein, publisher, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, Naomi Wallace, playwright, Rev George Webber, president emeritus, NY Theological Seminary, Leonard Weinglass, attorney, John Edgar Wideman, Saul Williams, spoken word artist, Howard Zinn, historian

For more information, Contact the Not In Our Name Statement, nionstatement@hotmail.com

 

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Maralee Niehoff
In Favor of the Brave: A Commentary

August 9th, 2002


Recently, I have been thinking so much about the scandal of sexual abuse that has taken place within the Catholic Church. I hurt for all the people who have had their lives and faiths forever effected by this abuse. I am appalled by the attempts of many within the orthodoxy of the church who knew of the abuse and worked to cover it up. For anyone, let alone a priest, to use their power as an adult and their role as trusted leader of faith to break the sacred trust of a child is horrendous.

While I have no doubt that most people would agree with me in believing that this abuse and injustice is wrong, we don't all speak up. I have friends and family members who do not want to consider or discuss the possibility that ministers of God could do such things. In many ways I cannot blame them, and I can understand their silence because speaking of such things seems to carry such immediate risk. This is true even for perpetrators who are caught in an addictive cycle, who know what there are doing is wrong and want to tell, but feel that they cannot stop.

However, silence comes at a cost. Silence costs all those who have already been damaged by abuse, allows abuse to continue, and tarnishes the reputations of all those who work to bring people closer to God in and out of the church. So, I am glad that some have chosen to speak the truth with bravery. I want to say thank you to those individuals who have long known of this injustice and have spoken up even at the cost of great personal hardship. It is not easy to do the right thing or remember that many support you when you are in the midst of the trial, so please remember that you are supported!

I am proud to say that one of the brave is a member of my family! The Reverend Thomas Doyle is my nephew and a long-time Catholic priest. For many years now he has been a voice for those who have been abused by members of the priesthood. Through speaking and writing he has consistently drawn attention to this issue, and he has suffered much personal hardship for his stand. I thank him and all those like him who have been willing to do what was right rather than conform to the popular out of denial, shame, and self-interest. I say to all of you brave individuals, keep going strong and do not be discouraged or weary in your well-doing!

I also want to encourage all people everywhere to be brave. Catholic or not, all people who talk with God can understand that sexual abuse is wrong, particularly by those who are to help us be closer to God. Do not be afraid to speak up if you know of injustice and please encourage all those brave men and women in and out of the church who have used their positions as priests, community leaders, and citizens to continue to stand up for what is right. Let them know that you care for them and support them. Encourage them to show the true love of God and to shine the light of God in all the dark places.

 

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These articles and opinions of the authors do not constitute the endorsement of Nonviolent Change nor its publisher, Organization Development Institute, or any of its staff.

©2002, 2003, 2004,2005. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/ActionTeam on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.

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