DOROTHY DAY CATHOLIC WORKER HOUSE, WASHINGTON, DC
TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF MICHAEL WALLI
KNOXVILLE, TN COURT HOUSE
JANUARY 28, 2014
I am honored to be character witness for Michael Walli. For most of the last 20 years, Michael and I have been community members and friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington DC, one of the hundreds of Catholic worker communities throughout the world. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin founded the movement 80 years ago seeking to build up the kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus, the nonviolent son of God and transform our violence ravaged creation into a home for all dwelling in peace and justice.
Our work may be described as having two thrusts: 1) the works of mercy and 2) the work to oppose and abolish all violence. At the house in DC, we daily join others for prayer, we offer hospitality to five mothers and their children in need of a home, we beg for food, share it with our neighbors and prepare a feast to serve to some of the many homeless people in DC. We uphold the consistent life ethic declaring the sacredness of all life – opposing war, abortion, and the death penalty. Each Monday, we vigil at the Pentagon in repentance for the crime of war, encouraging brothers and sisters in the military to put down their guns and refuse to kill, and encouraging others to refuse to pay taxes for war. On Fridays we vigil at the White House with the same message and once a month we go to the CIA to protest drones. This is truly the life and work of Michael Walli.
Michael Walli, the beloved member of Dorothy Day house and servant of God is a man of deep faith in the God of love, and each morning he and I join the Assisi Community nearby for reflection on the word of God.
The following is a testament from that community about Michael…
To whom it may concern:
We are honored to attest to the character of defendant Michael Walli, who will be sentenced soon for his participation in a nonviolent witness against nuclear weapons at Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 28, 2012.
Early each morning, for many years, Michael Walli has joined our small community in Washington DC for 30 minutes of prayer to begin the day. In that time together on a regular basis we have come to know him very well.
His way of life and witness in our neighborhood, our city, and beyond is an unwavering example of active nonviolence. He is a gentle, kind, and generous person regularly helping other people in a myriad of thoughtful ways. He is well known in our neighborhood and very much appreciated for picking up litter and for the beautiful garden he attends so faithfully. He is always willing to help others and is particularly good to people who have special needs.
Michael is a man of deep faith and a role model for many people. His way of life is completely consistent with his belief in the Gospel. He is a living example of the peace and nonviolence that he so ardently hopes will flourish in the world and a person of impeccable character.
Michael is also the 2013 recipient of the Peacemaker of the Year award from the Roman Catholic Peace Group Pax Christi Metro DC – Baltimore who write about Michael “with profound admiration and gratitude for his decades of peacemaking and service to others and the Gospel.”
One of the women who live at DDH is from Ethiopia and is learning English. Recently she asked the meaning of the word generosity and my immediate answer was Michael Walli. With a smile of understanding and in her broken English she described Michael’s tireless service to our large family and even mentioning how so many and our neighborhood ask and receive Michael’s assistance daily.
For example, during the recent snowstorm I looked outside to see a neighbor shoveling our stairs and sidewalk. When I went outside to thank him, Lewis reported that he couldn’t help thinking of all the times Michael had shoveled for him and knowing that Michael is in jail wanted to repay the favor. Michael truly fits the description Catholic Worker. He is serious about both his faith and work. Everything Michael does is consistent with the teaching of Jesus and the church.
Michael reminds us that Jesus commanded us to love everyone, to put down our swords, our weapons, warning us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword and to say yes to life and no to death dealing.
Michael knows that Dorothy Day condemned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in September 1945, and about nuclear weapons she said “If we wouldn’t put people and gas chambers why would we fling them on people?” She called nuclear weapons gas chambers without walls.
Michael knows that Dr. Martin Luther King condemned nuclear weapons in 1959 and later warned us that our choice today is between nonviolence and nonexistence, or, said another way; our choice is between nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation.
Michael knows that in 1965 the Roman Catholic Bishops during the second Vatican Council condemned nuclear weapons saying “any act of war aimed indiscriminately at entire cities and their population is a crime against God and merits unequivocal condemnation”.
Michael knows that Pope Paul VI called the US bombing of Hiroshima “a butchery of untold magnitude”.
Elie Wiesel, the only member of his family to survive the Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers wrote the book Night partly to honor the dead but also to warn the living that it could happen again. Moshe the Beadle, a character in the book, reminds me of Michael Walli. Like Michael, Moshe loved and served God and the community, especially the poor. As the story goes, one day Moshe, a foreign Jew is expelled from Hungary into Poland and becomes a witness to the slaughter of the other Jewish deportees by the Gestapo. Miraculously surviving, Moshe returned to the town in Hungary and went from one Jewish house to another telling people what he had seen, begging people to listen to his warning so they could prepare themselves while there was still time. But the people didn’t listen and even declared that Moshe had gone mad.
Because they didn’t listen, the Jews were rounded up, shipped to concentration camps, and most were turned to ashes in the ovens of the Nazis. Today, all of us in this court room hope that we would have listened to Moshe’s warning and if we were not ourselves targets of the Nazis extermination plan, we hope that we would have cut the fences surrounding the concentration camps and freed the terrified prisoners. I am certain that our Moshe, Michael Walli and his friends, would be the ones to cut through the fences to free us if we were the prisoners at Auschwitz. Gas chambers and ovens have become nuclear weapons, and those gas chambers without walls are being readied for use at Y12. The whole world has been turned into a concentration camp. Humanity is trapped by these omnicidal weapons and incineration is our fate unless we transform. Michael Walli is trying to save our lives. Your life, Judge Thapar. Your life, Mr. Theodore. And all our lives.
Please listen to him. Let’s not make the mistake of not listening to him.