Last night 9 people vigiled outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor, ten miles south of D.C., to decry the scandalous Air Force Association (AFA) annual “Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo,” what we call an “Arms Bazaar.” Some 150 arms contractors are taking part in this year’s Arms Bazaar. Our vigil coincided with a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. Members of Pax Christi and other peace groups attended the vigil which was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.
As we arrived at the Gaylord, a Prince George Police vehicle was already stationed in front of the main driveway entrance, across the street from our vigil site. A contingent of Gaylord security and a PG police officer then came across the street to our vigil site to greet us. I explained to them the purpose for our vigil and gave each of them our leaflet. We all shook hands and they left to return to their post in proximity to where the AFA banquet was being held. The police vehicle stationed at the Gaylord main entrance remained at the site for the duration of our vigil.
Our witness began with a reading of our leaflet (see below). Katerina Sasieta then read the Gospel account of the Beatitudes (Lk. 6:2-28). This was followed by Kathy Boylan, Joe Wiehagen, Rich Neapolitan and Steve Bush reading a selection of Dr. King’s Riverside Church April 4, 1967 speech about why he opposed the Vietnam War. Bob Cooke then offered a compelling reflection about the purpose of our witness, how Pope Francis has condemned the arms trade and war profiteering, and of our urgent need to follow the Gospel of Nonviolence.
I then offered a prayer to exorcise the evil of militarism and convert our lives to God’s command to love. A Litany of Repentance and Hope was then offered by Brian Barrett, Katarina and David Carrier. The witness concluded with the lighting of candles and singing “This Little Light of Mine,” as we remembered all victims of violence and war, the holy cloud of witnesses past and present, and all who are working today to bring about God’s reign of justice, love and peace.
Today, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember the four girls who were killed and those who were injured in the Birmingham Church bombing on September 15, 1963. We thank God for the lives of the four girls and we pray for their families and community who still grieve their loss. Let us recommit ourselves to ending the racial hatred that took their lives. And let us redouble our efforts to do all we can to nonviolently resist the forces of violence and death and witness to the God of Life and Love as we strive to create the Beloved Community.