Report of August 9, 2017 Witness of Repentance at the Pentagon–Two Arrested

Dear Friends,

Today, August 9, from 12:30-1:30 PM, about 30 people from the faith-based peace community in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, held a witness of repentance at the Pentagon to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. This witness was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and cosponsored by Pax Christi Metro-DC, and Pax Christi USA, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Isaiah Project, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and the Sisters of Mercy—Institute Justice Team.

Displaying a lead sign saying “U.S. Nuclear Bombing of Nagasaki, August, 9, 1945—Repent,” and carrying other disarmament signs and photos of the carnage and victims of the atomic bombings, we processed from Army-Navy Drive to the police designated protest zone, which is located in an enclosed space with a bicycle fence on the southeast corner of the Pentagon near the south parking lot. Once at the site, we encountered numerous Pentagon police and security as well as some Pentagon workers. Bill Frankel-Streit and Eric Martin proceeded past the protest zone and were told by police that they could not continue further or remain on the sidewalk. When they refused to comply with an order to go into the designated protest area after several warnings they were placed under arrest.

Before their arrest, as Bill and Eric stood in silence on the sidewalk holding photos of Nagasaki victims, I offered the following statement:

“Seventy-two ago, on August 6, 1945, the U.S. ushered in the Nuclear Age by committing the unspeakable act of using nuclear weapons against the people of Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. used a second nuclear weapon against the people of Nagasaki. Over 200,000 Japanese died in these bombings and many thousands more have suffered and died since from the effects of nuclear radiation. The U.S. has never repented for the use of these weapons of indiscriminate mass murder.

The renowned Trappist writer and peacemaker, Thomas Merton, in his remarkable “Original Child Bomb,” describes the firepower, death and destruction that was unleashed on Hiroshima: “The bomb exploded within 100 feet of the aiming point. The fireball was 18,000 feet across. The temperature at the center of the fireball was 100,000,000 degrees. The people who were near the center became nothing. The whole city was blown to bits and the ruins all caught fire instantly everywhere, burning briskly. 70,000 people were killed right away or died with a few hours. Those who did not die at once suffered great pain. Few of them were soldiers.”

We come to the Pentagon today to say Yes to the God of Life who commands us to love and not to kill, and No to the forces of evil, death and destruction. As people of faith, we stand here in front of the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, with contrite hearts as we call on our nation to join with us in repenting for the colossal sin and crime of building and using nuclear weapons, to apologize to the Japanese and A-Bomb survivors (known as Hibakusha) for our country’s use of the bomb against them and to demand an end to ongoing criminal nuclear war preparations.

 

We also join with people of faith and conscience in Japan, around the world and here in the U.S., many of whom are holding peace and resistance actions during these days of commemoration, including peacemakers at Los Alamos and Livermore Nuclear Labs, the Bangor nuclear submarine base, the Brandywine Peace Community who are acting at Lockheed Martin, the Manhattan Project for a Nuclear Free Future—all who are committed to eliminating these omnicidal weapons of terror and abolishing war.

 

Since the secret Manhattan Project to create the Bomb began in 1940, the U.S. has spent some $10 trillion building and refining its nuclear arsenal. Instead of leading the world toward nuclear abolition, the U.S. continues to build even deadlier weapons. And it is also using nuclear technology in its efforts to militarize and dominate space. The massive expenditures for these weapons constitute a direct theft from the poor.”

As Bill and Eric were then handcuffed and taken by Pentagon police to be processed, we sang a verse from “Vine and Fig Tree.” They were charged with “failure to obey a lawful order” and have a court date for October 19, 2017.

After their arrest, I finished reading my opening reflection, an excerpt of which follows: “The violence unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki set in motion a trajectory of unrelenting violence by the U.S. in its wars of aggression that it has waged over the last seven decades, claiming untold lives. In its quest to remain the world’s preeminent military superpower, and control vast amounts of the earth’s resources, the U.S. power structure is committed to using whatever military means is necessary, including nuclear weapons, to enforce and  protect its interests. Today the U.S. possesses nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize it’s existing nuclear arsenal. Moreover, the U.S. recently boycotted a special UN Conference that produced a historic “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” that was signed by 122 countries.

 

It is hypocritical for the U.S., the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons and the leading nuclear superpower who refuses to disarm, to call on any other country to disarm. If the U.S. is to ever truly lead the way to real disarmament, it must first repent for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then and only then, can the U.S. legitimately ask other nuclear nations to disarm.”

 

This was followed by Ken Cooper reading “A Child’s Memory of Nagasaki,” a powerful heartbreaking account of Fujio Tsujimoto, a six year old survivor of Nagasaki. Here is an excerpt of that account:

“I believe I escaped death when the atom bomb fell on Nagasaki only because I happened to be in the air raid shelter on the boundary of our Yamazato grade school playground… There was a dazzling glare. A powerful gust of wind smashed me against the cellar wall. After some time I looked out of the cellar. Everywhere people lay thickly on top of each other, dead; only here and there one moved a leg or another raised an arm….My brother and my little sisters had come to the shelter too late. They were badly burned. They sat beside me and cried… I sat down at the entrance to the shelter and looked around, yearning for Father and Mother. Half an hour later my mother did come. Her whole body was bloody…The people who were still alive died one after another. They groaned in pain. The next day my young sisters died, and also mother, our beloved mother. Then my brother. I believed that I would also die. Everyone that was with us in the cellar died. Grandmother and I, however, had been the deepest into the shelter. The blast had not reached us. Therefore we remained alive, just we two. Day after day we searched in vain among the many dead for my father.”

Following this stirring account, Bob Cooke and Mary Liepolds read the “Apology Petition” that was shared and presented last year to Mr. Mimaki, a Hiroshima Hibakusha, during our August 6 White House commemoration witness. Over 700 people signed the petition, an excerpt which reads: “We apologize to the people of Japan—and to the survivors of the bombing, the hibakusha— for our country’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we ask forgiveness for these atrocities.”

Felton Davis and Jack McHale then led a Litany of Repentance. This was followed by Kathy Boylan leading a collective recitation Dan Berrigan’s poem, “Shadow on the Rock.” We then sang together “I Come and Stand.”

Today also marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Edith Stein and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, both of whom were killed by the Nazi’s—Stein in 1942, and Jagerstatter in 1943. Rachel Schmidt read a quote from St. Stein and Scott Wright and Jean Stokan read quotes from Franz Jagerstatter (see below). This was followed by a time of remembrance during which a number of people gave moving testimony. We concluded with introductions, announcements and singing “Vine and Fig Tree.

In the face of escalating nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, let us heed the plea of the Hibakusha: “Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons.” Let us proclaim the nonviolent message of Jesus to put away the sword, to love our neighbors and enemies in resistance to the powers that be who propagate fear and hostility, and who threaten war. Let us continue to pray and labor for a world without nuclear weapons, killer drones and all weapons of war as we strive to eradicate the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism, abolish war and create the Beloved Community.

With gratitude,

Art


Sr. Edith Stein Reflection


Edith Stein, a German Jewish convert to Catholicism, was a philosopher, a Carmelite nun, and martyr who died at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. She was [https:///entry/Canonization]canonized as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (her Carmelite monastic name) by [https:///entry/Pope_John_Paul_II]Pope John Paul II in 1998.

Quote from Sr. Edith Stein:

“What is meant by “the Law of the Lord”? Psalm 118 which we pray every Sunday and on solemnities at Prime, is entirely filled with the command to know the Law and to be led by it through life. The Psalmist was certainly thinking of the Law of the Old Covenant. Knowing it actually did require life-long study and fulfilling it, life-long exertion of the will. But the Lord has freed us from the yoke of this Law. We can consider the Savior’s great commandment of love, which he says includes the whole Law and the Prophets, as the Law of the New Covenant. Perfect love of God and of neighbor can certainly be a subject worthy of an entire lifetime of meditation. But we understand the Law of the New Covenant, even better, to be the Lord himself, since he has in fact lived as an example for us of the life we should live. We thus fulfill our Rule when we hold the image of the Lord continually before our eyes in order to make ourselves like him. We can never finish studying the Gospels.”

Franz Jagerstatter Reflection

Franz Jagerstatter  a Catholic, Austrian farmer and married father of three daughters, was beheaded on August 9, 1943 by the Third Reich at the Berlin-Brandenberg Prison. Imprisoned in March of 1943, Jagerstatter was convicted of “undermining military morale” by “inciting the refusal to perform the required service in the German army,” and condemned to death in July of 1943 by the Reich’s Military Tribunal. Jagerstatter was 36 years old when he died. In October of 2007, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter was beatified by the Catholic Church.

This following is taken from a review by Anna Brown of Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison. 

In an essay that he wrote in 1942, “On Today’s Issue: Catholic or National Socialist,” Jagerstatter recalls a dream that he had in January of 1938. “I saw [in a dream] a wonderful train as it came around a mountain. With little regard for the adults, children flowed to this train and were not held back. There were present a few adults who did not go into the area. I do not want to give their names or describe them. Then a voice said to me, ‘This train is going to hell.’ Immediately it happened that someone took my hand, and the same voice said to me: ‘Now we are going to purgatory.’ What I glimpsed and perceived was fearful. If this voice had not told me that we were going to purgatory, I would have judged that I had found myself in hell.”

For Jagerstatter, the train symbolizes National Socialism with all of its sub-organizations and programs (the N.S. Public Assistance Program, Hitler Youth, etc.). As he puts it, “the train represents the N.S. Volk community and everything for which it struggles and sacrifices.” He remembers that just prior to having this dream, he had read that 150,000 Austrian young people had joined Hitler Youth. He recounts, sadly, that the Christians of Austria had never donated as much money to charitable organizations as they now donated to Nazi party organizations. He realizes that it wasn’t really the money that the Nazi’s were after, it was more the souls of the Austrian people: You are either with the Fuhrer or you are nothing. Upon this realization, Jagerstatter writes, “I would like to cry out to the people aboard the N.S. train: ‘Jump off this train before it arrives at your last stop where you will pay with your life!’”

His admonition to “jump off the train” is one that must be heard and acted upon, perhaps never more so than today. In his recent meditation on Jagerstatter’s life, Father Daniel Berrigan urges that we not become complacent in these “post-Hitler” times: “To speak of today; it is no longer Hitler’s death train we ride, the train of the living dead. Or is it? It is. The same train. Only, if possible (it is possible) longer, faster, cheaper. On schedule, every hour on the hour, speedy and cheap and unimaginably lethal. An image of life in the world. A ghost train still bound, mad as March weather, for hell… Despite all fantasies and homilies and ’states of the union’,’ urging the contrary. Today, a world of normalized violence, a world of standoff, of bunkers and missiles nose to nose, a world of subhuman superpowers and the easy riders. The train beats its way across the world, crowded with contented passenger-citizen-Christians.”

In the final months of his life, Jagerstatter wrote, “I perceive that many words will not accomplish much today. Words teach, but personal example shows their meaning … People want to observe Christians who have taken a stand in the contemporary world, Christians who live amid all of the darkness with clarity, insight, and conviction, Christians who live with the purest peace of mind, courage and dedication amid the absence of peace and joy, amid the self-seeking and hatred.”

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, pray for us.

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Published in: on August 10, 2017 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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