by Art Laffin
About 30 people from the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities gathered for a Faith and Resistance Retreat in Washington, D.C. from December 27-28 to commemorate the slaughter of the Holy Innocents–past and present. The retreat was organized by members of the Jonah House Community, Jonah House and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.
On Friday, December 27, retreatants processed from Army-Navy Drive to the police designated “protest area” near the Pentagon metro station where a vigil was held from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. as Pentagon employees were leaving work. When we arrived at the vigil site a large group of Pentagon police were on hand, a number of whom were dressed in riot suits and “ninja” garb. The witness began with an explanation about why we were there and a reading of the Gospel account of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. This was followed by a period of silence, a reading of the retreat theme (see below) and a quote by Thomas Merton. The witness concluded with retreatants offering their hope-filled New Year’s Resolutions for a nonviolent world and the singing of “This Little Light of Mine.” Throughout the vigil children from the retreat group played on the small embankment behind the vigil area, providing a stark contrast to the armed police presence protecting the center of warmaking on our planet.
That evening the group gathered for dinner and reflection at St. Stephen’s church.Ted Walker offered a compelling reflection about the meaning of the Feast of the Holy Innocents which was followed by a moving sharing by retreatants regarding what this feast means for them. Stories and actions were also recounted from past Holy Innocents retreats, including when the first retreat began in the mid-1970’s.The evening ended with a showing of a newsclip from the recent Democracy Now interview with the son and grandchildren who were eyewitnesses to the murder of their mother and grandmother by a U.S drone-strike in Pakistan.
The morning of December 28 consisted of prayer, breakfast, action planning and clean-up of the church. The group then proceeded to the White House for an hour-long noon-time witness. The witness began with a group photo with banners in the restricted picture postcard area on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House (see attached photo by Bill Ofenloch). The group formed an arc on the street in front of the White House where banners and New Year’s Resolution signs were displayed. Following a brief explanation about our presence, the gospel reading of the day was offered, the retreat theme statement was read and individuals holding a New Year’s Resolution sign read aloud their resolution. The response to the eighteen resolutions was: “Let’s Make It Happen Now.” (see New Year’s Resolution’s below). This was followed by singing “The Coventry Carol.” After repeating this sequence twice, the vigil ended with singing the “Vine and Fig Tree” song. The retreat concluded with a farewell greeting of peace for all gathered.
As we enter this New Year of 2014, let us recommit ourselves to uphold the sacredness of all life and creation as we seek to establish the Beloved Community and help usher in God’s reign of love, justice and peace.
~ New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 ~
Halt All Research on Nuclear Weapons Now!
End the U.S. Wars in Afghanistan Now!
Stop All U.S. Drone Attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan,Yemen, Somalia, and Elsewhere Now!
Stop Global Warming—Climate Justice Now!
Close Guantanamo, Bagram, SOA and All Military Torture Centers Now!
Save the World’s Children Dying From Poverty Now!
Demand Universal Health Care Now!
Live, Practice, and Teach Nonviolence Now!
Tear Down the Border Wall and Welcome the Immigrant Now!
Stop the U.S. Militarization of Space Now!
Money For Human Needs Not for Wall Street and the Pentagon Now!
Abolish The Death Penalty Now!