From Holy Thursday afternoon to Good Friday afternoon, some 25 friends gathered in D.C. for a Faith and Resistance retreat and public witness that was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and held at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church. Those who participated in the retreat/witness included members of Jonah House, the Atlantic Life Community and students from Loras College from Iowa. The theme of the retreat was: “Put Away the Sword–Stop Crucifixion Today.” Holy Thursday was a day of reflection, sharing, action planning and Liturgy. Good Friday was a day of public witness.
The retreat began with a very rich and inspiring communal Gospel sharing of Matthew 26: 47-56. This was followed by a planning session for the Good Friday Pentagon and White House actions. After dinner, Cinnamon Sarver offered a compelling reflection-slideshow about the life and witness of Archbishop Romero, as Holy Thursday also marked the 36th anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom. Cinnamon’s reflection focused especially on the central role the Eucharist played in Romero’s life and how we have to continue to live out the Mass that he was unable to complete due to his assassination (which actually occurred during Mass). Following this presentation was a moving foot-washing ritual led by Loras students, which included beautiful spirit-filled music. The evening concluded with Liz McAlister leading a powerful commemoration of the Last Supper.
On Good Friday, a nonviolent public witness was held at the Pentagon. At 7:00 a.m. the community processed from Army-Navy Dr. to the police designated protest zone with signs and small crosses with the names of different victims in our society and world written on them. During the procession the Loras students led us in singing “Let Me Be An Instrument Of Peace.” As hundreds of Pentagon employees streamed into work and numerous police were on hand, four of our community remained on the Pentagon sidewalk (where we are subject to arrest) and processed toward the building carrying a cross with the inscription: “Suffering Humanity–2016,” and a sign that said “Put Away the Sword.” As they processed , they were able to kneel and pray three times the traditional prayer of Good Friday “We Adore You O Christ and We Bless You, Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World,” followed by a plea “Put Away the Sword!” Surprisinlgy, they were not immediately stopped by police and they were able to go halfway down the sidewalk before they were arrested. Simultaneously , the rest of the community proceeded into the designated “protest zone.” A huge banner that said: “U.S. Empire Crucifies Humanity” was displayed on the grassy slope overlooking the sidewalk going into the Pentagon metro entrance. A retreatant, dressed in a black robe, standing on a crate, with arms outstretched on a large cross, wore a sign: “Victim of Militarism.” Our leaflet was read and a reflection about militarism and Jesus being nailed to the cross today, written by Leonardo Boff, were read aloud. In between the readings there was silence and singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”
After about ten minutes, those who were praying on the sidewalk were arrested, taken to the Pentagon Police processing center, and released after several hours. They were charged with “failure to comply with a lawful order” and given a violation notice to appear in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA on May 19, 2016.
Following this witness, retreatants returned to the church for breakfast and evaluation of the Pentagon action. Before leaving for the White House witness, Dr. Ahn, a Korean scientist turned peace activist, shared with us his amazing story, which included his involvement in developing the cruise missile program, and his deep belief in the power of redemption. He also spoke about the “Cheonan” incident in March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 South Korean sailors.
At noon-time, we were joined by other friends from the wider D.C. peace community as we held a “contemporary crucifixion” on Pennsylvania Ave. directly in front of the White House, as hundreds of tourists looked on. See below the reflections that were read for each of the eleven crucified victims as they, wearing black robes, took turns, standing on a crate, with arms outstretched on the cross. After each victim came off the cross we sang: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord.” Our leaflet was also read to begin the witness, and a reading about how Jesus is being crucified today, by Leonardo Boff, was offered to conclude it. The Loras students began and ended the witness with singing “Let Me Be An Instrument of Peace.” We ended our witness and retreat by sharing a sign of peace.
Let us pray for each other during this Holy Season, and for all those in our world who are experiencing at this very moment the passion and death of Jesus. And let us be transformed by the cross and resurrection of Jesus as we seek to practice resurrection and be living signs of hope for our world.
In peace and gratitude, Art
Sr. Ardeth Platte
Sr. Carol Gilbert
A Good Friday Plea: Put Away the Sword and Stop Crucifixion Today!
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today, vast numbers of God’s global family experience a modern form of crucifixion as they are crucified to a cross of war, militarism, racial hatred, discrimination and economic exploitation. In the crucified people of our world we see the crucified face of Jesus.
Today, we remember the victims who have been and continue to be crucified and deemed expendable, and call for an immediate end to their crucifixion. We also pray for an end to the desecration of our sacred earth.
We, members of the Atlantic Life Community and students from the midwest, witness at the Pentagon and White House today to follow Jesus in nonviolent revolution as he made his way to Jerusalem. Jesus’ last instruction to his disciples at the time of his arrest were “Put away the sword,” (Mt. 26:52). We say loudly and clearly with Jesus, “Put away the sword,” and all weapons! Stop all violence and killing! Be merciful as God is merciful!
We call out to the consciences of those who lead the nations, including our own–War No More! Put away your guns, drones, bombs, carriers of bombs and oppression and become part of the nonviolent revolution. We can no longer afford guns and bombs when billions of people worldwide do not have sufficient food, clean water, health care, shelter and educational and job opportunities.
Our consciences are formed to love our enemies, to do the works of mercy, to become one world of sisters and brothers under one God, one Spirit, one family with disarmed hearts and in a disarmed world. Please join us.
For further information contact:
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-882-9649
Script of Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth–2016
(Read at White House Witness–Victim of Militarism-Nuclearism Read at Pentagon Witness)
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Today, vast numbers of God’s global family experience a modern form of crucifixion as they are crucified to a cross of war, racism, militarism, economic exploitation and social injustice. In the crucified people of our world we see the crucified face of Jesus. Today, we remember the victims who have been and continue to be crucified and deemed expendable, and call for an immediate end to their crucifixion. We also pray for an end to the desecration of our sacred earth.
Crucified Victim #1–Iraq War Victim
For 25 years the U.S. waged an unrelenting war against Iraq. We pray, O God, for the nearly 2 million Iraqis who have died since 1991–crucified to a cross of bombings, invasion, occupation and U.S.-UN led sanctions. We pray for the countless millions injured and the over 4 million displaced. We repent for the U.S. destroying an entire society, traumatizing a generation of Iraqis and setting into motion a spiral of violence and political upheaval which, in part, created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. We call for all CIA and U.S. military personnel and security contractors to leave Iraq immediately, and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the Iraqi people.
Crucified Victim #2–Afghanistan war victim
Since the U.S. began its criminal military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, thousands of Afghan civilians have suffered and died. Let us remember that on October 3, 2015 the U.S. bombed a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where 42 people were killed and 30 injured. A survivor of the attack described how patients in the hospital were literally burning to death in their intensive care unit beds. We pray for all those Afghans who have been, and continue to be, crucified to a cross of ruthless U.S. military occupation. We pray and work for an immediate end to the immoral and illegal U.S. war in Afghanistan, for the withdrawl of all military and CIA personnel, and that the U.S. beg forgiveness from and make reparations to the people of Afghanistan
Crucified Victim #3–Drone bombing victim
We pray, O God, in repentance for all victims of U.S. drone strikes and call for an immediate end to the use of these immoral and illegal killer-drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. We call for a halt to the Obama Administration “kill lists” and that an apology and reparations be made to all victims’ families of drone strikes. We pray in gratitude for all who have resisted and who have been imprisoned for decrying this diabolical robotic warfare. We commit ourselves to abolishing these murderous drones, our American death squads of the skies.
Crucified Victim #4–Victim of Militarism and Nuclearism
We pray for all people–past and present–who have been, and continue to be, crucified to the cross of militarism and nuclearism. We pray and work for the abolition of nuclear weapons, nuclear technology and all weapons, for an end to the militarization of space and all forms of militarism and military intervention worldwide, and for the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on meeting human needs and serving the common good.
Crucified Victim # 5–Victim of Racial Violence We pray for all those–past and present–who have been and continue to be crucified to a cross of racial hatred. We remember and pray for all those American Indians and African Americans who were slaughtered, enslaved, lynched and murdered simply because of their skin color. Today racial hatred and violence is pervasive throughout the land. Blacks are under siege! A disproportionate number of Blacks are imprisoned and executed. Blacks are constantly profiled and are being killed in record numbers by white police officers. We remember Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott, to name but a few. We remember Freddie Gary and countless others have been killed while in police custody. Muslims are under siege! Islamophobia is on the rise! Systemic violence and racism, inherent in oppressive economic and political structures, crush the poor and people of color, denying so many of their dignity and basic human rights. Too many have suffered; too many have died because of state and police violence, and white silence! Black lives matter! We repent for the sin of racism. Free us, O God, from fear and racial hatred. Liberate us from the unclean spirit that seeks superiority and domination of others. Instill in us, O God, a spirit of love that truly embraces everyone as equal, everyone as a sister and brother, everyone as a child of God. Deepen our commitment to tirelessly work for justice and equality for all people of color as we strive to make the Beloved Community a reality here and now.
Crucified Victim #6–Victim of Poverty and Economic Exploitation We remember all people who have been, and continue to be, sacrificed at the altar of greed, oppression and economic exploitation. Never have so few rich people been allowed to hoard so much. “The 62 richest people in the world now hold as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion.” (Oxfam, Jan. 2016) Income inequality is a grave injustice. We remember all people who have died early deaths in the U.S. and worldwide from dire poverty, malnutrition and inadequate health care. We pray and work for an end to structures and policies which dominate, exploit and crucify people to a cross of dehumanizing poverty, debt and neglect. We commit to working for an end to corporate domination, the eradication of poverty, debt cancellation, a fair redistribution of wealth and a just economic order.
Crucified Victim #7–Torture Victim (dressed as a GITMO prisoner)
Jesus was a torture victim who was condemned by religious authorities and executed by the Roman empire. We remember all torture victims, past and present, who have suffered and died from the effects of torture. We remember the over 100 prisoners who, since 2001, died at secret U.S. military black sites, as well as the nine men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo. We remember the 91 detainees in Guantanamo, most of whom have been cleared for release, including those who have been on hunger strikes and endured excruciating force-feedings to call for an end to their brutal, unjust confinement. Let us continue to pray and work for the abolition of torture worldwide, and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo, the SOA/WHINSEC and all military torture and training centers.
Crucified Victim #8–Nonviolent revolutionary victim
We remember all those who have given their lives and who have sacrificed their freedom as they have struggled, without using violence, for justice in their countries. We think of those who participated in the Arab Spring to break their shackles of oppression. We hold in prayer the dead and wounded people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. These nonviolent resisters marched, demonstrated, and occupied the streets and squares in order to free themselves from police repression, censorship, unemployment, and violence and were met with violent attacks. We remember all of the people of these nations and repent for U.S. funding of any of the guns, bombs, and materials used to prop up their abusive dictators. May all that has been stolen from these sisters and brothers be restored.
Crucified Victim #9– Imprisoned Victim We picture before us the imprisoned Jesus–arrested, tortured, stripped, crowned with thorns, mocked and crucified. We remember today imprisoned political prisoners and all who are held in gulags and prisons throughout the world. We remember and pray for: –Private Chelsea Manning, whistle-blower and truth revealer of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving a 35 year prison sentence; –All whistle-blowers, truth-tellers and political prisoners who have been, and continue to be, persecuted, including Julian Assange and Edwin Snowden; —Norman Edgar Lowry, Jr. sentenced in May 2012 to 1-7 years for third trespass at a military recruiting office in Lancaster, PA;
–Leonard Peltier, Native American political prisoner, imprisoned for over 40 years, serving a life sentence; –All those who been arrested and jailed for their nonviolent resistance to a new naval base on Jeju Island which will serve as a U.S. military outpost to threaten and contain China; — The detainees in Guantanamo and all prisoners held in indefinite detention; — All immigrants held in deportation centers; — The over 2.2 million prisoners in the U.S., over 3,000 of whom are on death row, and all prisoners worldwide. We pray and work for a dismantling of the mass incarceration complex and the creation of a justice system rooted in the biblical mandate of restorative justice. In the words of Jesus, let us “proclaim liberty to all captives.”
Crucified Victim #10–Immigration Victim
Mindful that Jesus was born as a migrant and exiled as a refugee, we remember today those immigrants who have been crucified to a cross of exploitation, oppression and war. We remember all those who have fled their homelands in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to war. We remember, too, those who have been driven from their homes and the hundreds who have died crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in search of a better life. Loving God, help us to learn to love and welcome the immigrants in this land. Give us the courage to stand for justice for all immigrants instead of imprisoning them in dehumanizing detention facilities. Give us the courage to speak out and expose how our country’s policies of globalization and free trade are driving people to leave their countries and tearing families apart. Help us to take down the walls of division and fear that create physical walls of separation on our border. Teach us the words of love you would have us speak as we call for comprehensive immigration reform in this land.
Crucified Victim #11–Our Desecrated Earth Creator God, we confess that the way we live today is desecrating the earth, changing the climate, the seas and the balance of life, and dispossessing the poor and future generations. We repent for the way our environment and earth continues to be endangered by industrial pollution, toxic deadly chemicals, wasteful oil consumption, nuclear radiation and the effects of preparing for and waging war. According to Joseph Nevins, in an article published on June 14, 2010 by CommonDreams.org, GREENWASHING THE PENTAGON, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.” Creator God, help us to stop destroying your creation. Today, on Jeju Island in S. Korea, a global biosphere reserve and world natural heritage site is being destroyed, and the ancient Gureombi lava-rock formation has been decimated, all because of the construction of a new naval base that will serve as a U.S. military outpost in the Asia-Pacific region. Empower and sustain all those who are nonviolently resisting this new war base and all other threats to land, water, air and sky. Empower us to safeguard all creation and choose life for all that is at risk.